IxT Club to light up campus with ‘blinky badges’

June 02, 2020 / by / 0 Comment
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GCU’s Information x Technology Club illuminated a fun idea: Create smart “blinky badges” that can be programmed to light up in unison.

By Lana Sweeten-Shults
GCU News Bureau

Ryan Kotrosa, the IxT’s hardware committee lead, assembles a Havocs Badge with a little help from Crystal Wake, 2019-20 club president.

“Badges? Badges??? We don’t need no stinkin’ badges!!!”

But the Grand Canyon University community just might want a badge or two if they’re the kind of high-tech, light-’em-up device made by the campus’ Information x Technology Club (IxT for short).

Ryan Kotrosa, the club’s hardware committee lead, brought up the idea to the organization last fall after seeing a concert by rock band Coldplay. Concert organizers handed out wristbands that lit up in different colors at certain points in the concert.

The Xylobands, which are smart LED bracelets embedded with radio frequency receivers and light-emitting diodes, receive signals that are sent through a software program. The signals instruct the wristbands to light up, and programmers can control the colors and patterns emitted by the wristbands.

GCU students have donned similar types of wearable devices as volunteers and attendees at Las Vegas-based Defcon and Black Hat, popular summer back-to-back hacker and IT security gatherings.

While the club has been active in various IT competitions, the blinky badge project will be its first big project.

IxT decided to take those ideas and create its own “blinky badges” as a club project.

The idea: Get students – the Havocs in particular – to wear the club’s Havocs Badges at the basketball games, then light up the devices in unison at the Purple Pregame Parties. 

“People wear these badges a lot in the IT community at conferences,” said Kotrosa. “So it’s not a new idea, but we wanted to create one that’s crowd interactive. We thought it would be cool for the Havocs to have.”

Kotrosa started working on the IxT blinky badges in October, bringing the project home over winter break to enlist his engineer father for help. At the beginning of March, the badges went into production with the help of GCU’s chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Club, or “I-Triple E,” and the Honors STEMists, who have been involved in the project, too.

IxT assembled 100 of the badges and started taking preorders for them at the end of February. The club sold a majority of the devices in the spring semester, but then COVID-19 hit, forcing ground classes to end early and prompting students to return home to finish the last four weeks of classes online.

That meant the blinky badge project, like so many other projects, is in a holding pattern.

Crystal Wake, who just graduated from GCU with her bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and was the club president in 2019-20, said IxT hopes another sales push can begin when ground classes and basketball games start up again. The club also scrapped plans to make its own blinky badges for Black Hat and Defcon, which are being held virtually this summer.

IxT already is thinking of creating the next evolution of the Havocs Badge, which would incorporate a screen and other elements designed to interact with GCU Arena when a badge owner walks into the facility.

In coming up with a club project, Wake said, “Ryan and I wanted to do something for the school that we could be proud of.”

She remembers trying to decide what college she wanted to attend. When she went to a basketball game and saw the Havocs in action for the first time, she caught the bug: “I’m going here!”

Kotrosa said the club put the initial investment into the badges but want the project to be self-sustaining.

Creating a badge that the Havocs could wear combined two of her favorite things: her love of technology and her love of the Havocs.

The club put the initial investment into the badges, which sold in the spring semester for $25. The proceeds will go back into investing into the project and creating even more badges.

“The hope is to have it become sustainable,” said Deborah Haralson, IT faculty lead and the IxT Club advisor.

While the club has been active on campus in other ways, such as competing in hackathons, 2019-20 IxT Vice President Dominic Sutton said, “This is is going to be the first big IxT project the campus will know about.”

GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.

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