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Challenge Student Speaker Competition & PLD-C 2015

SLL Secretary, Brendan Keely on the final round of The Challenge student speaker competition and the PLD-C 2015, Rome

We reported in the March/April 2015 Newsletter that in early February the SLL attended the third round of the PLDC warm-up event, The Challenge, as the student speaker competition’s Official Knowledge Partner. I was there as coach to three of the student speakers: Regina Lausell and Hong Wang, who both graduated from their Masters from Parsons in New York City in 2014, and a double act, Pernille Krieger and Eik Lykke Nielsen from Aarhus University in Denmark, who had just graduated from their Bachelors in January this year.

My first introduction to the competition was back in August 2014 during round two, when as a future coach I assessed nearly 40 three-minute 'elevator pitches' from international students. Following all the coaches’ evaluations, 15 students (16 as we have to include the double act) were then to be mentored for round three of the competition at Edinburgh Napier University, where they were required to give a 20-minute paper. It was then down to the coaches to pick the student who would accompany them to the finals of the competition at PLDC 2015 in Rome in October, where they would fight it out for the title.
I chose Pernille and Eik to go forward to the finals with their presentation entitled, Lighting Design for the Elderly. Since round three in Edinburgh Eik had continued his studies and was enrolled at Aarhus University’s Master of Architectural Engineering programme and continues to explore various aspects of lighting design research and applications in the context of an integrated design approach. Pernille moved to Copenhagen where she started working for Steensen Varming, before beginning the Master’s programme Architectural Engineering at DTU (Technical University of Denmark) in August this year.
Skype again became our method of communication to develop the 20 minute presentation from Edinburgh to the more detailed and expanded 40 minute presentation for Rome. It’s only when you rely on technology that you realise how difficult it is to communicate between three different locations and at the best varying degrees of internet strength. Commenting on this, Eik Lykke Nielsen said “We were used to working closely together while studying, when suddenly in opposite ends of the country it required a whole new approach, careful planning and firm discipline to continue developing our research at the same level as previously.”

Pernille introducing the presentation in Rome with Eik in the background

Pernille and Eik were two individuals that made the coaching process a pleasure. Not only did they work very hard but we had many laughs along the way. To make things more interesting, Eik had to fit in his study for 3 weeks of examinations leading up to Rome. Whilst in Rome, with the 3 of us together, more time could be spent face to face and the hotel room became the focus of presentation practice.
The morning of Saturday 31st October was the beginning of the closing day of the conference and the finals of The Challenge. Philips Lighting, who had supported the event throughout, took all coaches and students out for a guided walk around Rome the night before to settle any nerves, mainly for the coaches, and thankfully to take some time away from the hotel and conference venue. The finals were well attended and all 5 teams delivered inspiring and polished presentations. Then the waiting game began…

Pernille and Eik in front of their closing slide, aged but still looking happy

The Conference was wrapped up at a Gala dinner at the Cinecittà film studios, famous for movies including: Cleopatra (1963), Zeffirelli’s Romeo & Juliet (1968), Martin Scorsese’s Gangs of New York (2002) and the new James Bond film, Spectre. Lighting Designer, Koert Vermeulen and his team from ACT Lighting Design were responsible for the concept of the evening and the lighting design for the dinner. It was a stunning setting for the awards to be presented. We didn’t have a great deal of time between dinner and the awards, I think we were still eating, but the first award to be announced was the winner of The Challenge.

With Eik to my left and Pernille to my right, hands were held under the table. Alison Ritter from the organisation team VIA-Verlag was introduced and took to the stage where she was handed an envelope. On opening the envelope and with a little chuckle, she announced to the 800 guests that the winner of the first PLD-C Challenge competition was Pernille and Eik. With a big squeeze of my left and right hands, followed by a big team hug, they went forward and on to the stage with a huge round of applause from the audience. I think it is fair to say that this was the biggest moment in their education and career since they graduated from their Bachelors’ degree in January and I for one think we will be seeing a great deal of these two brilliant individuals.

Pernille and Eik on stage at the awards with (left to right) Martin Lupton of the Light Collective, Alison Ritter of VIA-Verlag and Sharon Stammers also of the Light Collective

In reference to their presentation, the Judges commented that they were “…impressed that the written language used on screen was just enough to add to the spoken words and to anchor our attention to the important points being discussed. Getting this balance between written and spoken words is very difficult.” The judges also commented on the co-ordination between written and spoken language, “This is difficult to achieve with only one speaker, that fact that you managed it with two was remarkable.”
In respect to winning the competition, Pernille states “Winning the challenge is a huge encouragement for both of us - both regarding future studies but also future professional careers.” 
The Challenge was a great platform for the students to fine tune their presentation techniques and speak in front of a huge audience of their peers. Pernille further commented “Being part of The Challenge has been a fun, hard work, rewarding and of course a challenging experience. It has been about pushing boundaries, setting new goals and rethinking the way we think. Instead of solely focusing on the results and its validity, the communication of the results has become just as important.”
Eik said “The student speaker competition has been an amazing experience that has granted us a chance to develop our attributes. We have been exposed to new learning while being provided a rich opportunity to challenge ourselves and put these new skills to the test. It was difficult and stressful at times, but looking back the yield has been enormous. Not only have we become better at what we do, but we have had wonderful experiences and not least made great new friends from all around the world.”
PLDC 2015 was also accredited with CIBSE CPD credits for all attending the lectures.
The competition for 2016/2017 has now been launched and the finals will be in Paris at the PLD-C 2017. We wish all the new coaches and students bonne chance!
The coaches and speakers chosen for the final in Rome:
Brendan Keely: Pernille Krieger/Denmark and Eik Lykke Nielsen/Denmark
Emrah Baki Ulas: Roslyn Leslie/UK
Florence Lam: Isabel Sanchez Sevillano/USA
Tapio Rosenius: Mahdis Aliasgari/Sweden
Iain Ruxton: Stephanie Denholm/UK
The PLD-C is a biennial event organised by VIA-Verlag and began in London in 2007 before heading to Berlin, Madrid, Copenhagen and then Rome. With the highest attendance to date, 1700 delegates and 70 presentations it was a stimulating and fabulous educational and networking event.
The Society was well represented with presentations and titles from our members including:

  • Malcolm Innes MSLL (UK) Digital lighting for analogue museums

  • Rachael Nicholls AMSLL (UK/AUS) Australian attitudes to lighting: global lessons to be learnt

  •  Iain Ruxton MSLL (UK) The twilight zone: light & the liminal

  • Martin Valentine MSLL (UK/UAE) understanding the consequences of Abu Dhabi’s sustainable lighting strategy

  • Cahao Yu AMSLL (China/UK) Configuring dynamic feature lighting: staging the social

  • James Duff MSLL (Ireland/UK) A new methodology for interior lighting design

  • Paul Traynor and Joe Vose (UK) The Search for the Tools of Light  V3.0

  • Peter Raynham FSLL (UK) Moving away from general task lighting in offices

  • Maurice Asso MSLL (Lebanon) Cinemacity in Lebanon: architect & lighting designer collaborate & achieve a unique outcome

  • Prof. John Mardaljevic FSLL (UK) The colours of daylight: adventures with a spectrometer

  • Michael Grubb MSLL (UK) Recycle, reduce & reuse…

  • Jonathan Rush MSLL (UK) Commentary regarding design & human impact: a lighting designers quiet trepidation

  • Dr Karolina Zielinska-Dabkowska MSLL (Poland/Switzwerland) & Dr Armadeep Dugar MSLL (India) Towards defragmented lighting design: concatenating research theories for effective use in design practices

  • Nitika Agrawal (UK) Lighting for senior care home facilities: recommendations for ageing vision and dementia