College creates STEM center where students will lead design, research

A ribbon cutting marks the grand opening of the STEM Student Research Center at Bergen Community College.

“Our students are our future, and the smartest thing that we can do is to invest in our students,” said Michael Redmond, president of Bergen Community College.

Luis Deabreu dreamed of this center, and the school collected the public and private funds to make it a reality.

“The main hope out of this thing is awareness, make sure that a lot of people in the area know that Bergen Community College is a hub for anything that is STEM related,” said Luis Deabreu, Bergen Community College STEM Center director.

The science, technology, engineering and math center has sections for robotics, drones, chemistry, computer science and more. It has 3D printers, of course, and a laser engraver.

“Right now we have an electric vehicle project going on. We have also an electric motor cycle conversion project going on, and here we can make the adapter plate between the electric motor and the transmission. You see something like that, there’s no kit out there that’s for that conversion, so you can custom measure it and custom make it on the computer and get it cut right here,” said faculty member Kassem Alhussein.

Bergen Community College says there’s a word in the title that makes this research center different than others across the country: student.

“A lot of the time when you have research in other places, it’s led by faculty members. Faculty members have a very specific research that they’re working on and they have help from the students. This place, the students are the ones that lead the project. Not only do they lead the project, they also create the project. In fact, we have a few groups that don’t have any faculty involved and it’s 100% run by the students,” said Deabreu.

Senior Elda Pere says the high-tech center has taken her interest in mathematics to a whole new level.

“After I got involved into a project here, more specifically a project where we were working with prosthetics and we worked with our hands a lot, now I’m switching to an applied math major. So I’m definitely, I’ve changed a lot when it comes to using my hands and being more in the real world than in the books,” Pere said.

Pere says the switch will make her more marketable, which is a big goal of this center and the county.

“Jobs in STEM far outpace any sector of economy. But colleges are only producing 29% of graduates who specialize in this field,” said Germaine Ortiz, chair of the Bergen County Freeholder Board. “This is why I’m excited to see the opening of our STEM Center. It gives us an opportunity in Bergen County to be ahead of the curve and maybe lets us create our own Silicon Valley.”