2016 Pac-12 Swimming (W) & Diving (M/W) Championships

Event: Feb. 24-27 | Federal Way, WA

UCLA fans light up 2016 Pac-12 Swimming (W) and Diving (M/W) Championships

FEDERAL WAY, Wash. — The UCLA cheering section shines bright at the 2016 Pac-12 Swimming (W) and Diving (M/W) Championships – literally. 

Terry Merlihan, Bob and Polly Upshaw, and Mike Walker stand proudly in the stands, cheering on their Bruins. Last year, they had gloves with light-up fingertips. This year, they stepped up their game. 

“I guess we wanted to improve off of last year, which was the lighted gloves” Polly said. “And we just thought, we had to do something different. We had to really bring it up a notch, so my husband took over with the computer stuff, and look," she points to the shirts. "This is what we ended up with.” 

Bob is the mastermind behind the shirts. 

“We’re each wearing a little micro-controller…it’s controlling bunch of LEDs, about 54 LEDs. It’s wearable electronics. The LEDs and the micro-controller are all driven by lower, one-and-a-half volt batteries. That’s it.”

Bob might be casual about it, but the set up is elaborate and impressive to see. No surprise, coming from a software engineer, who says that making things like this is a kind of hobby for him. 

Hobby or not, the shirts were definitely a big hit, not only among other parents and fans, but with the UCLA swim team. 

[2015 Pac-12 Swimming (W) and Diving (M/W) Championships: UCLA parents entertain from the stands]

“The girls didn’t know what was happening or when it was happening,” Polly admitted, “but they were so excited. It was really neat to see their reaction.”

So after the gloves and shirts, what’s on deck for the 2017 Pac-12 Swimming (W) and Diving (M/W) Championships?

“[The Upshaws] won’t be around next year, so we’ll have to figure out what to do,” Terry admits. 

“Good luck,” Bob laughs. 

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