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An early prototype of the advanced gaming controller is tested.

That’s the project that LTU engineering and design students have been working on with a startup called Star Agilis LLC, the brain child of a New Hampshire native now living in Hong Kong.

That entrepreneur, Alex Downs, said he’s truly impressed with the LTU students and faculty he’s worked with. "The students’ ability to carry out cross-discipline collaboration between the industrial design department and the engineering department lead to a fantastic outcome,” Downs said. “This is exactly how real world product development happens."

This project, he added, “should make people want to go to LTU.”

Lawrence Tech’s electrical and computer engineering students worked on the device’s electrical, mechanical, and packaging requirements, while students in LTU’s industrial design program benchmarked existing controllers, interviewed gamers about what they’d like in an advanced controllers, and came up with proposed designs for the enclosures.

“The students from both departments had to work with each other as you would in a real company to determine design vs. engineering trade-offs,” said George Pappas, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering, who supervised the engineering students with Nabih Jaber, electrical and computer engineering department chair. The finished product also includes a connected virtual reality headset.

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The Star Agilis team. As we are all far too familiar, this is what team brainstorming and reporting meetings look like these days.

Downs said his connection to LTU’s Centrepolis Accelerator was roundabout. Concerned that America was losing its edge in manufacturing and innovation, he decided to develop the device in the United States. His initial contact was through Select USA, a program of the U.S. International Trade Administration designed to encourage U.S. investment. That agency directed him to Automation Alley, the Detroit-area advanced manufacturing organization, which directed him to Centrepolis.

Said Pappas: “Alex wanted student involvement, and he reached out to us and we went through the project objectives. From there, a group of my senior project students got really excited to do this for their senior project.”

Pappas said, the project’s potential stretches far beyond gaming. “This controller could be used in construction or civil engineering with augmented reality. It could be used in the medical and other fields for training.”

Downs said the goal of the device is to “take an Xbox and crunch the whole thing down into the controller. And now you’ll have an Xbox tucked into the controller that’s operating at 5G speeds.” Those speeds, wireless industry officials say, will reach up to 10 gigabits per second, a 20-fold increase over existing 4G technologies.

After the first semester of progress last fall, work on the device will continue at LTU, Pappas said, producing more prototype and proof-of-concept devices.

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A cross-section of the design of one of the controller prototypes.

“This is a great way for students to interact with the latest industry trends, building a proof of concept and getting it out there,” he said. “This controller gives you all the games at 5G speeds, plus you can fly drones and run remote-control cars. It’ll be a great product. One device, many uses.”

Added Downs: “The students are quite high caliber and I’m very impressed. Many are avid gamers, so they understand the product. The students were really pushing the envelope and willing to take on challenges. And I was very impressed with the faculty support.”

Downs said the blazing fast speeds of 5G cellular communication—with data transfer rates of up to 10 gigabits per second, a 20-fold increase over existing technologies—is key to the project.

LTU faculty working from the industrial design side included adjunct professor Chen Li and industrial design department director Bilge Nur Saltik.