There was no time for perfection. Instead, Irving Heredia and his fellow industrial design classmates had two days to learn how to use Arduino microcontrollers to program and run ribbons of LED lights, then use the flashy bulbs to enhance articles of clothing.

Heredia embraced the project with gusto. After all, he’d been tinkering and designing things since his first grade teacher told him to create something that could help save the world. “I invented a portable trash can so people wouldn’t pollute,” he recalls. “That kind of thinking never left me. I’ve always wanted to create stuff and be inventive.”

Now, here he was: working contentedly with 16 other industrial design majors in a light-filled studio at the Shintaro Akatsu School of Design (SASD) in mid-January.

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“We wanted them to learn how to incorporate new technologies into product design,” says industrial design program director Richard Yelle.

To do that, Yelle reached out to a team of students and their professor from Chosun University in South Korea. The group, comprised of students majoring in industrial design, design management, and mechanical engineering, came to UB for three days to deliver the microcontrollers they made especially for the project and to teach SASD students how to use them.

Once Heredia made sense of the computing devices’ wires and learned how to control the color and frequency of the LED bulbs, he could put them into something wearable.

“I wanted to do a motorcycle helmet. Or a bicycle shirt that points directional signals,” says Heredia, 21.

Super ideas. But with just two days to produce – and a massive snowstorm that closed down campus and temporarily interrupted work – Heredia and his classmates had to use clothing that was readily available: UB baseball hats.

 

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“It was definitely a guerrilla project,” laughs Yelle. “Chaotic, fun, bad weather … but they got the work done.”

Best of all, there were plenty of Arduino microcontrollers and lights left over. That means Heredia and his peers can design something new without the pressure of a deadline.

“I could see them used in a million different things,” Heredia mused. “Maybe I’ll do a DJ hat, just for fun.”

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