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Robots make a splash at Rowan University

Twenty-four teams of middle and high school students and their robots will compete on Saturday, April 13, when Rowan University and the Naval Air Systems Command, Lakehurst, N.J., sponsor the first New Jersey Regional SeaPerch competition from 8 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Rowan’s Esbjornson Gym and College of Engineering building, Glassboro, N.J.

SeaPerch, an underwater robotics program, integrates science, technology, engineering and mathematics curricula by providing students the resources needed to construct an underwater Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV), according to its site.

Competitors will bring their ROVs to Rowan’s Esbjornson pool, where they will compete in teams of three to four. They’ll be judged on speed, navigating an obstacle course and a Q&A session. The winner will receive the opportunity to compete at the National SeaPerch competition in Indianapolis, Ind.

“Students learn basic engineering and science concepts while being introduced to ship and submarine design and have fun in the process,” said Dr. Steven Chin, Rowan University’s College of Engineering associate dean. “It’s exciting to see the competition and see kids succeed, especially when they’re learning something in the process.”

Students also will have the opportunity to learn about Rowan’s College of Engineering, touring the Rowan Hall engineering building and meeting current engineering students.

The competition is free and open to the public.

(Participating teams are: Cape May County 4H, Burlington School District, U.S. Sea Cadet Lakehurst Squadron, Fort Dix Warriors 4H, Manchester School District, Harrington SeaPerch Club in Mt. Laurel, Marine Academy of Technology and Environmental Science {MATES} in Ocean County, St. Raphael School in Hamilton, Lacey School District, Colts Neck Cadets and Millville School District.)

Let’s go blue: Rowan to ‘light it up blue’ for autism awareness

Rowan University’s colors are brown and gold, but during the first week in April, the University will go “blue” to spread awareness about autism.

During “Rowan Lights it Up Blue for Autism,” beginning Monday, April 1st, at 7:30 p.m., five Rowan buildings will be illuminated in blue. The buildings will include: Campbell Library, Bunce Hall, the campus greenhouse, Hollybush and the South Jersey Tech Park. The buildings will remain blue during Autism Awareness Week, which runs through April 8.

Richard Jones, vice president for student life and dean of students, will speak at the lighting ceremony in the lobby of Campbell Library on April 1 at 7:30 p.m.

“We’re pleased to again have this opportunity to celebrate and promote autism awareness on our campus,” says John Woodruff, director of the Academic Success Center/Disability Resources.

Autism Awareness Week will continue with a “Light it Up Blue” Autism Walk and Resource Fair on Saturday, April 6, at the Rowan Rec Center. The one-mile walk for autism begins at 10:30 a.m. Meanwhile, a resource fair, featuring the Young Profs Exploration Camp, Just 2 Moms, Cooper University Hospital, The Autism Shoppe and Faces 4 Autism, runs from 10 a.m.-noon.

Autism Awareness Week at Rowan is a collaboration of Rowan’s Academic Success Center, Department of Facilities Management, the Applied Behavior Analysis Club, the Student Council for Exceptional Children, and Sigma Pi.

For information, contact Woodruff at 856-256-4234 or visit the event’s Facebook page at!/groups/321902511188338/

While the University community is celebrating “Light It Up Blue” in April, Rowan takes an active role in autism awareness throughout the year, Woodruff notes.

“At Rowan, autism awareness actually takes place year round with faculty-led trainings, mentoring for Rowan students with Asperger Syndrome and a unique summer camp for teens on the autism spectrum,” Woodruff says.

Campus buzz: Students look to raise $20,000 for pediatric cancer research during St. Baldrick’s Day

It’s just hair.

Rebekah Russell—who loves her long, luxurious, curly, crimson mane—has to keep reminding herself of that.

As part of Rowan University’s third annual St. Baldrick’s Day event, Russell will be one of 54 Rowan student shavees—and one of six women—to shave their heads to raise funds for pediatric cancer research. Proceeds from the event, which is Tuesday, March 26, at 7 p.m. in the Pit of the Chamberlain Student Center, will go to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation (

Rowan students have set a goal of $20,000 for the foundation. Russell already has reached her $2,000 fundraising goal. In fact, she’s currently the leading Rowan fundraiser at $2,222.51. It seems a lot of supporters want her to shed her signature locks. And Russell, herself, is leading the charge.

“I’m incredibly nervous, but incredibly excited as well,” says Russell, a junior art major from Cary, N.C. In addition to raising funds for the St. Baldrick’s Foundation, Russell will donate her hair to Locks of Love to help make wigs for children who have lost their hair due to cancer treatments. “It took a whole year to prepare myself mentally for this, but it’s going to be worth it.

“In our society we have become so attached to our hair, myself included. I’m hoping to be able to break away from that—at least for some time. I’m trying to make a statement and illustrate the point that hair is not beauty. It doesn’t define who we are and it certainly doesn’t define our beauty.

“The kids who lose their hair due to cancer have no choice and they should not have to worry about losing their beauty or who they are,” she adds.

Russell and Courtney VanLeuvan, a junior psychology and Honors major from Toms River, made a pact to shave their heads this year. VanLeuvan decided to become a shavee after volunteering with Give Kids the World Village in Florida as part of an Alternative Winter Break Trip this year at Rowan. Children with life-threatening conditions and their families visit the village for a respite from treatments.

“At Give Kids the World Village, I saw children having so much fun and enjoying life despite their illness,” VanLeuvan says. “If they have the strength to go through treatment and fight cancer, I can give up my hair to support their fight. St. Baldrick’s Day shows that the children—and their families—have support from thousands of people.”

During St. Baldrick’s Day, students will publicly shave their heads in the Pit of the Chamberlain Student Center.  A group of volunteer barbers will do the honors. Students also conduct raffles of donated prizes throughout the evening to raise additional funds for the foundation.

In 2011, the first year for St. Baldrick’s at Rowan, students raised more than $13,000. Last year, they raised more than $17,000, well above their original $12,000 goal.

For information about St. Baldrick’s Day or to donate to the event, visit

College of Engineering collaborates with U.S. Navy

In Rowan University’s College of Engineering, students dive into solving real-life problems through innovative clinics. This semester, mechanical engineering students are working with the United States Navy.

Led by Dr. Thomas Merrill, mechanical engineering assistant professor, juniors and seniors are working alongside engineers at the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in Lakehurst, N.J., and Philadelphia, respectively.

“When the Navy has a problem, we have to define it in ways we understand,” said Merrill. “Then we explore potential solutions and begin designing, building, analyzing and testing.”

Student ownership

Merrill stressed the importance of independence after providing students with the problem and resources. “I try to make the clinic different than other projects and courses by giving students ownership. In many ways, the students will sink or swim based on their own internal motivation,” he said.

For the NAVAIR team, that means improving the sensors on aircraft carriers’ water brake system. “Over time, the system has to be maintained and the Navy has a hard time judging their maintenance cycle because the sensors they use keep failing on the system. We’re looking at alternative ways of measuring pressure versus time in the water brake,” said senior Tyler McGahee, 22, of Burlington Township, N.J.

Along with junior teammates Michael Brattoli, 21, of Florhan Park, N.J.; David Essner, 20, of Jackson, N.J.; and Jaimie Reiff, 20, of Beach Haven, N.J.; McGahee began assessing the problem with a tour of the water brake system at the Lakehurst base.

“The Navy engineers showed us all the parts of the water brake system, giving us a real scale of what we are working with, all the details. From there we started our plan of attack,” said Reiff.

Learning experience

While their original idea to scale the system down failed, the students received just what they’re here for — a learning experience.

“We realized it was completely impractical and then we started designing, thinking of solutions that would just simulate the conditions of the water brake system,” said Reiff.

After many calculations and four generations of design, the team members have a model to replicate the conditions they’re facing with the water brake.

“Right now, we’re looking into getting different companies to manufacture the parts for us. We have all the stock material, but we’re looking to see which local South Jersey manufacturing companies will be able to actually cut the parts we need,” said Essner.

“From there we can install our own solutions as if they were being attached straight to the water brake on an actual Navy carrier. Then we can see which solutions actually are feasible and work they way they are designed to,” said Brattoli.

Creating a robot

The NAVSEA team’s mission focuses on improving a laser metrology camera.

“It scans rooms and collects a 3-D image, taking the place of physically drawing a room. Their problem is they were setting it up on a tripod, physically screwing it in, and it was a long process. That hinders them from using the camera in places they can’t physically get to, like the hole in a submarine. They gave us guidelines, and we’re working to create a robot within those constraints – it has to raise above four feet, be about the size of a shoebox, able to raise and stabilize itself and go into damp conditions,” explained senior Jake Hostrander, 21, of Collegeville, Pa.

While researching, junior Matthew Rossett, 20, of Deptford, N.J., discovered a one-of-a-kind new invention, the Zippermast, a lift system to raise and lower the robot. He turned acquiring the Zippermast over to teammate Andreas Gabrielsen, a 21-year-old senior from Otisville, N.Y.

“That was a long process,” said Gabrielsen. “I finally got in touch with the inventor, George Woodruff, and he was really enthusiastic about the project. He likes working with military-related operations, so NAVSEA was perfect. We have it on loan now, with the option to purchase it for about $5,500. That already puts us over our clinic dollar budget. We’re discussing the feasibility of having it with our project managers. They were really impressed, but they’re running more tests on its electronics and stability before their purchasing department decides.”

If the Navy approves the Zippermast, it will serve as the camera’s main lift system. Once they’re ready, the team members – who also include junior Justin Aboloff, 21, of Marlton, N.J., and Ryan Laws, 21, of Jackson, N.J. – will test their design in a Navy environment. “It’s one thing to test it in Rowan Hall, it’s another to test it in a Navy ship,” said Merrill.

Career path

Both projects started in the fall, and many of the students hope it will carry into a career. The clinic has inspired almost every one of the NAVAIR and NAVSEA team members to consider a career with the Navy.

Bratolli is one of them. “There are a lot of clinics in the engineering college that deal with real-life applications, but I just think these two especially, they’re really serious implications of what our work could be. If it does turn out successful, it could cut costs for our military and make the system safer for those out fighting and protecting our country. If we don’t succeed it actually sets the Navy back, and then they have to find a way to figure out how they want to go about reaching their project goals. So there are real-life implications,” said Bratolli.

“Real-life risks,” interjected Reiff, planning a Navy career following her 2014 graduation.

“Very rewarding,” finished Bratolli.

In preparing them for their future Naval career, the students compare it to an internship.

Good experience

“Even without having my definite decision of what I want to follow, whether it’s the Navy or not, I definitely think this is a good experience for anyone, really. It’s a lot of hands-on and design work,” said Laws. “Once you come in here, they kind of just let you go on your own. You work on your own projects. It’s an independent and self-motivated experience.”

That’s exactly what Merrill is aiming for. “We try to encourage life-long learning skills in the students, things that are not necessarily textbook driven, but rather curiosity driven, persistence driven, ambition driven,” he said.

Merrill adds to the realistic experience by requiring the team to track their time sheets.

“They spend between probably five and 20 hours some weeks working on the project. That gets charged at a $75 an hour rate, and each month we invoice the Navy. Now these are fictitious invoices, but in the real world, if we were part of a consulting company, those would be real-world dollars,” explained Merrill. “I would say the Navy gets an incredible bargain. If you consider by the time we get done this you’re at 300 hours, it would be $22,500 worth of charges that they paid $5,000 for [the cost of the partnership].”

The students seem to sincerely appreciate this realistic system. “The way Rowan’s curriculum is structured you’re getting your hands dirty right from the get-go,” said Brattolli. “Between our projects, classes and the clinics, it really gives a nice foundation that really puts life to the things you read about in the book.”

Said Essner, “Other students are told something breaks. Here, we’re told it breaks then shown how it happens in the actual environment. By the time you get to your junior year you’re like ‘Ok, I’m actually comfortable with this.’ I can dive into these projects for the Navy, for any organization, and actually feel comfortable doing it.”

Interns bridge classwork, careers

The irony may be as old as work itself. You need experience to get a job but you can’t get experience without first having a job.

To bridge the school-work chasm, programs across campus are encouraging or requiring students to work one or more internships and many students not only build knowledge and contacts through their experience but land a first job.

This spring, students from dozens of Rowan programs are working extracurricular internships in a wide range of industries – from entertainment and journalism to engineering and marketing – laying the groundwork for great careers.

While programs vary – some are paid, some unpaid, some for credit, some not for credit – they all provide valuable experience however the internship plays out – with a job offer, a confirmation of a career path, or a realization that a particular field may not be the best fit.

“Internships build skills, boost confidence and gives students a real feel for working in their field,” said Lizziel Sullivan-Williams, director of Rowan’s Career Management Center.

Describing the programs, which are especially common in the spring and over summer break, Sullivan-Williams said they are like a test drive for both employer and employee.

“You may think you want to be a corporate accountant but until you do that internship you won’t know for sure what a corporate accountant does,” she said.

Living history

Stephanie Wolff, a junior history major from West Deptford, hopes to be an educator but not in a traditional classroom. As an intern at the U.S. Constitution Center in Philadelphia this spring she’s found a happy middle ground.

“What I love best is the interaction with history,” said Wolff, 21, who in her free time sews colonial period costumes and portrays characters at the Red Bank Battlefield Park in Gloucester County.

At the Constitution Center she’s been involved with the current main exhibit, American Spirits: the Rise and Fall of Prohibition, and is helping in the production of upcoming exhibits.

Talking history

Working 8-10 hours per week, her required internship has confirmed a passion for museum work.

“Public history is interactive, outside the classroom,” she said. “I want to teach the public.”

The virtual internship

Arielle Mason always loved music. And now she’s promoting it as an intern with ‘Stache Media, an indie music marketing agency in New York City.

A “college lifestyle representative,” the business management and marketing dual major rarely goes into the office and uses social media almost exclusively to promote bands affiliated with ‘Stache.

“My job is to create awareness and excitement in the Philadelphia/South Jersey area,” said Mason, a 21-year-old senior from Cherry Hill. “I utilize peer-to-peer marketing (including Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram) to raise market awareness.”

Ironically, she said, technology that hurt the music industry through easy pirating is now helping it through the promotional power of social media.

“A lot of bands, especially newer ones, aren’t selling as many CDs in the traditional sense but through social media we’re driving fans to the shows where they support the music through ticket and CD sales, t-shirts and other stuff.”


Soup is on

Jamie Coulter’s career began at a Rowan career fair. Or maybe it began with her job in a deli.

Either way, the chemical engineering major said, her education, combined with her work experience, made her a great candidate for an internship program with Progresso in Vineland. The internship led to a part-time job and that led to a full-time, management track position waiting for her upon graduation in May.

During her non-credit, paid internship, Coulter, 22, a senior from Audubon, managed ten to 15 people in the production of some of the 90 popular soups Progresso makes in Vineland like Chicken Noodle, Italian Wedding, and Hearty Black Bean.

“I ensured product output and quality,” she said.

Heading to Milwaukee

One of seven interns in the 350-person plant, she was soon offered a flexible part time position, which she’s working now, and subsequently a spot in parent company General Mill’s Milwaukee operation. There she’ll be a manufacturing and engineering associate in the two-year management program.

“I’m a little nervous,” she said. “I was born and raised in South Jersey and attended Rowan a half hour from home. But I’m looking forward to the independence, excited about the new experiences I’m going to have and the people I’m going to meet.”

Rowan hat trick

This semester, not one but three Rowan students are interning with the Philadelphia Flyers, serving the NHL franchise in positions from the front office to the press box to the locker room, seemingly everywhere but center ice.

Rhyan Truett, a senior public relations major, said her required internship has confirmed a career path she’s dreamed of since high school.

“I’ve been a Flyers fan as long as I can remember,” said Truett, 20, of Pittsgrove. “But this is not about being a fan. It’s about learning and then contributing to profession.

“I want to be a part of sustaining the team’s popularity and maintaining its fan-friendly image for future generations.”

Truett is part of a busy public relations team whose job it is to mediate interaction between players, coaching staff and the media.

Her duties include delivering game notes to both teams and, after the game, recording and transcribing media interviews with the coaches, Flyers and members of the visiting team.

Truett, Jeffrey Chance, an MBA student, and Kyle Phillippi, a journalism major, are among 11 interns serving with the team this spring.

She hopes for a full-time position with the Flyers or one of their minor league affiliates upon graduation but said between her education, love of the game, and experience there are dozens of potential employers.

“My goal is that if an opportunity arises, I will be ready,” she said. “I love this team but I love the sport more. I really hate the snow but if I have to go to Minnesota – or even Winnipeg – I’ll go.”


True crime

Psychology major Amanda Chrzanowski is spending her internship behind bars.

But she’s allowed to leave.

Chrzanowski, 22, of Manahawkin, is taking an optional internship course this semester to build experience she hopes will help launch her criminal justice career.

Fascinated by all aspects of law enforcement, her internship at the Salem County Correctional Facility in Woodstown puts her face to face with recently arrested inmates, some of whom are on suicide watch pending a trial.

She does not interact with the inmates directly, simply observing as her mentor, forensic psychologist Dr. Jan Segal, conducts interviews for the state.

“He assesses them on whether they should remain on suicide watch or should be released into the general population,” Chrzanowski said.

While her goal is police work, Chrzanowski said she’s interested in all aspects of the legal spectrum, from patrol to probation, parole to corrections.

“Going behind bars, with doors slamming behind me, kind of freaked me out at first but there’s an adrenaline rush that’s kind of addicting,” Chrzanowski said. “You’re staring into the eyes of (alleged) criminals, knowing they’ve done horrible things, and it’s kind of scary. But it’s also intriguing.”