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Electronics Engineering Students Earn Awards for Senior Projects

From left, Rene Allard, chairman of the Central Pennsylvania section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers%3B second-place finisher Eric A. Beightol of Reedsville%3B first-place winner Danny W. Nightingale of Lindley, N.Y.%3B and Scott D. Neuhard, faculty adviser for the Penn College student chapter of IEEE.The Central Pennsylvania chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers awarded cash prizes to three Pennsylvania College of Technology students, following a Student Project Showcase competition at the college.

Seven students in the electronics engineering technology bachelor-degree major were chosen to present their senior projects during the competition. They were compared by judges from the Central Pennsylvania Section of IEEE, with the top three finishers receiving awards.

The first-place distinction was given to Danny W. Nightingale, Lindley, N.Y. Eric A. Beightol, Reedsville, earned second place, and Christopher W. Lapps, Nazareth, finished third.

Nightingale upgraded a project he completed while pursuing an associate’s degree at Corning Community College, through which he developed a laser-imaging system for the college planetarium. The system is used to create and display images of the 88 constellations that fill the night sky.

Previously, he explained, a presenter pointed to the stars in a constellation using a hand-held laser pointer. Through Nightingale’s system, a laser diode traces the shape of a constellation from star to star. He also developed a more artistic rendering of each constellation to help audience members see the picture the ancients who named the constellations were imagining.

Many users of the planetarium are elementary-school students. “When those kids come in and you show them a constellation (by simply pointing to the stars involved), they have a difficult time visualizing that it’s supposed to be a bull (Taurus) or a hunter (Orion),” Nightingale said.

He developed software programs to control the laser diode, telling it where on the planetarium’s ceiling to draw each line. He also created the means to control the speed at which the laser diode draws its images. In order for the eye to see a continuous image, the picture must be drawn at least 70 times per second, Nightingale explained.

Beightol’s senior project uses flashing LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that rotate on a bicycle wheel to create a holographic image of the time − in both digital and analog formats − the speed of the wheel, and a rotating globe.

He also programmed the device to work with a television remote control, which allows the viewer to change the time on the clock, change the velocity reading from miles per hour to rotations per minute, change the color of the display and choose which images they would like to see.

To make his “Strobing LED Wheel” work, Beightol calculated the time it takes for the wheel to make one full rotation and further calculated when to light each LED. He wrote software to keep time, calculate velocity and decode signals from a television remote control. He plans to do further research to allow the wheel to display the full spectrum of colors.

“Unanimously, the best part of the project that strikes people is the illusion that an image appears to float in the air,” Beightol said.

Lapps developed a “High Velocity − eXtrasensory Atmospheric Vehicle.” He is attaching to a model rocket a payload that includes sensors to gather changing atmospheric data and transmit it, through wireless technology, back to an observer on the ground. Sensors will measure temperature, altitude, velocity and acceleration, which are displayed on a laptop computer.

According to Rene Allard, Central Pennsylvania IEEE section chair, this is the first year the section conducted a senior-project competition. He hopes in the future to also include students from Bucknell University and The Pennsylvania State University.

For more information about the electronics program at Penn College, call (570) 327-4520, send e-mail or visit online.

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