Telecommunications Research Laboratory Offers “Hands On” Experience for Students

PHOTO: Ribbon cutting ceremonyMIDDLETOWN, N.Y. – SUNY Orange officially opened its new Frontier TechLab, a state-of-the-art laboratory at the heart of the College’s new telecommunication’s degree program, with a ribbon cutting ceremony on the College’s Middletown campus Wednesday morning (Sept. 12).

SUNY Orange President Dr. William Richards and Maggie Wilderotter, Chairman and CEO of Citizens Communications Company (NYSE: CZN), the parent company of Frontier, hosted the event, which also featured brief remarks from Senator John Bonacic, Orange County Executive Ed Diana and Joan Wolfe, Chair of the College’s Board of Trustees.

The Frontier TechLab, SUNY Orange’s new on-campus telecommunications research laboratory, was made possible through the generosity of Frontier Communications and 11 of its vendors. Among the vendors who contributed equipment and supplies to the lab, in addition to Frontier, were ADC, Adtran, Alcatel-Lucent, Anixter, Calix, Cisco, Dowd Battery Co, Inc., JDSU, Juniper Networks, Nortel and Symmetricom.

The 1,400-square-foot lab, located on the third floor of the College’s Bio-Tech Building, will greatly enhance the curriculum of SUNY Orange’s new associate’s degree program in telecommunications, broaden students’ academic transfer options, and place students and graduates in position for internship and employment opportunities with Frontier.

The lab features an array of the latest telecommunications equipment, all linked directly to 20 computer workstations where students will be able to convert classroom discussions and theory into real-world projects and experience. The room also features an area where students can meet in small groups for lectures or class discussions. The College began offering classes in the telecommunications program this fall, culminating 18 months of work by SUNY Orange and Frontier employees.

“The Frontier TechLab is a state-of-the-art telecommunications research laboratory where our students will study and train on the latest equipment available in the telecommunications field,” Richards says. “Few colleges at any level are fortunate enough to have a laboratory of this caliber on campus. The Frontier TechLab adds instant credibility to our new telecommunications degree program. We are tremendously grateful to Frontier and its vendors for collaborating with us on this project and turning the lab into a reality.”

“The TechLab is a tangible reminder of Frontier’s strong partnership with SUNY Orange and a place where technical skills are taught through actual experience,” Wilderotter says. “It’s a good investment for everyone – the community, the college, the students and Frontier. Communications is a technology that will never become obsolete.”

“We’ve been given a great opportunity due to Frontier’s willingness to be part of this project,” adds Fern Steane, chair of SUNY Orange’s Applied Technology department, which oversees the telecommunications program. “Without a lab like this, you can’t have an adequate telecommunications program at the two-year level when technicians today are expected to have ‘hands on’ experience. You can’t talk and work from a book when you are out in the field.

“What we’ve created is an academic program that also includes an internship component with Frontier,” Steane added. “We will be able to give our students ‘hands on’ training in the lab, and they’ll be able to supplement that ‘in the field’ during their internship course.”

Thanks to input from Frontier engineers Sue McDermott and Janet O’Connor, the lab will allow students to replicate every aspect of Frontier’s daily operation, and will serve as a fertile training ground not only for SUNY Orange students, but current and future Frontier employees in the region.

The telecommunications degree program will prepare students to succeed in a variety of technical fields such as telecommunications, health care, utilities, manufacturing and other electronic occupations. Students will learn the basics of direct current (DC) and alternating current (AC) circuits; build and test digital electronic, analog electronic and telecommunications circuits; and prepare a wireless communications project en route to their degree.

PHOTO: Maggie Wilderotter speaks with John BonacicBetween their degree, work in the new lab and internship opportunities, students will have a well-rounded skill set that will allow them to immediately seek employment upon graduation or pursue a bachelor’s degree in telecommunications or a related technology field.

“What is unique about our telecommunications degree is that it is designed not only to prepare a student to enter the workforce after graduation, but also provides the opportunity for a student to transfer to a bachelor’s program in telecommunications or electrical engineering technology,” says Dr. Melody Festa, former associate vice president for business, math, science and technology at SUNY Orange. “The last two years of upper level courses are essentially theory and design. We think our program will assure that our graduates are leading candidates to be accepted into bachelor’s programs because they will have the huge advantage of having worked in this new laboratory.”

As the College and Frontier moved forward with work on the lab, SUNY Orange and Rochester Institute of Technology finalized an articulation agreement that facilitates smooth transfer to the RIT telecommunications bachelor’s degree program for SUNY Orange students. Students in the College’s applied technology department have also transferred successfully to New York Institute of Technology, Fairleigh Dickinson, SUNY Utica, SUNY Farmingdale and others

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Mike Albright
Communications Officer
115 South Street
Middletown, NY 10940