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Inventions reveal the breadth of Lehigh engineering
Marina Fahim and Robert Poliseno won first place for the Best Senior Project Award for their instructional LED learning violin, which detects the closest correct note so that violinists can adjust their pitch.
The late John Karakash, former dean of engineering at Lehigh, was fond of saying that Lehigh strived to educate students not in engineering, but through engineering. A solid foundation in engineering, he believed, would prepare students to make their mark in a variety of endeavors.

The fruits of this philosophy were on abundant display recently when electrical engineering and computer engineering majors demonstrated the devices they had invented in ECE/CREG 257-258, a two-semester, senior-level lab required of all electrical engineering and computer engineering majors.

Crowded into the lobby of Packard Lab were posters describing a variety of devices, from a Wireless Electric Dog Leash and Wireless Electrocardiograph to a Hybrid Guitar Amplifier, a Brake Alert and an RF (Radio Frequency) Lost Key Finder.

In all, 46 students working in 23 teams completed projects. The course is taught by William Haller, professor of practice in the department of electrical and computer engineering, and Liang Cheng, associate professor of computer science and engineering.

Illuminating intonation

In one corner, Marina Fahim and Robert Poliseno displayed an “Illuminated Violin,” which they hope will encourage beginning violin students struggling to play the right pitch. Deciding on a visual boost, Fahim and Poliseno fashioned an array of LEDs (light-emitting diodes) that light up one way when a violin is being played flat and another way when it is played sharp.

The invention, said Fahim, is intended to help students practice effectively without the assistance of a teacher.

“Given that a violin has no frets,” said Fahim, “our intuitive LED display provides real detection of the intonation, or pitch, of each note so that a player can adjust accordingly. The green LED lights up when the closest correct note is being played, while the yellow to red spectrum on either side indicates when a note is being played flat or sharp.

“We think our product is highly marketable for novice players as a visual aid for independent practice.”

Fahim and Poliseno, who were advised by Richard Decker, professor of electrical and computer engineering, received the Best Project Award at the poster presentation.

The Peers’ Choice Award went to Ryan Jones and Noah DeMarco for “GreenSense: Greenhouse Sensing and Automation,” which seeks to maintain an optimal environment for growing plants. The system uses temperature and humidity sensors that collect data and transmit it wirelessly to users to view in real time on a laptop or smartphone and adjust greenhouse operating conditions.

“We believe this device has a clear market niche,” said DeMarco. “It’s cheap to make, it’s low-power, and it can be customized to individual greenhouse owners.”

Toward more sensible traffic flow

Another project—“A Low-Cost Vehicle Detection Device for Traffic Light Control” by Shengmeng Rong and Andrew Raseley—detects approaching and stopped vehicles with speed radar and with infrared sensors that measure the difference between ground and car temperature. It would cut installation costs by being located on a traffic light pole rather than underground.

Before the poster presentations occurred on April 27, two students in the class, Alexandra Dryer and Caitlin Fowler, won first place in the annual IEEE Morton Student Paper Contest for “Endurance Hydration Meter.” This was the seventh straight year Lehigh students finished first in the IEEE event. The Endurance Hydration Meter records pulse rate and other vital signs with conductivity and pH sensors placed in a high sweat-flow area like the lower back. Data is transmitted wirelessly and continuously to a wristband with an LCD (liquid-crystal display) that shows hydration levels.

Another team of students, Matthew F. Smith and Charles Stahl, interned last summer with LimnTech Scientific Inc. of Souderton, Pa. Their work, said Haller, helped the company develop GPS-based machine vision systems for roadway marking and win an Innovation Safety Award from the American Traffic Safety Services Association convention.

“Their research will directly impact the saving of roadway workers’ lives by eliminating the need for manual measurement and delineation of the center of newly repaved roadways before center traffic lines are remarked,” said Haller.

Two other student teams were awarded a $4,000 grant from ITT Exelis for their projects: Matt Smith and Tom Zaki for “Real-Time Projectile Destination Prediction” and Josh Petshaft and James Del Rossi for “Scuba Diver Location System.” ITT Exelis is a global aerospace, defense and information solutions company.

“You should be proud of your work,” Shawn F. Bialas ’08, ’09G, a senior engineer with ITT Exelis told the four students after their presentations. “You covered every facet of the project [and] spoke to each person in the room. You were all very articulate, had great presentation skills and fielded the questions that were asked very well.”

Bialas’s comments were echoed by Cheng.

“This is a product-oriented course that is very satisfying to teach,” said Cheng, who advised Jones and DeMarco. “I’m amazed at all the clever ideas that the students came up with.”