With time for travel and conferences increasingly dear in recent years, more companies are turning to a form of videoconferencing where participants don't even have to leave their desk. Although convenient, the video images of the face can be poor depending on the local lighting conditions at the workstations. The 2004 Robert Bruce Thompson Student Light Fixture Design Competition challenged students to create a luminaire to address the problems associated with videoconferencing. Ideally the light would be unobtrusive, easy to mount on the computer, and light the face in a flattering way (think color rendering and pattern of lighting on the face), without causing glare discomfort for the user. The choice of light source was not restrictive. Judges were looking for clever ideas that would satisfy the camera color requirements, produce the lighting patterns in a flattering and economical way, be easy to manufacture and to use, and that had a graceful and appealing style.

In its third year, the competition showcased an encouraging degree of young talent. The diversity and talent of this year's judges were also noteworthy. The panel included: Liza Pannozzo, SMWM; Larry French, Auerbach-Glasow; Virva Kokkonen Nilsen, Virvatuli Lighting Design; Peter Ngai, Peerless Lighting; and Jay Sweet, Boyd Lighting. Additional information is available at www.rbtcompeition.org.

Jonas Concepcion, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Description: The design is based on the three-point principles found in television lighting, where a key source provides the primary highlights, a fill light removes shadows, and backlight distinguishesthe subject from the background. Freedom of motion enables the user to adjust for multiple scenarios. Manual dimming controls can be supplemented with a wireless Bluetooth connection that would adjust light levels to suit the ambient lighting conditions.

Jean McClure, University of Texas at Arlington
Description: Two cylindrical diffusers rotate around one another to create different light levels. The outer diffusing cylinder is translucent, while the inner is opaque; both sit inside a metal reflecting cylinder. The user controls the light levels and beam spread by adjusting the knobs on either side of the fixture. The fixture head telescopes in and out of its base to accommodate different monitors. The luminaire takes a T2 fluorescent, and the ballast is concealed in the weighted base.

Charles Cooley, University of Texas at Arlington
Description: Four LEDs wired to an elastic band are integrated with a diffuser and four reflector leaves. The elastic band creates a versatile mounting system that can stretch to fit different cameras. The reflector leaves can be moved to direct light as desired. The circular diffusing shield spreads light to the face, while softening the light from the source. The reflected light is used for task illumination.

Takeshi Narumi, Utah State University

Michael Rene Contreras, University of Texas at Arlington