Peter Helstrom described himself as the quiet kid in high school.
He was in band, through which he made friends, but overall he was a laid-back student.
Then he came to the University of Nebraska-Lincoln to study computer science. Interested in learning how to be a disc jockey, he spotted the UNL Discotheque Club on a university website and started to contact members.
“I went to a couple of meetings and didn’t really know what I was doing at first,” Helstrom said. “But everyone kind of made me feel at home, and I just kind of hung out with them and learned and eventually ended up being more involved in it.”
As he grew as a disc jockey and started to meet new people, Helstrom began disc jockeying downtown. He said that the fun, supportive environment created by the club and other audience members were encouraging at his first shows.
Helstrom created his own record label, Fallen From Silence, his second year of college. In doing this, he met local DJs and made connections that benefited the DJ Club. Though Fallen From Silence has been mostly inactive lately, he predicts things will pick up this summer.
Helstrom has become a leader in the DJ Club. As Discotheque members graduated, he and his current roommate Joe Shea took over two years ago and renamed the club.
By spreading awareness of the club’s existence and rallying attention for UNL DJs, Helstrom (the treasurer) and Shea (the president) have carried on an outlet for campus disc jockeys that was at risk of leaving with the graduates.
But Helstrom’s increased involvement didn’t interfere with his more technical work.
“I love doing music stuff and anything music-related, and then with computer science anything technology-related,” he said. “So, I put the two together, and it’s tons of fun.”
About a year ago, Helstrom’s friend introduced him to the Student Technology group on campus. He hung around and helped out with projects until a paid position was available.
“I guess the biggest thing at work really is how they want us to experiment with new technologies and emerging technology,” he said. “We just kind of see what we can do. Sometimes we have projects; sometimes we just mess around and see what we come up with.”
Essentially, UNL gives them things to play around with to see how they can be integrated on campus.
Using Arduino, an open-source microprocessor, Student Technology is able to make its own electronics.
Helstrom has used this platform with LED lights to create a timed moving-eye mask for Halloween (which he wore while disc jockeying), glowing T-shirts for the University of Nebraska-Omaha ballroom dance club that blinked with the music and an LED staff that left images behind when it moved.
Student Technology received a 3D printer shortly after Helstrom started working there. He and co-worker Ty Rempe, a junior mechanical engineering major, collaborated on the assembly, calibration and testing of the machine.
“I am excited to explore, test, break and understand the world of 3D printing,” Rempe said. “And I’m happy I have people like Peter in my life to help guide the way.”
The printer was used to help Helstrom and Rempe create an iPad kiosk out of acrylic that scans N-Cards and has a wireless (and wirelessly rechargeable) handheld scanner. They’re also using a material called Ninjaflex to create rubbery objects.
Rempe said with more testing this technology will one day empower campus.
“I see big room to advance in the realm of 3D printing,” he said. ”The printer makes prototyping all of our ideas super easy. If we have an idea, then in 30 minutes we can have a real tangible object to work with.”
Between organizing events for the DJ Club and exploring new technologies to better the UNL student experience, Helstrom is also a part of the Game Development club and an animation club.
To those coming from high school as the quiet kid and trying to make the most of their time in college, Helstrom has some simple advice.
“Don’t be afraid to try new things,” he said. “Even if you have a little interest see where that goes and if you like it keep doing it and if not, try something else. Most of experience comes from trying and failing and figuring out what worked and what didn’t.”