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PD Shimmers

PD Shimmers

Shining One Light for Each American Diagnosed With Parkinson’s Disease in 2015

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Lights Return November 28

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Pictured are Dr. Martha Nance presenting the Paul M Silverstein Award to Mike Justak for his work with the Parkinson’s Community.
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The display is unique in that it remains the only display to be created, assembled, and operated by a person with Parkinson’s Disease. In 2014, Mike was honored for his works with the Paul M Silverstein Award. The 2014 show was touted as “One of the Twin Cities best” by “Bring Me the News.”

With season VI, PD Shimmers can still boast about the effort put in by Mike Justak. Parkinson’s is progressive and there is no cure. The burden to maintain a quality production that is spread over 30 days is somewhat daunting but over 80% of the display is put together by Mike.
The Effect Parkinson’s Disease has on the display.

In order to do most of the work on the display himself, Mike Justak makes “concessions’ to his Parkinson’s Disease within his display. What types of things does Parkinson’s interfere with? I#1 would be use of a ladder and no ladder is preferred. Parkinson’s can throw off ones sense of balance and it come occur with little warning. To compensate for this many of the lights are in place using a sectional pole to telescopes up to a 25’ height. The Mega Tree center support is also telescoping and is jacked up to its height of 15’. Where a ladder is needed ample time is planned to allow for safe work. A tree branch may be wrapped using 2 or 3 strands per day.

Planning is a key component. Work progresses almost daily throughout the year. To help simplify setup the display includes us of over 25 preassembled items, most of them Christmas Trees. This allows for set up to be initiated earlier with the final product being simply set in place. Lights are joined to their controllers via custom cables that are pre assembled and color coded.
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Display Trivia

The display uses over 58,000 lights as a representation for the 58,000 Americans who were diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. How big is 58,000? The Memorial in Washington DC for the Viet Nam War holds 58,000 names of serviceman killed in action. The city of Lakeville, MN has a population of 58,000. In fact, the entire population of the country of Greenland is 58,000.

The 58,000 lights are held on over 800 hand placed strings which measure over 17,000 feet of wire. Put another way, that is about 3 miles of lights. The light strings plug into specialized cables. These connecting cables comprise another 2000 feet of wiring. Approximately 4000 zip ties hold everything together. There are 18 control boxes. In lightship speak the show is broken down into “channels”. Think of a channel as an electric outlet that is switchable. These 18 boxes control 220 channels spread over the 8 homes on Ithaca Lane. You may wonder how the computer signal get to the control boxes.PD Shimmers uses XBEE radio technology to wirelessly communicate with it controllers. “Must be some massive Mainframe that runs this thing, huh?’ No, not exactly. PD Shimmers outputs the entire show using a Raspberry Pi micro computer. This tiny but mighty machine can fit inside the palm of your hand.

The show is programed using specialized software but it still requires about 6 hours per minute of show to program. Due to the complexity of the track, “Uptown Funk” required about 80 hours to program the one 4 minute song.