swarthmore college

Off-Grid Low Power Home Heating System

Swarthmore College, 2000 - $17,900

This E-Team developed an energy-efficient home heating system capable of being powered by solar cells or backup power in a blackout situation. The product consists of a family of innovations in valve and control devices that reduce electric power consumption by a factor of at least 50%.

The team consisted of undergraduates from two institutions with faculty advisors in engineering and external advisors in market strategy, heating systems sales and related industries.


The team is incorporated as Heat Assured Systems of New York.

Light Emitting Diode based Sheet Music and Fine Art Lighting

Swarthmore College, 2003 - $19,085

This E-Team developed a programmable array of light emitting diodes (LEDs) that provide white light with tunable hues and intensities with the idea of replacing the traditional light sources used by two target niche markets: sheet music lighting and fine art lighting.

This diverse and multidisciplinary E-Team consisted of six undergraduate students specializing in mechanical engineering, engineering, physics, English, and photography. Two professors with expertise in optics and electrical engineering guided the students along with four industry advisors.

Home Heating Wireless Communication System

Swarthmore College, 2001 - $12,633

In 2000, an E-Team from Swarthmore College developed a home heating system that utilized many advanced microcontrollers. Although useful, traditional microcontrollers use a cumbersome amount of wiring for communication, making the system expensive to install and difficult to repair without specific expertise.

To address this problem, the team developed a wireless communication system, called simply "The System." The System integrates Bluetooth chips into microcontrollers' printed circuit boards to allow for short-range operation (10 to 100 meters) while using very little power. For example, The System could exchange commands between a boiler and zone valves, zone valves and thermostats, and thermostats and boiler, all without hard wiring.

The E-Team included members from the original Home Heating System E-Team as well as several new recruits.

InterSecT Project

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Current search engine technology on the internet will often provide the user with several thousand entries, leaving it to the user to find the most valuable information. In addition, the user interfaces currently available can be difficult to use. In response to these problems, this E-Team has begun development of the Internet Secretary Tool (InterSecT), a software package which serves as a highly personalized, smart web browser. The InterSecT browser works to continually learn and relearn the likes and dislikes of the user. When prompted to find a specified piece of information, InterSecT accesses an array of internet search engines, chooses the results it judges the user most values (based on what it has learned about the user's habits) and reports back. With each completed search, the selective abilities of the personal browser become more refined and gain accuracy.

InterSecT utilizes several cutting edge technologies, such as neural net programming, to create an innovative, powerful, and user-friendly end product. This product makes the internet easier to use and extends its benefits to those with little or no computing experience, and/or limited hardware resources.

The InterSecT E-Team was founded by Josh Lifton, an honors student at Swarthmore College who is pursuing a double major in physics and mathematics and a minor in computer science, during his semester at Hampshire College as a Lemelson Fellow. When Josh returned to Swarthmore, he applied for an Advanced E-Team grant to continue his advanced project working with another computer science student, faculty from Swarthmore and Hampshire Colleges, and four technical and business advisors. Josh is now in the process of recruiting business students to help him conduct more extensive market research and develop a business plan.

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