Commemorated in 2009, the Randy Pausch Memorial Bridge is a pedestrian bridge built in honor of the late Randy Pausch, a professor of computer science and human-computer interaction and design at Carnegie Mellon University who passed away in 2008. The bridge symbolizes Pausch's commitment to bridging the gap between the arts and computer sciences by linking the Purnell Center for the Arts with the university's new Gates & Hillman Centers.
Inspiration for the project came from Pausch's New York Times bestseller The Last Lecture, based on the lecture Pausch gave after being diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer. In the book, he speaks to the readers about his own inspirations and aspirations in life, lessons he learned, the importance of art's connection to science, and keeping childhood imagination alive.
Architect Mack Scogin of Merrill Elam Architects, in conjunction with lighting designers Christopher Popowich and Cindy Limauro of C & C Lighting, LLC, bring themes from The Last Lecture to life through the architecture and lighting of the bridge. Scogin designed a bridge rail consisting of double aluminum panels with abstract cutouts of penguins from Pausch's story "The First Penguin Award." In the story, Pausch describes how one courageous penguin was the first to jump into the water, though he did not know what he would encounter once he dove in. The footbridge spans 220 ft (67 m) and connects to a brick wall on both sides.
The biggest challenge the lighting designers faced was evenly lighting the structure of bridge, which features panels of different sizes and curves slightly at both ends. Popowich and Limauro mounted a combination of 2 ft (610 mm), 3 ft (914 mm), and 4ft (1219 mm) Philips Color Kinetics ColorGraze Powercore LED fixtures end-to-end to uplight and downlight the aluminum panels that form one rail of the bridge. Popowich and Limauro downlighted the glass panels making up the opposite rail with 2 ft (610 mm) and 3 ft (914 mm) iW Graze Powercores, which provides walkway lighting for safety. A Pharos LPC-20 controller controls the lighting system and runs 15-minute light shows in continuous loops inspired by visual metaphors in Pausch's book from dusk till dawn.
Themes from the light show include penguins jumping into the water from "The First Penguin Award," childhood fantasies of outer space in which the light mimics a rocket blasting off in "Space — The Final Frontier," different panels reflecting the evolution of favorite crayon colors of Pausch's family members in "Fun with Crayons," light mimicking the cycle of light from sunrise to sunset in "Make Most of Each Day — Time of Day Cycle," and a colorful finale of The Last Lecture references to Disney and the circus. "The bridge has become a visual metaphor linking the arts and the sciences," says Popowich. "It is a fitting tribute to the late Randy Pausch."