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Computing PhD candidates light up Salamanca

LED throwies

Coloured LED lights were used by a team of three University of Tasmania PhD students to take third place in this year’s OzCHI online design challenge.

Hobart-based Computing and Information Systems students Harry Rolf, Patrick Burns and Matt D'Orazio said they were thrilled to score a place in the gruelling 24-hour competition, which saw them pitted against teams from around the world.

The competition challenges students to develop a solution for a design brief, blog their thoughts and ideas, write a 400 word essay and create a video prototype to explain their concept solution.

The design brief this year was to revitalise an unused space using technology and team spokesman Mr Rolf said the group had discussed a number of possibilities before settling on Hobart’s picturesque Salamanca lawns.

While the lawns are often well utilised during the day, Mr Rolf said they were usually deserted at night.

“We thought something around Salamanca might be really interesting, because we also had to work with the time constraints and we knew it was going to be dark by the time we got anything together,” Mr Rolf said.

“We figured it would be a good place to go at night because there would be lots of people and different options for unused space.”

In order to encourage members of the public to use the lawns, the team set about creating a number of “LED throwies” – electronic kit LED lights in different colours, powered by tiny batteries.

The resulting coloured lights were thrown around the lawns, with small signs attached to them asking people to return them to a central location.

“The space we chose was unused in the sense that most parks at night – we don’t tend to go to these places,” Mr Rolf said.

“The lawns at Salamanca are an interesting case because there are lots of people out on a Saturday night, but no one stops there.

“It is dark.

“Nothing is happening, but lots of people are passing by.

“So we used the lights in order to essentially lure people into the space, like glow worms in a cave.”

Mr Rolf said people had slowly begun to enter the lawns to play with the LED throwies.

“One group was really enthusiastic,’’ he laughed.

“They were running around picking these things up wherever we had put them and bringing them back to us.

“They were extremely intrigued by what was going on. We had a couple other groups that picked them up and were a little bit more sceptical…

“We also had several LEDs that were taken – people just walked off with them

“So as a prototype, an initial experiment in some kind of participatory design I think it went really well.”

Image Caption: Patrick Burns assembles the LED throwies on a park bench at Salamanca during the competition.

Published on: 03 Nov 2010 10:19am