Jay Knepp, a junior majoring in Computer Engineering, looked at an internship with Physical Facilities as a way to gain some work experience and help improve campus. What he didn't know was that he would help develop a device that the department will continue to use for important, ongoing data collection activities. As part of his assignment to collect, analyze and propose enhancements to campus night time light levels, Knepp was asked to measure lighting throughout the campus. He soon realized that he could use the things he was learning in computer engineering to develop a device that would increase his efficiency.
Using relatively simple equipment, including a small, inexpensive Raspberry Pi computer, Knepp constructed a portable light level meter that collects data as he pulls it along. The device continuously takes readings that he can then upload into the computer at the office instead of inputting it by hand. He wrote all of the computer code needed for the light meter. The device, which is about the size of an average smartphone, rolls on a frame he built on soapbox wheels. Knepp tested the device and realized that it would save countless hours of work. "By hand I could take approximately 50 light level readings every two hours," he says. "With the device, I can take 1,600 readings in just one hour."
"Going in, I didn't really expect to do a whole lot of things specific to computer engineering," Knepp says. "But, as the project evolved and expanded upon itself, I realized that I was working with embedded system design, software engineering, database management and data acquisition. All of these things are very essential skills for someone in my major. It goes to show that this University has all of the right opportunities to help its students succeed."