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Electrical Engineering Student Places In Innovation Challenge

July 29, 2016
James Kretzschmar mug
James Kretzschmar

James Kretzschmar wants to use something as simple as color to help companies save thousands in costs and help the environment.

Kretzschmar, a non-traditional student in the College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wyoming, won “Best Humanitarian Impact” project in the recent Texas Instruments (TI) Innovation Challenge. He is a retired Air Force colonel and dentist, and is a non-degree seeking student in electrical engineering at UW.

His project, “Futuristic Energy Saving Lighting System (Color Influenced Temperature Perception),” stood out among the 180 entries in the competition. TI cited a growing demand for problem-solving technology as the motivation for the contest, in which future engineers were tasked with using TI components to “create solutions tackling challenges faced by our world today.”

The Cheyenne, Wyo., product Kretzschmar outlined his project on a student-project website. He cited previous research that indicates 80-85 percent of perception, learning and cognition is mediated through vision.

Humans also have the ability to perceive whether something in the immediate environment is too hot or too cold. Red colors are perceived to be warm and blue colors to be cold. The colors of a forest fire are interpreted to be hot, and a glacier’s tone is interpreted to be cold.

Studies have shown that human senses are influenced by the environment so, applying this concept to his project, a room in which the lighting is a reddish hue will be perceived to be warm, while a room with bluish lighting will be considered to be cooler.

Kretzschmar used TI components to build a temperature-regulated multi-color lighting system prototype that demonstrates how lighting color can be controlled by temperature. The system adjusted an LED lighting panel according to the temperature around a sensor. The Futuristic Energy Saving Lighting System is focused on sensing temperatures in the 65-75 degree Fahrenheit range, and adjusts the intensity of red and blue coloration in the LED. At 65 degrees and below, the light is redder, and at 75 degrees and above the light is bluer. Throughout the range, there is continual adjustment of both colors.

If a heating and air conditioning system could be even 1 or 2 degrees warmer or cooler because of this effect, large-scale savings in energy usage and cost could be realized. A potential application could include installing RGB lighting systems in large-scale commercial buildings to save on heating and cooling costs.

His wife, Debbie, is a retired Air Force colonel and medical doctor and pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science at UW.

Before coming to UW, Kretzschmar had been interested in electrical engineering for many years. In 2014, he completed a microcontroller course taught by Professor Jerry Hamann, and also completed a bioinstrumentation course from  Professor Cameron Wright, and two semesters of independent study in microcontrollers working under Hamann. He also had worked with Associate Professor Robert Kubichek, Professor Steve Barrett, Professor Suresh Muknahallipatna, Lecturer Jeff Anderson, and Assistant Professor Domen Novak.

“The Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering is very fortunate to have these outstanding professors,” Kretzschmar says. “Thank you to the entire department for being gracious in allowing an older student to have these wonderful learning opportunities.”

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