CWRU, CIA students put technology and art on display at upcoming festival

“Pulse.” Photo by Rob Muller, CIA

In 2010, two Case Western Reserve University graduate students launched the Brite Winter festival to celebrate the season. Four years later, the annual free arts and musical event has grown significantly—attracting some 20,000 people last year.

And although its founders have since graduated, other Case Western Reserve students—an engineer and a project management consultant—hope to use the event to spotlight their glowing work.

Since October, students from the Case School of Engineering and Cleveland Institute of Art have collaborated to create wearable-design projects that combine art and technology with light for the art exhibit and competition “In the Dark.” Their creations were first displayed at the Museum of Contemporary Art on Jan. 30, and will be showcased this weekend at Brite Winter.

The event is Saturday, Feb. 15, with outdoor programming from 4 to 11 p.m. and indoor programming until 1 a.m. in Cleveland’s Ohio City Market District on the city’s near West Side. During the festival, the students’ work will be displayed in the windows of the first two levels of LAND Studio (1939 W. 25th St., Suite 200) from 5 to 7 p.m. (A music schedule, venue guide and more information are available at

The students’ exhibits will travel to two more venues in the next two months: the Cleveland Mini Maker Faire and the Great Lakes Science Center’s Yuri’s Night Space Party. Guests can vote for their favorite design at each, with final judging at the Space Party.

Barbara Chira, academic director of CIA’s Cores + Connections, adjunct professor of art at CIA and director of the design project, collaborated with community partners to create interest and provide venues.

“Last fall semester, CIA hosted a meeting with people from the Great Lakes Science Center,” Chira said, “and they brought up an idea about wearable technology, so we ran with it.”

With help from think[ box ] manager Ian Charnas, Chira promoted the endeavor to Case Western Reserve engineering students with a strong interest in innovation and entrepreneurship.

“Ian emailed and posted our invitational flier and continued to get the word out to students day-to-day at think[ box ],” she said.

Chira coordinates the project’s marketing and works with the venues, but the rest—from design to time management—is left to the students.

“We don’t instruct or mentor them. We want to make it as professional as possible,” Chira said.

“In the Dark” is a program of Cores + Connections—CIA’s academic commitment to student engagement in community practices and real-world, professional projects.

The three teams that will compete at the Brite Winter festival are:

  • Pulse, which consists of recent CWRU computer engineering graduate Ray Krajci and CIA students Ben Horvat, Marcy Kniss and Eric Payne. They created a garment that combines elegance with motion sensor light technology. “We measured the model’s steps, so that with every step, it created a signal that made the LED lights pulse,” said Krajci. “What we are investigating now is different ways we can give control of the dress to the model—to make it a performance piece.”
  • Compendium, by CIA student Graham Baldwin. He created a traditional crinoline dress with almost five pounds of 3-D-printed nylon covering. The work draws from historic fashion designers and architects.
  • Effulgence is composed of CIA junior T.I.M.E. major Jarrod Davis and CIA sophomore sculpture major Leah Yochman. Their garment seeks to create a soothing environment using lights, reflections and color.

Between each event, each team will have an opportunity to improve on the design and hear feedback from attendees.

Although the students work alone, they receive some guidance from Case School of Engineering student Daoning Zhou, who volunteers as project management consultant and technical adviser.

Zhou makes sure students stick to rigid timelines, ensures they have the resources required for their projects and documents each team’s work.

“I realized I was more interested in organizing and managing,” said Zhou, a senior chemical engineering major. “Also, I’ve always had an interest in art, and this was an opportunity to integrate engineering and design.”

After this weekend’s Brite Winter exhibit, students will have a month to tweak their designs before the next exhibit on March 29 at the Cleveland Mini Maker Faire.