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PSU, KDOT solar powered LED pavement lights project garners national attention

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Updated November 7, 2013:  NEWS RELEASE ISSUED BY PITTSBURG STATE UNIVERSITY

PSU, KDOT project garners national attention

What started as a pilot project in a southeast Kansas community could lead to national attention for Pittsburg State University and its College of Technology.

Two Pitt State construction faculty members, Seth O'Brien and Chad Crain, are helping the Kansas Department of Transportation install solar powered LED pavement lights at two interchanges in Chanute. The project is thought to be the first of its kind in the nation. The project is gradually gaining attention in Kansas, but O'Brien said that audience could quickly grow.

"The national Department of Transportation is now looking at this, and we may very well be asked to present and discuss this project at a national level," O'Brien said. "We're pretty sure nothing like this has ever been done in the U.S., and the idea could take off if it's as successful as we think it will be."

According to KDOT, the LED lights are being installed at two interchanges that do not meet KDOT standards for tower lighting. O'Brien and Crain are helping KDOT develop the best ways to install the lights.

"They reached out to us because our faculty here has a real-world experience," O'Brien said. "You can do all of the lab tests you want, but it's nothing like getting out and really doing this. We have industry experience, and we're excited to be a part of this project and help in any way we can."

While the initial run of lights should be installed within the next week or two, O'Brien said final results of this pilot project won't be determined for about a year.

"We're trying different methods of installation, and the next year or so will show which are the most effective," he said. "We'll spend the next year monitoring the lights and conducting research. By the end of this, we should have a final product that could be used in communities nationwide."

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Posted October 24, 2013:  The Kansas Department of Transportation and Pittsburg State University have teamed up install 600 solar powered pavement lights at the intersections of U.S. 169 and Plummer Road, and the U.S. 169-Humboldt interchange.

It is a pilot program and on Thursday KDOT gave the media a tour of the project.

Solar powered LED pavement lights will glow white or yellow, helping drivers discern the difference between the two interchanges. Neither interchange meets the standards for tower lights so KDOT is trying this pilot program to help drivers.

"We feel the need for tower lights are still there, they are just another added saftey, but with this the potential is there to save a tremendous amount of money should these work, so we're really excited to see what these do actually do in the future," says Chris Pross of the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The project costs around $100,000 and is expected to be finished in about two weeks.

The southeast Kansas interchange is the first in the country to get the solar powered lights and the partnership with PSU gives students and faulty the chance to be a part of cutting edge research.

One of the design challenges for the light project has been surviving winter weather.  The lights are embedded in the ground and should provide plenty of clearance for snow plows.  Plus, with eight hours of sunlight, the lights can still fully charge in up to 12 inches of snow.

Part of the project is researching what works and what doesn't.

"Our goal for this project were to drill in the holes in the asphalt and concrete, and we researched numerous ways to installing the equipment," says Seth O'Brien, an instructor at PSU.

"We gave them the lights and we had them decide the best way to possibly put these in and get the life out of them," says Pross.

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