Art and science find convergence at the University of Idaho, said Robert Rinker, associate professor in the computer science department.
Rinker will present a workshop for the Lionel Hampton Jazz Festival entitled “The Collision of Science and Art” at 1 p.m. Friday in the Borah Theater.
“What prompted all of this is the Tower of Lights Project,” Rinker said. “So it turns out our student club ACM (Association of Computing Machinery) a couple years ago got this idea for this Tower of Lights Project. So we designed some hardware and software to actually synchronize the lights in the tower with the LED strips we synchronized to music.”
For the past couple of years, students have been able to see the tower lights glow to synchronized lights and music on the Thursday before Vandal Friday. The lights come from LEDs, which sit on the windowsill in each room of the tower, emitting the primary colors red, green and blue. The light from the LEDs reflects off the white curtains of the rooms, which is what creates the light show.
“There are Ethernet jacks in each room, and so down in the basement we have the control board. It sends signals up and lights these lights,” Rinker said.
The success of the light show led the UI Sound of Idaho Marching Band to incorporate LED lights into their performances by putting them on the drums, trombones and trumpets.
“We designed these controllers, and we actually have 14 of them on, I think, seven bass drums and four quads (drums) and three snares (drums),” Rinker said. “These LED strips connect to Velcro and they go on the outside rims of the drums.”
Science also joined art when the mechanical engineering department designed an apparatus to help move the drum sets around for marching band performances.
“The drummer actually wears this harness and its like he’s got joysticks. So he can’t use his hands because he is drumming but he can use his shoulders to move it around.” Rinker said.
As for maintaining all of the lights and equipment, the marching band has students assist.
“An interesting fact is that the College of Engineering has the second largest participation in the marching band,” Rinker said.
ACM and Rinker have ambitious goals for the future uses of LED lighting.
“My goal is to light the (Kibbie) Dome.” Rinker said. “On the ceiling of the dome are those big white tiles which are 12-feet square. I have a couple of senior design groups that I am working with in electrical engineering, designing circuits that are a little more efficient (to light the Dome).”
The next Tower of Lights shows will be March 21 and April 4.
Aleya Ericson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org