FIRST Fundraiser: Selling LED "Lightbulbs"

I was looking at my RSS feed, when an article from Engadget popped up ( about some of Dean Kamen’s recent activities at the 2010 TEDMED (a conference about medical care and technology), including a possible FIRST fundraiser.

“Last but not least, the man’s got a product you might be able to afford for your home. In the quest for an item for his FIRST young engineers to sell – a la Girl Scout cookies – he tapped LED manufacturer Cree to produce an 450 lumen light bulb that draws just 7 watts and will retail for about $25 door-to-door. In case you’re wondering, that’s cheaper and more efficient than most any lamp we’ve seen before. Dean says they’ve already produced several hundred thousand of the bulbs thanks to a surprise $3 million investment from Google, and plan to have them in the hands of every FIRST kid soon.”

This was the first I have ever heard about this. Have you guys heard anything about it?

Yeah, just saw it on Engadget too. First time I heard of this. Maybe it will be announced at kickoff?

I did a site search for “ led lightbulb” and came up with this:

Link currently doesn’t work as it seems the FIRST website is down?

Green Product Sales Manager: Under the direction of the Vice President of Development and working closely with the Development Team, FIRST’s President, Senior Staff, and Regional Directors, the Green Program Manager will be responsible for all aspects of maintaining and growing the FIRSTGreen LED Bulb Team Sales Program.

I speculate that since registration for the second regional opened today, the FIRST servers have melted. Or something.:rolleyes:

At the Raleigh North Carolina FIRST Regional Event, Dean flew into town and spent the Saturday there.

Midday he spent with the top brass of a company called Cree, a maker of semiconductors used in high efficiency LED lighting.

During the ceremony he talked about a FIRST fundraiser he was working to put together that involved high efficiency lighting.

During the ceremony he held up what looked like a normal light bulb, held it in his hand it was completely cool, because it was a LED lamp inside of a plastic light bulb shell.

It was announced but not broadly…

I work in the LED field, developing new LED light fixtures for retrofitting or new applications.

Cree is one hell of a company. Since developing some of the best LEDs (if not THE best) on the market, they have gone on to develop bulbs and fixtures that replace current incandescent and CFL light sources. The fixtures combined with the LEDs tend to make an incredible combination of efficacy (Lumens/Watt) and look (warmer whites versus the flickery blues of CFLs).

I first heard about this way back earlier in the year and was looking forward to this announcement. I think it could be quite successful for FIRST teams.


Let’s see.

Cutting edge product that provides significant benefit compared to current technology coupled with cute technically savvy students hawking it door to door. We would control the world. That would be the best fundraiser ever. That’s like printing money.

Where do we sign up? When can we get product?

The biggest question is: do we have eclusivity?

The hard part, IMHO,

You have to sell a product that has a higher shelf price than a typical bulb, plus add in some profit margin for your team that raises the price even further…

Total cost of ownership should be lower but it is still hard to get many people to buy the product because they tend to focus on the shelf price.

something to be aware of…

This is a big challenge with current LED technology. However, with incandescents being phased out starting in 2012, until they are finally laid to rest in 2014, consumers are going to have to start looking at the problem differently.

The huge complaints with CFLs are the delayed on times combined with flicker and the blue light (high color temperature) the lights emit when being used.

With LEDs, consumers get the same instant on as you do a incandescent, combined with the warm (low color temperature) light that makes everyone feel warm and fuzzy.

Now add in the cost benefit and lifetime (~10 years+) and you end up with a very marketable product.

It may seem like a tough sell, but it most certainly is highly marketable. It’s all about informing the customer of what’s important.


I think that FIRST teams may have great luck in marketing these to local businesses, who may be more likely to take the long view when it comes to the cost of lighting than home consumers.

This fundraiser might actually work. I was skeptical when Dean Kamen suggested us having a product “like Girl Scout Cookies” (maybe not an exact quote), but these light bulbs could be a hit. I know I would at least consider buying some because of their lifetime alone.
I’ll be looking forward to any official announcements with details.

Anyone know how well LED light bulbs work with dimmer switches?

I just replaced a bunch of the wall switches in my house with dimmer switches. From what I have found CFL lights don’t seem to work well with the dimmer switches. Some say they work but they buzz and hum loudly when they are dimmed. Others just don’t work unless the dimmer is almost all the way up. I would love to replace all the incandescent bulbs in my house with new more efficient technology but if I can’t dim them down it sort of defeats the point of the dimmers. Is this a selling point of LED light bulbs or will they suffer the same issues?

I’m completely sold on LED bulbs as long, as their price efficiency beats CFLs. But the one problem I see is that a large percentage of the population doesn’t understand even simple algebra and break-even points, let alone time value of money. Many people just look at the initial cost and base their opinions off of that, regardless of operating expenses or potential benefits. It’s also why public works projects (improved highway interchange, expanded airport terminal, new high-speed rail line, etc) that engineers calculated to have positive cost/benefit analysis get shot down by politicians or voters who only see an initial price tag in the billions.

So the challenge for this fundraiser is to both sell people on a product, and sell people on the concept of thinking longer-term and considering operating costs, benefits and break-even points rather than just the initial expense.

450 lumen light bulb that draws just 7 watts and will retail for about $25 door-to-door

It would take 4 of these to put out as much light as a 100watt incandescent.

Tough sell.

Cutting edge product that provides significant benefit compared to current technology

The significance of the benefit depends on lifestyle, climate, and electric rates. Off-peak electric rates in areas serviced by nuclear power plants can be as low as 1.5 cents per kilowatt-hour. Do the math.

Total cost of ownership should be lower

At $25 for 450 lumens it may be a wash for certain areas of the country with colder climates and lower electric rates, when you factor in the cost of money.

with incandescents being phased out starting in 2012, until they are finally laid to rest in 2014

Have you noticed that the incandescents are back on the shelves in full force, after having been phased out prematurely by the big-box stores? There’s a good chance the 2014 deadline may get delayed.

The huge complaints with CFLs are the delayed on times combined with flicker and the blue light (high color temperature)

And they don’t like being cycled, and they don’t like cold temperatures (like outdoors), and they are toxic, and they are all made in China.

Incandescents are (or were) made in the US.


Ether, not to be offensive, but you sure can be a pessimist sometimes… :confused:

The main problems with these LEDs is the lumen output, which is about half of a 60w incandescent bulb, and the price due to the new tech.

The “Made in China” factor is debatable, although most of Cree’s LEDs are made in the US.

I believe that’s exactly what I said in my post. Sounds like we agree.

The “Made in China” factor is debatable, although most of Cree’s LEDs are made in the US.

Last time I checked, all the CFLs on the shelves were made in China. There’s no need to debate. If you come across any CFLs made in the US I will stand corrected.


Lights of America designs lights that are made in the US for the US. Thats kind of their “calling card”

Made in USA:

Read the fine print:

we are a manufacturer’s representative of US & China made lighting products by a company called Lights of America

I plan to buy a couple for use in the reading room during the summer air conditioning season.


Doing some quick calculations:

Approximately 0.0234 mg of mercury is released into the atmosphere per kilowatt hour of electricity generated in a coal power plant. Over a 7500 hour lifespan of a bulb, a 100 Watt incandescent bulb will use 750 kW of electricity. In the US, 44.9% of that electricity came from coal power sources in 2009. Assuming this is true for the energy used by the light bulb, that means 336.75 kW came from coal sources, which means ~7.88mg is mercury was released into the atmosphere.

The equivalent CFL bulb only uses 23 Watts of electricity but contain between 1.5mg and 4mg of mercury (newer CFLs average between 1.5mg and 2.5mg, while the older ones have ~4mg. By comparison, older mercury thermometers contain about 500mg of mercury). Over the same 7500 hour life period, it would cause the release of ~1.81mg of mercury into the atmosphere via coal-powered electricity generation.

Even if the CFL bulb was not recycled and somehow had all of its mercury released into the atmosphere, it would have caused the release of ~5.81mg of mercury into the atmosphere, a ~26% reduction in mercury emissions when compared to incandescent bulbs.