College student creates automated dorm room, includes emergency party button


Designed by electrical engineering and computer science student Derek Low, the Berkeley college freshman converted his simplistic, 170-square-foot dorm room into an automated smart room. Called the Berkeley Ridiculously Automated Dorm (B.R.A.D.), Low implemented a variety of hardware within the room to provide automated windows shades, lighting activated by motion and voice controls, a morning alarm tied into the lighting system and even a giant red button to use in case a party needs to break out immediately. Low also uses a free mobile application to control many of the automated actions using his smartphone or tablet.

brad smartphone app controlsThe Party mode within B.R.A.D. is particularly complex and includes equipment such as a fog machine, UV lights, strobe lighting and moving laser lights. Tied to a button that Low calls the “Emergency Party Button,” he only has to flip up the clear plastic cover and smash the large, red button in order to active “Party Mode.” Creating a scenario typically seen at a dance club, the drapes automatically close and the lights go dim before all the party equipment blankets the room with pulsating lights, thumping music and clouds of fog. 

The morning alarm system within B.R.A.D. is also a necessity for college students that like to oversleep. Activated from his MacBook Air, Low programmed a script that turns on the lights in the room at 8 a.m. and follows that up by opening up the windows curtain automatically to increase the amount of natural light in the room. If that fails to motivate Low, Justin Bieber’s “Baby” starts playing through the sound system within the room and forces him to get out of bed to kill the music. 

Regarding voice control, Low spent three hours teaching voice recognition software to understand his Southeast Asian accent and can activate scripts on his Macbook by simply calling out a specific mode. For instance, saying “Sleep Mode” will slowly dim all lighting within the room until it’s completely off. “Homework Mode” activates the lighting at his desk and deactivates all other light sources in the room. Low has even programmed a “Romantic Mode” that closes the shades, dims the lighting, starts playing Elton John’s “Can You Feel the Love Tonight” and activates a spinning disco ball mounted to the ceiling in the middle of the dorm room.

brad curtain controlAccording to his YouTube description, Low spent  “three months and several hundred dollars” on the project. The automation equipment was purchased through X10 and other equipment on ihs list included the curtains motor, extension cords, a microphone and a few desk lamps. After Low documented his efforts and created a YouTube video showing off the features of the automated room, the notoriety soon caught the attention of his classmates and school officials. 

Unfortunately, Low will have to appear at an official school hearing this Friday to discuss charges of vandalism and other infractions. While Low was careful to stick to school rules regarding the use of tape on walls opposed to nails or tacks, the documention on his site around rewiring the room’s light switches is definitely a violation of school policy. Low isn’t terribly concerned about the inquiry as he was already planning to move to a new apartment in the next two weeks. According to an interview with the Mercury News, Low has also received a variety of internship offers for the summer that have to do with researching automation due to interest around his dorm room project.