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Bow High School InvenTeam

Bow High School's Per. 2 EDD Class

The Problem

Students of Bow High School chose to explore methods to reduce glare for their InvenTeam project. Glare is the sensation produced by luminance within the visual field that is sufficiently greater than the luminance to which the eyes can adapt. It causes annoyance, discomfort or loss in visual performance and visibility. The presence of glare is common while driving, skiing, boating or snowmobiling, and can lead to accidents. Through research, Bow determined that there were no existing forms of glare reduction for these activities, and therefore concentrated their efforts on such a device in hopes of making such accidents less frequent.

The Proposal

The Bow InvenTeam, known as the Glare Force, set out to create a device that is clear, but dims to different levels depending on the intensity of light that needed to be blocked. They visualized a device that would reduce glare quickly under a range of light conditions and readjust quickly to a clear state when the glare is no longer present. In addition, the device should still allow the transmission of light from lower intensity sources, while in a darkened state. The material would be adaptable to use in windows, windshields, visors, goggles and glasses.

The Invention

The first choice for a workable design included a transmissive LCD panel, such as those used in overhead projection panels. When stimulated by a glare source, the directional photo sensors (connected to a computer through an interface) would activate a computer program that would darken a part of the LCD panel in line between the glare source and the eye. Many problems arose with this prototype; the LCD panels were too difficult and complex to work with. As an alternative, the team decided to use panels of Suspended Particle Device (SPD), commonly known as Smart Glass. Each piece of smart glass can be made more or less transparent based on applied voltage. When activated by a glare source, the directional photo sensors would darken a panel of Smart Glass in a line between the glare source and the eye. When powered, the suspended particles of the device are arranged randomly and tend to absorb light causing the panel to appear darker. When not powered, the suspended particles become aligned in such a way that light tends to pass through the device-leading the panel to appear more transparent.

The Process

The students chose two student leaders for the team to coordinate and facilitate the project, and relied on guidance from an instructor and advisors. The remainder of the team divided into subgroups to study pertinent information such as optics and the eye, required circuitry and LCD technology. The Glare Force encouraged continuous periodic cycles of open review, feedback and revisions throughout both semesters. The students used class time, weekly after-school meetings and hours of independent research to reach a solution. The team chose to hire three engineering consultants to assist and educate them through the project. Professor Steve Ryan of New Hampshire Technical Institute was hired as a general consultant. Angelo Arecchi of Sunrise Instruments provided training about light and light measurement. Jerry Herman of Pulse Control Technologies recommended detecting the location of glare with one sensor instead of the directional sensor array.

The Result

The team's smart glass prototype has several positive features: it reacts automatically to light and is adaptable to a variety of applications. Some concerns included the panel not being transparent enough to see when the panel is darkened at night or under low light intensities. Also, the level of opaqueness is not sufficient in testing to reduce bright light and the power requirements are too large for mobile applications. However, overall, the students' determination throughout the project led them to resolve some difficult technical issues.