In 1998, the Kokomo Downtown association asked the TechnoKats to help make a New York City-style light ball, to be lowered at midnight on New Years Eve. A cable and winch system were installed on the corner of the Armstrong-Landon building across from the southeast corner of the courthouse square, and the team designed and constructed a large sphere covered with lights. Kinder Sign provided the neon numbers that lit up at the beginning of the new year. A giant lever was used to signal the ball to light up an hour before midnight, then pulled further to start its descent for the final minute of the year. From 1999 until 2004, that ball was used in the New Year’s celebration in downtown Kokomo.
For 2005, a second generation light ball was designed and built. It contains over 30,000 LEDs in 240 separate triangular panels, each panel separately controllable to produce more than four thousand different colors. The ball contains sixty individual microprocessors, with a main computer communicating to them all to coordinate the colors and animated patterns. It has been a central part of Kokomo’s New Year’s celebration from 2005 until the present. A digital countdown clock was added for 2008, giving the spectators something official to synchronize their chanting to.
In the meantime, the sponsoring companies’ names have changed. Since 2009, the neon sign and associated graphics panels have been donated by Huston Electric, and the TechnoKats’ work space is part of Duke Energy. Sunbelt Rentals provides the use of a lift bucket for installation and removal of the ball’s sign base.
Team 1720 took inspiration from the TechnoKats’ ball and built one of their own for the 2008 New Years celebration in Muncie.
In 2008 and 2009, the TechnoKats put the light ball on exhibit during the Kokomo High School homecoming football game. Temporarily renamed the “Spirit Ball”, special red and blue patterns were created to be displayed while the Kokomo Wildkat team had possession of the football.
The team is currently working on “a new ball for a new decade.” Thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation of Howard County, the team is building a new LED ball that will be fully programmable and able to display logos and pictures. Here’s a sneak peak f the new ball.