Back in 2005, a group of MIT students got together to create a disco dance floor in the East Campus dormitories. The floor was 128-square-feet, accommodated fifty people, and featured 500 light-up tiles that throbbed to the sounds of the latest dance craze. The floor was so popular that the engineering students—Grant Elliott, Schuyler Senft-Grupp, Scott Torborg, and Mike Anderson—eventually ended up forming a company.
“Rumor has it, their core crew nearly contracted lead poisoning from soldering so much in such a short period of time when they installed the floor’s electronics,” says Erin King ’16, a student studying computer science and the project manager of the second iteration of the disco dance floor. But after years of wear and tear, the original disco dance floor had become, in King’s words, “moody and uncontrollable,” and was eventually removed during dorm renovations. This gave East Campus students the opportunity to revamp the newest iteration of the popular dormitory fixture, affectionately dubbed “DDFv2.”
The new computer-controlled disco dance floor is a twenty-four by forty-eight pixel grid outfitted with bright LED lights and covered in sheets of acrylic. Students assembled the new version entirely with off-the-shelf materials—saving them the endless soldering of years past.
The entire floor was created in the small span of only two weeks—just in time for MIT’s annual Bad Ideas Competition weekend, a popular event that has East Campus residents “execute as many bad ideas as we can come up with,” says King. This includes everything from eating contests to running up and down the stairs of MIT’s towering Green Building as many times as you can.
In the end, the final moment of the floor’s unveiling was nothing short of magic: “While we took great care in engineering our final product, it was still a magical moment when I flipped the switches and sent the command to start the server, and it worked,” King says.
The disco dance floor was partly sponsored by a grant from the Council for the Arts at MIT.