NJ College and FAA Flying High With Joint Venture

AMX system helps Federal Aviation Administration employees attend class without leaving the office

Stockton College and the FAA Tech Center are geographically close in New Jersey, but intellectually even closer thanks to their shared interest in technology, research, and collaboration. These collective pursuits led experts at the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey to design and install a high-tech classroom at the Federal Aviation Administration's William J. Hughes Technical Center, which is located about 15 minutes from the school's campus. "At Stockton, we are educating the next generation of air traffic controllers and researchers," said Demetrios Roubos, technical coordinator of audiovisual systems at Stockton. "That program feeds quality people into the FAA. They recognized that and wanted to build a classroom at their location.

This joint project earned Stockton College the AMX Innovation Collaboration Initiatives Award. "It's nice to see the recognition now because we worked on this project a while ago," Roubos said. "It's also nice because the FAA folks still appreciate it. It's been a year, and they're still thrilled with it."

The model for the new collaborative learning space was Stockton's electronic classroom, featuring AMX control equipment and touch panels, a podium computer, switching equipment to project onto a larger screen, document camera, speakers, and amplifiers. The use of the AMX control equipment and touch panel interfaces enabled a simplistic user interface for ease of use with a wide array of usage scenarios within the facility. Many of Stockton's electronic classrooms are videoconferencing and lecture-capture capable, of particular importance to the FAA for continued collaboration.

"When we set out to design this room, videoconferencing kept coming up," Roubos said. "If there's a class at the FAA, and Stockton students want to take the class but not go there, they can sit in a classroom here and participate."

Among the programs Stockton offers, the emerging Computational Science is of particular interest down the road—literally and figuratively. Computational Science mixes computer science, math, and traditional science to make accurate predictions using significantly more parameters than in the past. For example, the science of predicting the average amount of pollution that would travel from a chemical plant to a nearby river can now be accurately modeled by computational scientists to take into consideration wind speed and direction, river flow, and other variables that previously could not be compiled into one model or system. This extra information allows researchers to predict more precise outcomes.

"This project solidifi es our relationship with the FAA in terms of our students interning there or working there after graduation."

"Computational Science is important to the FAA, because the FAA is anticipating an increase in air traffic and a decrease in air traffic controllers," Roubos explained. "They're looking to bridge the gap with technology so they can use fewer flight controllers to manage more planes."

Roubos, who graduated Stockton in 2008 and is currently in the Computational Science master's program, said working with the federal agency benefits both parties. "We have FAA employees who are professors, and they offer courses at the FAA because a lot of students are employed there as well," he said. "This project solidifies our relationship with the FAA in terms of our students interning there or working there after graduation."

The $25,000 in AMX technology and equipment that is part of the award will go a long way at Stockton, he added.