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David Glasser ’06 (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) took a relatively new technology and pushed it a bit further.

Glasser, an electrical and computer engineering major and computer science minor, created a system that enables a user to control a light-emitting diode (LED) display over the Internet.

Immovable, stationary boxes typically control LED displays, which are electronic signs that use lights to transmit messages, such as blinking highway signs or lighted signs at gas stations.

“What’s important about his project is that he built a system which acts as a controller, but the controller is accessed from the Internet,” says Glasser’s adviser on the independent study, John Greco, professor of electrical and computer engineering. “Instead of having to sit in a dedicated box somewhere, you can reach this particular controller from anywhere on the Internet, which is being done more and more.”

Glasser’s pioneering research and design might be incorporated into some of Greco’s courses.

With Greco’s help, Glasser used a microcontroller, which is equipped with an Ethernet connection, to act as a web server. People can connect to the microcontoller through a web browser such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer or Mozilla’s Firefox. The user types a message on the computer and sends it to the microcontroller. The microcontroller translates the message and sends the appropriate digital signal to the LED display.

“This would be convenient for someone, if they have a lot of things, to control them from one site,” Glasser says.

For instance, the manager of a supermarket chain could change the digital pricing displays beneath an item in each of his stores by logging onto the Internet, typing in the change, and sending it to the displays.

As the Internet continues to grow, the instances in which Glasser’s system could be applied are seemingly unending.

“More and more things are going to be connected to the Internet and you are going to be able to control more things from a central location,” he adds. “I find that very exciting, actually.”

Glasser’s interest in the project stretches beyond its applications.

“I was excited about working on my independent study because it allowed me to pursue something of my own choosing,” he says. “It’s thrilling to see something working and to know that you designed it.”

Greco says that Glasser’s ability to work with little guidance made him well equipped to complete a project that goes beyond typical undergraduate work.

“He’s an independent worker, can get things done, and solves problems with a minimum of assistance from me,” Greco adds. “He’s willing to try things on his own rather than stopping and asking questions. Having that independence was the key to successfully completing the project. What he did really goes beyond what our classes cover.”

Glasser says that the learning environment at Lafayette facilitates independent research.

“Lafayette is definitely a good place to pursue your own academic endeavors,” he explains. “Professor Greco was very willing to work with me on my independent study. Other professors stopped by the lab to ask what I was working on and to see what progress I had made. Also, the newly renovated Acopian Engineering Center provided a nice environment in which to learn and work.”

Glasser is treasurer of the student chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers and a member of the Student Government Computer Services Committee. A resident adviser, he is developing a database system for the Office of Residence Life that will allow resident advisers to complete their paperwork online. Glasser also plays trombone in Jazz Band and Brass Ensemble and has played trombone for Concert Band and the Marquis Players, a student group that produces an annual musical to raise funds for charities.

Greco was awarded a $50,000 grant from Westinghouse Foundation for “Instructional Software for Digital Design Courses.” In addition to mentoring student research, he has been published by the American Society for Engineering Education and the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. Greco also has presented his research at the American Society for Engineering Education’s Annual Conference and Exposition.

Independent study courses are among several major opportunities at Lafayette that make the College a national leader in undergraduate research. Lafayette sends one of the largest contingents to the National Conference on Undergraduate Research each year. Forty-two students were accepted to present their work at last year’s annual conference in April.

Categorized in: Academic News