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Student gets first master’s degree in bagpiping

During Commencement ceremonies on May 19, Carnegie Mellon granted the first known master’s degree of music in bagpipe performance in the United States to Andrew Bova.

Bova began his musical career with the flute at a young age; he became inspired to pick up the bagpipes when playing for a war re-enactment at Fort Meigs in his hometown of Perrysburg, Ohio.

“I wanted to be part of a conservatory training program, to be immersed in my craft,” Bova said in a university press release. “There is a pervasive standard of excellence at Carnegie Mellon, no matter what area of study you’re in. That standard is so high, you’re always pushing yourself to do better, and I wanted that type of environment.”

Bova plays the bagpipes as part of the Canada-based 78th Fraser Highlanders Pipe Band, considered one of the world’s top pipe bands according to the press release. He also organized and performed in a benefit concert for Operation Smile, an organization that provides free cleft palate surgeries. Bova himself was born with a cleft palate and would not have been able to pursue the bagpipes without corrective surgery.

“The concerts were my way of giving back,” Bova said. “Plus, you can educate people about the instrument.”

Bova received an undergraduate degree from Carnegie Mellon in bagpipe performance in 2011. His master’s thesis was titled The Contemporary Performance Practice of Music Played on the Great Highland Bagpipe. He recently interviewed with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow with hopes of earning his doctorate there.

Researchers’ software helps blind learn braille

Eight Carnegie Mellon students from both the Qatar and Pittsburgh campuses worked this summer on a technology research project in India to aid the visually impaired.

The team included senior business administration major Aveed Sheikh, senior cognitive science and computer science double major Madeleine Clute, junior civil and environmental engineering and biomedical engineering double major Madelyn Gioffre, robotics graduate student Poornima Kaniarasu, junior electrical and computer engineering major Aditya Kodkany, junior electrical and computer engineering major Vivek Nair, design graduate student Shree Lakshmi Rao, and senior applied and computational mathematics major Avia Weinstein.

The students spent the summer in Bangalore, having been selected to join the 2013 innovative Student Technology ExPerience (iSTEP) internship. They worked in partnership with the Mathru Educational Trust for the Blind on developing a software device that helps blind students learn Braille.

“It is a wonderful learning experience to work with a multitalented international CMU-Q team to make a positive difference,” Sheikh said in an article in The Peninsula, an English-language newspaper in Qatar.