Skip to Main Content

Apply Now to the University of Wyoming apply now

UW Nontraditional Engineering Student Places in Innovation Challenge

August 4, 2016
head portrait of a man in front of a whiteboard
James Kretzschmar, a nontraditional engineering student at UW, won “Best Humanitarian Impact” project in the recent Texas Instruments Innovation Challenge. (UW Photo)

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

Kretzschmar, a nontraditional 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.”

Kretzschmar outlined his project on a student-project website. He cited previous research that indicates 80 to 85 percent of perception, learning and cognition are 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 our senses are influenced by our 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.

hand holding lighter near wires and electronics

James Kretzschmar’s project, “Futuristic Energy Saving Lighting System (Color- Influenced Temperature Perception),” stood out among 180 entries in a recent competition. (UW Photo)

Kretzschmar used TI components to build a temperature-regulated, multicolor 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 Fahrenheit range of 65-75 degrees, and adjusts the intensity of red and blue coloration in the LED. At 65 degrees and below, the light is more red and, at 75 degrees and above, the light is more blue. 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 she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in computer science at UW. Prior 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.”

Contact Us

Institutional Communications

Bureau of Mines Building, Room 137


Laramie, WY 82071

Phone: (307) 766-2929


Find us on Facebook (Link opens a new window) Find us on Twitter (Link opens a new window)

1000 E. University Ave. Laramie, WY 82071
UW Operators (307) 766-1121 | Contact Us | Download Adobe Reader

Accreditation | Virtual Tour | Emergency Preparedness | Employment at UW | Privacy Policy | Harassment & Discrimination | Accessibility Accessibility information icon