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Fairleigh Dickinson University’s New Era for STEM Majors Inside Becton Hall Labs

Becton Hall has become the hub for specialized laboratories at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Metropolitan Campus.

The STEM (science, math, engineering and technology) majors working in the labs are breaking it all down, asking: How does that work?

“With engineering,” says junior Ryan Choy, an electrical engineering major from Sparta, N.J., “you really have to want to know how it works and how to make it better or safer. How do I make it more efficient?”

Nathalie Peralta runs a computer program to control a Nao humanoid robot, while Ryan Choy gives a wave to test its sensory capabilities. Both are juniors and electrical engineering majors.

Becton Hall now has a total of 18 labs, eight new state-of-the-art facilities and 10 upgraded laboratories. Most of the renovations and work was completed under a “multi-million dollar state-funded project to enhance New Jersey’s high-tech workforce and competitiveness,” says Alfredo Tan, professor of electrical engineering and director of the Gildart Haase School of Computer Sciences and Engineering.

“Engineering really has an impact on a lot of people’s lives,” says junior and electrical engineering major Nathalie Peralta, of Cedar Grove, N.J. “It’s very broad. You can go into any kind of specific [engineering] field, as long as you have an interest in science and math. It’s a really good major.”

The School of Computer Sciences and Engineering offers undergraduate-level degrees in civil and electrical engineering; civil, construction, electrical and mechanical engineering technology; computer science; information technology; and mathematics, as well as graduate-level degrees in computer science; computer and electrical engineering; management information systems; and electronic commerce. And more STEM programming is on the way: a mechanical engineering degree for undergraduates and a cybersecurity and information assurance degree for graduate students, coming in the Fall 2017 semester.

“Students learn best when they use multiple senses and actively apply the theorems and concepts that they have studied from the lecture in the labs,” says Tan. “The labs also enable them to explore, experiment, and test their own ideas beyond what they have learned in the classroom, producing independent, creative thinkers.”

In the labs, students fashion items with 3-D printers, including a fully functional violin and a ukulele, and with subtractive technology, such as computer numeric control machines, they mill chess pieces to practice computer numerical control (CNC) machining techniques and procedures. They set up manufacturing lines, learn programming languages, practice wiring machines, design plans and run the equipment.

“Currently we’re working on designing a micro mouse — a robotic mouse — that we’re trying to get to the center of a maze in the shortest amount of time possible,” says junior electrical engineering major Aaron Beasley. He and Choy attended the same high school in Sparta, N.J. “I started out thinking I wanted to be an electrician,” says Beasley. Both ultimately opted to come to FDU and study engineering. “When I started working in the labs, it made me more confident about working in engineering, in general. It made me hopeful, and offered inspiration.”

Peralta found her own motivation in her family. “My grandfather was a computer engineer,” she says. “He encouraged my aunt to be one. My aunt was my biggest role model. She studied electrical engineering in college and that was so inspiring.”

For more stories about Fairleigh Dickinson, scroll down:

Smile Without Limitations
New Space for Vets

When these students aren’t working on the machines on their own projects, they’re giving tours at open houses, demonstrating the equipment and answering prospective student and parent questions.

“Definitely find friends to study with,” Choy recommends. “You’ve got to be able to communicate. From engineering to computer science majors, it’s really all about the communicating because we do a lot of group work. In most companies, you work in a group.”

Beasley adds, “To get people interested, and having the satisfaction of designing something that you can use yourself, or that benefits everybody, helping people out and doing anything that’s useful in some way, that’s what’s exciting to me.”

The labs mimic real settings that students will encounter at internships and in future occupations.

“These are complicated machines. If you don’t work with them constantly, you will forget them,” says Choy. “We brush up on them every month.”

Currently, Choy is focused on perfecting the plastic chess pieces. “You make chess pieces with subtractive [equipment]. It’s easier to get it smoother with subtractive because of the tools. You have to know how to design it. You take a rectangular block and shave it down,” he says.

Meanwhile, Beasley and Peralta just rewired one of the flexible manufacturing systems, which looks like a conveyor belt of sorts. In the pharmaceutical industry, larger versions of these types of machines can be used to count, standardize and fill medicine bottles with the exact, correct amount of pills. They’re hoping to get the machine in good working order this semester. The duo is also working on the micro mouse. Beasley took a microprocessor class to learn programming and they have plans to 3-D print the case and wheels, the body of the mouse.

“That’s the thing: if you come to college and don’t take advantage of the labs, then you’re missing out on the experience and the foot in the door to get into other jobs,” says Beasley.

Tan confirms that early student exposure to the labs leads to better-prepared graduates. “They are exposed to latest technologies and modern lab techniques that not only prepare them well for internship and employment, but also give them a competitive edge in the job market,” he says.

Choy and Peralta aren’t thinking quite that far ahead, preferring to focus on the projects and learning at hand, even as they look for internships. But Beasley has his sights set on something big.

“I’m very interested in space, and have been ever since I was a little kid — anything to do with designing ships and satellites. My hope for the future is to go into space,” says Beasley. “There’s this nebula, and some of the chemical components that make it up are the same ones that give raspberries their taste. The whole universe is full of interesting things. It would be nice to go and see those.”

Smile Without Limitations

Dr. Alejandro Delgado, a 38-year-old dentist from Santander de Quilichao, Colombia, is pursuing his Master of Administrative Science degree at Fairleigh Dickinson University as part of the Puerta al Futuro program. In 2015, Delgado took Marketing Social Change, a class in which students were assigned to do a project on one of their social change passions. Going above and beyond the class requirements, Delgado decided to launch his 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Smiles Without Limitations.

Delgado was inspired to found this organization when he met members of a Columbian foundation called Fundacion Semillas de Esperanza Quilichao. Meaning “Seeds of Hope,” the foundation helps people with physical and mental disabilities, and while there were physical therapy options and wheelchairs available to members, the program lacked an oral health element. Delgado decided to found Smiles Without Limitations to fill that void.

As part of a class project, FDU student Dr. Alejandro Delgado formed a nonprofit called Smiles Without Limitations to promote oral health in his home country of Columbia. He is pictured at left with classmates Wilson Agudelo, Adriana Pena and Ruby Escobar who volunteered with the charity. (Photos courtesy of Alejandro Delgado).

Recently, Delgado gave an interview about his FDU experience, Smiles Without Limitations, and his goals for the future.

FDU: What made you pursue dentistry?

Alejandro Delgado: From the time I was very young, I always had an interest in dentistry. It was so interesting and I found dental care and its several divisions to be very fascinating. My dentist was very close to my family and gave me the opportunity to volunteer and observe at his practice. In 1997, I applied to a dental school in Columbia and had the honor of being accepted into the program. Upon graduation, I was granted a one-year residency with the Colombian Air Force and then continued to work as a general dentist for several years.

FDU: What brought you to the United States?

AD: It has always been a dream of mine to immigrate to the United States, where I would have the opportunity to learn a new language, explore a new culture and to attend a U.S. school. My dream came true when I was accepted into FDU, so I immigrated to the U.S. and have lived in New Jersey for the last nine years. I was very enthusiastic and excited to pursue my career and to be able to work in the health field in the U.S. I have attended courses and obtained licenses in the dental field. I have taken a course in implants with the Hiossen Implant Research & Education Center as well as some education courses at New York University.

FDU: What drew you to FDU and how long have you attended the university?

AD: I’ve attended the University since 2013 and am still pursing my master’s. I’m a student at Fairleigh Dickinson University through the Puerta al Futuro program. The program enables Spanish-speaking adults to learn English and earn a college degree through progressive all-Spanish to all-English coursework. I majored in business and earned a bachelor’s in individualized studies in 2016. My absolute goal was to continue my studies at FDU and enter the Master of Administrative Science Program, which would allow me to develop and share all of the knowledge that this University offers me, especially in global health and human services administration.

FDU: You created the nonprofit during your time in the masters program. Tell us some more about it.

AD: Yes, I created Smiles Without Limitations because of the need for improvement in oral health conditions of disabled people with limitations that compromise their upper motor activity. Our mission is to educate and provide electric toothbrushes to disabled people with physical and mental limitations. Smiles Without Limitations is a New Jersey Nonprofit Corporation — a 501(c)(3) charity. Since I founded it in 2015, Smiles Without Limitations has educated more than 350 people about oral hygiene and has donated more than 90 rechargeable electric toothbrushes to disabled persons.

FDU: How do you educate the community? Have you held any programs or seminars?

AD: Smiles Without Limitations provides education on oral hygiene through the dissemination of facts, charts, graphs, and statistics. This information is provided through lectures and slideshows that take place at daycares, hospitals, and other public venues. We have held seminars at the Hoboken Community Health Fair, the Newark Community Health Fair, the Roselle Park Senior Spirit Day Center, and at the F.U.S.E.S.Q.U.I. and A.S.O.D.I.S.M.O.R. Foundation in Colombia.

FDU: How can members of the FDU community help? Are you taking donations?

AD: Members of the FDU community can help us by donating rechargeable electric toothbrushes, toothpaste, and dental floss. If you would like to make a donation, please contact me at

New Space for Vets

Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Office of Veterans Services has officially cut the ribbon, a symbolic yellow ribbon, on its spacious new office suite on the first floor of Dickinson Hall.

Congressman Josh Gottheimer (L) and University President Christopher Capuano (R) cut a symbolic yellow ribbon as Ariel Luna, former director of veterans services; senior John Myles, president of the FDU Student Veterans Association; and Mariano Cappelan, MBA student and alumnus, BA’16 (Metro), look on. The event celebrated the opening of the new veterans resource center on FDU’s Metropolitan Campus. (Photos by Dan Landau)

“This is the space staff and students deserve,” said University President Christopher Capuano. “Veterans are very much part of the life of the University.”

At the Metropolitan Campus ceremony, the “Star Spangled Banner” played, as veterans and other honored guests saluted the American flag. Speakers reaffirmed their shared commitment to supporting veterans, especially as they return and acclimate to civilian life and pursue their education.

Capuano noted the University’s long history of serving veterans, a history that began with the birth of the University in 1942 in the midst of World War II. “Understanding the needs of veterans and taking care of our returning military members and their families has always been an important part of FDU.”

The new suite includes a reception and study area, a break/copy room, a “flex” room and an office for Martha Garcia, MBA’92 (Ruth), director of veteran services for outreach, and Jeffrey Dunn, BA’10, MBA’13 (Flor), director of veterans services for operations. It’s approximately 1,000 square feet.

“In the new resource center, veterans can relax and study, they can team-build and enjoy the camaraderie of other veterans,” said Garcia. “The students are loving the space. They gather, they talk, they study, they share meals together.”

More than 100 veterans graduated from FDU last year and the University currently serves 243 veterans.

Event speakers included Garcia, Capuano, Dunn, Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-5th), Bergen County Executive Jim Tedesco, and President of the FDU Student Veterans Association John Myles. A representative of New Jersey Senator Cory Booker also read a statement on his behalf.

“We have a responsibility as a country and as a community when people come home,” said Gottheimer. And to “creating programs and spaces like the one here at FDU.” He also read a passage from his grandfather’s diary, kept during World War II. Booker’s letter praised the University’s “impressive commitment” to veterans. “This is an outstanding day for Fairleigh Dickinson University, the county and student veterans. We need to commend universities that have put resource centers into education because it shows they care,” added Tedesco.

Following their remarks and a flag-folding ceremony, Capuano carried the flag into the new offices, leading members of the FDU community and guests in to tour the space. The flag will be displayed in the office in a “place of reverence,” according to Garcia.

“Thank you to the school for giving us a place to call home,” said Myles, a senior studying business and management.

FDU has been long recognized for its excellence in serving veterans. In 2009, FDU joined the Yellow Ribbon program, offering an unlimited number of matching grants, for all academic programs, to veterans. Victory Media named the University a “Military Friendly School,” and the institution is among the Best Colleges for Veterans by US News and World Report. In addition, College Factual ranked Fairleigh Dickinson University in the top 20 nationally, and the best in New Jersey, for veterans studying liberal arts and general studies.