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ASEE PRISM
  American Society for Engineering Education
American Society for Engineering EducationJANUARY 2007Volume 16 | Number 5 PRISM HOMETABLE OF CONTENTSBACK ISSUES
FEATURES
21st Century Prof. - BY THOMAS K. GROSE
Counting on Them - BY THOMAS K. GROSE
A Man of Vision - BY PIERRE HOME-DOUGLAS

DEPARTMENTS
COMMENTS
E-MAIL
BRIEFINGS
DATABYTES
REFRACTIONS: Making Changes - BY HENRY PETROSKI
CLASSIFIEDS
LAST WORD: Lessons From the Sandbox - BY JACQUELYN F. SULLIVAN

TEACHING TOOLBOX
Monsters on the Move - A slew of schools are preparing students to work in the computer game industry. - BY CORINNA WU
BOOK REVIEW: Power, Speed, and Form: Engineers and the Making of the Twentieth Century - REVIEWED BY ROBIN TATU
YEAR OF DIALOGUE: Getting the Word Out - BY LARRY G. RICHARDS
ON CAMPUS: A Living Laboratory - BY LYNNE SHALLCROSS


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TEACHING TOOLBOX - ON CAMPUS: Winning Combination: A Living Laboratory - BY LYNNE SHALLCROSSTEACHING TOOLBOX - ON CAMPUS: Winning Combination: A Living Laboratory - BY LYNNE SHALLCROSS  
Ten lucky Duke engineering students will soon be living the high life in a high-tech dorm

On move-in day, most college students are happy if they get a dorm room with air conditioning, big closets and enough room for a television and a mini-fridge. But how about keyless entry thanks to a fingerprint scanner, real-time monitors of airborne bacteria, more audiovisual equipment than most theaters and the automated sorting of recyclable materials? That’s the dorm 10 Duke engineering students will soon be calling home.

Duke University and Home Depot partnered to build the “Home Depot smarthome,” a dorm-laboratory where students will not only live but also research and develop innovative engineering solutions for the home. The 6,000-square-foot facility, due to be completed this fall, will be a combination residence hall, research lab and engineering outreach project. Students—not only the 10 upper-class engineering student residents, but also members of the Duke Smart House Club and entire engineering classes—will be testing new residential technology ideas developed on campus.

The Home Depot’s sponsorship is valued at $2 million in cash and in-kind donations over a three-year period to cover the cost of the dorm construction, which is already underway.

From improving the efficiency of hot water for showers to software that can recognize the song a person is humming and play it over the media network in the room, the students are hard at work, coming up with ideas for improving security and home monitoring, communications, energy efficiency, entertainment, environment and health. The 10 smarthome residents, who will be chosen based on tenure at the university and in the smarthome project, will then live among and give feedback on all the newly developed home technologies.

“The whole idea behind the program is to take something that would normally be done by contractors and professional engineers and turn that over to students and let them take a test drive in the real world,” says Tom Rose, director of the Home Depot smarthome and a 2005 graduate of Duke’s Pratt School of Engineering.

One of the biggest benefits of the project, Rose says, is how it gets students involved in hands-on engineering activities early on in their undergraduate experience. The students also gain valuable lessons about project management, budgeting and communication by creating project proposals, managing project teams and interacting directly with corporations.

“Industry provides grounding and real-world challenges,” Rose says. “They provide intense motivation because the students really feel that they’re impacting important engineering decisions.”

There are two engineering classes being offered this spring in connection with the smarthome project, but the vast majority of the students participate in the project on an extracurricular basis. The group did some preliminary advertising to tell students about the project, but building interest is not a problem these days, Rose says.

The idea for the smarthome was hatched in 2003 by then-electrical engineering student Mark Younger, who graduated and was hired as the first project director. To date, more than 225 students have worked on technology and sustainable building projects, many of which were incorporated into the design of the facility itself.

Mark Gu, student president of the smarthome and a sophomore in biomedical and electrical and computer engineering, calls the house a “canvas for engineers.” One of the current projects underway is an electric scooter that would make use of Bluetooth technology, turning on when the user is near it and turning off when the user walks away. These projects are a chance for students to get involved and truly make a difference on campus, Gu says. “Right now it’s just a scooter, but in the future it could be a smart car that could aid in transportation of students on campus.”

Lynne Shallcross is associate editor of Prism.

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American Society for Engineering Education