The idea for a smart home grew out of a conversation between then senior electrical and computer engineering major Mark Younger and Pratt Dean Kristina M. Johnson. Younger spent a semester planning The Home Depot Smart Home in an independent study course topic, and then launched a 20-student design project in the spring of 2003 that captured the imagination and excitement of others--and the project grew in popularity.
Intrigued by student interest in the idea, Dean Johnson hired Younger as the project manager after he graduated and encouraged him to build support for the project with Duke administration and students, and to cultivate industry interest and sponsorship. He served a mentor for student teams and oversaw the design with the architect, serving as the primary liaison between Duke and the architectural and construction teams.
"The Home Depot Smart Home differentiates itself from other university smart home projects in two fundamental ways," Younger said in 2005. "First, students actually live in the house while developing the systems in and around it. Second, the Program's broad cross-disciplinary nature gives students invaluable interaction with engineers specializing in fields other than their own as they prepare for the real world."
Duke engineering graduate Tom Rose then took the reigns from Mark Younger, becoming the second Director for the project. Rose oversaw the actual construction of the dorm, a 100-strong student club, numerous student projects and helped select the first students to live in the new facility.
In a 2006 interview, Rose said the smart home program was a valuable opportunity for industry/university partnering. "Student projects with industry collaboration are very powerful," he said. "They provide students with real-world experience in design innovation while providing industrial partners with the creative minds of students and a unique opportunity to showcase and market their technology. The new smart home facility is a new model for engineering education, where undergraduates are challenged to take the lead in interdisciplinary, hands-on research and development."
From the project's inception the smart home has been a tremendous draw for students. Even before the facility was completed in 2007, more than over 110 students had taken part in research/design projects since the summer of 2003. Today, there are a range of options for students to be part of the excitement that is the Duke Smart Home Program, including a student club, independent study projects for credit, house courses and design competitions.
The total cost of construction for The Home Depot Smart Home was $1.2 million. We completed construction in the fall of 2007, and the first set of students residents moved in for the spring of 2008.
The Home Depot Smart Home is a co-ed residence, with 10 students living there full time. One student also serves as resident advisor. The house also serve as "lab central," supporting research by facuty and additional students each semester.