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WIU-QC grads create plane app

Jonathan Wenthold, left, and and Michael Berggren, right, 2017, have developed a smartphone app that allows customization of interior airplane lighting. The WIU-QC graduates are shown with Il-Seop Shin, associate professor of engineering, who served as faculty advisor of their senior design project. 

Work by two Western Illinois University-Quad Cities graduates begun while undergraduates has received Federal Aviation Administration certification and is being installed in airplanes serviced at Elliott Aviation in Moline.

Jonathan Wenthold of Atkinson and Michael Berggren of Galesburg graduated from WIU-QC in 2017 with degrees in engineering. They are now Elliott Aviation employees. Their undergraduate work has led to a smartphone app passengers can use with their electronic window shades, cup holders and multi-colored accent lighting options.

The pair began working on the project, called PRIZM Cabin Lighting, as interns for Elliott. They continued it for a required senior design project, and were offered full-time positions with the company.

Berggren and Wenthold built a system that lets the owners of private jets or company-owned planes customize a “mood” — such as “Relaxation,” “Movie” and “Work” with choices of green, purple and other colors on overhead and aisle lights.

“It’s basically the bells and whistles,” said Wenthold. “We looked at an existing system and thought, ‘How can we make it better?’

"We had a lot of liberty during the design phase," he said. "So we improved upon it and, in addition to that, came up with something that offers a significant cost savings. It helps with the marketability of the product that we can make it so customized.”

“It’s a great feeling, like we’ve really accomplished something, to have the FAA saying, ‘This product meets our standards and has met the certification to be on an airplane,'" said Wenthold. "And now getting it to the airplane makes it real."

He said Elliott hopes to add the new product offerings to its existing Parts Manufacturing Authorization and sell the system to other companies.

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