Automatic light switches to be installed on campus

Tomy Hillers

At Iowa State, students are given the knowledge they need to reach for the stars. Some of them actually get there.

Astronaut Clayton Anderson, who graduated from Iowa State with a master’s degree in aerospace engineering in 1983, returned to Ames Thursday.

Twenty-five middle schools participated in a discussion with Anderson via the Iowa Communications Network. During the discussion, Anderson spoke about technology and science in space.

At a College of Engineering reception in Howe Hall, Dean James Melsa welcomed Anderson. Anderson spoke to approximately 50 people, mixing humorous recollections of life at Iowa State with tales of his 19-year experience with NASA.

“The fact that I can serve my country as an astronaut is very important to me,” Anderson said.

Anderson began his career working on simulations. Later, he worked in the emergency center at the Johnson Space Flight Center. He was selected for astronaut training in 1998. Anderson is currently assigned to the International Space Station as a ground support astronaut until he is assigned to a space mission.

Anderson is proud of his contributions and said he has seen a change in the composition of the program.

“Civilians make up two-thirds of the Astronaut Corps, a departure from the beginning of the space program,” said Anderson, a civilian.

“In the old days, you had to be a jet jockey or military pilot, and you still do to fly the shuttle,” he said.

“But today we have a lot of astronauts who are doctors, physicists, vets – lots of different professions.”

Anderson spoke about his personal experiences during training during the reception.

“How many people can say they’ve been to the Black Sea in a Russian space capsule with a Russian commander learning to escape in case of a cold-water landing?” Anderson said.

Rebuking critics of manned space flights, Anderson said certain jobs in space require human presence.

“There are certain things we do in space that simply require people. The robotics technology simply isn’t good enough to totally replace humans,” he said.

Anderson was invited to visit by Anthony Pometto, director of the NASA Food Technology Commercial Space Center.

“The fact that he came from the Midwest and has no military experience, with an educational background like mine, is very inspiring,” said Jill Cattrysse, junior in aerospace engineering.

Conserving energy on campus could soon be as easy as the flip of a switch, or lack thereof.

Switches that automatically shut off power when infrared technology senses a lack of movement will replace existing standard light switches in many rooms on campus, said Bob Currie, assistant director of facility services.

Other than shutting lights off, the sensors can also adjust lighting levels.

“The automatic switch is also capable of controlling lights if adequate daylight is present,” Currie said. “The automatic light switch will keep the lights off until the level of natural light reaches a certain intensity.”

The natural-light function can be overridden by placing an object in front of the sensor, if the users feel they need more light, Currie said.

Lights can also be set to turn off whenever no motion is detected.

“The standard time-delay setting for the automatic light switch is 15 minutes, but is adjustable from 30 seconds to 30 minutes,” Currie said.

Director of Facilities Management and Planning Dave Miller said the Energy Conservation Task Force asked his department to present energy conservation projects that could be implemented relatively easily and provide a high level of exposure or be quickly noticed by the campus community.

“Replacement of standard light switches with automatic light switches fit this project requirement quite well,” he said.

Miller said the installation of the new switches began in February of this year.

“Current plans call for installation of approximately 550 automatic light switches, with installation complete by the middle of May,” Miller said.

Certain rooms may not receive the new switches, however.

“Some of these spaces include mechanical spaces, auditorium spaces, gymnasium-type spaces, locker room-type spaces and general circulation areas such as hallways for example,” Miller said.

Miller said many of those spaces would be better served with a lighting control timer that operates on an occupancy schedule.

The sensor lights should save the university money as well as energy, but calculating the actual energy saved will be quite difficult due to the many variables, Miller said.

Many factors would influence calculating energy saved, such as someone manually turning lights off or how often certain rooms are accessed, Miller said.

The installation cost of the energy-saving devices should be relatively low as well.

“The cost of a switch is about $37 and takes less than 30 minutes to install,” Miller said. “This will provide a payback in less than one year.”