Lexmark employee volunteers his acoustic talent

lexmark acoustics

What do Lexmark and Lexington Community Radio (LCR) have in common? They both share a passion for supporting science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education.

Acoustic problem-solving

LCR, a nonprofit organization, is a community radio station that serves the entire Lexington, Kentucky, area. Its mission is to serve the underserved on-air through talk shows.

Located inside the STEAM Academy, LCR houses a radio club for about 30 high school students who come to learn about broadcasting, production and journalism. This is LCR’s way of giving back to the school and supporting STEM education.

LCR has two sound-insulated rooms, which work very well for recording radio shows. However, when they began pre-recording shows outside of the rooms, because they were in use for live broadcasts, they realized the space was unsuitable due to background noise. The space constraints and lack of acoustics posed a significant challenge for the station.

That’s when Alex Chapman, acoustics and energy laboratory technical director at Lexmark stepped in. Chapman was referred to LCR by Tonya Jackson, vice president, Global Supply Operations at Lexmark, who also serves on the LCR Board of Directors.

Chapman worked to determine the source of the background noise—physical location as well as frequency content—and proposed a set of portable noise barriers to enshroud the workstation in a sort of “cloak.”

Thanks to Chapman, LCR now has a third studio area that offers professional level recording capabilities for the students to use and is seeking to replicate the sound isolation success at a proposed satellite studio located in the Black and Williams Neighborhood Community Center.

“We are not experts in acoustics and needed the help of a professional to find and create spaces suitable for recording,” said Debra Hensley, LCR president. “Alex came in and made recommendations on everything, right down to purchasing vendors, saving us tons of money. We are extremely happy with the results. I am very impressed with all outreach and volunteer work that comes out of Lexmark.”

Chapman continues to work with LCR and the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government Commissioner of Social Services to implement his designs and upgrades to make the proposed facility at the neighborhood community center a live interview room.

About Alex Chapman

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Alex Chapman began his career at Lexmark in June 1998, a thesis shy of a master’s degree in mechanical engineering. He started doing general mechanical design and troubleshooting hardware, including traditional aspects such as gear train architecture, paper handling and carrier motion. He also became involved in the acoustics.

“I enjoyed that particular aspect immensely and found I was quite motivated to learn more,” said Chapman. “So, after finishing my thesis, I began a Ph.D. in acoustics in spring 2000, while continuing to work full time. Lexmark was very supportive, and even paid the costs of my tuition.”

He moved to the Acoustics and Energy Laboratory in spring 2002, thrilled to pursue his passion full time. He applied what he had learned previously to laser products, all the while driving down sound levels by working directly with the development teams.

In spring 2008, he assumed leadership of the laboratory, and had the opportunity to train others in the art and science of making Lexmark products quieter, both quantitatively and subjectively.  He also completed his Ph.D. that same year.