By Sherry DiBari

Cedric Ferre spent his whole summer sending and receiving messages in Kaufman Hall.

Ferre, 21, from Nantes, France, has been working on a project that illustrates digital transmission of information - in this case, sending messages - using a laser as transmitter along with a photovoltaic cell as a receiver.

Dimitrie Popescu and Sylvain Marsillac, professors in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, have been advising Ferre, who is at Old Dominion through an internship program.

Ferre's project has two parts: a transmitter with a microprocessor that programs a red laser to turn on/off in specific binary code patterns for wireless messages and a receiver - a photovoltaic cell that receives the light from the laser and converts it to an electrical signal. That signal is then converted to digital form to extract the information and display the programmed message on a computer.

"It's almost like sending messages via fiber optics but through air and not fiber," he explained. "And of course, at a slower rate because we want the human eye to be able to see the laser blinking."

Ferre began the internship at Old Dominion in June. He will go back to France at the end of August.

Although he had visited a few western states, he had never been to Virginia.

His biggest surprise was the proliferation of air conditioners here. "Almost every building is air-conditioned here, and I am not used to that much AC," he said. "I feel like I am a shrimp in a supermarket aisle."

In France, Ferre studies embedded systems at the Ecole Centrale de Nantes, an engineering school established in 1919. He plans to graduate in September 2025 with an engineering diploma - the French equivalent of a U.S. master's degree.

He also participates in an "Alternance" or "Apprentissage" (Apprenticeship) program where he rotates his time between classes and working in an engineering company. "I have one month of classes, then one month of working in the company," he explained. "By doing so, we can apply almost directly the things that we are seeing in school, so we are even more fully prepared to have an engineering job just after graduating."

Ferre hopes one day to come back to the United States. His goal is to ride a motorcycle along historic Route 66 from Chicago to Los Angeles.

He hopes that his current visit here at Old Dominion will inspire others to visit France.

"France, in general, is a pretty country where people will be happy to welcome you," he explained. "You will need to know that Paris can't be your only destination. Paris is a beautiful city with awesome monuments, but you might find that most people are not willing to discuss with anyone (even other French people). It is because they don't have the time. Just as with many countries, you might prefer going to the smaller cities to find some warm contact with people. Therefore, you might want to come to Nantes."

"I think the best way to know about it is to buy airplane tickets and make your own opinion," he said. "We will be glad to welcome you!"