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When Dan Smith ’10 began the senior capstone project for his electrical and computer engineering major, he felt a little overwhelmed by the prospect of working on a team of 14 students and adhering to pages of technical requirements for improving the solar-energy system in Acopian Engineering Center.

As systems engineer for the project, he not only learned the function of each subsystem and how all the parts work together, but the importance of working as a team in a professional setting.

“It’s been quite fun,” Smith says. “The hardest part was getting everyone on the same page, figuring out everyone else’s job, and making appropriate goals for each member of the team.”

The Lafayette ECE Photovoltaic Research and Design System (LEPRDS) project involves transferring energy from a solar panel array on the roof of Acopian for various building and campus uses through a supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system.

Bill Hoffman ’10 spent the semester working almost exclusively on one of the subsystems, converting direct current electricity into alternating current to provide power to outlets in the building. His work included designing and building a 6-by-10-inch circuit board.

“I found there were a lot more details that went into it than I was expecting,” he says. “There were a couple days where I spent eight or 10 hours just sitting at a computer working on the board.”

Still, Hoffman says, “I had fun designing it.”

Laura Pritchard ’10, who served as an assistant systems engineer, appreciated working on a project that produced a relevant, usable product. She has had several internship experiences — at Bug Labs in New York City and EnCADIS Design in Middletown, N.Y. — and points to the necessity of having both internship and on-campus real-life experiences.

“I think this project especially has been a true representation of what we’ll be doing out in the industry,” she says.

Smith agrees and presented a paper on the project at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Lehigh Valley Section conference in April at Bloomsburg University.

“We were the only school that had a project of this magnitude,” he says.

William Jemison ’85, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, and Chris Nadovich, lab director for electrical and computer engineering, served as faculty advisers for the project.

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