John McDonald/the Gauntlet

Engineers see the light

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First-year engineering students might have found an answer for affordable and efficient housing. For their final project of the semester, they were assigned a seven-week endeavour to sell their version of a new and improved house. Starting Monday, the students featured the projects on the second floor labs of the ICT building on campus, which are open to the public.

"We were asked to innovate a design [that was] low cost and highly efficient," said first-year engineering student Corey Jasinski.

The separate labs contain groups divided into smaller focus groups tackling humidity in homes and exterior design saving space. In the dynamic functioning space presentation, tables, chairs and storage space were combined to create 12-in-1 pieces of furniture on wheels that could be stored anywhere in the room.

"My group in particular focused on minimizing the amount of lights used in the house, focusing on office space," said Jasinski.

The groups built scaled down rooms to show how their innovation would perform better than the systems in traditional homes. All of the miniature groups that focused on lighting their spaces used LEDs in their presentation, cutting the ends of the strands into cones to maximize the surface area. One group said their idea was influenced by LiteBrite. Another set up a series of concave and convex mirrors high on the walls to reduce dark corners and focus the light evenly throughout the entire room, instead of only the middle.

Students also found a way to utilize the "do not eat" packages of silica gel that come in retail products. The beads of gel can actually be used along with a humidifier to increase the humidity, as they absorb water from their container and then let it out into the air as their relative humidity levels change. The beads pose no risk to the environment or personal health as long as not ingested.

The website for Jasinski's larger lab group explained that the project was assigned as an introduction to Team Alberta's participation in the Solar Decathlon-- an international competition to design and build a solar-powered, sustainable house. The house will be built by August 2009.