IST Student Intern Proves Valuable to Area Smart House

Penn State McKeesport student, John Harkins, is fulfilling the internship requirements for his major by working at the Blueroof Technologies' Smart House in McKeesport. John, a senior who majors in Information Sciences and Technology (IST), has been a "valuable" asset to Blueroof, according to Penn State Professor of Engineering and Blueroof Director of Technology, Robert Walters.

Maintaining the documentation and the organization of the technology used in the Smart House is just part of the intern's responsibilities.  Recently John took responsibility for setting up a research lab in the basement of the Smart House that Penn State McKeesport engineering and IST students will use. 

Walters indicates that documenting what was installed in the Smart House was lacking until Penn State McKeesport began using student interns over the past 3 - 4 years to help with the process.  Over the course of that time six interns have helped with the facility, taking responsibility for the IT infrastructure's installation, documentation and maintenance.

Maintaining  and upgrading the  Blueroof website,, is also the responsibility of the current intern.  Training on how the site was developed and what needs to be changed will be part of his job while at Blueroof.  Harkins, like most of the Blueroof interns, was personally recruited by a  member of the Blueroof staff, in this case, Professor Walters. Early this academic year, Walters searched for a good student capable of understanding and working with the Smart House concepts.  Harkins needed an internship for graduation and the match was made.
After graduation, Harkins plans on attending graduate school, majoring in network security.  He feels his work at the Blueroof site has given him valuable experience, because security at the house itself and within its network is instrumental in providing the type of safety and peace of mind vital to its senior residents.  Harkins enjoys the autonomy of the job and, according to Walters, possesses the self-motivation and discipline necessary to work on his own for the 20 hours per week required of the internship. 

Work at the Smart House is incorporated into the IST 402 curriculum, Quality of Life Technology.  Students from the IST and the Engineering programs at Penn State McKeesport have used assignments at the Smart House for the laboratory component of their classes. 

The Smart House was designed to allow senior citizens to live in a safe environment which educates, monitors and optimizes their every day lives.  The Smart Living concept of the model cottage includes home networking security, information technology for assisted living, internet appliances, and the Connected Home which allows seniors to connect with their friends and family in a monitoring environment.  All of this technology allows senior occupants of the house to stay in their own home longer while feeling safe and secure.

The Blueroof project is one of many community partnerships in which Penn State McKeesport  participates. The campus's partnership with Blueroof also includes the City of McKeesport, the County of Allegheny, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,  Leviton, PPG,  local foundations, area businesses and organizations.