20,000 LEDs light up ACU's quad

ABILENE, Texas (KTAB) - Abilene Christian University’s new Lightwalk combines art and science to create a unique and interactive space on campus.

College quads are usually reserved for tossing frisbees and studying but often go unused, especially at night. Abilene Christian University (ACU) wanted to illuminate the McGlothlin quad and create a new way of engaging with the university community by combining science, technology, and art. Dubbed Lightwalk, their innovative solution is an outdoor light installation that provides students, faculty, staff, and visitors with a unique gathering space throughout the day and night.
 
According to Brent Reeves, ACU Associate Professor of Management Science and Computer Science, “The thing that excites me the most about this is the integration of hardware and software and art.” Built in partnership with interactive agency Viget, Lightwalk invites both physical and digital interaction of special light reeds through sensing, internet-connected hardware, a mobile web app, and a hackable back end program for students to experiment.
 
Lightwalk development began after a grant in honor of the McGlothlin family asking for an art installation on the quad that would complement the nearby Onstead Science Center. Led by faculty, students, and the ACU MakerLab, the aim was to create an interactive exhibit and accompanying hackable software to take advantage of the latest in "Internet of Things" technology. Viget helped ACU develop the hardware components, including the 35 master nodes, 350 light reeds, 20,000 smart LEDs, 32 infrared sensors, and 3 temperature sensors that power the installation, as well as the software applications and firmware upon which all interactions and displays are driven.
 
The strangely organic-looking and encompassing Lightwalk is already attracting students as an interesting meeting place. Computer science students are able to code, test, and send their own light effects. Others in the ACU community can control the installation through their mobile devices, determining the pattern, color, and level of physical interaction.


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