By Ross Dolan, Mitchell Daily Republic
A quarter-million lights went on at Abbott House Monday, pumping up an opening-night crowd and punctuating the beginning of the holiday season.
Abbott House Development Director Allen Lepke enlisted the help of instructors and students in the SCADA program at Mitchell Technical Institute to make this year s Abbott House lighting display sophisticated and fun.
We just wanted to get more people involved and they jumped right on board, said Lepke.The light show can be enjoyed nightly from 5:30 to 9:30 through Jan 3, 2010. Music can be heard by dialing your car radio to 89.3 FM.
In MTI s SCADA program which stands for Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition students learn how to use computers to remotely control everything from industrial production lines to water plants and electrical generators.
The project was a perfect fit for MTI, said Lepke, and students rose to the programming challenge. They built their musical programs from scratch. They took the song, imported it into the software, found out where the beats were and they programmed all the lights that way the extremely hard way, Lepke said.
The display also includes songs from last year s light show, but those patterns are more random than, and not as synchronized as, the musical numbers programmed by the MTI students, he said.Student Jason Gibson, 29, of Mitchell, said programming challenges consumed the 10 students in the SCADA program.
I ve fallen behind in a lot of my classes, but the instructors have been understanding. They know the amount of work that goes into one of these programs, he said.Some of the more extravagant light shows have only 36 lighting channels to program, said Gibson, but the Abbott House show required students to program 12 central control boxes with a total of 192 outputs, or channels.
There s a ridiculous number of light strands out there, he laughed.
They plugged them all in and mapped them all out, labeled each one and diagrammed each output, said Lepke. The show s power required NorthWestern Energy to take an upgraded electrical service line across Havens Avenue. Muth Electric hooked up the main power panel and five subpanels on the Abbott House grounds.
There s a lot of classroom and personal time in this show, said program chairman Tony Russell, and it s pretty cool.
The original goal of the light show was, and still is, to raise money to support Abbott House, a residential treatment center for girls.
In its debut season last year, the Abbott House light show broke even, said Lepke, but start-up costs were considerable. Lepke is hopeful the hard work will pay off this year. Donation boxes are set up along Court Merrill Street to accept contributions.