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By Nikki Cabus

FAU Engineering selected by NASA for University Nanosatellite Program

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Florida Atlantic University’s College of Engineering and Computer Science is one of eight U.S. university teams chosen to collaborate with NASA – National Aeronautics and Space Administration and the U.S. military in advancing small satellite technology.

Established in 1999, University Nanosatellite Program (UNP) was the first federally-funded program dedicated exclusively to university participation in spacecraft development and nearly 5,000 students from 38 U.S. universities have participated since its beginning. Remaining true to its founding principle of education, the program has developed into the premier U.S. small satellite education program. Over the years, the program has had 11 cycles of student programs.

This training program takes place from May to August and is designed to provide students with specialized systems engineering training for spacecraft development. Led by faculty experts, the program aims to refine satellite project proposals, increasing the likelihood of student-designed technology reaching space. Teams that are selected for the program, including FAU College of Engineering & Computer Science, will gather for a kickoff meeting at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center before spending seven weeks interning at the Air Force’s facilities in Albuquerque. There, students will work with the Space Dynamics Laboratory and receive expert guidance to refine their proposals.

“We are incredibly excited and proud to have been selected to work with NASA and the U.S. military to help revolutionize the space domain with tiny yet powerful small satellite technology,” said Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean, FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“Importantly, this initiative will offer participating students invaluable systems engineering training specific to spacecraft development and is part of NASA’s broader strategy to engage and retain students in STEM fields to build a robust pipeline of talent in the aerospace sector.

The FAU College of Engineering & Computer Science UNP is led by Dr. Oscar Curet, an associate professor in the Department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering and a member of FAU’s Center of Connected Autonomy and Artificial Intelligence (CA-AI), along with Dr. George Sklivanitis, a Schmidt Research Associate Professor, and a fellow of FAU’s Institute for Sensing and Embedded Network Systems Engineering (I-SENSE), and a senior member of CA-AI.

Curet’s research interests and expertise include fluid dynamics, biomimetics and biological locomotion, hydrodynamics of underwater vehicles and energy harvesting. Sklivanitis’ research interest and expertise include autonomous radios, ocean Internet of Things, networked AI and connected robotics. The team also includes three students: Vitas Diktanas, a Ph.D. student in mechanical engineering with a concentration in aerospace, Sky Rueff (undergraduate in mechanical engineering), and Jonathan Mazurkiewicz. (undergraduate in computer engineering).

The 2024 Mission Concept Program provides funding for all travel, including kickoff, final event, and in-person reviews, allowing faculty and students to formulate teams without straining university resources. NASA uses CSLI as one if its ways to attract and retain students in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines. This strengthens NASA’s and the nation’s future workforce. The initiative promotes and develops innovative technology partnerships among NASA, U.S. industry, and other sectors for the benefit of all.

Guided by years of spacecraft development history, the UNP structure is divided into four distinct phases. Successful completion of each phase is accomplished through specific entrance and exit criteria. Phases include various reviews and program down-selects intended to help as many teams as possible achieve successful spacecraft mission operations. The UNP Program Office assists university teams throughout the development process in a variety of ways, including facilitating educational opportunities, meetings, reviews, and supplied resources. UNP spacecraft that meet Phase C exit criteria are launched through the Space Experiments Review Board and the Space Test Program (STP).

By Nikki Cabus

$1 million dollar gift from FPL establishes new Center for Intelligent Energy Tech at FAU

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A $1 million dollar gift from Florida Power & Light Company will help establish the FPL Center for Intelligent Energy Technologies (InETech) at Florida Atlantic University  

The considerable donation will be made through FPL’s charitable arm the NextEra Energy Foundation. 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.

FAU and FPL have agreed to a four-year collaboration to establish the FPL Center InETech which will be housed in the FAU College of Engineering and Computer Science which 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.

Research conducted by the faculty and their teams expose our students to technology innovations that push the current state of the art of the disciplines. The College research efforts are supported by the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Education (DOEd), the State of Florida, and Industry.

“Florida Atlantic takes great pride in its partnerships with community and industry leaders,” said FAU President Stacy Volnick, Ph.D

“We truly appreciate this gift from our partners at FPL and NextEra Energy, which will support our bold vision to solve tomorrow’s challenges today and create impactful opportunities for our students and faculty.”

Dr. Volnick collaborates with the Board of Trustees and other stakeholders to determine priorities and accomplish the many objectives of the University. The decision to approve the $1 million dollar gift was officially approved by the Board of Trustees on February 14th, 2023.

The primary focus of InETech will be research relating to smart technologies and products relevant to the energy sector, along with workforce development. This exciting partnership will enhance student recruitment for the College of Engineering and Computer Science and enable the brightest minds at the undergraduate, graduate and post-doctoral levels to participate in state-of-the-art projects that are directly related to the current and future needs of the energy industry.

“We have a long-standing partnership with FAU, and we are honored to work together to bring this state-of-the-art facility to life to inspire and motivate the energy leaders of tomorrow.”“

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.

At FPL, we hope that many of these students will become our future employees that can help drive innovation and creative solutions to meet the evolving needs of our customers and our communities,” said Pam Rauch, FPL vice president of external affairs and economic development.

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.

FAU Professor, Nancy Romance told South Florida Tech Hub that “the award was a major effort on the part of the Dean [Stella Batalama] and Michael Miller, Director of Development for the College of Engineering.” Miller said that the FAU team has been “collaborating with various entities within FPL” to make this happen. He mentioned working closely with the Power & Delivery team at Florida City Gas, Manny Miranda, Executive VP President Florida City Gas and Mike Putt, Senior Director of Real Zero Design and Application. NextEra Energy, Inc

“We are delighted to deepen our relationship with FPL/NextEra,” said Stella Batalama, Ph.D., dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“This generous gift will have a multiplier effect on FAU’s successes in cutting-edge research and development, and endorses FAU’s capabilities to produce technologies and a skilled workforce for the energy industry.”

In addition to funding research for the benefit of the energy sector, the gift from the NextEra Energy Foundation also allows for the creation of the FPL InETech Center Scholarship for undergraduate and graduate students, which will assist in the College of Engineering and Computer Science’s ability to attract highly qualified students. The gift also makes available community outreach and K-12 activities that educate and engage younger students about the energy industry.

FAU Engineering selected by NASA for University Nanosatellite Program
$1 million dollar gift from FPL establishes new Center for Intelligent Energy Tech at FAU