Big Blue gets a very rare reboot after six years

Release Date: August 27, 2015
Professor Ken Cook and Big Blue

Professor Ken Cook needed to make just a few small repairs to get Big Blue back in the pink.

Since the fall term of 2009, the six-foot-by-six foot digital clock known has Big Blue has kept time without a hitch while looming silently over the atrium of LTU’s Buell Management Building. Thousands of students have passed through the atrium thousands of times without ever questioning the clock’s accuracy.

But last week the combination of a power outage in the building and a malfunction in the back-up battery system left the very reliable clock temporarily behind the times.

Assisted by students Steve Pascoe and Ashley Julin, Professor Ken Cook mounted a service lift and rose high above the atrium to open up the big face of the clock for the first time since it was installed seven years ago.

Replacing four AAA batteries and resetting the time was all it took to get Big Blue back in the pink.

Of course the power has gone out before in the Buell Building, and the clock’s LED lights turn off when that happens. The back-up battery system is designed to provide enough juice to keep the clock’s systems running so that the correct time will be displayed when the regular power source comes back on line.

The battery system is designed to automatically recharge itself when the electricity service is restored. This time a malfunction prevented that from happening.

The clock was designed and assembled as part of a senior project in engineering technology by Anthony Castellucci, Jason D’Antimo, Luciano Mancini, and Daniel Peraino, who all earned a bachelor’s degree in engineering technology in 2009. The clock could easily have been called Big Green, because it only draws 10 watts of power, about the same as two night lights.

Excess heat was a potential problem for such a large electric clock with the 700 LED lights. The students left the top and bottom of the case open, creating a chimney effect for the air that is heated up by the lights. One unusual feature of the clock is the second hand that sweeps electronically counter clockwise. The clock is set remotely by a wireless programmer.

When the students first designed the clock for their senior project, Cook challenged them to come up with a redesign that cut the weight and cost in half. They succeeded.

“The students designed this clock so that it wouldn’t fail, and they did a pretty good job,” said Cook, who served as faculty advisor for the senior project. “This innovative student project is a prime example of the skills and knowledge you will acquire while being enrolled in one of our many Engineering Technology programs.”

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