Smart Lighting

Rose-Hulman could be helping develop the next Thomas Edison by encouraging the next generation of inventors through a national smart lighting initiative.
The Smart Lighting Engineering Research Center (ERC) is dedicated to developing new light-emitting diode (LED) technologies and applications for smarter, better-performing lighting devices and systems.

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.

Launched in 2008 and funded primarily by the National Science Foundation, the ERC is led by Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Rose-Hulman has been one of the ERC's outreach partners for the past two years, and students and faculty members will become immersed in more complicated research projects this school year. These projects will create better LEDs, as well as new sensors and systems required to effectively monitor and control them.

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

The department hosted a conference this summer to bring ERC's outreach partners up to date on students' developments in the project. Seven students created education modules to showcase optics technology, assisted by Joenathan and faculty colleagues Rob Bunch and Azad Siahmakoun. These modules will be featured on YouTube in hopes of inspiring high-school and middle-school students toward careers in physics and optical engineering.

"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," says Ken Connor, an RPI professor and ERC official. "Getting Rose-Hulman involved with ERC, we're getting students at the undergraduate level that have promising futures in optics and physics."

Other educational outreach partners have been Howard University and Morgan State University. 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. ■