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.”

Rowan increases push to become major academic, economic force; names Dr. Kenneth Blank new VP for Health Sciences

Rowan University President Dr. Ali Houshmand has announced the appointment of Dr. Kenneth Blank as Rowan’s first vice president for health sciences. Blank, an esteemed molecular pathologist and cancer researcher with more than 30 years of experience in research program development, technology commercialization and regional economic development, comes to Rowan from Temple University in Philadelphia, where he served as senior vice provost for research and graduate education.

The New Jersey Medical and Health Sciences Education Restructuring Act, enacted by the State Legislature in early 2012, gave Rowan comprehensive research university status and paved the way for the South Jersey school to integrate the School of Osteopathic Medicine, based in Stratford, N.J., into the University.  The inaugural class of the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University started in 2012, and under Blank’s leadership Rowan will join Michigan State University as the only two institutions in the entire country to operate both M.D. and D.O. degree-granting medical schools.

The new vice president said he looks forward to integrating and building the health sciences area of the University. “There is tremendous opportunity at Rowan with the designation by the State as a research institution,” Blank said. “I’m a builder. I enjoy building things — academic programs, research programs, successful teams — and fostering economic development.”

Blank will work with Rowan’s deans and other administrators to integrate and build nationally recognized academic and research programs related to the health sciences.

Noting that Rowan is at a “critical juncture with two medical schools, state research university status and a College of Health Sciences with Rutgers-Camden on the horizon,” Houshmand said, “We anticipate developing many new programs, particularly in technology and health care fields, and forging new partnerships with business and industry. Dr. Blank has the proven expertise to help us capitalize on these opportunities for the good of our students and for South Jersey.”

Blank serves as vice chairman of the board of directors of the University City Science Center, Philadelphia, a member of the board of the Greater Philadelphia Congress of Life Sciences, and a member of the board of trustees of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra. He has been a scholar of the Leukemia Society of America and is presently a fellow of the Philadelphia College of Physicians. The cancer researcher holds several patents, has received numerous grants and contracts from such organizations as the National Institutes of Health and Department of Defense, and has published and presented extensively on a variety of topics. He received his B.A. from New York University and Ph.D. from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

During his career at Temple University; Northeastern University, Boston; Drexel University; and other institutions, Blank had a track record of increasing research awards from the National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, Department of Defense, Department of Energy and other mission-oriented federal agencies, as well as a strong record of creating alliances with businesses.

Maxine Ballen, president and CEO of the New Jersey Technology Council, Mt. Laurel, N.J., attested to Blank’s success and willingness to foster a productive working relationship with the business sector. “Ken Blank brings great depth to South Jersey, and his appointment at Rowan University will have a huge impact on our region’s economic development,” she said.

Blank is confident about Rowan’s future, “Rowan will be a major educational, research and economic force in southern New Jersey and the region. Our goal is to make sure our students receive an outstanding education and that Rowan is recognized nationally and internationally for its capabilities as an academic institution.”

Mr. Rowan, Unveiled

Watch video footage of how the Rowan Gift transformed the University

See vintage and new photos

Today Henry Rowan stands by Savitz Hall off Route 322, forever a part of the University landscape as captured in a seven-foot bronze sculpture, watching and welcoming students, faculty, visitors and friends.

Rowan University honored its largest benefactor and the man for whom it is named with the unveiling of the sculpture during a ceremony on Dec. 13, two decades after Mr. Rowan and his late wife, Betty, donated $100 million to what was then known as Glassboro State College.

“I don’t think of myself as a philanthropist. I made an investment in something I believe in. I challenged the people at Glassboro State to make a difference with the financial help we provided,” Mr. Rowan said recently.

Mr. Rowan, the CEO and founder of Inductotherm Industries, Rancocas, N.J., and his family were among those who took part in the unveiling and a program that celebrated the Rowan Gift, the largest donation made to a public institution of higher education when it was given in the summer of 1992.

Sculptor Zenos Frudakis gets final approval from Henry and Lee Rowan.

Also present was world-renown sculptor Zenos Frudakis, of Glenside Pa., who crafted that statue. The sculpture was cast at Laran Bronze, Chester, Pa., the foundry that used a furnace made by Mr. Rowan’s own Burlington County-based firm on the piece. (See photos of statue at foundry.)

An important day

“Visionary men do visionary things,” said Dr. Ali Houshmand, president of Rowan University in an opening tribute to Mr. Rowan. “What they do is they see the future beyond what average people . . . do.”

For the hundreds who packed two floors of Savitz and surrounded the sculpture for the unveiling, including board members, faculty and staff, students, alumni, neighbors and friends — and for generations of students past and future — Henry Rowan is indeed a philanthropist and much more. He is a game changer. Twenty years after the Rowan Gift, the generosity and vision of Henry and Betty Rowan still are being felt across campus and across South Jersey.

Punctuated with applause, cheers and more than a few tears, the program and unveiling was a big event for the Rowan campus. It was a big event for three generations of the Rowan family who attended as well.

“This is a memorable day for all of us,” said Virginia Rowan Smith, daughter of Henry and Betty Rowan and a member of the Rowan University Board of Trustees, acknowledging “a statute that pays tribute to one man’s legacy.”

Making a difference

Smith talked about her father’s approach to business and to life. In making the gift, she said, “He wanted to make a difference in undergraduate education, especially in engineering. He used to say, ‘This country doesn’t need any more engineers. It needs more great engineers.’”

“I have been very proud,” she added of what the gift has accomplished. “It is a remarkable legacy.”

Students dressed in Rowan garb and many University faculty, staff and administrators who worked at the school circa 1992 paid homage to the man who started making industrial furnaces in his basement and went on to build the leading firm in its field and to change the face of education in South Jersey.

Twenty years ago, the announcement of the Rowan Gift during a university-wide gathering startled and excited the campus. News of that $100 million gift by a couple who had no ties to GSC also reverberated throughout the higher education and philanthropic communities nationwide. This was a first. No one had ever made so large a gift to a public school. The Rowan Gift would go on to trigger changes in Glassboro and across the country, encouraging more donations to public higher education as well as private.

A new college

The most visible change on campus — at least in the early years after the gift — was the founding of Rowan University’s College of Engineering, housed in a four-story building off Bowe Boulevard named for Mr. Rowan that includes a state-of-the art auditorium named for the late Mrs. Rowan.

It was a fitting change. When they made the donation, the Rowans had one major request: they wanted the college known primarily for teacher education up until then to create a program that revolutionized engineering education.

With remarkable success the institution honored the request by Mr. Rowan, an engineering graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The College implemented a new approach to engineering education — starting students in hands-on projects from day one of their academic career in what are called “engineering clinics.”

Almost from the start, the College earned attention, from high rankings by U.S. News & World Report (Chemical Engineering is currently third in the nation among schools that primarily offer bachelor’s and master’s degrees) to students leading teams volunteering in developing countries on water and road projects to faculty spreading the word about Rowan’s “hands-on, minds-on” education in places as far off as Kazakhstan.

The National Science Foundation, National Institutes of Health, U.S. Navy, state organizations, Fortune 500 companies and local businesses have sponsored research at the college. Professors lead national and international professional groups. Students land jobs across the nation and enter premier engineering graduate programs, from Penn State to Stanford.

President Ali Houshmand shares a special moment with Henry Rowan and his daughter, Virginia Rowan Smith.

A major transformation

The impact of the Rowan Gift did not stop with engineering programs, however.

“The gift has now positioned us to be the prominent (higher education) institution in southern New Jersey,” Houshmand said. “Mr. Rowan’s contribution will impact the lives of a great many . . .  more than we can ever count.”

Added Rowan University Board of Trustees chairman Linda Rohrer, “It’s not just about writing a check, it’s about making a difference,” she said. “It took a lot of guts for Henry and Betty Rowan to pledge their $100 million. Henry Rowan . . . knew he could make a difference here.”

Today, directly or indirectly thanks to what the Rowans set in motion, the University:

  • Co-founded Cooper Medical School of Rowan University.
  • Plans to incorporate the School of Osteopathic Medicine in Stratford, N.J., which will make Rowan only the second school in the nation with both M.D.- and D.O.-granting medical schools under its aegis.
  • Attained state research status, becoming only the second public comprehensive university in New Jersey.
  • Anticipates creating a College of Health Sciences in Camden, N.J., in collaboration with Rutgers-Camden.
  • Founded the South Jersey Technology Park.
  • Inspired numerous new donors to contribute to Rowan University, many at the $1 million and higher level.
  • Partnered on the $300-million Rowan Boulevard redevelopment project with the Borough of Glassboro and private developers.

Henry Rowan is pleased.

“I hope others see what we’ve accomplished at the University and follow with their own support,” he recently said. “When I visited in 1991, I knew it was a college with good fundamentals and hard-working people. We provided the means to improve opportunities and raise standards. I’m pleased to see how everyone has responded to the challenge. It’s a fine institution, well regarded.”

Rutgers honors College of Engineering’s Slater

Rutgers University presented the 2012 Medal of Excellence for Alumni Achievement in Academia to Dr. C. Stewart Slater, a chemical engineering professor at Rowan University.

This award is made annually to an outstanding alumnus of the University who has distinguished himself or herself in the academic field.  Slater received his bachelor’s, master’s and doctorate in chemical and biochemical engineering from Rutgers University, New Brunswick.

Slater was founding chair of Chemical Engineering at Rowan University.  As founding chair, his responsibilities included curriculum and laboratory development, hiring faculty and staff, student recruitment, and industrial relations.

Prior to joining Rowan, he was a faculty member at Manhattan College, where he was active in chemical engineering curriculum development and established a laboratory for advanced separation processes with the support of the National Science Foundation and industry.

Slater’s research and teaching interests are in separation and purification technology; green engineering and sustainable design; and investigation novel processes for interdisciplinary fields such as pharmaceutical engineering, biotechnology and green engineering.  He has authored more than 100 papers and several book chapters.  He has received research funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Department of Energy and National Science Foundation (NSF) and industry.

His research interests in engineering education involve both laboratory and curriculum development.  He has held national office in several divisions of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) and has been elected Fellow Member of the society.  He currently serves as chair of the Publications Board of Chemical Engineering Education journal.  He has conducted educational and research workshops for ASEE, NSF, the American Institute of Chemical Engineers and NATO.

Among Slater’s many honors and awards are the Environmental Quality Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Rowan University Wall of Fame for Excellence in Teaching and Advising, ASEE’s Chester Carlson Award, George Westinghouse Award and Dow Outstanding Faculty Award.