Graduate students set up "Walk with Me" light installation.
Graduate students set up “Walk with Me” light installation.

In September, three teams of graduate students from several departments set out to build an urban light project that combines interactive light installations and a data counter. The project was sponsored by the Global Urban Humanities Initiative, a joint venture between the UC Berkeley Arts and Humanities Division of the College of Letters and Sciences and the College of Environmental Design.

The three installation projects, called “Count Me In,” “Walk with Me” and “Urban Heartbeat,” were placed at three sites in San Leandro, with the support of the city.

Students used a combination of sensors, arduino boards and 3D prints. Installations lights were placed on freeway overpasses and light poles in the city. The installations use sensors that count the number of people passing by and that store the data.

The project is part of the class, Sensing Cityscapes, taught by Professor Greg Niemeyer and Professor Ronald Rael. The course is designed to encourage graduate students to find new ways of collecting and using data to improve the way in which city residents live, move and walk together.

“Our general concept is, if we can measure something in a city, and store that information and learn from that information and then see if the information teaches us something about the city that we appreciate or that we can take action about, then the city becomes a better place,” said Professor Greg Niemeyer about the experiential installations during a San Leandro city council meeting.

“The city of San Leandro is lucky to have a world-class institution of higher learning close by,” said San Leandro Vice Mayor Benny Lee during a December city council meeting. “We’re very pleased that the work they’re doing to look at San Leandro, to build a relationship and to work with our city staff to talk about ways to bring their ideas, their energy, their innovative approach to make San Leandro a better place.”