Bright lights have been shining on Brookings and SDSU since the Jackrabbits won the Football Championship Series national title Jan. 8. Some of those lights are the work of a freshman engineering student.
As State’s chances of a national title progressed during the championship game with North Dakota State University, Nick Teal, who is majoring in electronics engineering technology, decided to convert the Christmas lighting display he had erected at his family’s home on Derdall Drive to a yellow and blue theme.
“I pulled the music and synced it up with the lights, so I took some of the favorite designs that people had liked at the Christmas light display, turned them yellow and blue and celebrated the win for the Jackrabbits,” Teal told KELO-TV, which aired a segment on the display in its Jan. 11 newscast.
Teal said it took him 45 minutes to switch from the red and green lighting that accompanied a variety of Christmas songs to the familiar one-minute long “Ring the Bell” fight song played by The Pride of the Dakotas Marching Band during football games.
The blue and yellow display of snowflakes, a train and a Christmas tree was active for a week after the championship.
The house gathered quite a bit of attention during the Christmas season as the home won first prize in the Chamber of Commerce’s “Let it Glow” Christmas light competition. Teal said traffic picked up again after word got out about the “Ring the Bell” presentation, which passersby could pick up on an FM frequency.
Third year for Christmas display
Teal started learning about synchronized lighting displays in March 2020, when COVID-19 cast gloom over the country. He erected his first display in December 2020 with 750 lights. Since then, his collection has grown to 5,000 lights, which he erects for Christmas and Halloween displays and in 2023 will add a Fourth of July display.
He explained that with such synchronized displays, the lights are called pixels. Each pixel is composed of a red, green and blue LED, and each color is individually controllable.
“When I was younger, I had always liked driving around during the holiday season and looking at the lights. Since then, I had wanted to put up a display of my own. Couple that with my passion for electronics, and pixels seemed like a good way to have a display that differentiated itself from the others.
“After the first year, I saw how much joy it brought to the people watching the display. I've since continued to put on the display as it allows families to create holiday memories of their own as they drive around and look at the lights, much like I did when I was younger.
“Also, hearing the ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ paired with the smiles of people watching the display is truly something special,” Teal said.
Software plus trial and error
Teal said he uses a free software called xLights.
“There’s tons of help out there for beginners. The learning curve was not very substantial for me. I watched a few YouTube videos an picked up the basics; the rest was trial and error.
“The software has a visualizer (a computer representation of his home with the pixels in their approximate location). The visualizer allows me to program and see the results on my computer screen, rather than sitting outside in the cold. Using the visualizer, I drag and drop different effects over the display until I find designs that I like,” he said.
The "Ring the Bell" display can be seen at bit.ly/sdsuwin.