Illinois Tech’s Smart Tech Lab Installs Innovative Lighting and Control Solution



By Eve Gutmann
Illinois Tech’s Smart Tech Lab Installs Innovative Lighting and Control Solution

Two years after opening, the Smart Tech Lab at Illinois Tech is now home to a new Power over Ethernet (PoE) PowerHUBB™ solution. PowerHUBB was donated by Hubbell Control Solutions, with support technology from Igor and Cisco Systems, in order to further enable student innovation in the lab, which is part of Illinois Tech’s School of Applied Technology (SAT).

The PowerHUBB PoE lighting and control solution contains a bank of 12 LED lighting fixtures from Columbia Lighting, occupancy sensors, wall controls, and the software to configure, operate, and monitor the lighting in the Smart Tech Lab. The fixtures are directly powered through an Ethernet CAT 6 cable and a Cisco Switch instead of traditional alternating current, so they are intrinsically safe. PoE lighting systems can be especially applicable for outdated lighting and systems typically found in older and inefficient buildings. They eliminate the need for costly AC wiring and often complicated code requirements.

To secure the project, Doug Hamilton, an Illinois Tech alumnus (M.S. EE ’95) and senior director of R&D for Hubbell Integrated Solutions, worked with Jeremy Hajek, lab director for SAT’s Information Technology and Management program, and Dan Tomal, adjunct professor in SAT’s Industrial Technology and Management program and faculty advisor for Illinois Tech’s National Electrical Contractor’s Association (NECA) Student Chapter.

Illinois Tech students in an Interprofessional Projects (IPRO) Program course were the first to use PowerHUBB. Co-taught by Hamilton and Tomal in spring 2018, the course challenged students across majors to work as a team with Hubbell and Illinois Tech’s Office of Energy and Sustainability to analyze the system, construct a working prototype display model, and explore additive applications. The next step may include integrating video and audio into the system to develop novel building safety and security applications.

For Hubbell, Cisco, and Igor, the donation offers a chance to learn firsthand what can happen when students are given a chance to test emerging technologies. To capture students’ reactions, Hubbell plans to post periodic articles about its partnership with Illinois Tech on its Illuminations blog. The first post, “What We Learn When the Smart Lab at Illinois Tech Gets In on the PowerHUBB Action” features an interview with Hamilton in which he talks about the benefits of this type of authentic project-based collaboration. 

“By exposing these engineering students to this lighting technology, we’re arming future technology influencers with a first-hand account of the PoE lighting experience. Selfishly, we also knew that it might be possible that some of these students would come and work for Hubbell one day. They are helping us by identifying and testing new ideas,” says Hamilton. “Supporting this initiative has certainly helped improve any misperceptions about the lighting industry and will hopefully encourage the next generation of talented individuals to influence next-generation lighting decisions or pursue a career in the lighting industry.”


The Smart Tech Lab is one of the first of its kind in the nation to offer students interested in embedded systems, wireless technologies, and green energy sustainability a state-of-the art facility. The lab was established through monetary and in-kind donations from numerous Electrical Contractors’ Association of City of Chicago member companies and individuals in addition to those associated with the PoE: Clune Construction Company, ComEd, Digital Building Solutions, EAL, ECA, IBEW 134, Electrical Contractors Inc., Grainger, Graybar, Gurtz Electric Co., IDEAL INDUSTRIES, INC., Illinois Tech NECA Student Chapter, Jamerson & Bauwens, Kelso-Burnett Co., and Lutron Electronics Company, Inc. Donations from these companies include a display of the IDEAL Audacy building automation system and a Lutron Graphic Eye wireless lighting system that controls three lighting zones with built-in occupancy and vacancy sensors.


Watch a NECA-produced video describing the work of Illinois Tech students in the Smart Tech Lab and the partnership with NECA.