saluda shoals lights volcano

The student-made volcano light display is now being shown in the Saluda Shoals Holiday Lights on the River show. Photo provided.

There's a new addition to the Holiday Lights on the River event at Saluda Shoals Park this year.

The Center for Advanced Technical Studies partnered with the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission for a second time to allow students to create a new light display for the drive-through light show. The students, working in three different programs at the Center, collaborated to bring the project to life. They conceptualized, designed, created, and physically lit the display themselves.

Last year, students made Tracy the Triceratops, and this year they made a volcano display.

“This was an incredible opportunity for our students to apply the knowledge and skills they learned at The Center in the design and development of a product guided by a customer’s specifications,” said Dr. Al Gates, Director of Career and Technical Education at The Center. “We were excited to be asked and are ecstatic with the final creation. We look forward to continuing this project next year with Saluda Shoals and the creation of a new display.”

Students Tabby Lo and Lauren VanMiddlesworth in the Digital Art and Design program volunteered to design the light display. They chose a volcano to accompany the dinosaur students built last year.

“I didn’t really know in my head what the final product would look like because a piece of paper and an Ipad is very different from what it is going to look like in real life,” said VanMiddlesworth. Lo said she's excited to be able to create something for families to enjoy: "It’s just so much fun to see your design up there and know that you created it. I don’t know how to describe it, but it is just amazing."

After the design was finalized, it went to the welding program where student Titus Lee began constructing the display. He forged the metal to meet the dimensions, and the appropriate welds were made to complete the structure.

“From the start it was very tricky because I had to figure out how to dimension the drawing that I was given and put it into real life," he said. "It was a fun process because it was something new and was more than just welding in the booth. This project gave me something to use my skills on.”

The final step in the project was to install the holiday lighting, assisted by students from the Electrical Design program.

The Superintendent of Operations and Facilities at the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission, Jay Downs, said partnering with The Center helps to make their holiday lights show even better. “We get what we call holiday lights fatigue syndrome because it is such a big and ominous task for us to do every year,” Downs said. “Coming out here and seeing the students work on it is very refreshing and fun to watch because their enthusiasm is really wrapped around it.”

The Center for Advanced Technical Studies in School District Five of Lexington and Richland Counties serves students in all four district high schools and provides career-focused, high wage and high-tech academic programs and courses to prepare students to be college and career ready upon graduation.

The Volcano and Tracy the Triceratops will be on display with over 400 other animated displays until Dec. 31 during the Holiday Lights on the River event at Saluda Shoals Park. More information can be found at

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