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MIT student blogger Lulu L. '09

Dropout Design and the Disco Dance Floor by Lulu L. '09

ridiculous ideas can sometimes develop into pretty solid business plans. STORYTIME.

Every year there is a contest sponsored by East Campus called the Bad Ideas Contest. Click around on there I don’t think it’s a secret. Two years ago, there was a really bad idea. It was built by First East (that’s a hall) of East Campus called the Disco Dance Floor. Matt blogged about it somewhere a long time ago. However, I am NOT recycling material (I am not that lame) because this is about the start-up company that resulted from this little happening.

(photo credit scott johnston who took publicity pictures for the team)

So every ridiculous thing that has some sort of entertainment value will get its 15 minutes of fame. And for this project, they got it. (Google “Dance Floor”) But they also expected it. What they DIDN’T expect was actual interest. It was all fun and games until they got this email:


Date: April 12, 2005 7:21:07 AM EDT
To: [email protected]
Subject: your MIT dance floor

To the hip guys and gals at MIT,

First off let me say, “Whoa dude!”. Now thats out of
the way let me move on. Great job with the floor,
website, video and marketins selling point. The quote,
“more than ever. hour after hour. work is never done”
Of course something more like, “more than ever our
after hour work is never done.” sound more
appropriate. Considering your work course load and
everything else you do at MIT. In short I just want to
say, “Job well done!”.

Now only one question remains. So when does this bad
boy hit the market? You know for the home use as well
as the club. I can see 50 cent or Alisha Keys using
that floor in a new video. Heck with that talk to Daft
Punk they would love you for it.

Thanks from your dancing fan,



After some jokes and some serious discussion an even worse idea was revealed: Dropout Design, LLC: an MIT start-up!

Its founders: Four MIT students. (Currently registered students, no actual dropouts) Its beginnings were humble, selling parts and kits to hobbyists and slashdot fanatics. But it soon gathered momentum as publicity increased:


Subject: Floor in Popular Science?

Hi – I’m an editor at Popular Science and I’m interested in maybe running
something on your DDF. Just wondering what the current status of it is? The floor still
up and operational? Any new versions in the works?

-Mike Haney

Mike Haney Senior Editor Popular Science


It GREW AND GREW and started taking over the lives of its founders!!

Here is a quote from an exclusive AIM interview with one of its founders:

“[01:59] Mike Mike Mike: …as we made more money we were able to have more components of the floor professionally manufactured, up to the point where now we only sell assembled equipment, and once we make money from selling the assembled boards and cables we’ll use that money to develop an enclosure for them, etc ,etc”

I don’t know what that means but I do know that their first year they made a total of over $50,000 dollars. They were able to get a whole underground community going of disco dance floor (-table, -wall, -bar) builders from all around the world who shared tips and ideas with each other. The link to an incomplete list of builders is here.

Here are a few pictures I took for their dance floor kits and components (you can see most of these on the webpage as well):

Dropout Design then expanded. Hired a couple of new members and started working on side projects. One of which is the Conway’s Game of Life played by LEDs. This is what it looks like on the wall of the First East Walcott Lounge:

Make magazine got hold of this idea and is now selling their Life Board kits. I hear they also do some consulting (?). These are pictures for a how-to on board assembly.

In conclusion, starting a business is EASY and FUN! However, these kids are full-time students and don’t actually have too much time to devote to the company. “We’re just chillin,” says one member. You can make business your pass-time, too.

In other news Laura already posted plenty about the ring delivery but of course I also got my ring. Most of the pictures are on Kelly’s camera but here are two that Michael took on mine.

that’s me & kelly

and our rings




13 responses to “Dropout Design and the Disco Dance Floor”

  1. ==Obligatory==

    One word: Tetris.

  2. Insomniac says:

    I win at life! (aka first)

  3. lulu says:

    greg- dancefloor page: read the faq raspberry


    hi drocher.

  4. hmmm says:

    second..close enough

  5. Aha says:

    third! You know, bronze gives off a mysteriously alluring glow. =)

  6. Pride says:

    ~Fourth~ Compared to the 40th post, I’m just three posts away from 1st.

  7. Early bird says:

    fifth. What is life withnout a little trivial humour?

  8. Sh1fty says:

    this is really cool. i’m currently developing a computer interface that could do all that and more. it would have unlimited options because every single LED would be controlled with a computer and i think it would be a whole lot cheaper. i might talk to them about it when i get a working prototype done smile

  9. Larry says:

    Ahhh nice rings!!! I wish I could get one; hopefully in the near future…

  10. Larry says:

    Ahhh nice rings!!! I wish I could get one; hopefully in the near future…

  11. Yanners says:



  12. Lulu:
    I read the FAQ months ago. I just couldn’t think of anything else to say that was even remotely funny (it’s been a long couple of weeks), and yet I wanted to post anyway. Such is my nature.
    I figure that, at least, I’ve contributed somewhat more than those who evidently feel that their sole imperative is to ensure that the First Post to each weblog entry is visibly identified as such.
    However, I assure you, I will make every effort to ensure that my next post is more thoroughly thought-out.

    Best regards.

  13. lulu says:

    you are an example to us all, greg