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Graduate student’s business storms the cinema lighting industry

Nuclear Science and Engineering graduate student Michael Short is quickly becoming a leader in the cinema lighting industry with his business, the LEDStorm On-Camera Light, which he designed and built in the MIT Hobby Shop.
Graduate student Michael Short poses with his LEDStorm On-Camera ring light in the MIT Hobby Shop.
Graduate student Michael Short poses with his LEDStorm On-Camera ring light in the MIT Hobby Shop.

MIT is famous for its entrepreneurial students, their innovative products, and the businesses they start. Michael Short, who came to MIT as an undergraduate, not knowing how to use anything beyond some woodworking hand tools, is one of those students.

His freshman year, Short joined the MIT Hobby Shop, and now, as a graduate student in nuclear science and engineering, he has taken a product he built for fun and turned it into a successful business.

It all started his senior year, when Short built an eight-foot tower of colored LED lights, which would change in sync with music. The uncle of a friend, experienced in cinema lighting, heard about the tower and saw the potential if the product could be adapted to an on-camera ring light. From this happy encounter, the LEDStorm On-Camera Light was born.

Short turned the idea into reality in the Hobby Shop, where he built a number of revisions of the product. He made extensive use of various machines including the waterjet, drill press, and manual mill, finding the Shop “a great place to learn how to work with your hands and tackle real-life engineering problems.”

In the beginning, Short and his partner, filmmaker/inventor Scott Gordon, encountered a few roadblocks. “Between a general lack of funding, lack of time, and the pressures of getting degrees at MIT, we had quite a tough time starting out,” Short remembers.

The difficult times paid off, and the LEDStorm has become one of the most innovative and unique products in the broadcast, film, and video equipment industry today. What makes the system so unique is that it creates a more natural, wider spread of light and can simulate effects such as fire, candlelight, and emergency vehicle lights. The patent-pending system also generates almost no heat and requires less than 100 watts of power.

Short even found a way to keep production local, with the LEDStorm systems being made and assembled in a lead-free and “green” factory in Massachusetts. Upcoming events, trade shows, and advertising look to be increasing the business “faster than I could have imagined,” says Short.

To learn more about the LEDStorm, go to

To learn more about the MIT Hobby Shop, go to

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