Social distancing due to the COVID-19 outbreak may be grounding us at home, but that isn’t keeping drone enthusiasts down. In fact, there are several types of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that are available on the market today that can have hobbyists spreading their virtual wings safely both indoors and outdoors.

Peter Kalaitzidis ’20 is a drone expert and a highly decorated retired staff sergeant of the United States Air Force, who is graduating this year with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. We asked for his top picks of the five best drones on the market today. Did you know there are drones that are even safe enough for kids to fly indoors? Check them out!

Best Indoor Drones

1. Tiny Whoop

Appropriately named, the Tiny Whoop is a small first-person-view aircraft that is perfect for small apartments or any indoor drone flying—even around kids! Weighing less than one pound (40 g) its shrouded propellers gives users a comfort factor of safety while providing tons of fun! Plus, it’s perfect for beginners. (Check with manufacturer for age requirements.) In addition, the Cradle of Aviation Museum hosted Vaughn’s unmanned aerial vehicles club for its first Tiny Whoop Contest in February.

2. Tinyhawk EMAX

Indoor drone racing has never been so much fun. The Tinyhawk EMAX is a micro indoor racing aircraft that has the perfect power-to-weight ratio. Here are some key features:

  • 75 mm indoor racing drone
  • 8 mm diameter brushless motors with durable ball bearings for increased flight time/performance and low maintenance
  • Durable polypropylene plastic frame with propeller guards
  • Motor beeper function to help locate after an unintentional landing
  • 25 mW video transmitter and 600 TV-line camera included

Best Outdoor Drone

3. Mavic Mini

When it comes to outdoor drones for beginners, the Mavic Mini is Kalaitzidis’ pick as the best all-around UAV. Weighing in at only a half-pound (249 g), the Mavic Mini places in the lowest and safest weight class of drones, which in some countries—like the US and Canada—make it exempt from certain Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations such as having to register it with the government. Here are some fun facts about the Mavic Mini:

  • Operates through a smart device
  • Will follow you wherever you go
  • Maximum flight speed 13 m/s
  • Dedicated remote control included
  • Flies by itself
  • Built-in camera

Best First-Person View Drone

4. Tinyhawk 2

The EMAX Tinyhawk II is the ultimate racing drone. With the ability to reach speeds of 15 to 30 miles per hour based on the battery, this UAV is a dream to fly but is reserved only for established pilots who have a grasp on flying and protocols. Some key features of this outdoor drone include:

  • Perfect flight performance allows for navigation in a variety of situations
  • Nano 2 FPV camera takes pictures with crisp colors, wide dynamic range and sharp optics
  • Cleaner video
  • Increased power and faster propeller speeds
  • Adjustable camera mount allows pilots to customize preferred angle of flight
  • Redesigned durability with built-in throttle response LED system increases brightness

Best Semi-Professional Drone

5. Mavic 2 Zoom

For photography enthusiasts, the Mavic 2 Zoom captures everything you want in an outdoor drone. Its optical zoom capabilities and long-range time make it a top pick for taking outstanding photos and video. Plus, it can handle winds of up to 20 knots. Here are some key features:

  • Maximum speed of approximately 48 mph
  • Fly time of up to 31 minutes
  • Shoots 4K video at 100 Mbps
  • Zoom lens allows for perfect compositions from a farther distance
  • Ability to change the field of view for a dramatic look
  • 4x lossless zoom when shooting Full HD videos

Vaughn’s Take on Drone Safety

Operating a drone is a privilege. It comes with great responsibility, along with the education and understanding of operation within the FAA guidelines. Keeping the world’s safest and most efficient aerospace is the FAA’s primary mission—and indoor or outdoor drones are part of that responsibility. Are you interested in becoming a drone pilot? Here are some ways to get involved:

  • Enroll in a drone course: Drone Laws and Introduction to Unmanned Aerial Systems
  • Join the Vaughn UAV Club

Here are some reasons why students are encouraged to take our drone course:

  • To acquire a better understanding of controlled and uncontrolled airspace
  • To understand weather patterns and how it impacts flying
  • To learn about aerodynamic issues
  • To gain the power of professionalism

Whether you want to design and build drones, become a drone pilot or pursue an aviation career, Vaughn College has the courses you need to help you get to where you want to be.

“Drones are a pivotal part of our future,” said Kalaitzidis. “Although the engineering of UAVs is still in its infancy, teaching our younger generation about it now is key. It helps them to think about engineering before they even know what it is. Flying drones is a great way to get them thinking out of the box now to fuel their passion for the future.”

Discover all that’s possible with an engineering or aviation degree from Vaughn.

While most students were having fun in the sun or relaxing on spring break, Sella Rega ’19 was training to break the Guinness World Record for most skips over a rope in 24 hours. The 23-year-old Vaughn College graduate tells her story of how she decided on the Vaughn airport management degree program and how her passion for fitness led her to breaking not one―but three―Guinness World Records last March.

Where it all began

Raised in Woodstock, New York, Rega grew up with two passions: fitness and aviation. Little did she know back then of how the two would come together. Throughout high school, Rega was active in sports but it wasn’t until after graduation that she pumped up her passion for fitness by taking the Les Mills BODYPUMP and BODYCOMBAT fitness classes. Candida Ellis, one of the instructors, was instrumental in igniting Rega’s interest in group fitness. “Candida encouraged me to sign up for a 10-week self-defense course taught by herself and the boxing trainer,” Rega explained. “It was there where I met my future boxing and jump rope coach, Chukie Ace.”

The challenge that started it all

In 2016, Rega was well on her way to earning her bachelor’s degree in mathematics from SUNY New Paltz. She was also honing her skills in boxing, where she learned “double-under” jumps, which are done during boxing warm-ups. One day, a friend of hers who had been training to break the Guinness World Record on the boxing speed bag was sick with the flu. Rega cheered him on and challenged him to work through it. “I wanted him to break the record so badly,” said Rega. “I told him if he breaks the record for the speed bag, then I would train to break the rope record.” The mutual respect for each other’s passion paid off as her friend broke the record. “He didn’t waste any time when he challenged me to jump for one hour straight,” Rega said fondly. “The rest, you can say, is history.”

Training for the record

Rega trained for two years to break the Guinness World Record. During the first year in 2017, she trained every chance she could. She would jump in between classes and at the gym every Friday after school. “I would jump while listening to music,” Rega explained. “I was not only focused on increasing my time, but on my form, endurance and mental conditioning.” She upped her game during the second year of training in 2018 when she jumped in her basement anywhere from eight to 20 hours in one session. “It became pretty intense,” Rega said. “I had to be sure to stay hydrated and maintain the right diet to get me through the training sessions.

Rega believes training mentally is just as important as training physically. When asked how she mentally prepared for breaking the record, she said it was all about visualization. “Looking back, I realize visualizing myself breaking the record was the greatest motivator of all,” Rega reflected. “Imagining how I would feel and what it would all be like helped me push through the training—even on the hardest days.”

Through it all, Rega said a significant part of her training resulted when she herself became a certified Les Mills BODYPUMP instructor. “Becoming an instructor was a crucial part of my physical training and a huge part of who I am today,” she said. “I believe the confidence and experience I’ve gained through teaching―combined with my passion for aviation―will be a winning combination for my future.”

Keeping an eye on her career

Life wasn’t all about breaking the record. After graduating from SUNY New Paltz with a bachelor of science degree in mathematics, Rega knew she needed to fulfill her passion for aviation. “My dream was to someday be an air traffic controller,” said Rega. “I just wasn’t sure how to make it happen.”

Discovering Vaughn

After doing some research, Rega discovered that Vaughn College offered a fast-track program for degree-holding students who wanted to further their education. Over two hours away, Rega knew it would be a challenge making it happen. “My life is about embracing a challenge,” Rega said. “Making this happen was an even greater one for me.” In fall 2018, she enrolled in the airport management program at Vaughn. For one year, she commuted twice a week to the College and stayed with family members who lived nearby. On the days when she wasn’t at school, Rega trained every chance she could to prepare for breaking the record.

The day Rega broke the record

Sella Rega jumping rope to break Guinness World RecordRega chose the week of spring break to attempt the challenge of breaking the Guinness World Record. Her high school in upstate New York was hosting the challenge. “I couldn’t have asked for a more nostalgic place to go for the record than my old high school gymnasium,” said Rega. The morning of March 29, 2019, she slept until noon and immediately began consuming calories for the big day.

There are several requirements that must be met before any attempt at breaking the record is made. Two witnesses must always be present. Rega said she had about 16 witnesses there who worked in two to four-hour shifts around the clock. There’s also a strict evidence protocol that always requires four cameras to be focused on the subject.

Rega began jumping promptly at 4 p.m. with groups of friends, family, fans and her coach, Ace, cheering her on into the night. By 2 a.m., Rega said she started to feel mentally fatigued, knowing she had already jumped for 10 hours and still had more than halfway to go. Aside from breaking the record, Rega said the most exciting time for her was at 3:50 a.m., when one of her friends screamed out, “Guess who just reached 100,000 jumps?” “It was at that moment that I knew I was going to break the record,” she remembers. At 11:54 a.m., after several breaks and blisters, Rega broke the Guinness World Record of 151,409 jumps in 19 hours and 54 minutes. She used the next four hours to set her own record of 168,394 jumps in the full 24-hour period. Little did she know at the time she also broke two other records for most skips over a rope within eight and 12 hours, setting them at 70,030 and 100,364, respectively. That’s three new Guinness World Records at one time! Way to go, Sella!

The record to beat:

Most skips over a rope in 24 hours: 151,409
Most skips over a rope in 12 hours: 76,196
Most skips over a rope in 8 hours: 59,916

Back to the books

Five months later, Rega graduated from Vaughn with her bachelor of science degree in airport management, along with the FAA-approved certified programs that qualified her to pursue her air traffic controller’s certification. “Graduation was bittersweet,” Rega said. “My grandma was one of my biggest fans. She witnessed me breaking the record and was alive on July 4, 2019 when I received official notification from Guinness,” Rega explained. “Sadly, she passed away in August and didn’t see me graduate, and never knew I broke the other two records.”

Silver lining

On October 22, 2019, Rega was notified that her records for most skips over a rope in eight and 12 hours were confirmed by Guinness. “I took this as a sign that my grandmother was watching over me that day. It just so happened to be her birthday.”

Learn more about earning a degree in aviation management from Vaughn College.

“Learn from your past and follow your dreams.” That is the sentiment that brought international student and freshman Alina Santander ’23 to Vaughn College this past September. At 20 years old, Santander is pursuing her dream in the field of mechatronic engineering with the hope of one day making a difference in solving the some of the world’s humanitarian and ecological issues.

Across the Americas

Born in Bolivia, South America, Santander grew up with a passion for science. In high school, she focused her studies around the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) program and majored in physics before transferring to Vaughn this year. “I always knew I wanted to be an engineer,” Santander said, “although my first dream was to be an astrophysicist. It didn’t take long before I realized my life goal is to create solutions to help solve the world’s problems through technology.”

Preparing for her future

Alina Santander with her home country of Bolivia flagMotivated to pursue her dreams, Santander applied to summer programs in other countries. When she was just 15 years old, she left home for the first time to study at a summer space camp in Germany that participated in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Human Exploration Rover Challenge. The goal of this international challenge was to build a Rover and drive it on a road with obstacles that simulate extraterrestrial soil. She began competing in 2016 and said her team prepared for almost one year to participate in the challenge. They travelled with their Rover from Bolivia to Huntsville, Alabama for the competition which is where they won the title. “It was an experience and opportunity that changed my life,” said Santander. “I hope to bring this idea to Vaughn where we can form a new club, introduce students to the Rover Challenge and participate in this exciting experience.”

To further prepare for her future, Santander managed to learn German and English, adding to her native Spanish and Russian languages. Having the experience of studying abroad and speaking foreign languages made for a smooth and seamless transition to Vaughn. “Being away from my family helped me to mature and learn responsibility at an early age,” Santander said.

Discovering a home at Vaughn

With a strong foundation in physics and STEM under her belt, Santander knew she wanted to study engineering abroad but discovered the process for international students was long and tedious. In 2017, she decided to get an early start and located an agency that could assist and guide her through the process while she continued her studies in Bolivia. Two years later, the agency ultimately matched her with Vaughn. She moved to New York a few short months ago and, with confidence and excitement, began her first semester as a mechatronic engineering major. “Leaving home wasn’t easy, even though I’ve done it before,” said Santander. “I have an amazing family who supports me and my dreams. I wouldn’t be here today without them.”

First semester experience

“Amazing” is just one of the words Santander used to describe her first semester at Vaughn. “I couldn’t wait to jump right into my courses,” she said excitedly. “I chose mechatronic engineering for its unique curriculum. Combining the fields of mechanical, electrical and computer engineering is the perfect blend for a well-rounded degree. I believe it’s where our future is headed, and I’m grateful to Vaughn for accepting me into their program.”

When asked about life outside of the classroom, she said there’s so much to love about Vaughn. Santander loves the small college atmosphere where she’s been able to meet new friends and nurture a close relationship with her instructors. To expand her experience, Santander said she joined the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) clubs. She explains how her courses in Bolivia, combined with her current curriculum at Vaughn, are the perfect foundation for sharing experiences with club members. “I feel good here,” said Santander. “I found a new home at Vaughn and living on campus makes everything easier.”

Looking to the future

Santander is focused on someday using technology to benefit humanity and nature. “I want to take technology to a new level to show how new methods can be used to make our lives easier and better,” she explained. “I know Vaughn is the right place for me to develop my ability to reach my goal and make it happen. For that I am grateful.”

Learn more about earning a degree in mechatronic engineering from Vaughn College.


Inspiration can come from many places. Vaughn senior, Angela Wright ’20 didn’t have to look farther than her own father, Jeff, to spark her passion to become an aircraft mechanic or aircraft maintenance technician (AMT), which is also known as an airframe and powerplant (A&P) technician.

Father knows best

Angela and her father in restaurantGrowing up on Long Island in the charming waterfront village of Northport, Wright was introduced to aviation at an early age. Her father worked for British Airways and he would bring Angela along on the job during “take your child to work day” throughout her childhood. “I’m adopted,” Wright stated proudly. “I loved going to work with my dad and seeing firsthand how the aviation industry operated,” she said. “I knew early on that I wanted to be a part of the mechanical side of aviation.” Her father’s passion for mechanics spilled over on the weekends when he would work on his cars in the driveway. “I was by my father’s side throughout my childhood, learning all about car mechanics. He inspired me to learn more about the field.”

Taking the first step

In high school, Wright enrolled in two automobile mechanics courses. Her excellent grades and passion for the field caught the attention of one of her instructors who recommended Vaughn College’s Aviation Training Institute (ATI) as a possible career path after graduation. “Up until that time, I wasn’t sure which direction to take for college. My instructor was instrumental in setting me on the right course by recommending Vaughn,” Wright explained.

Vaughn opens the door to opportunity

In the fall of 2017, Wright enrolled in the Associate of Occupational Studies (AOS) program at Vaughn’s Aviation Training Institute. As a female, Wright said she is one of a growing number of women entering the field of airframe and powerplant technology. “It’s empowering to see more women entering a field that up until now was predominantly male,” she states. “We are leveling the playing field as more women are entering the industry. The job opportunities are there. It’s a great thing.”

Vaughn’s Aviation Training Institute making it happen

Working as an AMT comes with great responsibility. These specialized aircraft maintenance technicians work around the clock for the safety of travelers by ensuring every plane and train passes inspection before leaving for its destination. Wright explains how Vaughn’s ATI program is the perfect starting point where students can become a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)-certified mechanic with an A&P rating to prepare for this in-demand, high-paying career of today. Did you know Boeing is forecasting the industry will need as many as 635,000 new aircraft maintenance technicians by 2036? And that’s on the aviation side alone.

Wright describes the ATI curriculum and her Vaughn professors as outstanding. She said the lectures and labs are the perfect balance to understanding the material and putting it into action. “I love my professors,” Wright said. “They are not only dedicated, but they go out of their way to ensure their students understand the material.” Living on campus has also been instrumental in her success at Vaughn. Wright explained how the convenience of being “close to home” plays a major role in staying focused and managing her time.

Looking to the future

Wright is on track to graduate May 2020 and plans on earning her A&P certificate over the summer. “I’m excited to start my career,” Wright said. “My parents have been extremely supportive in my career choice. My father and I share a special connection, a common thread. He’s a great man and I’ve learned so much from him over the years. I hope to make him proud.”

Leadership, a love for aviation and his exceptional people skills were the driving forces behind Vaughn graduate Otha Ward’s ’19 pursuit of a career in airport management. At 22 years old, Ward is making a name for himself at John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), where he holds the position of airport operations agent.

A day in the life

Airports operate under Part 139 Certification issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to ensure safety in air transportation. As an airport operations agent, Ward is responsible for upholding and meeting the standards of Airport Operating Certificates and assist in keeping airport operations within FAA compliance. On any given day, Ward is responsible for numerous aspects of airport safety. Here’s a snapshot of some of his responsibilities:

  • Operations: Bird strikes are a reality in aviation safety which can have catastrophic results. Ward explained how keeping wildlife under control is no easy task, as JFK airport lies near a protected wildlife preserve, Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge. “My job is to ensure the runways and taxiways are clean, safe and free of any wildlife,” he said. Ward pointed out how they never use any lethal methods but instead rely on devices that make loud noises to scare the wildlife away, such as pyrotechnics.
  • Construction: Airport construction sights must be managed to the highest standards to ensure pilots do not fly into a construction zone. Among the responsibilities of the sight safety observer―or SSO―is to keep the site safe by controlling the lighting, providing the sufficient number of security guards and placing the low-mass barriers in the correct positions. “Managing the construction site is one of my biggest responsibilities,” Ward stated. “It’s my job to keep the site safe. I have the control to shut the site down if I feel it’s unsafe and I have done so in the past. There’s no cap when it comes to safety.”
  • Relocating Airplanes: Another aspect of his job is to relocate airplanes when space is at a minimum. “We have a separate ‘parking area’ for these planes. I work directly with air traffic control to keep everything flowing smoothly on the ground.”

Why he chose Vaughn College

Growing up in Baldwin, NY, Ward loved to play sports but also shared his time with his extended family who lived in New York City. After high school, he knew he wanted to pursue a career in the aviation industry. But where? Being familiar with the area, Ward researched colleges in the neighboring towns and boroughs. “I was blown away by Vaughn College and their recognition as being ranked number one in upward mobility,” he said. “The high success rate of students finding great jobs in their field after graduation sealed the deal for me. Choosing Vaughn was a smart choice.” In fact, 99% of Vaughn graduates are employed or continue their education within one year, and 83% are employed within their chosen field. Ward is a perfect example of a student who has achieved this and more.

The pathway from Vaughn to JFK

While pursuing his bachelor’s degree in airport management at Vaughn, Ward explained how the faculty, staff and curriculum all worked together seamlessly to ensure his success.

  • Summer internship: The career services department was instrumental in helping place Ward in a summer internship at JFK, where he said he earned valuable experience and exposure to the industry. His exceptional work ethic and performance afforded him an extension of his internship through the academic year, where he worked his way up and gained further experience.
  • Leadership roles: In his junior year, Ward gained more proficiency and exposure by holding leadership positions in campus clubs. He was the president of the Vaughn student chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and vice president of the student chapter of the Women in Aviation organization. As an alumnus of the College, he currently serves on the president’s board with industry leaders.
  • Outstanding professors: There’s no denying Ward received an outstanding education and gained rewarding experience at Vaughn. He credits his success with not only the professionalism and knowledge of his professors but the firsthand experience from the adjunct professors. “They teach and we learn in real time. It’s one of the most valuable parts of a Vaughn education.”

Three months prior to his graduation in May 2019, Ward began working in his current position at JFK. “I knew it was a rigorous application process for the job at JFK, so I submitted my resume early,” Ward explained. The three-step process took months to complete, but Ward said it all paid off in the end. After submitting his resume, he was required to take the Airport Operations Agent (AOA) exam. Then, the waiting process began when the decision board narrowed down the applicants and asked them back for an interview.

Ward credits Vaughn with helping him pursue his dream and land a rewarding career at an international airport. “Vaughn is a special place,” he stated humbly. “The College has connections that sets it apart from other institutions—making that one of its greatest assets. I’m grateful to everyone at Vaughn for helping me get to where I am today.”

Imagine pursuing a career that is futureproof—a career that sets your goals and dreams into motion with job stability, transferability and longevity. Vaughn College is one of the country’s premier colleges that specializes in engineering, technology, management and aviation, where graduates have a competitive edge to obtain jobs in the industry’s hottest markets.

This month, we caught up with Thomas Dekenipp ’18, a 32-year old Vaughn engineering graduate who not only landed his dream mechanical engineering job but is also embracing fatherhood and family more than ever before.

Life after Vaughn

We first spoke to Dekenipp two years ago when he was a junior at Vaughn and celebrating his first Father’s Day with his girlfriend, Jaime, and their daughter, Harper. Since then, Dekenipp has graduated from Vaughn with a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree in mechanical engineering technology with a focus on aeronautical and computer-aided design. On top of that, he also landed his dream job at CPI Aerostructures, Inc. (CPI Aero), an aerospace and defense contractor headquartered in Edgewood, New York on Long Island.

As a proud and dedicated family man, Dekenipp was excited to share the news that he and Jaime welcomed their son, Milo, 14 months ago and just this past April bought their first home, which is located just minutes from his place of employment. “My life couldn’t be any more complete,” Dekenipp said humbly. “I’m blessed with how everything is falling into place.”

Thomas Dekenipp Family Photo

A futureproof career in mechanical engineering

Dekenipp is no stranger to discipline and hard work. Prior to applying to the engineering program at Vaughn in 2015, he worked six years as a helicopter mechanic in the United States Army 82nd Airborne Division, where he completed two tours in Afghanistan and worked an additional 18 months as a contractor. It was this combined passion for aeronautics and mechanics that led him to Vaughn and helped land his current position as a manufacturing engineer at CPI Aero.

“At CPI Aero, I’m involved with making parts for Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters using all the skills I learned at Vaughn,” Dekenipp explained. “The experience is truly amazing. I learn something new every day. It’s hard work but worth every minute.” Working as a manufacturing engineer has many responsibilities, which include maintaining the manufacturing and sustainability of the design and building processes, managing budgets and keeping up with client needs.

When asked about his futureproof career, Dekenipp answered, “Vaughn not only keeps their finger on the pulse of today’s technology trends but is committed to staying engaged with connections to ensure their students’ future success.”

Sage advice

As a seasoned military and family man, Dekenipp encourages others to follow their dreams and passions. After his military career, he said Vaughn gave him the opportunity to take his life to the next level.

“There’s not enough I can say about Vaughn, its faculty and the entire experience,” said Dekenipp. “Their excellent reputation, curriculum and guidance are a winning combination for any serious student.”

Dekenipp explained how Vaughn offers a laser-focused curriculum in specific fields of study. When asked if there was a specific skill that he gained from his education at Vaughn, Dekenipp replied: “The computer animated design courses fully prepared me for the job I have today.” He then went on to state: “I graduated with all the tools I needed for the job, along with the confidence and comfort factor to be successful. It was a seamless transition from the classroom to the job site.”

Before we wrapped up, Dekenipp spoke about his new home, family and the importance of traditions. “We bought our first dining room table for the new house,” he said proudly. “Growing up, my family always gathered around the table for meals,” he recalled. “We now have a table for family time. While my career and job outlook are futureproof and the catalyst for providing for my family, spending time with them is securing my futureproof formula for life.”

Learn more about earning a degree in engineering and technology.

Passion and dedication are the driving forces behind one of Vaughn College’s newest faculty members. With one year under his belt at Vaughn, backed by 24 years of teaching experience, Miguel Bustamante, PhD, assistant professor of engineering and technology, is making his mark on campus with an exceptional teaching approach, all the while spearheading a recent humanitarian mission to Rwanda.

Bustamante brings 24 years of teaching a multitude of engineering and technology courses at Vaughn, such as electrical engineering, program logic control, programming language, and feedback control systems. These courses supply the knowledge and skill set that are the basis for success in the industry. They give students the ability to stand out from the crowd, and Bustamante loves nothing more than to pass this passion along to his students.

“Judgement-Free” Classroom

Bustamante believes making his classroom a “judgement-free” zone is the key to ensuring his students’ success. He admits the engineering and technology courses he teaches can be challenging but explains how his unique approach has proven to be a formula for student success. “It’s important to make students feel at ease while still being firm with them,” Bustamante stated. “Teaching is all in the approach and keeping students engaged.”

Here are some ways of how Bustamante ensures his students’ success in his engineering and technology courses:

  • Create a “judgement-free” zone where students can express themselves freely and ask questions without fear of being wrong
  • Bring humor to discussions to lighten the mood
  • Bring real-life experiences to lectures
  • Write information on the board to keep concepts fresh in their minds

Because the classes required for engineering degrees can be challenging, he believes these approaches will encourage student success and a positive classroom experience.

Where his passion started

Bustamante’s passion for electrical engineering began at an early age growing up in Columbia, South America, but it wasn’t until his family moved to New York when he was 15 years old that he knew his future in engineering would become a reality.

After high school graduation, Bustamante enrolled at a local college in New York where he earned a bachelor of science degree and a master’s degree in electric engineering. In 1996, he began teaching at the college, devoting himself to his students every step of the way. In 2004, he decided to go back to school to pursue his PhD in electrical engineering. “Teaching inspired me to pursue my doctorate,” Bustamante said. “It was important for me to pass my knowledge in mathematics and engineering on to my students.”

 Bringing Classroom Knowledge to a Real World Mission

The Vaughn student chapter of Engineers Without Borders proudly partnered with the humanitarian efforts of Engineers Without Borders USA, an organization that utilizes the skills of engineers across the country to combat the challenges faced by some of the world’s poorest people in their efforts to live healthy lives.

Last February, Bustamante, along with four Vaughn students who are pursuing engineering and technology degrees, visited the African country of Rwanda to test water supplies in the village of Kibingo. The goal of the 10-day mission was to determine a solution that would provide potable water to the town of 900 villagers. The team located, tested and marked every water source in the village, tested the sediment in the soil, and met with authorities.

“The students had the ability to use their knowledge of mathematics, science and computer-aided design from their engineering and technology courses in a real-world scenario,” Bustamante said. “Their collected data was analyzed, revealing microbial contamination that exceeds the limits in accordance with the National Primary Drinking Water Standards (NPDWS) set by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), confirming the water sources are unsafe and inadequate for safe consumption.”

Currently, the students are crafting an engineering solution system to provide enough clean water to serve over 250 families in the village of Kibingo. “The post-assessment and solution to treating the water supplies is good to go,” Bustamante stated. “We are now working on raising capital for the project and plan on returning to Rwanda in January 2020 to implement the system.”

When it comes to achieving your goals, Bustamante believes in staying the course and forging ahead to overcome any obstacles. “I want my students to remember that gaining knowledge will only get them halfway to their goals. The other half is to never lose their sense of wonder and knowing the journey to knowledge never ends.”

Learn more about Vaughn’s engineering and technology programs.

If you had a choice of either attending a concert or solving a math equation, which would you choose? Your answer is most likely: “You’re kidding, right?”

Vaughn College is dedicated to making math a positive experience by teaching methods that eliminate the stigma and ensure students attain the confidence they need to secure success in their field.

Professor Grossfield of Vaughn CollegeLet’s face it. Math gets a bad rap. Dr. Andrew Grossfield, who is currently a professor of mathematics and electronics at Vaughn College, is working hard to change that notion by making math a subject that students look forward to instead of dreading. So, how does he do it? It’s all about changing the students’ attitudes and opening their minds to a different approach.

Grossfield holds a doctorate in continuum mechanics, has been a member of the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE) for many years, is the past chair of the ASEE Mid-Atlantic Section, and has been granted the ASEE 2010 Math Division Distinguished Educator Award.

In honor of Mathematics and Statistics Awareness Month, Grossfield weighs in on the importance of easing the fears students have of math, and the value this subject of study holds in earning an engineering degree.

The fear is real

Just hearing the word “math” can have some people shudder in fear, when in fact, math is all around us―in buildings, navigation, technology, and the arts. The use of math is present in almost every profession. So, why do we find the subject so terrifying? The answer may lie in how math has been taught to us and our lack of confidence to grasp it. Instead of teaching with the goal of deriving the logical proof, Grossfield believes that promoting the concept of how to understand math will help students gain satisfaction in continuing their engineering and analytical studies.

Making the grade

How does one make learning higher level math, like calculus, easier? In layman’s terms, Grossfield proposes that precalculus and calculus should be introduced as the study of well-behaved curves where the student has the framework to visualize and grasp the concepts, and are asked questions such as, “Where is the point?” and “Where is the cure heading?”

“A student who can see what he is studying is more likely to stick with it,” Grossfield stated.

Another approach Grossfield follows is reordering how math is taught. Instead of teaching the hardest part first, he delays the difficult conventional formal derivations in order to place the students in a more comfortable position where they can understand the mathematical manipulations and follow the analysis.

Fun in numbers

Grossfield believes everyone can find joy in math as they do in sports, music, theatre, art or scientific discovery. Those who are familiar with mathematics see fascinating puzzles, games, patterns and amazing facts―not just random numbers. Next time you’re out and about, take a minute to observe the many ways math is a part of your everyday life. You’ll be surprised!

Learn more about Vaughn’s Engineering and Technology programs.

In honor of Women’s History Month, we are celebrating another hardworking female student who is paving her own path at Vaughn College. Strong family ties and a commitment to excellence have set Alexa Cruz ’22, an aircraft operations major, on a trajectory of success as she embraces her freshmen year at Vaughn College to one day become a commercial airline pilot.

Dreaming big

As an only child growing up in Pompton Lakes, New Jersey, Cruz said she was raised to dream big. Throughout grade school and high school, she always set high standards for herself and maintained exceptional grades. “As an Asian-American, people tend to stereotype you as a high achiever,” Cruz explained. “I never bought into that notion. My drive comes from within, knowing that I don’t ever want to look back on my life and have regrets.” From a young age, she started the steps to becoming a commercial airline pilot.

Out of the blue

Cruz explained how her parents are her greatest influences in her life. Becoming a pilot was never on her radar until she reflected on their jet-setting careers as shoe designers that she realized she wanted to experience the world firsthand. “There’s so much beauty in the world,” Cruz said. “I always enjoyed hearing my parent’s stories, but I decided I didn’t want to live through other people’s experiences. I want to live it and experience it for myself. It was then that I decided I wanted to become a pilot and travel the world.”

Vaughn was the answer

During her senior year in high school, Cruz was at the point of choosing a college. She knew Vaughn was the one and only school for her. “Vaughn has it all,” Cruz said. “Their aircraft operations program was the perfect fit to fulfill my dream of becoming a pilot, and their reputation is second to none. They exceeded all my expectations.” Vaughn’s wide variety of college programs secured her decision to attend.

Cruz expressed her belief that although the aviation field has been a male-dominated field in the past, women should not be discouraged to set their sights on the skies. “I’m proud to be a female Vaughn student,” Cruz said. “The college offers a diverse environment where both men and women can feel confident that they are offered an equal opportunity in all fields of study.”

Leveling the playing field

We all have our passions. For Cruz, it’s the game of basketball. From the age of 10, she has been playing the sport on school and travel teams, but never knew playing a college sport would be a part of her experience with Vaughn. “Playing basketball teaches you to be both a leader and a team player,” said Cruz. “It’s been the cornerstone of my life, guiding me to balance life and work while grounding me in the mindset to succeed.” Last summer, Cruz was recruited by Vaughn’s athletic department to play basketball for the college. “I never imagined I would play college basketball,” Cruz said humbly. “It’s more than I ever dreamed of and is just what I needed to balance out my education here at Vaughn. I get to experience the best of both worlds.” It has always been Vaughn’s mission to provide opportunities for students to get involved in the College’s athletic programs, campus activities and professional development in their respective fields.

Life at Vaughn

As a freshman in her second semester, Cruz said her favorite part of being a Vaughn student is her involvement with an industry-driven community that’s helping to accomplish her goal of becoming a pilot. “Living on campus is one of the best decisions I made to making the most of my experience at Vaughn,” Cruz said. “Just being here and experiencing college life is rewarding, knowing I’m working hard toward my dream.” Cruz joined the Women in Aviation Club on campus and said being a member is a great way to network and connect with older students who are making things happen. Vaughn’s college network allows students to get hands-on experience with industry professionals during their time on campus. “It’s inspiring to see how our peers are advancing their careers,” explained Cruz. “It drives me even harder, knowing I’m living my dream at Vaughn.”

Most Influential Woman in Her Life

Because it is Women’s History Month, we asked Cruz if there is a woman who has been influential in her life?

“Hands down, my mom is the most influential person in my life,” she stated without hesitation. “She not only works hard for our family, but she will go out of her way to help others without thinking twice about it. She gives without ever expecting anything in return. She has the biggest and most generous heart and I’m proud to call her my mom.” Cruz said her mom is her best friend, and on days when she’s feeling stressed or overwhelmed with school, she replays her mom’s words in her head to get her through her day: “I love you to the moon and back.”

“My dreams of becoming a commercial airline pilot may not be taking me to the moon, but who ever thought my mom’s words would someday put me on a journey to the skies?”

Have you ever dreamed about becoming a pilot? If you are wondering how to become a pilot as your future career, register for our Open House on Saturday, April 13 to learn more about taking your dreams to the skies. Let Vaughn help you achieve your dreams of earning a commercial pilot’s license.

Also, check out the insights of Kirei Watson ’18on landing her dream job as a mechanical design engineer.


With 2019 coming to an end, Kirei Watson ’18, a recent Vaughn College graduate, is excited to begin her new career as a mechanical design engineer at Collins Aerospace, and says her experience at Vaughn gave her the confidence and knowledge to approach her future head on. Read more to learn how Watson landed her dream job, as well as her advice and tips on how you can, too.

Learning what it takes

In December 2017, Watson graduated from Vaughn with a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering technology: aeronautical. She explains that although it’s important to keep your focus on your classes, it’s equally important to branch off and go beyond the classroom by joining clubs to enhance your passion and help further your career after graduation. Watson was involved with the National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), and said she even found time to participate in some outside events sponsored by the Society of Women Engineers (SWE).

“Joining the right engineering clubs at Vaughn played an instrumental role in landing my current job,” Watson said. “It was during my trip to the SHPE annual conference, sponsored by Vaughn, that I received my big break.” Watson, who was featured in Vaughn’s 2017 Gala video, shares further insight on how students can set themselves on the right path to success.

Importance of internships

During the summer of 2018, Watson held an internship position where she worked as a manufacturing engineer at Harris Corporation, a defense contractor and information technology services provider. “I can’t stress enough how the internship at Harris Corporation helped me determine the type of company I wanted to work for in the future,” Watson stated. “I learned the importance of networking and the contrast between the academic aspect of engineering and the practical or professional approach.” Watson said she can’t emphasize enough how this internship opened her eyes to her future path, as it taught her the importance of being on a team focused on contributing something new and innovative to society.

Preparing early

Ask any college graduate and they’ll tell you: A job isn’t handed to you along with your diploma. The reality is it takes a lot of homework (sorry, but it’s true), extensive job searches, perseverance and guts to go out and secure a job in one’s chosen field. Take advantage of the career services department’s offerings including interview preparation, résumé writing and job search skills. Watson’s advice is to start planning now for your future. “It’s never too early to learn how to professionally prepare yourself for a corporate setting,” said Watson. “Not only are internships a great way to get experience in your field, but don’t underestimate the wisdom of the Vaughn faculty. My mentors were instrumental in helping me transition from an academic environment to a professional one. I will be forever grateful to them.”

Kicking off her new career

Watson will begin her new position as mechanical design engineer with heat exchangers this month. She explains how this new position is different than her internship position as a design engineer because it incorporates additive manufacturing (3D printing). Additionally, she said this new department within the company opens doors for growth and innovation. “I’m excited about this position since it will enable me to contribute to and discover the many possibilities with additive manufacturing in regard to aerospace,” Watson said. “I’m thrilled to begin this next journey in my life, and it’s a good feeling to know Vaughn was the cornerstone to getting me here.”

Are you looking for a new career path? Schedule a visit and find out how a futureproof Vaughn education can get you on the path toward success.