From 2013-2017, I wrote content and copy promoting the College of Engineering at the University of Florida. I covered nine engineering departments: biomedical, chemical, civil. computer and information science, electrical, environmental, industrial and systems, mechanical and aerospace, and nuclear. Most of my work focused on faculty research, student achievements and alumni entrepreneurs. In no particular order, here are a few of my favorite stories:
April 22, 2014
Have you ever wondered why the Sunshine State isn’t leading the world in the production of solar energy? There are a combination of factors involved – some of them political and economic – but two engineers at the University of Florida have shed light on how the electrical challenges that come with using widespread solar energy could be overcome.
Most people think blackouts are caused when there’s not enough energy feeding into the grid. That’s true, they are, but too much energy can cause a blackout, as well. Power plants – be they coal, natural gas or nuclear – can produce a calculated and predictable amount of energy, while solar (and wind) power have natural fluctuations. These highs and lows of energy have to be managed so the grid won’t crash from too much or too little energy. Maintaining the grid is challenging. Shutting down and ramping up large power plants isn’t energy efficient. Storing excess energy in huge batteries isn’t cost effective, either. And so the balancing authorities that maintain the grid have placed limits on larger sources of variable energy, like solar, to protect the grid from crashing from what are considered to be unmanageable highs and lows.
But are they unmanageable? That’s what UF engineering professors Sean Meyn and Prabir Barooah asked. They began looking at load balancing, at supply and demand. Knowing they could never control an unpredictable solar supply, (never control the weather), they focused on how they could meet a larger solar supply with a more flexible demand. They wanted to make use of the highs and lows.
Knowing that 75% of our country’s energy consumption goes towards keeping buildings habitable, they set their target: comfortable indoor spaces.
Feb. 8, 2014
Taking shifts at the wheel in two 15-passenger vans, it took students traveling from Florida to Texas last weekend about 15 hours to drive a little over 900 miles. If the technology they are helping to develop gets off the ground, they might someday cover that distance in less than 90 minutes.
“Hyperloop” is a high-speed transportation design concept introduced by engineer and entrepreneur Elon Musk. In 2013, the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla challenged the world to develop the concept from his open-source designs. In the first round of competitions last week, over 120 teams from around the world presented plans for moving forward – specifically on designs for the pods that will carry passengers and cargo. Only 29 college teams were selected to build prototypes for a final round of competition this summer. The University of Florida’s Gatorloop team was one of them.
May 8, 2014
In an effort to become a national leader in making computers more secure and more personalized to individual needs, the University of Florida has recruited a team of computer scientists with specialties in what’s known as human-centered computing. . .
[Juan] Gilbert is currently the chair of Clemson’s human-centered computing, or HCC, division. He and his team gained national recognition when they developed the technology to make voting more accessible and secure. His electronic voting interface has created a new standard for universal accessibility in elections. Gilbert will be the Andrew Banks Family Preeminence Endowed Chair at UF.
[Damon] Woodard is an expert in biometrics, or identity technology. His work with the U.S. intelligence community includes periocular-based and tightly coupled face/iris recognition systems. The main focus of his current work is the development of techniques that allow machines to establish an individual’s identity even when using lower quality or incomplete data.
[Kyla] McMullen specializes in virtual spatial audio, which allows a listener to hear a sound over headphones as though it were coming from a specific point in their immediate environment. She is interested in using this rendering to create more immersive virtual environments, develop assistive technology for persons with visual impairments, and to sonify trends in Big Data.
[Christina] Gardner-McCune is a computer science education researcher. She develops interest- and discipline-based computing curriculum and after-school and summer camp programming to encourage K-12 students to enter STEM-related careers. She is currently serving on the College Board’s development committee for the new Advance Placement Computer Science Principles Exam.
April 18, 2014
Every year the University of Florida Alumni Association recognizes alumni who are 35 years of age or younger and have distinguished themselves in their profession and community. On the morning of April 12th, at Emerson Alumni Hall, about two-dozen alumni – who studied all around campus, and now live all around the world – gathered for the 2014 Outstanding Young Alumni Awards. Among them was Gator Engineering serial entrepreneur, Amir Rubin.
Rubin was still in his senior year at UF, finishing a degree in electrical and computer engineering, when he started his first company. It was 2003. He’d been working on unmanned aerial vehicles in class and decided to add some intelligence – a camera that could guide the UAV to follow a moving object. He took that idea, a few visionary friends, and lots of advice from the entrepreneurial mentors around the college, and he co-founded Prioria Robotics. A decade later, it has proven itself to be one of Gainesville’s most successful startups.
Aug. 23, 2017
Collaboration is a critical skill needed in many fields, but particularly in computer science, where many people often work together on a larger project. It is a skill that is not intrinsic; it must be learned. Bringing students together to share ideas tends to yield a familiar pattern: confident students become more confident, while less experienced students conclude that instead of their sharing ideas, they should defer to the kids who have better ones.
Kristy Boyer, an associate professor at the University of Florida’s Department of Computer & Information Science & Engineering, is the principal investigator on a new National Science Foundation research award that aims to change the way collaboration is taught, using – and teaching – computer science.
Nov. 6, 2014
In 2003, fifty-five million people in the northeastern United States were affected by a widespread power outage and subsequent cellular service overload, attributed to some untrimmed foliage and a faulty alarm. A few weeks later, a storm took out a single powerline in Italy and another fifty-five million people lost electricity and train service. This year, a lone train in Hong Kong hit an overhead wire and thousands of people were stranded as the region’s entire transportation network collapsed.
These are all examples of the ways modern infrastructure systems can be hazardously interdependent, where a single failure can cascade into a widespread catastrophe. In order to find innovative ways to bolster the resilience of the electrical grid, water systems and other lifelines and services, the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded nearly $17 million to a new research area: Resilient Interdependent Infrastructure Processes and Systems (RIPS).
May 27, 2015
A group of U.S. military veteran and civilian volunteers with upper limb amputations will soon have the chance to test neural implants designed to offer more intuitive control of their prosthetics, thanks to a research collaboration between the University of Florida and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
Hand Proprioception & Touch Interfaces, or HAPTIX, is a DARPA program. Its aim is to develop an implantable neural interface that can restore closed-loop sensory motor control of dexterous mechatronic prostheses, ultimately offering amputees a prosthetic limb system that feels and functions like a natural limb.
Feb. 12, 2016
While President Obama was signing executive orders on Tuesday to strengthen the government’s defenses against cyber security attacks and proposing a $19 billion budget for for IT upgrades and cyber initiatives in the coming year, the newly formed Florida Institute for Cybersecurity Research, or FICS Research, was holding its first annual conference at the University of Florida, drawing over 150 of the top cybersecurity experts from around the world.
The conference was organized by the institute’s co-director Mark Tehranipoor, the Intel Charles E. Young Preeminence Endowed Professor in Cybersecurity at UF. Tehranipoor, along with co-director Patrick Traynor, and FICS Research faculty members Kevin Butler, Navid Asadi, Daniela Oliveira, Swarup Bhunia, Prabhat Mishra, Domenic Forte and Tom Shrimpton all participated in talks and panels at the event.