Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

December 31, 2013

A colorful New Year's Eve

Bars, youth groups, venues and downtown have music and contests planned

Tonight, the Kokomo High School robotics team unveils a project more than two years in the making.

At the stroke of midnight, a lighted ball will drop to the ground in downtown Kokomo to ring in 2014 in style. If it works how it’s supposed to, it will have more colors and patterns than ever before, said robotics team member Kija Davis.

But so many things could go wrong.

“It’s nerve-racking,” she said. “We’re trying to make sure everything runs perfectly.”

The team of students has been replacing the master controls that dictate the colors and patterns that appear on the 32,000-light ball.

The more sophisticated controls should give the students more color and pattern options, said Mike Carmain, who has been helping the students with the project. Last year, the ball was lit with 4,000 different colors. They’re hoping tonight it shines brightly with 32,000 colors.

It’s been a long road to this point, though.

“We’ve been working on this since the summer after my freshman year, and I’m a senior now,” Davis said.

The team had planned to debut the upgrades last year but hit some snags and couldn’t.

Students have been working through their winter break to make sure the new ball is ready tonight. A team hand-soldered the new controls. Some have been learning all about the circuitry so they know how to troubleshoot in case of problems.

It hasn’t been easy.

“It’s been more challenging because we were dead set on getting the upgrades finished this year,” Davis said.

Carmain estimated the kids have 1,500 man hours invested in the project.

Susan Alexander said their hard work will be appreciated by hundreds of people in the community at tonight’s celebration.

The ball drop and accompanying fireworks are the centerpieces of the New Year’s Eve bash downtown, said Alexander, who helps organize the event.

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