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By Nikki Cabus

Florida Atlantic University celebrates ribbon cutting of AI-enabled FPL Center for Intelligent Energy Technologies

Read Time 4 Minutes

On June 7th, Florida Atlantic University’s College of Enginering and Computer Science unveiled the “FPL Center for Intelligent Energy Technologies (InETech).

In 2023, Florida Atlantic University and Florida Power & Light (FPL) agreed to a four-year collaboration to establish the FPL Center InETech as a part of the College of Engineering and Computer Science (COECS) and housed in the state-of-the-art Engineering East building on the Boca Raton campus. Florida Atlantic’s COECS is internationally recognized for cutting edge research and education in the areas of Computer Science and Artificial intelligence (AI), Computer Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Bioengineering, Civil, Environmental and Geomatics Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Ocean Engineering.

A $1 million dollar gift from FPL’s charitable arm, NextEra Energy Foundation, helped establish the FPL Center InEtech.

The foundation supports organizations involved with arts and culture, education, the environment, health, animals and wildlife, affordable housing, human services, neighborhood development, economic development, government administration, and economically disadvantaged people. NextEra Energy provides a dollar-for-dollar match of employee gifts to eligible high schools, colleges and universities. Since 2003, the NextEra Energy Foundation has provided millions of dollars in support to the communities across Florida.

The innovative public-private partnership will boost cutting-edge research in smart technologies, energy sector products and workforce development demanded by modern-day power delivery. This first-of-its-kind artificial intelligence-enabled facility, is designed to replicate FPL’s innovative control center for smart grid, a complex power generation, transmission and distribution network, that uses leading-edge technology to predict and prevent future outages.

The FPL Center for InETech will also serve as a hub for training the next generation of innovators, engineers, researchers and energy leaders fostering cutting-edge research in smart technologies. The four-year collaboration is designed to foster student recruitment and engage undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral students in pioneering energy projects. The FPL InETech Center is spearheaded by Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean, FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“The FPL/NextEra Energy Foundation gift will have a multiplier effect on Florida Atlantic successes in state-of-the-art research and development and workforce development for the state of Florida and the nation in engineering and computer science disciplines, particularly as they apply to the energy sector,” said Dean Batalama.

FPL, one of the state’s largest employers, has some of the best technology internship opportunities across the state. FPL’s approach to hiring reflects a belief in bringing in diverse backgrounds and experiences to their technical teams. Entry-level interns are often very eager to put their new skills to work and learn from the seasoned professionals and FPL hopes to attract an retain this innovative generation of technical talent. The FPL/NextEra Energy Foundation gift also supports community outreach and K-12 educational activities focused on the energy industry.

“FPL is committed to powering strong communities by supporting partners like Florida Atlantic University and helping students pursue their educational goals and build successful careers, ” said Juliet Roulhac, FPL director of external affairs, Broward and Southwest regions, and director of corporate philanthropy, NextEra Energy, Inc.

Yufei Tang, Ph.D., associate professor and I-SENSE fellow in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, will serve as the director of the FPL Center for Intelligent Energy Technologies, and James VanZwieten, Jr., Ph.D., assistant professor in the Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering, will serve as the center’s associate director.

“The FPL InETech Center will provide our students with an immersive learning experience and access to real-world technologies and hands-on simulations that will help them to develop the skills needed to fill high-demand jobs across the region,” said Yufei Tang, Ph.D., director of the FPL InETech Center and an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science. “Advanced equipment will enable them to analyze, explore and simulate data associated with the complex design and operation of microgrids and also will provide a platform to replicate power grids and other energy sources.”

Tang and other researchers in the COECS also developed advanced technologies related to monitoring severe weather events, including hurricanes. For example, the FAU Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE) is the lead technology provider for the South East Atlantic Econet, a large regional network of atmospheric monitoring stations (135 atmospheric stations in Florida – with additional stations managed outside the state).

“We are incredibly grateful for the support and generosity of FPL and the NextEra Energy Foundation as we officially launch the new FPL Center for Intelligent Energy Technologies right here in our cutting-edge building in the heart of Palm Beach County,” said Batalama. “Through this collaborative partnership and our combined knowledge, assets and resources, we will transform the energy landscape in South Florida and well beyond.”

To learn more about Florida Atlantic’s College of Computer Science & Engineering, visit

By Nikki Cabus

FAU announces winners of 2023 ‘Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition’

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Florida Atlantic University has announced the winners of the 7th annual Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition.

Hosted by the Graduate College, this year was the first live and in-person ‘s 3MT® Competition since the pandemic. It was held at the Boca Raton Campus Student Union with students, faculty, and the public in attendance.

Developed by the University of Queensland (UQ) in 2008, the idea for 3MT came about at a time when the state of Queensland was suffering severe drought. To conserve water, residents were encouraged to time their showers, and many people had a three minute egg timer fixed to the wall in their bathroom. The then Dean of the Graduate School, Emeritus Professor Alan Lawson, put two and two together and the idea for the 3MT competition was born.

Since 2011 the popularity of the competition has increased, 3MT competitions are now held in over 900 universities across more than 85 countries worldwide.
In November 2013, the first Universitas 21 (U21) 3MT competition was held with several universities from around the world competing in a virtual competition. The 3MT® competition challenges graduate students around the world to pitch their research in only 3 minutes to a live audience.

FAU’s 3MT® is a venue for graduate students from various disciplines to interact with one another and discuss their research and its implications. The competition provides an opportunity for undergraduates, alumni, industry partners, various on-campus departments, institutions and the community to gain exposure to high-level, cutting-edge research at FAU.

The goal of the 3MT® competition is for FAU graduate students from all colleges and departments to cultivate the ability to explain their research, including both breadth and significance, in a language appropriate to an audience containing both specialists and non-specialists in three minutes or less. The 3MT® competition provides FAU graduate students with the opportunity to sharpen their professional development skills, reignite their passion for discovery, promote preeminent research, and foster community.

  • Skills development for research candidates
    Participating in 3MT develops academic, presentation and research communication skills, while developing research candidates’ ability to effectively explain their research in language appropriate to a non-specialist audience.
  • Building research culture in universities
    3MT provides a valuable opportunity for HDR candidates to come together (live or virtually), get to know one another and talk about their research. It also provides a supportive environment in which schools, institutes and universities can provide presentation skills training.
  • Building external relations for the university
    3MT winners may go on to represent their university at national and international 3MT competitions which provides an excellent networking and professional development opportunity. Previous 3MT finalists have benefited from invitations to a variety of other networking events following their participation in the competition.

At FAU’s annual competition, over $30,000 in scholarship prizes are awarded annually to winners from both the Preliminary Rounds and the Championship. Distinguished FAU community members serve judges and a public vote determines the People’s Choice winners. FAU’s 3MT® Championship Award is generously sponsored through the Dr. Eric H. Shaw 3MT® Championship Award Endowment Fund.

A panel of distinguished FAU community members determined the 2023 first-place, runner-up, and second runner-up championship winners. This year’s FAU 2023 3MT® Heat & Championship judging panel included: Dr. Stacy Volnick, President, Florida Atlantic University, Dr. Michele Hawkins, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. Larry Faerman, Vice President for Student Affairs and Nikki Cabus, Chief Executive Officer, South Florida Tech Hub. More than 200 online votes submitted by public viewers named the People’s Choice Award winner.

“Conducting research is a critical component of graduate education, and being able to effectively communicate the significance of that research to a broad audience is a valuable skill,” says William D. Kalies, Ph.D., interim dean of the Graduate College.

“The graduate students at Florida Atlantic perform impactful research, and the Graduate College is honored to support this annual competition and provide a platform for students to gain experience presenting their research to the public while having the opportunity to earn scholarships.”

A total of 51 graduate students pitched their research projects to a live audience with 19 of them awarded scholarship prizes in the championship round. The championship winners of the 2023 3MT® competition are:

FAU championship winner and recipient of the Dr. Eric H. Shaw 3MT® Championship Endowment Award* (tie)

Title: “From Poop to Parent: Examining Paternity in Dynamic Atlantic Spotted Dolphin Populations in the Bahamas”
Presented by: Hayley Knapp, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
Faculty Advisor: John Baldwin, Ph.D.
Title: “Corrosion is in the Air”
Presented by: Ingrid Santillan Barragan, College of Engineering and Computer Science
Faculty Advisor: Francisco Presuel-Moreno, Ph.D.
FAU 3MT® runner-up and People’s Choice Award
Title: “So, You Wanna Build a Protein?”
Presented by: Amish Mishra, Charles E. Schmidt College of Science
Faculty Advisor: Francis Motta, Ph.D.
FAU 3MT® second runner-up
Title: “‘What Does A Surgeon Look Like?’: How Stereotypes May Negatively Impact Recruitment Into the Least Diverse Specialty in Medicine”
Presented by: Emmanuel McNeely, Charles E. Schmidt College of Medicine
Faculty Advisor: Jennifer Caceres, Ph.D.

The two (We had a tie!) championship winners and recipients of the $2,500 Dr. Eric H. Shaw 3MT® Championship Award also will represent FAU at the Conference of Florida Graduate Schools at the University of Miami from April 17 to 19 and present their 3MT® research. For more information on FAU’s 3MT® competition or to see all submissions and heat winners, click here.

Florida Atlantic University celebrates ribbon cutting of AI-enabled FPL Center for Intelligent Energy Technologies
FAU announces winners of 2023 ‘Three Minute Thesis (3MT®) Competition’