The Center for Advanced Technical Studies partnered with the Irmo Chapin Recreation Commission to create a new display for the annual Holiday Lights on the River event at Saluda Shoals Park. Students from three different programs at The Center collaborated to bring the project to life. The students were commissioned to conceptualize, design, create, and light the new 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.”

School District Five students Elizabeth Wheelis (Dutch Fork High School) and Cole DaMoude (Chapin High School) in the Digital Art and Design program at The Center volunteered to design the light display. When designing the display, Wheelis and DaMoude revisited their childhood memories for inspiration.

“I’ve always loved dinosaurs as a kid, so Cole agreed to create one for Saluda Shoals. That, and who doesn’t love dinosaurs? I always went to the lights every single year with my family for as long as I can remember, so many of my most cherished memories occurred there.” said Wheelis. “It was exciting because, since I’m still a student in school and not a business owner, most of the things I make are more for myself and aren’t seen by anybody besides other family members, so being able to create something that is not only going to be public but is also going to be part of something so important to me is so gratifying.”

DaMoude also recalls the excitement every holiday season visiting South Carolina. He said, “This project was actually very special to me because as a young child I remember visiting South Carolina for Christmas and one of the first things my family would do together was to visit the lights.”

Once the design was finished, the project shifted to the Welding program where students Wes Grindstaff (Spring Hill High School) and Neal Stuck (Chapin High School) began working on constructing the new display. After forging the metal to meet the specified dimensions, the appropriate welds were made to complete the structure.

Grindstaff said, “It was fun working on this project knowing that it would be displayed for the community to see. I am proud of the work I was able to do because of the skills I have learned in Welding Technology.”

The final step in the project was to add the holiday lighting. Dillon Levesque (Spring Hill High School) from the Electrical Design program assisted with the installation of the lights.

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.

Tracy the Triceratops will be on display with over 400 other animated displays until Monday, December 31 during the Holiday Lights on the River event at Saluda Shoals Park. Visit for more information.

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