New Musical Fountain features debut tonight

Alex Doty • Sep 16, 2017 at 11:00 AM

Tonight’s Musical Fountain season finale will include the debut of new features that will be a part of the future of the fountain, all thanks to a city partnership with Grand Valley State University.

Five senior engineering students at GVSU designed and constructed the new features that will be a part of the final show of the season, “The Moody Blues — Days of Future Passed,” which runs 8:45-9:30 p.m. at Grand Haven’s Waterfront Stadium.

“They designed two major features that are going to debut (tonight),” said Terry Stevens, GVSU affiliate professor and a member of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain Committee. “It is a show that I am choreographing.”

Stevens has a history with the Musical Fountain, having installed the initial industrial control system (PLC) in 1983. He’s also led several other student projects to retrofit and update the fountain, including updates to the PLC in 2013 and choreography software in 2014.

With all of the improvements to the guts and brain of the fountain, one area that hasn’t been touched since it was built in the early 1960s are the water features. That changes with the new addition.

“One is called the helix — it’s a large, rotating feature in the middle of the fountain,” Stevens said. “The other new feature is 50 new solenoids that go across the back of the fountain.”

The fountain helix and solenoid valves, which create a wave-shaped water formation, join the existing back-and-forth sweeps and up-and-down movements. The number of valves on the fountain increased from 20 to 50 as a result of the project, Stevens said.

“The new valves are very high speed,” he said. “We can actually hit notes of music with water streams.”

In all, the students’ work on the project involved a semester of research and design, and another semester of building and installation. The group started with prototypes, then custom built a second design that involved many pieces that had to be installed on the fountain.

GVSU graduate Allie Graff was one of the seniors who took part in the project and presented the new features to members of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain Committee this summer.

"The committee was very happy with the height and overall aesthetic the helix and wave features produced, especially when performed with the lighting," she said.

Grand Haven Facilities Manager Dan Vivian said it has been a great experience working with GVSU and its students on fountain upgrades this year and in years past. While Vivian said the upgrades would be possible for the city to do on its own, there would be more money involved.

“Our costs would have been significantly larger if we tried to do this on our own,” he said.

As for what’s next for the fountain, Vivian said the committee would like to tackle upgrades to the fountain’s speaker system, which is more than 20 years old.

“It would be nice to have a better quality sound system so we wouldn’t have to play it as loud,” Vivian said.

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