Students Illuminate Pausch Bridge in CS, Drama Minicourse

Heidi OpdykeTuesday, May 18, 2021

Students worked on cross-disciplinary teams to explore light as art, interactive design and programming in the minicourse "Interaction and Expression Using the Pausch Bridge Lighting."

On a chilly May night, snowflakes sparkled on the Randy Pausch Memorial Bridge near the heart of Carnegie Mellon University's campus.

The wintry scene wasn't caused by unseasonably cool weather. Rather, Victor Huang, a sophomore in computer science and human-computer interaction, digitally created the effect in the minicourse "Interaction and Expression Using the Pausch Bridge Lighting."

Huang first learned about Pausch — the late professor of computer science, author of "The Last Lecture" and co-founder of the Entertainment Technology Center — as a high school student in Singapore.

"I knew about CMU because of Randy Pausch," said Huang, "I wrote about it in my admission essay. I had an amazing school counselor who showed 'The Last Lecture.'"

Pausch encouraged computer scientists and artists to work together, and the 230-foot-long bridge, which connects the Gates Center for Computer Science and the Purnell Center for the Arts, is a monument to his legacy. The bridge is lit by more than 7,000 programmable LED lights.

Cindy Limauro, a University Professor of Lighting Design, has worked on the bridge since its beginning. She and her husband, Christopher Popowich, designed the lighting system and created the first light show, which was inspired by visual metaphors from Pausch's lecture and book. She's been involved in all of the bridge lighting courses. This year's course was co-taught with Garth Zeglin, an IDeATe Network instructor based in the Robotics Institute.

This was the 10th time a bridge lighting course was taught. Working on cross-disciplinary teams, students explored light as art, interactive design and programming using a Pharos lighting control system — the type employed on the Pausch Bridge.

"I had heard about this magical class that allows you to program the bridge," Huang said. "There is a huge interdisciplinary culture here where computer science can be melded together with aspects of the arts. I came to CMU for experiences like this."

Read more about the course, its students and professors, and the lighting designs they produced on the CMU News website.

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