If you like Christmas lights, you need to visit Austin in December. I am fortunate enough to live here. Sadly, due to budget constraints, the city will not stage its annual “Trail of Lights“ this year at Zilker Park, however the huge Christmas-lights-only tree will be illuminated at the park as usual.
The big Christmas light attraction in Austin is 37th Street, which is totally staged and funded by the homeowners who reside on the street. This started in 1980, when each homeowner tried to outdo his or her neighbor with their lighting display. In typical Austin fashion, there is no neighborhood committee, nor any organization coordinating this event. Everyone is on their own. Some light displays are religious, some are secular, some are political, several are funny, and several are just plain weird. Several light displays are stretched across the street - which I am sure must violate some city code. Virtually every home on the street participates, in a big way. This occurs in a middle class neighborhood, and these are not wealthy people.
During the weeks before Christmas, so many people go to 37th Street to see the lights that the city occasionally closes the street to automobile traffic on Friday nights. It actually becomes so crowded that it is difficult to walk in the street. Several homeowners allow tourists to walk through their property to see the backyard lighting displays as well as the front. I do not think this phenomena occurs anywhere else in the US.
Here is a short video on 37th st at Christmas:
If you watch the video, you will see one Christmas display homeowner‘s electric meter spinning wildly. Electricity can get expensive. Running all those colored incandescent lights is not cheap. But it could be a lot cheaper if the homeowners used LEDs! (This is the graceful segue to the Holiday LED contest.) This contest is formally named the Parallax and iGen Student Holiday LED Challenge and it is sponsored by Parallax, EETimes, Innovation-Generation (iGen) (EE Times' new website for students) and Digi-Key.
Open to students age 24 and under, the competition aims
to inspire middle-school, high-school, and undergraduate students to
work with microcontrollers and electronic components to create their own
LED holiday projects.
Students under18 years old will need a parent’s written permission to enter the contest. (There is a Parental Consent FAX form on the Contest Registration website.) This is a relatively short term contest, with the winners announced by the end of January, 2011. There will be a total of nine prizes, ranging from six $250 Honorable Mentions up to a $1,500 Grand Prize. A total of $4,500 will be given away. Get full contest details.
Register now. Don’t dawdle. A kid you know may be $1,500 richer by the end of January!
Does any one know if there is still time to enter this contest?, and have access to the registration form. My daughters would appreciate entering this contest, but have been unable to contect to the above link for some time.
Thanks in advance
That's an incredible display of lights in that video. It seems all that's missing is some snow. And here I am sitting with a whole driveway full of the stuff and I'm giving it all away for free. Just another logistics nightmare.
All kidding aside, I can't wait to see some of the ideas that the students come up with for this contest. When it comes to designing with LED lighting I'm still a kid at heart. Good luck to all the participants.
I have looked at the video clip and I can testify I have never seen so many Xmas lights any where else neither in a government building nor a private housing. I guess it makes great sense to use LED lighting where there is such a huge demand for decorating lights which normally stays on 24/7 for few weeks.
Great incentives for kids of all ages!
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