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Updated 7:00 AM December 14, 2009

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Spotlight: Support specialist explores intersection of art, technology

Red and green lasers shine out of vintage lunchboxes and swirl against Mike Gould's basement laboratory walls in a whimsical fashion. Synchronized to music, the lasers can lead to hours of mindless enjoyment, he says.
(Photo by Mike Gould)

"Lasers are ideal mechanisms to explore the intersection of art and technology," says Gould, a desktop support specialist senior for the School of Education. "Their light is pure, their beams are straight until interrupted by external devices and they lend themselves to an endless variety of artistic manipulations."

But why lunchboxes? "That's 'lunchboxen,' as in oxen," he says. "They are cheap, sturdy, made from metal, and the right size and shape. And, once we started working with them, we realized they were colorful, fun, nostalgic, portable and available in a variety of genres."

Even though Gould is a lifelong denizen of Ann Arbor, his work with the lasers and "lunchboxen" also is recognized across the country.

"I just had my first publication in a national magazine, selling an article on building laser lunchboxes to Make Magazine," he says. "This led to me presenting my lasers to the attendees of Pop!Tech, an annual technology conference in Maine." At Pop!Tech innovators from different professions and locations from around the globe gather to discuss possibilities for human growth.

Larger than the lunch boxes are the lasers built into vintage 1940s slide projectors. These have a more menacing look than the kitsch lunch boxes, which will translate well to Gould and his partner's target audience: dance parties at science fiction conventions. They're currently booked for three separate parties in the first half of 2010.

On the clock at the School of Education, Gould "helps the faculty and staff keep their computers running." Throughout his 20-year career here, Gould has worked in numerous departments, including the psychiatric department of University Hospital, the School of the Music, Theatre & Dance and the College of Engineering administration department.

While working at U-M, however, he showcases more than his computer skills; he also works as a school photographer for the School of Education. "I photograph school events and portraits of the people here. The photos end up in our publication, Innovator, and on the walls as printed enlargements," Gould says.

His personal Web site boasts services in designing and maintaining Web sites, commercial photography and Macintosh computer consulting.

Regardless of his digital lifestyle, Gould also feels the constant need return to his roots. He is a contributor to the local publication Ann Arbor Business Monthly. For more than 10 years he has used his column "Small Business and the Internet" to educate and entertain the community regarding technical entrepreneurship.

"The column channels the Internet for the general reader," he says. "Trends are discussed and cogent advice is provided."

Although he is immersed in the digital world for a majority of his time, Gould does find time for some rest and relaxation. When he's not doing some pleasure reading, he enjoys hunting with his wife for the rare morel mushrooms.

But as Gould says, "My leisure time is spent working four or five jobs, sometimes all in the same day."

The weekly Spotlight features staff members at the university. To nominate a candidate, please contact the Record staff at

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