“It’s so much fun!” exclaimed Deepesh Dhingra ’08 ’10 about his job as senior exhibition leader at Liberty Science Center. “You’re constantly coming up with new ideas and that’s the best part about it.”
Dhingra, an alum of both NJIT’s undergraduate mechanical engineering and graduate engineering management programs, spends his days at the museum integrating STEM-based principles into interactive exhibits, programs and activities for visitors of all ages. He is the senior member of a team of five that is continually in some phase of design or construction to keep the science center’s displays — which typically last months rather than years — novel, dynamic and inviting. His projects range from standalone exhibits and tabletop activities to giant structures for immersive experiences and live demonstrations that require props and science content.
“All these exhibits have to be hands-on. They have to be interactive, they have to work constantly, they have to be aesthetically pleasing and they have to be adaptable to any age,” said Dhingra, who also hosts several robotics competitions at the center every year. “It takes a lot of thinking…a lot of creativity.”
Recently, Dhingra began developing what he describes as “giant experiences.” One of them is the Drone Academy, a full-on drone school still in the works that will teach guests about flight and drone anatomy and provide them with the opportunity to fly a drone at the center.
All the Way From Africa
The youngest of three, Dhingra grew up in Nairobi, Kenya, where his parents own a school and office supply business. As a child, he “loved to take things apart and see how they work” and “was good at math and physics,” but it wasn’t until he prepared to enter college that he thought about science more seriously. That college was NJIT.
“When I saw that NJIT is close to New York City…and it’s considered one of the top engineering schools, I said ‘I’m going to apply,’” he remembered.
Dhingra was accepted as a general engineer and decided to major in mechanical engineering his sophomore year, participating in the university’s student chapter of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. “With mechanical engineering, you’re scratching the surface of pretty much everything, so you become very resourceful once you get into the industry. And you can pick [from] a lot of jobs.”
His choice was an assistant project manager position at Concept Construction Services, Inc. in New York, resulting from a co-op he did with the company during his senior year. But just two years later, he attended an NJIT Career Development Services job fair that ultimately changed the course of his career.
Volunteerism Pays Off
When Dhingra went to that fair, he had by then left Concept and was a master’s in engineering management student at NJIT. Most of his classes were in the evening, so he was searching for a spot to fill his days. Enter Liberty Science Center, which was at the fair and looking for volunteers to guide its guests and explain its exhibits. He jumped on the gig, which segued into a part-time stint as volunteer coordinator and eventually a full-time turn as exhibition leader. He was promoted to senior exhibition leader and charged with mentoring a team in 2016.
“It all started with the career fair,” said Dhingra of his move to the museum. “You never know who’ll show up and that’s the best part. I didn’t know Liberty Science Center was going to be there asking for volunteers.”
He says his engineering education at NJIT comes into play every day at the center, whether he’s designing activities, developing programs or building displays. And as for watching visitors enjoy an exhibit? “It’s actually the biggest compliment ever!” he said. “When you see a guest interacting with it and you see the face of that child when they have learned something new…that feeling is irreplaceable.”