By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
---- — 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.
There will be some new features alongside those mainstays, though.
“It’s going to be a blast,” she said.
This year, a group of daring people will compete for $100 in the doughnut throwdown.
Each contestant in the contest will have 14 glazed doughnuts placed in front of them. The first person to eat all 14 wins.
Not your cup of tea? How about an adult trike war?
Teams of four will compete against each other. Two riders, each with their own guide, will navigate through an obstacle course. There’s a catch, though. The riders are blindfolded.
Alexander said the race initially wasn’t going to involve blindfolds, but this poses a unique challenge.
“It makes it more fun,” she said.
The guides will scream out directions for their riders.
“They’ll be there yelling, ‘Left. Left. Right. Faster. Over here,’” Alexander said.
There likely will be 15 different heats in the war. The winning team claims a $250 prize.
The celebration also includes music, light and stage shows that start at 10:30 p.m. Dance, sing and jam the night away, Alexander said.
Pepperwhistle, Planet Mind, Main Street Café and Cook McDoogal’s will open up for the event. The Irish pub will remain open until 3 a.m.
All across town, bars and venues will host special parties and musical acts to bring in 2014. Musical groups Inside Out, Losing September, Zakk Knight Band and Downtime Band will perform in Kokomo tonight.
There’s even something to keep teens safe and out of trouble.
Area youth groups banded together with Bridges Outreach to again host the New Year’s Eve overnight bash at Northwestern High School.
Last year, more than 600 sixth- to 12th-graders joined the party.
“We were pretty floored so many students showed up,” said Casey Cline, with Bridges Outreach. “It showed us that kids are looking for something to do.”
There will be food, drinks and games all night long. Kids will compete in basketball and dodgeball tournaments. There will even be laser tag and a midnight celebration.
Bryan Drake, a Christian illusionist, will perform throughout the night.
“It’s not your typical illusionist,” Cline said. “He’ll bring sort of a fun element.”
Davis said she will be downtown all night, anxiously awaiting the ball drop.
“I get nervous when it gets down to the wire,” she said. “But I love being down there.”
Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune Life & Style editor, can be reached at 765-454-8585, at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @LindseyZiliak.
WHAT'S GOING ON TONIGHT Local band Inside Out performing at Mulligan's Sports Pub, 1134 Home Ave., Kokomo; 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.; there might be a cover. 2014 New Year's Eve celebration at Centerstage Bar and Grill, 1833 S. Plate St., Kokomo; featuring bands Losing September and Zakk Knight Band; doors open at 7 p.m.; ages 18 and up; tickets $15. New Year's Eve at Ned's Corner Pub, corner of Main Street and Markland Avenue; steak special, free juke box after 8 p.m., a Champagne toast at midnight and free breakfast at 12:30 a.m., no cover charge. A Little Black Dress and Tie Affair New Year's Eve party at The Social, 3040 S. LaFountain St.; 9 p.m. to 3 a.m.; $15 general admission, $10 general admission with black dress or tie, $20 bottles of Champagne; VIP booths available. New Year's Eve celebration on the courthouse square; 10:30 p.m. to midnight; featuring music, lights and stage show and Trike Wars at 10:30 p.m., a doughnut throwdown at 11:30 p.m. and the TechnoKats' lighted ball drop and fireworks display at midnight; $20 registration fee for team of four in Trike Wars and $5 registration fee for doughnut throwdown; must pre-register at Greater Kokomo Downtown Association, 325 N. Main St., Kokomo. CKRR New Year's Eve 5K Run/Walk; starts at 2 p.m. at UAW Local 292 Hall, Kokomo; for more info, call Joni, 765-210-2281. Youth New Year's Eve overnight bash; Northwestern High School fieldhouse and auditorium; 9 p.m. today to 7 a.m. Wednesday; featuring food, drinks, laser tag, an illusionist, lots of games and a midnight celebration; open to kids in sixth to 12th grades; tickets are $10 in advance or $20 at the door. Downtime Band performing at Fraternal Order of Eagles Lodge 255, 1221 E. Lincoln Road, Kokomo; 9 p.m. to midnight. Entertainment at PASTArrific piano bar, 3001 S. Webster St., Kokomo; 5 to 9 p.m.