Students design high-tech Christmas ties for principal

Photos by Brittney Lohmiller/The Herald
Fifth Street School kindergartners Janette Regalado, left, Jayde Opel and Kinley Knies look at the different LED lights Craig Gore of Jasper added to a tie on Thursday morning in Jasper. All of the students at Fifth Street drew different tie designs and the winners from each grade will have their ties created by Gore, who is an electrical engineer. Using LED lights and MP3 players from singing holiday cards, Gore will have the ties blink and play music. Principal Ryan Erny will wear the ties to school next week


JASPER — Fifth Street School Principal Ryan Erny is getting three high-tech ties for Christmas.

As part of a schoolwide STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — activity, each student at Fifth Street drew a light-up Christmas tie design and then each grade level voted on their favorite. Craig Gore, an electrical engineer at Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division, volunteered his time to bring the winners' ties to life. His wife, Ashtyn, teaches at Fifth Street.

The lights run off a circuit that uses computer coding to tell the lights to turn on and off in sequences chosen by the students. On Thursday, each class met with Gore for 15 minutes so he could explain how the ties work. He showed the students the red and greed LED lights and lily pad circuit boards that he programmed to run the lights. To help the kids understand what was happening, Gore compared the system to the light switches that turn the classroom lights on and off.

“It’s just flipping that switch on and off,” he said. “But I’m telling a computer to do it so I don’t have to.”

Gore programmed the lights to blink in different patterns depending on what the students wanted. The kindergartners, for example, wanted the lights in their red, snowflake-covered tie to blink all at once. That one, Gore said, was easy to program. The second-graders’ snowman tie was more complicated. They wanted their lights to all blink at different times. The first-graders requested lights that blink in a pattern for their Christmas tree tie.

During the 15-minute sessions, students crowded around Gore, asking a lot of questions about the different parts in the ties and how it all worked. First-grader Blair Buse had the most unique question of the day. She worried that the electrical current running the tie might shock Erny while he was wearing it.

“Won’t it go through his shirt?” she asked.

Gore assured her that it would not.

“This is very low power,” he said. “Low power things are very safe.”

If everything goes according to Gore’s plan, the ties will also play Christmas music. He purchased a few musical Christmas cards and removed the circuits that run them to add to the ties. During the sessions Thursday, he showed the kids how the cards work, too. First-grader Anna Blessinger liked the idea of the tie playing music.

“It’s cool,” she said.

Erny plans to wear the ties next week before Christmas break.

“So make sure you come to school those days,” Erny told the kids.

Electrical engineer Craig Gore of Jasper shows Fifth Street School second-graders the different components he added to a tie on Thursday morning in Jasper. 

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