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June 01, 2005  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

High-tech safety concepts explored

by Robert Emro


DURHAM, N.H. — Students in the University of New Hampshire’s (UNH) electrical and computer engineering program are working to make school buses safer by outfitting them with technology that can transmit data such as location, tire pressure and even video images via cellular telephone.

Using a bus provided by the Oyster River School District, two teams of seniors have been working on the “Safe and Secure School Bus” project in a collaborative engineering course taught by Professor Raymond Garbos. One team is developing wireless tire sensors that could sound an alarm when tire pressure gets dangerously low. The other is working to install infrared video cameras.

“There are many ways that technology can make school buses safer,” Garbos said. “We are hoping that each year student groups address different problems based on their interest.”

At the heart of the project is a “little black box,” a central processing unit that can receive the data being sent from all the devices installed on the bus and decide what needs to be transmitted and when to send it. The system could allow parents, school administrators, bus company managers and emergency first responders to access information using desktop computers or handheld devices.

The video team recently got a boost from BAE Systems, where Garbos is employed as an engineering fellow. The company’s Infra-red Imaging Systems (IRIS) donated a MicroIR¨ Camera core to the department for use in the project. BAE’s VP of engineering, Tom Arseneault, also donated $2,000, which both teams can use to buy necessary materials.

The infra-red camera is the same technology increasingly used by firefighters. “The picture will be available to the bus driver as well as transmitted to a remote station,” said Nikhil Rajan, the student project leader. “The IR camera will allow the observer to look within the bus during low-light or evening conditions, to look for smoke or hot spots and to see through smoke.”

The gift gives the students a chance to work with the latest technology.

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