Music lover / engineer combines both passions
This past weekend, engineering students descended upon Lubbock for the IEEE Region 5 Conference, presenting papers on wind farms and medical technology.

Some were self-admitted nerds. Some had probably seen “Star Wars” a few too many times. 

But Lanston Fults of Bridge City, and his project, were in keeping with Lubbock’s most famous resident, Buddy Holly. Fults didn’t think about it at the time.

“It didn’t occur to me,” says Fults, 24. “And our conference was real close to the Holly Memorial.”

Out of 1,000 papers, Fults was ranked as a place winner, and although he didn’t make the top three, his idea has a shot at getting a patent and making its way to you.

He calls it tGuitar, or “Touch Guitar,” which features a multi-touch interface for the fret board instead of the traditional strings and frets.

It is also capable of storing songs, guitar scales and chords.

“Instead of having strings go down the neck, it has sensors to tell you what you’re playing,” Fults says. “You touch it where the strings would be.”

Self-teaching is accomplished when the LCD screen illuminates specific points on the fret board, showing the user exactly where to put his or her fingers when learning songs, scales or chords. tGuitar allows the user to play individual strings, finger pick or strum the same as a standard guitar.

Strumming and picking is done with the use of magnetic pickups that sense vibration and are connected to actual guitar strings.

A 32-bit ARM chip processes the instruction / software programs for the guitar, and can be powered by AC current or a rechargeable lithium battery.

Fults is a Lamar University candidate for graduation in May, and the son of David and Donna Fults of Bridge City. He works at Honeywell in Beaumont, which specializes in aerospace and transportation products, among others.

“Downloading programs to the memory is accomplished by directly connecting the guitar to a computer using a standard USB connection or by docking an iPod into an iPod docking station,” Fults says. “The iPod docking station allows the user to load the programs, games or songs without having to be close to a personal computer.” 

When choosing between music or engineering, he chose the later for “job security,” he says, seeing how the economy is. He still enjoys music, listening to Stevie Ray Vaughan “ … and Jason Mraz for the more modern stuff.” 

Fults and his family were among the many in Bridge City affected by Hurricane Ike, and at present stay in an apartment in Port Arthur.

“They just bulldozed our house the other day,” he says.

Fults’ next move is to talk with a patent lawyer.

“If the tGuitar application sold only one eighth of the four billion songs sold on iTunes since 2003, Apple would have another $500 million sales,” he says. “Apple could not only have software applications for tGuitar but could use this idea for all musical instruments. Pianos, drums, bass guitars and other musical instruments could all have self-teaching lessons, games and music sheets downloadable from iTunes.”