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Rose-Hulman Delves into Smart Lighting

August 9, 2011

Laser Lab article  
Setting Up Experiment: Junior optical engineering student
Nick Anderson pays close attention to setting up an optics
experiment in a laboratory at Rose-Hulman Institute of

Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology students and faculty are playing a role in helping the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC) hasten the transition of important innovations from the laboratory bench to the classroom and marketplace.

The center is dedicated to developing new light-emitting diode (LED) technologies and applications for smarter, better-performing lighting devices and systems.  Launched in 2008 and funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, the ERC is led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) of Troy, N.Y.

These smart lighting systems are poised to revolutionize lighting by creating immersive lighting systems that can sense their environment to provide new levels of energy efficiency, health and safety benefits, and enhanced workplace productivity.

Rose-Hulman is one of the ERC's university outreach partners, along with Howard University in Washington; and Morgan State University in Baltimore.  Along with Rensselaer, core ERC university partners are Boston University and the University of New Mexico.  Industry partners, ranging from major lighting firms to small startup firms, help to guide strategic planning, spur innovation and provide students with first-hand experience in entrepreneurship as well as corporate research and development.

Rose-Hulman recently hosted a conference to bring ERC and other university outreach partners up to date on students' developments in the project.  Creating projects and education modules to showcase optics technology were seniors Stuart Falco, Sadie Geerligs and Allison Tharp, juniors Nick Anderson, Joseph Braker and James Jacobs, and sophomores Evan Hale and Zhen (Ben) Wei.  Topic examined during the eight-week summer program included "Smart Sensors for Traffic Signals," "Waveguide Approach to Smart Illumination-Applications to Ad Signs" and "Radiometry with CCD Camera."  Faculty mentors for the projects were department head Charles Joenathan, Rob Bunch and Azad Siahmakoun.

"Rose-Hulman is a valuable asset to our Smart Lighting initiative.  The students have done some great work so far and we're looking forward to more contributions as the project goes forward," stated Ken Connor, a RPI professor and ERC official.  "We know that by getting Rose-Hulman involved (with ERC) we're getting students at the undergraduate level that have promising futures in optics and physics."

Students and faculty will become immersed in more complicated research projects during the upcoming school year to create better LEDs, as well as new sensors and systems required to effectively monitor and control them.

physics Joenathan  

Offering Advice: Dr. Charles Joenathan, head of the Department of
Physics and Optical Engineering, provides feedback after listening
to a student's project presentation for Rose-Hulman Institute of
Technology's contributions to the national Smart Lighting initiative.


The ERC will help develop new technologies and applications that will change the way society uses lighting.  Engineered Smart Lighting Systems will optically sense the environment to provide energy efficient, comfortable illumination when and where it is needed. Beyond illumination, Smart Lighting Systems will simultaneously provide high speed data access and scan for biological and biochemical hazards.

"We're on the cutting edge of this exciting new technology and the possibilities are endless.  Our students are learning new things every day," Joenathan said.

Find out more about the Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center .