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LED Donation Improves Learning Conditions At Eli Whitney Museum

Hopkins School senior Yasmin Bergemann, 18, a senior apprentice at the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop, assembles a produce tray for a food waste reduction cart under newly installed, donated LED lights. (photo courtesy of The Whitney Workshop)

Hamden: “Brilliant lighting supports brilliant workmanship” isn’t exactly a popular adage, but with 32 years under his toolbelt as a director of the Eili Whitney Museum and Workshop in Hamden, Bill Brown ought to know.

So, it’s understandable that when his facility received a sizable donation of LED fixtures and tube lights, the shop-savvy administrator and principal educator was thrilled for students who would be able to demonstrate better workmanship skills in their hands-on building projects.

Brown also received the generous donation with a sigh of relief. With plans to step down as the only director the museum and workshop ever had, he was hoping not to leave the budget-challenging task of replacing old incandescent lighting to his successor. The project can now be scratched off the to-do list of the next director.

As for the current one, Brown literally sees brighter days for the educational facility that has taught valuable workshop skills to thousands since 1988. His luminescent outlook is over a recent donation of lighting solutions from Torrance, Calif.-based LEDtroncs, one of the few LED manufacturers in the United States. The 10 75-watt LED shoebox lights now illuminating the parking lot have refined the site’s beauty and security, according to Brown. The 40 18-watt T8 LED tube lights furnished and installed in the workshop have been equally transformative.

“The LEDs enable us to offer a better-quality experience to our apprentice, who, in turn, produce better-quality results,” Brown said, citing as an example the work being done with a $10,000 grant from Infosys. The money is being used to produce movable maker spaces for schools that don’t have industrial arts classrooms.

“Sanding requires seeing every dent, and the old lighting wasn’t allowing for that,” Brown said. “Anytime you’re finishing a surface you need to see it with the most clarity you can so that it’s smooth. Shoddy lighting leads to shoddy workmanship and the right light leads to the right workmanship.”

Speaking of quality, the Eli Whitney Museum seems to be just as impressed with the donor’s professionalism and care as with the gift of energy-efficient, long-lasting LED products.

“LEDtronics sent their local rep from Hartford who analyzed the setting to determine the right color, right distribution of light, right brightness.” Brown said. “We did not anticipate the technical finesse and precision that LEDtronics brought to our site. The entomologists who study in our meadow at night praised the careful focus of just enough light.”

Another happy surprise was that because the LED tubes being donated were ballast-compatible, they directly replaced the old fluorescent tube lamps without need of changing the circuits on the lighting fixture.

“That plug-and-play ability delighted us,” Brown said. “We were prepared to take down all the fixtures. What we thought would take days took one morning.”

The educator and environmentalist sides of Brown identified one more dimension of the lighting project.

“For years we’ve designed projects that teach children to experiment with LEDs for reasons that include their efficiency and durability,” he said. “When we teach straightforwardly about the perils the planet faces, at the same time we introduce evidence that supports hope. LED lighting, which consumes less of the planets resources, is a symbol that change is possible. The lighting donated by LEDtronics illuminates an essential message.

-- By David Dickstein

Originally posted in The Advisor Newspaper, March 17, 2020

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