The “SATOP” acronym is a fond and familiar name within the halls of Myers Dance Studio, based in Schenectady, New York. Plagued by unbearable acoustics for more than five years, the studio received help from SATOP New York and Alliance Partner, Lockheed Martin, who were able to remedy the situation.
Housed in a 1920’s Odd Fellows Hall, the studio possesses 14’ high ceilings with cement block walls. When Myers rented the facility in 1998 they added mirrors to the walls and Marley linoleum floors which created major acoustical problems in the large 53’x32’ room.
“The sound was actually painful at times – almost like being in a tin can,” describes Alice Manzi, Myers’ Scenic Designer. “We’ve been trying to come up with a way to alleviate this problem for more than five years,” she said.
Manzi found out about SATOP from the Schenectady Chamber of Commerce. “When our local chamber told us about the SATOP program, we thought it sounded great. However, it was hard for us to believe a NASA contractor would actually be willing to help a small dance studio in upstate New York,” she said.
SATOP presented Myers Studio’s challenge to Space Alliance Partner, Lockheed Martin, who posted the opportunity on its Intranet site. Andy Testa, a robotics engineer based in Houston, volunteered to take on the project.
Testa, who has a personal interest in home theatres and acoustics, came up with a custom-made solution – a series of hinged panels framed with 2’x4’s that act as an acoustic sound absorber. The panels, which are tightly compacted with a combination of fiberglass insulation and polyester batting, fit in the corners of the studio thereby not affecting the floor space or mirrored walls.
“I volunteered for this project because it suited a hobby of mine and was a challenge,” said Testa. “The studio had very specific needs but could only spend a little money on the modification, so I really had to apply the knowledge acquired from my pastime to come up with a simple solution using affordable materials available at the local hardware store.”
While it was a departure from the usual engineering assignment for Testa, the principles were similar. “The space program is just as much about finding clever solutions to difficult problems as it is about advanced technology. In this case, I used very low technology combined with a knowledge of sound to avoid an expensive, high technology fix,” explains Testa. “It just goes to show that science and technology can benefit all aspects of society, including the arts.”
The results were immediate. “We brought one prototype into the room and the acoustical improvement was instantly noticeable,” said Manzi. “Once constructed, we will have panels in all four corners of the room, which we expect will increase everyone’s enjoyment of the studio – teachers and students, alike.”
“We are very grateful for the prompt and professional help that SATOP provided,” said Manzi. “They understood our need to maintain the physical essence of the studio, while improving the acoustics. Best of all, the final solution was both inexpensive and easy.”
“And, working with Andy was especially rewarding,” continued Manzi. “He was always pleasant and easy to work with. In fact, one time he apologized for a delay in returning my call by explaining he was busy on the shuttle launch! I still can’t believe that a NASA contractor would find the time to help us out.”
“The solution we helped find for Myers Dance Studio is just one of the many successes SATOP can cite. We are always pleased to see such great results, which serve as proof that the U.S. Space Program is benefiting other areas of business and society,” said Ryan McLaughlin, project engineer at the SATOP Center in New York.