Degrees: Electrical Engineering Technology and Engineering Science
Laguna Beach High School, Class of 2004
Christopher Ellis’ hobby brought him from Southern California to Central New York and ultimately the OCC campus. The Laguna Beach native met gaming friends online and decided to come to the Syracuse area to meet them in person. During his visit their conversation turned to life and careers. “I was working odd jobs in California and was looking to get into a technical field when they told me about their experience at OCC and why I should look into it.” Ellis would return home, research the College and make the decision to move.
After taking a year to get settled, Ellis enrolled as a dual major in Electrical Engineering Technology (ELT) and Engineering Science (ES). He knew he wanted to pursue a bachelor’s degree and each program complemented the other. His demanding coursework, coupled with part-time jobs, required him to stay focused. “I was very disciplined. I had to pay close attention to my time management because I was working nearly 40 hours a week as a full time student. After every class I would work on my homework right away. I had a very regimented lifestyle between school, work and personal time.”
Ellis was an outstanding student and earned membership into the College’s chapter of international honor society Phi Theta Kappa. He credits Professors Tab Cox (ELT) and Eugene Camerota (ES) with developing his critical thinking strategies by always connecting the theory and practical application in their curriculum.
Something happened in Ellis’ very first ELT class that would change the course of his life. It’s where he met Nicole O’Hara, ’13, the woman whom he would begin dating and following the commencement ceremony in May 2014, Ellis proposed to her in the parking lot of the SRC Arena where they had shared their first kiss.
Ellis returned to Southern California to pursue his bachelor’s degree, transferring to the University of California at San Diego. Heading west meant leaving behind O’Hara and their newborn son until he finished his education. “It was tough but we knew it would be temporary. She had a job with National Grid. I flew home as much as I could, about six times a year, to be with them.” Ellis earned his bachelor’s in June 2017, returned to Syracuse and landed a job with defense contractor Lockheed Martin as a Power Systems Engineer. “I feel very fortunate things worked out the way they did. I credit Nicole for her patience and support and for Lockheed for putting me in a great position to succeed and develop my skills.”
As Ellis reflects on his journey he credits OCC with giving him the confidence and skills to succeed. “There is no doubt OCC was right for me. It allowed me to pinpoint what I liked to do for work, as opposed to what I liked to do in my spare time, so that was an important element in getting me to where I am today.”
Students were fascinated by what Professor Larry Weiskirch brought to McKinley-Brighton Elementary School and the information he was sharing. Weiskirch, who is Chair of OCC’s Biology department, showed students two mannequins with their internal organs exposed and explained how the human body works. “This is the heart. The heart is a muscle that pushes the blood through your body. Have you ever felt your pulse before? That’s the heart beating, pushing blood through your body.” As Weiskirch spoke, students tried to feel their pulse.
Weiskirch was participating in McKinley-Brighton’s STEAM event. STEAM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math. More than 150 students in grades 2 through 5 attended. As they entered each received a free OCC backpack and a “passport” which listed the different stations within the event. Each time a student visited a station their passport was marked. Students who visited six stations received an OCC wristband.
OCC Professor Fred Jaquin showed off interactive displays at another station. Jaquin is Chair of the Chemistry and Physical Science departments. He showed students how the earth’s magnetic field helps protect us from potentially damaging solar winds generated by the sun. The magnets he brought with him for students to experiment with were very popular.
Chemistry Professors Dr. Cynthia Hennessy and Barbara Leo demonstrated the concept of sublimation to students. They used balloons to show how a solid can be transformed directly into a gas while bypassing the liquid phase. Their presence helped showed female students at McKinley-Brighton the opportunities which exist for women in science.
The star attraction at the event was Andrew Cleary, an electrical engineer from Lockheed Martin who was invited by Olin Stratton, OCC’s Dean of Natural and Applied Sciences. Cleary showed students how a Tesla Coil works. The electrical resonant transformer circuit created colorful sparks which resembled miniature bolts of lightning and drew many “oohs” and “aahs” from students. Cleary moved a fluorescent light bulb near the Tesla Coil and it became illuminated. He also brought miniature battery and solar powered robots for students to experiment with.
OCC’s involvement with McKinley-Brighton is the product of a partnership aimed at helping students think about career opportunities and higher education. College administrators have also worked with students on journal making, qualities which make outstanding leaders and making superheroes. Their superhero artwork was turned into signs in the newly renovated Coulter Library on OCC’s campus.
It’s the final day of STEM Camp in OCC’s Mulroy Hall and you can cut the tension with a knife. There’s a high-level competition in progress between female participants and the ultimate prize is on the line. Students have spent the week building robots in preparation for this day. They’ve programmed their robots to navigate through an obstacle course. Each time a student sends her robot into the obstacle course and doesn’t make it she hears words of encouragement and advice from instructor Scott Stagnitta. “That was good! Program the turn so it’s ten degrees more and it will work next time,” Stagnitta says. The student listens and returns to her desk to reprogram her robot. This is serious business. At the finish line rests a large pile of candy which will go to whomever can get her robot there first!
Fun coupled with learning have become annual summer traditions at OCC’s STEM Camp. It’s held the last week of July for boys and girls entering grades nine through 12 who are interested in careers in science, technology, engineering or math related fields. Students spend half of each day in class learning about modern manufacturing, robotics design and programming while participating in team building experiences. During the other half of the day they take field trips to businesses and explore their relation to robotics and automation. Participating businesses include Lockheed Martin, National Grid, Schneider Packaging, Time Warner Cable News and Welch Allyn.
STEM Camp is divided by gender and finding enough girls to fill the class at times can be challenging. That’s where Girls Inc at the YWCA comes in. The organization reaches out to the community and finds girls interested in careers in science. “We go to local schools and talk about the program,” said Flavia Rey de Castro, Youth Development Director with the YWCA. “We require girls to write an essay about why they would be interested in attending the program. Along with the essay they have to submit a letter of recommendation from a teacher or mentor.” At the end of the process Girls Inc at the YWCA selects five girls to attend STEM Camp. Camp tuition is paid for through a grant from National Grid.
Craelle Hinds is one of the students who attended thanks to Girls Inc at the YWCA and National Grid. She’ll be a freshman at West Genesee High School in the fall. “I want to be a cosmetologist and I’m very interested in learning how hair products are made. Seeing how things were put together at places like National Grid and Schneider Packaging was very interesting. I’m very grateful to Girls Inc. for helping me come to STEM Camp.”
The 2016 STEM Camp was a hit with other attendees too:
“This week reinforced my interest in science and showed me the career side of it. I learned what I would be doing and how I would be interacting once I completed college and was in a career. I liked seeing the manufacturing side of operations at Welch Allyn. It was interesting to see the production and creation of products.” – Liam Hawes, 9th grader at Marcellus High School
“I was planning on becoming either a computer programmer or an engineer. Now I’m leaning more toward becoming a mechanical engineer. All of the companies we visited use mechanical engineering. I know there are good careers there.” – Justin Kehoe, 9th grader at Cicero-North Syracuse High School
“I really like tech and came here and found out how much fun it was to put things together. That got me interested in mechanical engineering. Then I learned about biomedical engineering and it seemed like an interesting career for me. I really liked Welch Allyn because of the biomedical engineering connection. I also enjoyed National Grid because of the hands-on experience. We got to use tools and look at how they actually operate in the field.” –Katherine Evans, 9th grader at Westhill High School
When Anne Marie Ciciarelli was a student at Bishop Grimes High School in the early 1970s she knew what career she wanted to pursue but needed to decide the best path to get there. “I was pretty sure about physical therapy but I wanted to ultimately attend Upstate. I thought it made the most sense to go to OCC and earn a two-year degree so I would have something to fall back on just in case.”
Everything worked out exactly as planned. She graduated from OCC in 1975, earned a bachelor’s in physical therapy from Upstate Medical Center in 1977 and married her high school sweetheart Joseph Abt one year later. In 2006 she earned a transitional doctor of physical therapy degree from Upstate Medical University. Today Dr. Anne Marie Abt is well-known as both a physical therapist and an adjunct instructor in the Physical Therapy Education Program in the College of Health Professions at SUNY Upstate Medical University. She has also been a guest lecturer at OCC for several years in the Human Services major. In recognition of her professional achievements and contributions to the College and community Abt is a 2015 Alumni Faces honoree.
It’s been 40 years since Abt earned her Math & Science degree here but her experiences during that time remain fresh in her mind. “I was really challenged by a Physics professor named Alan Gammon. His class was the best class and the worst class I ever took. It was so challenging. He taught me about perseverance and the importance of applying yourself to the material. He was an excellent teacher.”
Dr. Abt additionally credits the English department with improving her critical thinking skills. “I really turned into a good writer thanks to the strength of that department. I had some really good teachers. OCC was a great stepping stone for me.”
Today Dr. Abt is a physical therapist in the Jamesville-Dewitt School District. She works with students with diagnosed disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, spina bifida, developmental coordination disorder and children who are speech and language impaired. Dr. Abt is also an adjunct instructor in the Physical Therapy Education Program at SUNY Upstate Medical University where she teaches a pediatrics therapy course to doctoral students. She is a board certified pediatric clinical specialist and is part of the Fitness Inclusion Network affiliated with Upstate which promotes inclusive fitness for children and adults with disabilities.
High school students interested in careers in science, technology, engineering or math related fields attended Onondaga Community College’s STEM Camp during the last week of July. Students spent half of each day in class developing a knowledge base of modern manufacturing, robotics design and programming, while adding to team building experiences. During the other half of the day students took field trips to businesses and explored their relation to robotics and automation. Participating businesses included Byrne Dairy, Lockheed Martin, National Grid, Schneider Packaging Equipment and Time Warner Cable News.
Students also visited SALT Makerspace (pictured above) located inside the Delavan Center at the corner of West Fayette and Wyoming Streets in Syracuse. “SALT” stands for Syracuse Arts Learning and Technology. The facility provides access to equipment for metalworking, woodworking and 3-D design and modeling. The space is available for local inventors and artists to use.
STEM campers toured the facility and saw the 3-D printer and other high-tech devices in action. Students also met an entrepreneur who uses SALT Makerspace regularly in conjunction with her business. Jordan Dudden owns a startup called JoJo Rings. She creates fashionable pieces of jewelry by turning keys into rings. Dudden, who is a graduate of Skaneateles High School and Syracuse University, comes to SALT Makerspace to heat the keys so they can be bent without breaking, sized, cleaned and buffed. JoJo Rings are available in stores in more than 40 states and on the internet. She has sold more than 3,000 rings. Each month she partners with a nonprofit organization, sharing a portion of the proceeds with the charity.
STEM Camp’s primary sponsor is Time Warner Cable (TWC) as part of its Connect a Million Minds program, a philanthropic initiative to address America’s declining proficiency in STEM-related fields. Using its media and employee assets, TWC creates awareness of the issue and inspires students to develop the STEM skills they need to become the problem solvers of tomorrow.
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