In one year Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology student Cody Brelage turned his expanding technical skills into being a difference-maker in the ever-changing world of optical engineering. Through lessons learned in an advanced Automotive Lighting course, Brelage designed creative illumination products for automotive exterior lighting systems that earned outstanding project honors in Synopsys’ 2020 Robert S. Hilbert Memorial Optical Design Competition. 

Brelage, a first-year student from Muncie, used Synopsys’ LucidShape software to design a comprehensive automotive lighting array for exterior automotive lighting systems, including a stop/tail combination light and low- and high-beam headlights that met Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards. The project is considered unique because of its attention on little details in automotive lighting design.

“Cody’s project involved robust design of forward lighting and rear lighting lamps, with consideration of all legal requirements and manufacturability criteria, and then delivering successful results within only eight weeks,” said Hossein Alisafaee, assistant professor of physics and optical engineering who brought the Automotive Lighting course to Rose-Hulman in 2019. “Over the course of his work, Cody exhibited skilled use of a variety of optics including lens optics, TIR optics (using a refractive lens inside a reflector), advanced segmented reflectors, as well as effective decision making on choosing LED lighting sources. Combined with excellent presentation skills and executive summaries, Cody stood out.” 

The basic concepts of Brelage’s design resulted from classroom projects after examining existing vehicle light designs and concepts. For the stop-turn taillamp, he considered several different concepts before settling on strategies that were visually pleasing and relatively feasible. Then came a lengthy design and testing process. 

“I have an interest in non-imaging illumination optics that stems from my background in theatrical lighting prior to coming to Rose, so this [Automotive Lighting] course was a wonderful opportunity to get real-world experience in designing and testing exactly the sort of optics that initially made me want to major in optical engineering,” Brelage said. “I was surprised to find that much of the technology that is used in automotive lighting is very similar in function and purpose to what I was familiar with in theatrical light fixtures.”

Brelage hopes to combine interests in optics, psychology and neuroscience into a graduate school program.

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