Bela in Education

Bela was created to make the world of interactive signal processing accessible to a wider community. Bela offers state-of-the-art methods and materials for teaching in a wide range of subjects at a variety of levels, and is an ideal tool for research that requires precision and stability. Taking the dive into the world of embedded computing, sensors, actuators and DSP can be intimidating, and the learning curve is steep. Bela comes with a library of over 100 well-documented examples, with circuit diagrams and resources, to provide as many entry points as possible for students, educators and researchers from a huge range of disciplines.

Teaching with Bela

Bela is used to teach classes in universities, design schools and research institutions around the world. Students who use Bela in classes come from diverse subject areas, such as music technology, e-textiles, design, robotics, DSP, interaction design and more. Bela is ideal for both learners and teachers, as there are no complex tool-chains to install, no software packages update. Plugging in and launching the IDE in a modern browser are all you need to start exploring the examples, programming the board, and running projects.

Bela has great resources for students learning about real-time processing. Our browser-based IDE not only makes getting started easy, but also includes the in-browser oscilloscope so students can visualise signals in real time, and instantly see the results of code changes. Along with C/C++, Bela also supports a range of languages to support a huge range of learning styles and methodologies, such as Pure Data, SuperCollider, FAUST, and Csound. This makes Bela flexible to use with differently-skilled groups of students and in a diversity of learning contexts.

Best of all, we offer quantity discounts for educational institutions. for more information.

Universities using Bela

Bela is being used in a number of universities around the world. Below are some examples of educators using Bela to deliver courses in interaction, music, digital signal processing, installation design, robotics, and more.

Site-responsive Sonic Art
Arizona State University, USA

In the School of Arts Media and Engineering at Arizona State University, Lauren Hayes leads a course on site-responsive sonic art, where Bela is among the tools students use to create mobile, desert-proof installations.

Lauren Hayes is a musician and improviser who builds and performs on hybrid analog/digital instruments. You can read about Lauren’s work with Bela here.

Physical Interaction Design
Aalto University, Finland

In the School or Arts, Design and Architecture at Aalto University, Helsinki, the students on the masters module Physical Interaction Design use Bela as their main development platform. Through a newly-designed syllabus, the course introduces the tools, concepts and practices for creating new interactions with digital environments.

The course, taught by Robert Jack and Camilo Sanchez in 2018, is currently led by Koray Tahiroğlu, head of the Sound and Physical Interaction research group.

Musical Machines
University of Sussex, UK

At the University of Sussex, Alice Eldridge is a lecturer in Music and Music Technology and runs the Generative Arts and Musical Machines module with colleague Dr Chris Kiefer. Alice is one of Bela’s earliest adopters, and has helped us refine the platform through discussions on the forum and projects she has worked on. The Musical Machines module focuses on creating interactive robots that can produce their own music through their movement and by detecting the movement of others.

Programming Sound, Performance Systems
Rhode Island School of Design, USA

At Rhode Island School of Design, Mark Cetilia and Shawn Greenlee teach classes on art, technology and sound. Mark’s work explores the possibilities of generative systems in art, design, and sound. Shawn’s recent focus has been on generating digital audio from graphic patterns. They use Bela to teach the courses Programming Sound and Sound Practices which focus on acoustic, electronic, and/or computer-based means of sound production and reception.

Physical Interface Design and Realtime Interaction and Performance
Aalborg University, Denmark

In the department of Architecture, Design and Media Technology at Aalborg University Copenhagen, Bela is used by undergraduate and graduate students on the Physical Interface Design and Realtime Interaction and Performance courses. These courses introduce students to the tools, concepts and practices for creating new sonic and embodied interactions and are led by Dan Overholt who runs the Augmented Performance Lab.

Real Time Digital Signal Processing
Queen Mary University of London, UK

At our home university, Becky Stewart leads the Real Time Digital Signal Processing course that is taught entirely on Bela. This course is part of the Sound and Music Computing Masters and gives a comprehensive overview of programming for embedded systems that run in real time. Course projects include an accelerometer-based drum machine, digital filter designs for audio effects, and developing the components of a digital modular synth.

Becky’s work combines e-textiles research and digital signal processing to build interactive, body-centric wearable computing systems. You can read more about Becky’s work with Bela here.

Live Electronics
Conservatorium van Amsterdam, Netherlands

At the Conservatorium van Amsterdam, Jos Zwaanenburg has been using Bela Mini as part of his teaching on the masters course in Live Electronics. On this course, performance students integrate live processing and effects into their live practice, and develop these effects using Bela. Read more about this course here.

Bela in Research

Bela is a fully-featured digital lab bench. Its stable, hard real-time processing and high-resolution, synchronous analog and audio make it ideal for precise measurement, and the browser-based IDE not only makes it easy to program but also offers indispensable tools, such as the built-in oscilloscope that lets you view your audio and sensor data in real time. View your data in linear or FFT mode, and use the in-built sliders for sending control parameters to the code that is already running on your board. This is perfect for stimulating sensor input when you don't have the time to hook up hardware but need to fine-tune the parameters of your code.

Bela is built by a group of researchers who understand the demands of work in academia and R&D, and has been built with research output in mind, and Bela has a range of features that make precision measurement easier than ever:

Hard real time. Bela’s low-latency processing capabilities and stable performance mean that it meets demanding timing requirements not achievable with other maker platforms.

High resolution sensing. The analog sensing inputs are high-resolution and synchronous with the audio, meaning that sensor signals can be filtered and conditioned like audio signals.

Embeddable. Bela’s small form factor makes it ideal for research in the wild. Once you’ve finished programming Bela it can be detached from the computer, powered with a battery and can run a chosen program on start-up

Self-contained. If you return to a Bela project in ten years, the storage and operating system will be exactly how you left it, regardless of how many updates your laptop has gone through. All that’s required to program Bela is a browser, which means no more problems resurrecting old projects that rely on a custom software and hardware chain.