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GVSU students build upgrades for Grand Haven musical fountain

  • Students work on the fountain.

Posted on August 17, 2017

Performances at Grand Haven's well-known musical fountain will now feature new moving water formations thanks to upgrades developed by engineering students at Grand Valley State University.   

This summer, five students completed their senior project by designing and constructing two new water features. The fountain now includes helix and wave-shaped water formations, in addition to its two original features — back and forth sweeps and up and down movements. The new features will debut at the fountain's last show of the season September 16 at 8 p.m. 

Terry Stevens, affiliate professor in the School of Engineering, said water features have not been updated since the fountain was installed in 1963. "The water formations have been the same for 53 years, so the city wanted to see something new," he said.

The project began in January 2017. Students spent the winter semester researching and designing the features; they built, tested and installed the new equipment during the spring and summer semesters. The group started with prototypes, then custom built a second design that involved many pieces that had to be installed on the fountain. The wave feature includes 50 nozzles, for example.

Allie Graff, who graduated in early August, and her team members presented the new features to members of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain Committee in July and August .

"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. 

Dan Vivian, facilities manager for the City of Grand Haven, said he's impressed with the upgrades. 

"The fountain is loved by both residents and visitors," Vivian said. "A lot of people have grown up with the fountain. It's part of the landscape here, and we're happy to be working with Grand Valley on its rejuvenation." 

Stevens is a member of the Grand Haven Musical Fountain Committee and installed the fountain's initial industrial control system (PLC) in 1983. He has led several student projects to retrofit and update the historic fountain as part of an ongoing partnership between the City of Grand Haven and Grand Valley. Projects have included updates to its PLC in 2013 and choreography software in 2014. The software, initially created by students in the School of Computing and Information Systems, allows users to choreograph the lighting, music and water movements; it will be available to the public September 16.

Built in 1963, the choreographed musical fountain performs nightly at dusk every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day. It plays Fridays and Saturdays in May and September. The fountain was the largest musical fountain in the world when it was built, and held the title until 1998 when the Bellagio Fountains in Las Vegas were built.

The Grand Valley team includes Graff, Brett Bunton, Mike Hubbard, Brett Johnson and Jordan Tatchin.