Carnegie Mellon University
October 24, 2011

Press Release: Carnegie Mellon Students Design Light Shows For Display On Randy Pausch Memorial Bridge

New Lighting Sequences By Students and Faculty Will Premiere October 27

Contact: Byron Spice / 412-268-9068 /

Pausch BridgePITTSBURGH—The 230-foot-long Randy Pausch Memorial Bridge is both a well-trod connection between the Gates Center for Computer Science and the Purnell Center for the Arts and a symbol of the collaborative, creative spirit of the late Carnegie Mellon University professor. Now, two years after its dedication, the span with more than 7,000 programmable LED lights has become a unique teaching resource as well.

Four teams of students have designed light shows that will be exhibited on the bridge for months to come. The shows were created for a class on "light as art," interactive expression and programming that was taught for the first time this semester by Cindy Limauro, professor of lighting design in the School of Drama; Christopher Werner, adjunct instructor of lighting design, and Eric Paulos, associate professor in the Human-Computer Interaction Institute.

The student-developed lighting designs, as well as one by Randal E. Bryant, dean of the School of Computer Science, will premiere at 7:30 p.m. Thursday Oct. 27 as part of the university's inaugural Cèilidh Weekend. Elements of each lighting experience will be displayed during the program, as the creators explain how they developed the designs.

"The student shows embody the spirit of Randy Pausch in exploring unknown territory, taking risks and creating a dynamic experience for the campus community," Limauro said.

Since its dedication in 2009, the Pausch bridge has illuminated the center of campus nightly with a light show designed by Limauro and Christopher Popowich, the principal designers of C&C Lighting. The light design includes visual metaphors to "The Last Lecture," the life-affirming lecture and book that won Pausch worldwide fame. A professor of computer science, human-computer interaction and design, Pausch died in 2008 of pancreatic cancer.

The recent installation of a new lighting controller has simplified the task of programming the bridge lights. The new controller was made possible by a donation from Intel Corp.

"The Pausch bridge is a unique asset for our campus," Paulos said. "At night, the light shows have been a joy to experience. It's great that the bridge lighting now can be used to enrich the education of our students and give them a one-of-a-kind opportunity to express themselves."

The student-created light shows are:

• Fusion. Building on the idea that the bridge connects the arts with the sciences, a mix of colors representing collaboration between the disciplines is displayed across the bridge. As people walk across it, a panel of light moves with them, symbolizing the exchange of ideas. Created by Jackson Gallagher, Ryan Pearl, Robert Kubisen, Sang Tian and Monica Tong.

A Day in the Life. The show depicts a universal day in 20 minutes, from sunrise to sunset and on to "those strange hours" before dawn. The bridge lighting layers various combinations of moods on top of a nature-inspired interpretation of the passage of time. Created by Michael Epstein, Kelly Harrington, Thomas Abraham and Anthony Chivetta.

TwitterBridge. This show harvests the thoughts, feelings and actions of the campus community as expressed in tweets downloaded from Twitter and visually represents them on the bridge. Send tweets to @Pausch_Bridge to share your experiences. Created by Andrew Leitch, Bill McDowell, Zak Wise, Mickey Reiss and Emerson Stoldt.

Time in Motion. The colors and movement of the bridge lighting will reflect the current environment, based on live weather data. A clock that employs a unary numeral system — similar to tally marks — will overlay the weather lighting, providing a sense of constant movement and reinforcing the idea of the "here and now." Created by Indu Ancha, Mike Berger, Matthew Ho and Chris Lee.

In addition to the student shows, Bryant designed One Sort or Another, a visual exploration of sorting algorithms, one of the most basic tasks performed by computers. Using rectangles of different colors to represent items of different value, the program displays the effect of rearranging the items to put them in order. The show employs multiple different algorithms and multiple ways of partitioning the bridge lights into rectangles to generate several thousand possible sequences.

The five new shows will be cycled with the original Last Lecture-inspired shows for the foreseeable future. The Pausch Bridge light shows operate from dusk until dawn.


Pictured above is the Pausch Bridge.