Hi finally back on this project again.
First the problems that have been identified - the first LED doesn't work due to mechanical failure - the strip is coated in a water proof sealant and this has cracked at the end where the connection wires come out, some slight pressure on the led and it works - the control ic isn't affected and passes the data on.
Second - the students did look up the issues with the colour/eye sight/etc, they did discover that green was the first colour restored and the legal colour for all emergancy exit signs but movement (of colour/objects) can also be detected (usually in a grey scale initially) and this is the effect the students were going for - as stated before this project is more about playing with toys than doing anything legal.
finally the code. we have added a simple loop that move the colours down the strip. it looks cool until the we can't suppy enough current to satisfy the current draw. Using a this breadboard adaptor from sparkfun that although the regulator can handle 1.5A there is a PTC which drops out after 250mA (get up to 700mA before issues arise) the whole strip will pull 1.8A if 32 LEDs have the colours on (spec sheet).