More likely than not, one of students' first discoveries during their college education at Fairleigh Dickinson Universityis that the Metropolitan Campus is relatively small. However, despite its size, a multitude of campus secrets lie within its grounds.
One such secret is the dish antenna located behind the Muscarelle Center for Building Construction Studies. It technically is not a secret because everyone on campus has seen it at one point or another. Where it came from, who put it there and its purpose, however, remain among some of the more obscure facts at FDU.
The dish has an all too earthly, although very generous origin, since it came to FDU as a donation from Dr. Allen Katzof the College of New Jersey. It stands at a respectable 16 feet and weighs in at 400 pounds. Its purpose, however, is so ambitious that it literally reaches for the stars.
The satellite dish is part of the illustrious SETI project (that stands for the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence for those of us who are less scientifically inclined) and, although its appearance would suggest it is capable of doing nothing more than getting reception for maybe 10,000 cable channels, it is actually listening for a signal that originates from outside our own solar system.
The FDU-SETI station was set up in June of 2001 with the antenna, a microwave receiver, signal processing circuitry (both digital and analog) and analysis software. Under the direction of Prof. Melvin A. Lewis, 15 students from theEngineering and Engineering Technology departments came together and installed the dish in its current location, behind Muscarelle. Thus, FDU gained membership into the SETI league via the Project Argus family of similar set-ups.
The existence of such a project has given the students of the various engineering programs at FDU a chance to experience what working on a project in the corporate environment is like. As Professor Lewis points out, it is a rare industry project that calls for an engineer to work alone. Therefore, a project like this, which requires a team effort and encompasses different specialties, is ideal.