Expanding Opportunities in STEM Education

Tuesday, August 29, 2017
full pic of science center addition

RVCC’s commitment to enhancing opportunities in science and STEM education was highlighted in September with the official opening of the 23,500 square-foot addition to the Christine Todd Whitman Science Center.

The addition, which nearly doubled the size of the existing building, includes four chemistry labs, a physics lab, a hybrid room that can function as both a physics lab and a lecture room, and two additional classrooms to accommodate the growing number of students interested in majoring in science-related fields.

“The Science Center addition is the latest example of the College’s longstanding commitment to STEM education. From the Galileo Scholarship, which since 2003 has provided close to 600 STEM students with approximately $1 million in scholarships, to our new Authentic Engineering course in which students create a real product for an actual company, RVCC has been a leader in promoting STEM education,” said RVCC President Michael J. McDonough.

The new chemistry labs include state-of-the-art, energy-efficient fume hoods and snorkel hoods at the benches that allow students to conduct experiments with maximum safety. The new physics labs include larger lab stations furnished with powerful equipment for data acquisition that facilitates the observation and analysis of abstract physical concepts. An Engineering Project Center features a workspace, benches, power tools, and a 3D-printer to support both instruction as well as honors and independent research projects.

Designed to achieve LEED Silver certification, the addition features such sustainable attributes as water and energy efficiency and recycled or regionally sourced building materials.

The Building Our Future Bond Act, which was approved by New Jersey voters in November 2012, paved the way for the addition. The $10.2 million project was funded by $7.4 million in state funds and $2.8 million in support from the Counties of Somerset and Hunterdon.

The facility is also the home of the new “Gibson Center for Innovation in Science and Technology,” supported by a generous $500,000 donation from Jim and Jill Gibson of Basking Ridge. The center supports student scientific research, early intervention programs to help nontraditional and under-represented students meet the rigors of STEM programs, and academic programs in engineering, advanced manufacturing, and environmental sustainability.

Students Excel in STEM Areas

Students continued to thrive in STEM areas in 2016-2017 with their projects gaining national—and even international—attention. Research and work by RVCC Engineering student Thomas Britton was highlighted in the January issue of the international medical-technical journal, BioPhotonics. In the article, “Optical Fibers Illuminate Brain Activity,” Briton wrote about his work creating a 3D-printed model of his own brain, which he instrumented with optical fibers to illuminate brain activity centers. For additional information about Britton’s work, visit https://www.photonics.com.

RVCC Engineering students Trevor Rokosky, Mark Romero and Jakub Sitarz presented their Authentic Engineering projects at the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) Mid-Atlantic Conference in April. Rokosky presented a “Laser Music” project, while Sitarz and Romero presented an “Illuminated Umbrella” project. Both presentations were accepted for publication in the Conference Proceedings.

Other student work highlighted during the year included biomedical engineering projects created by Aimna Ishfaq and Jenna Nugent. Working with an organization called E-Nable, the students implemented 3D-printing and bio-electrical nerve signals to demonstrate prosthetic applications. Nugent and Ishfaq worked independently at the College’s Engineering Project Center to 3D-print the parts of two different designs for mechanical hands. They then assembled and refined the mechanical hand function and submitted the hands to E-Nable. The hands were included in an aid shipment to India where they will assist children with hand-function disabilities.