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Engineering students earn top lighting honors in national competition

Monday, June 17, 2013

LAWRENCE — Two University of Kansas School of Engineering students claimed the top two spots for their designs in a national lighting competition, earning each of them an $8,000 scholarship.

Xiaomeng Su, a civil engineering doctoral student with a focus on architectural engineering, China, and Sean Quigley, a senior in architectural engineering from Overland Park, were each awarded first prize in the 2013-2014 Besal Scholarship Competition.  The scholarship fund provides a continuing program to improve education in illuminating engineering. 

“Both students did a great job on this,” said Hongyi Cai, assistant professor of civil, environmental and architectural engineering.  Cai runs KU’s lighting research lab and advised the two students on their winning entries. “Both entries did a wonderful job conveying these students’ qualifications and unique abilities.”

The scholarship competition includes an essay section that challenges students to draw up designs for lighting and office and a warehouse building.  Students must take into account the needs of three people who use the facility in different ways – an office worker, a facility manager and the company’s chief financial officer.  The lighting layout, controls and output must be designed to meet the needs of these three people – and students must provide a cost-benefit analysis for why their design is optimal. 

“It was a great real-world exercise,” said Quigley, who used LED lighting throughout his design.  “LEDs are great, but there’s still a period of payoff, because the technology is relatively new – especially for warehouses – and it’s more expensive than traditional fluorescent lighting.  In my entry, I spelled out that LEDs were more beneficial in this instance because you could pay them off in just a few years based on energy savings.”

Su, who uses high dynamic range photography in her lighting research at KU, said she was “surprised and thrilled” to win a Besal Scholarship. 

“I put some of my research into the competition.  I showed how this new technology could help in office design,” Su said. 

High dynamic range imaging captures greater range between lightest and darkest areas of an image than current digital imaging methods.

“From these images, you can get a much better picture to analyze how much light is on a desk or computer screen and see if it’s adequate.  It can provide greater detail on things like too much light on a desk that could create glare,” Su said. 

Su and Quigley said Cai provided key feedback and guidance as they worked through the challenges of the competition.

“I was beyond excited when I got the news.  Dr. Cai also deserves some credit,” Quigley said.  “He encouraged me to go back to the drawing board and revise my entry.  His feedback and encouragement really helped.”

The Besal Fund was established in 1983 as a nonprofit endowed fund in tribute to the leadership of the late Robert J. Besal, who served as a vice president for Lithonia Lighting.  Students from KU received the first Besal Fund scholarship in 1984.

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