Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Oct. 9


1. UCF Football rose in the national rankings to No. 21 thanks to its win at Cincinnati. At 4-0 this season, UCF is one of just 13 remaining undefeated teams in the nation. Thanks to all who attended our official watch parties or traveled to Ohio for the game, and a special shoutout to our Cincinnati and Nashville Alumni Clubs for their spirited tailgate and representing the Black and Gold well!

By the way, if you have plans to travel to the Oct. 21 football game at Navy, our alumni chapters from Washington D.C., New York, Boston and Baltimore have joined forces to host a pregame tailgate for all Knights fans. Click here to learn more about the tailgate.

2. Happy Homecoming! There are events on campus throughout the week, but our personal favorites are Friday’s ChargeOn: Behind the Sport panel at 2 p.m. and Saturday’s Indoor Tailgate. Also, check out this special social media promotion from UCF Athletics:

3. A team of UCF students who are experts in cyberdefense took third place last week in the Global Cyberlympics World Finals in the Netherlands. The six-member team – all of them under 21 years old – faced teams of professionals from major tech companies including Cisco and Kapersky Lab.

4. UCF alumnus Eric Ulloa ’04 was featured in the Orlando Sentinel last week for his work on his play, “26 Pebbles,” which had performances over the weekend in Orlando. “This play’s about how communities come together, like Orlando, in the face of tragedy,” said Ulloa in the story. “It shows Americans at their absolute best when handed the absolute worst.”

5. For the first time since it was created in 1999, an Orange County Sheriff’s Office internship program for UCF students has its first all-female class of interns. The six women, all seniors, were chosen by the sheriff’s office from among 42 UCF criminal justice students who applied for the internship.

Looking ahead: As part of Diversity Week, on Oct. 16 and 17 you can help UCF create a special mosaic by adding your own photo to the bigger picture. If you’re interested in contributing, make sure you hashtag your images with #WEAREUCF. Visit the Facebook event page for more details.

 

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—May 8

 

1. The UCF Alumni Giving Challenge is closing in on its goal, and it needs your help. Here are three key questions answered:
a. What is the Alumni Giving Challenge?
It’s a giving challenge inspired by the Class of 2017, who saw more than 500 student donors make gifts to support UCF’s future. Now they are challenging the alumni community to do the same.
b. When is the UCF Alumni Giving Challenge?
The campaign started May 1 and has been extended through May 15.
 c. How do I participate?
Visit ucfalumni.com/challenge to make a gift.

2. Nearly 7,900 University of Central Florida students earned their diplomas May 4-6 at spring commencement ceremonies on campus. UCF has awarded more than 302,000 degrees since classes began in 1968, and it’s evident that graduation is just the beginning because we all know Knights go on to change the world!

Check out this special Exposure Gallery featuring the newest members of the alumni family.

3. The ChargeOn Tour begins next week and will feature UCF head coaches Scott Frost (football) and Johnny Dawkins (men’s basketball), Director of Athletics Danny White and other Knights coaches over five stops from May 16-18. Here are the full details – including RSVP links – for the events.

4. Lake Nona is about to get beautified by artwork courtesy of some Knights. A team of UCF engineering and computer science students designed a solar-powered art sculpture that was selected by the Orlando Utilities Commission and Tavistock Development to be built in the innovative, master-designed Lake Nona community later this year.

5. The groundbreaking ceremony for UCF’s downtown campus is scheduled to take place on Thursday and the UCF community is invited to attend the festivities at the UCF Center for Emerging Media, 500 W. Livingston St., with partners from Valencia College, the City of Orlando, Dr. Phillips Charities, the Parramore Kidz Zone and many more. Local food trucks will be on location for fun lunch options and people are encouraged to stay after the event to sign UCF’s interactive wall.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know—March 14, 2016

UCF College of Business Hall of Fame 2016

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. On Feb, 25, the UCF College of Business inducted three alumni into the Hall of Fame. Carrie Callahan, ’92, Carrie Hall, ’86 and Larry Tobin, ’83 were celebrated along with seven other alumni who were recognized for entrepreneurial career success. PHOTOS
  2. On March 16, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., a Refugee Simulation Camp on Memory Mall will give people a small taste of what it means to face such dire circumstances
  3. UCF Emeritus Professor of Art, Steve Lotz will showcase his personal exhibition at the Orlando Museum of Art through June 5.
  4. The UCF College of Nursing Alumni Reunion registration deadline is approaching! RSVP by March 18.
  5. UCF Vice President and Director of Athletics Danny White announced Thursday night that head men’s basketball coach Donnie Jones has been relieved of his duties, effective immediately.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Feb. 22, 2016

shuttle-driver-gift
UCF student Joshua Gicker organized a special Valentine’s Day/birthday surprise for campus shuttle driver Maurice Mosby, raising more than $400 for the man who, Gicker says, takes the time to learn his passengers by name and delivers them a “good morning” every day. (See No. 4 below.)

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Twenty students (out of UCF’s 63,000) were named as recipients of the 2016 Order of Pegasus, the university’s most prestigious student award.
  2. UCF Celebrates the Arts — a free festival of music, performances and visual displays — reprises its second season April 8-16 at the Dr. Phillips Center for the performing arts in downtown Orlando, with an extended program of student and faculty presentations and collaborations. The university’s annual spring dance concert kicks off the nine-day festival, which also includes many displays from the School of Visual Arts and Design. For a complete schedule and ticket information, visit arts.cah.ucf.edu.
  3. This Thursday, expand your network and connect with fellow Knights! Mingle with alumni working in the nonprofit community during a joint Networking Knight at Bar Louie (UCF) from 6-8 p.m., hosted by the UCF School of Public Administration and UCF College of Health and Public Affairs Alumni Chapter. Or, join the College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter for an alumni and student Networking Knight in the Engineering II building atrium from 6:30-8:30 p.m.
  4. UCF students showed some love to their favorite campus shuttle driver, Maurice Mosby, as they surprised him with more than $400 in gift cards in honor of Valentine’s Day last week, which also happened to be Mosby’s birthday.
  5. Grammy Award-winning a cappella group Pentatonix brings its World Tour 2016 to the CFE Arena on April 14!

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Jan. 4, 2016

student-therapy-dog-Nemours
(From No. 5 below:) Palmer Vorkapich, a 6-year-old patient at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, lights up during a visit from Ion, a therapy dog owned by UCF College of Medicine student Christa Zino.

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. Knights had much to be proud of last year! Check out just a few of them in this list from UCF Today of the “15 Moments that Made Your Heart Burst with Knight Pride in 2015.”
  2. With $20 million needed in community support for the UCF Downtown campus, alumnus and CEO Alex Martins, ’01, and the Orlando Magic stepped up, contributing $1.5 million toward the project. And, just this morning, it was announced that the CFE Federal Credit Union has committed its own $1.5 million. Keep up with all the latest developments on the UCF Downtown campus at ucf.edu/downtown.
  3. UCF economist Sean Snaith says Florida’s economic future is merry and bright, with the state’s housing market continuing to improve, and job growth forecasted to continue to outperform the U.S. labor market.
  4. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency selected a UCF team to receive a P3 Award — a first in UCF history — which recognizes student projects that benefit people, promote prosperity and protect the planet by using environmental solutions that move the nation toward a sustainable future. The winning project focuses on ways to make algae biofuel easier and less expensive to produce.
  5. To help cheer up patients at Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, UCF second-year medical student Christa Zino regularly brings her therapy dog, a 2-year-old boxer named Ion, for visits.

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — Sept. 28, 2015

Rock-Em-Apparel-UCF-socks

Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. On Oct. 1, the UCF College of Arts and Humanities Alumni Chapter, and the Orlando Museum of Art, will host Eclectic Knights VII, part of OMA’s 16th season of 1st Thursdays. The event features more than 50 pieces of artwork, made exclusively by UCF alumni, faculty and staff.
  2. On Saturday, Oct. 3, the UCF Alumni Association will participate in beautification efforts at Orlando’s historic Greenwood Cemetery, as part of UCF’s annual day of service, Knights Give Back. In addition, the UCF College of Sciences Alumni Chapter will assist the biology department’s efforts to restore degraded shorelines and oyster reefs at the Indian River Lagoon.
  3. UCF College of Business Administration student Jesse Wolfe, owner of O’Dang Hummus, will be featured on the Oct. 2 episode of ABC’s “Shark Tank” with his company’s custom flavors of hummus and hummus-based salad dressings.
  4. UCF MedTalk returns on Oct. 7, when Dr. Annette Khaled will discuss “Tackling Breast Cancer,” as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This popular event, hosted by the UCF College and Medicine and UCF Alumni Association, presents informal talks about current and innovative issues in medicine in a casual setting.
  5. Former UCF student Rob Starkman launched Rock ‘Em Apparel from his college apartment, and has since brought in more than $1 million in revenue each of the last two years for his unique brand of socks, which include UCF designs.

Visual Artists Use Computers, Other Objects as Canvas

Ambitious and passionate, three Knights are pushing the limits of animation and projection mapping

TheOriginalNinjaneers_noblurb-(3)
(Left to right:) Joe Rosa, ’11, Heather Knott, ’11, and Chris Brown, ’11, are masters in digital animation.

By Angie Lewis, ’03

During his senior year at UCF, Joe Rosa, ’11, knew he didn’t want to be just another name on a resume, which could easily end up being filed away or thrown in the trash. So, in September 2010, he asked classmates Heather Knott, ’11, and Chris Brown, ’11, if they wanted to start a digital media company with him, and Ninjaneer Studios LLC was born.

The trio specializes in 3-D animation and projection mapping content, encompassing all stages of the design process, from projection conception to final product.

While the threesome works cohesively as a team, their individuality is distinct.

For example, when you ask the designers what their favorite projects have been so far, you’ll get three notably different answers. Rosa is especially proud of the team’s first large-scale projection mapping for the Art & Algorithms Digital Arts Festival, while Knott fondly remembers their “Holidays in Space” presentation at the Kennedy Space Center, and Brown appreciates the innovation and challenges of the Corrosion exhibit at the Orlando Science Center.

Take a look:



In addition, while their interest in digital media began in their childhoods, they all found themselves inspired by different life experiences.

Rosa was born a Navy brat in the mid-’70s on the island of Oahu in the Hawaiian Islands. His late grandfather passed down his love for film and animation, teaching Rosa how to draw Disney characters when he was just 5 years old. And, when “TRON” hit theaters in 1982, Rosa found himself captivated by computer-generated imagery.

“My grandfather always wanted to work for Disney when he retired from the Army after World War II, but became a truck driver instead to support his family,” Rosa explains. “In some ways, I feel that I’m carrying on his dream through me, along with my own.”

Knott grew up in Orlando, training in traditional drawing and sculpting early on, and even attending the Theatre Magnet Program at Dr. Phillips High School. She earned a B.S. in interior design from Florida State before continuing her education at UCF.

“As I got older and tried new mediums, it inspired me to see if there was a way that I could combine all of my favorite things from each medium into one,” Knott says. “Animation does that in spades.”

Following the death of the family TV to a lightning storm, Brown started telling stories at a young age. To keep himself entertained, he listened to collections of short stories on tape, which eventually transitioned into an interest in cinematic video games when he reached his teen years.

“It’s a never-ending source of problems to solve, and new technologies to experiment with, which has always been what I love about working in digital media,” Brown says.

In 10 years, Rosa hopes they will have a well-established company and a foothold in the animation industry, with more than 50 employees working on feature-length films and hybrid versions of projection mapping and augmented reality.

He advises current digital media students to: “See how far you can push yourself, and learn where your breaking point is. I think people would be surprised at how much they can take on. Phil Peters’ class alone was perhaps the most mentally intensive class I have ever taken. It was incredibly draining at the start, but I gradually learned how to compartmentalize, and it gave me a better work ethic now because of that experience. I attribute half of my gray hair to him!”

Knott’s advice is to: “Be proactive with your education. There’s only so much you can be taught in a classroom, so if you’re truly dedicated to this path, learn everything you can. I’m five years out of college, and I still make it a point to try to learn something new every day.

And, Brown says, “Google everything. Never be satisfied with what you know how to do already, or what you know a program is capable of automatically. Sooner or later, you’ll have to do something out of the box, and the more you understand in depth, the more ammunition you will have to throw at the problem.”

Animated Q&A

Q. Dream project?
Joe Rosa (JR): My two dream projects would be to produce and direct a feature-length animated film for theaters, and to have the opportunity to work with Universal Studios on projects stemming from their new partnership with Nintendo.
Heather Knott (HK): My dream project is to create digital sets for a production on Broadway. You can take the geek out of the theatre, but not the theatre out of the geek.

Q. What’s one thing about your job that people would be surprised to learn?
Chris Brown (CB): When working in a team of artists, a not-too insignificant number of creative differences can be settled by Nerf guns.

Q. If you had to choose another career, what would it be?
JR: Restoration of old, classic, muscle cars
HK: I’d love to be a photographer for National Geographic. Traveling the world, exploring and recording it for posterity would be quite an adventure.
CB: Lion tamer. Although, if you gave me a stern look and forced me to consider my skill set, probably computer sciences or IT. I’ve always had an interest in data visualization.

Q. Last thing you Googled?
JR: Black holes and quantum mechanics. Can’t read enough about black holes and how incredibly fascinating they are.
HK: The architectural history of Bamberg, Germany
CB: Optical tracking with OpenCV

Q. Do you have any other artistic abilities?
JR: Wood working and glass blowing. I’ve always been able to build things from scratch with little to no plans or drawings.
HK: I draw mostly. I’ve dabbled in sculpting, painting, photography and mixed media.
CB: A distinct lack thereof, actually. It was dramatically clear to me from an early age that I was rubbish at drawing. Why do you think I started working with computers instead?

Q. What’s your spirit animal?
JR: Well, according to spiritanimal.info, my spirit animal is an owl. And, this whole time, I was thinking it was a dragon!
HK: Jack Skellington
CB: Turtle

Q. Favorite website?
JR: thisiscolossal.com
HK: google.com
CB: shadertoy.com

Q. Best way to decompress?
JR: Spending time with my wife and children. It’s always fun to come home from a long day at work and play robots, wrestle on the floor, watch a good movie with them, and laugh.
HK: Depending on the amount of stress, either a quiet night with a book and a glass of wine, or a solid couple of hours killing things on my Xbox
CB: Video games, a good side project, a cold beer, or, ideally, a combination of the three

Q. What’s one thing you always bring with you to work?
JR: Passion. I love the company we three have created, the work we do, and the industry we’re in. Failure is a word that is not in our vocabulary at Ninjaneer Studios.
HK: Water and snacks. I have a tendency to hyperfocus on a project, so I regularly forget to eat or drink if it’s not sitting right next to me.
CB: A pen that can write on my arm. I’ve had one in my pocket almost continually since I was 17.

Q. If you could offer your 13-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be?
JR: To stay passionate about what you want to do and be in life. Half way along my journey, I had not lost the passion to do what I’m doing today, but I encountered many road blocks and setbacks. Never lose focus of where you want to be in life, and keep that fire and passion burning.
HK: Don’t be afraid to be yourself. It took me a long time to be comfortable with myself, and I think I let some experiences pass me by because of it.
CB: Provided he would listen, which I sort of doubt, it would be that the things you think are a big deal right now probably won’t matter too much down the road. Just relax, and focus on the things that really interest you, and, one day, if you play your cards right, people will pay you to explore them.

More Info

NinjaneerStudios.com
Demo reel:

More videos on YouTube

UCF Student Entrepreneurs Take Art into Their Own Hands

Yuan Chang aims to introduce UCF students to healthier food options and fresher-quality ingredients. (Photo courtesy of Yuan Chang)

By Shanae Hardy
Digital Producer, Central Florida Future

Unlike most college students who see college as a time to study and party, some students are using their time to explore and cultivate creativity.

Since the launch of the Blackstone LaunchPad at UCF, many students have received help to facilitate their entrepreneurial ventures.

Although there are some students who walk into the UCF Starter Lab with ideas brimming the innovative pool in their brains, while others walk in unsure of where their entrepreneurial aspirations may lead.

From Garden to UCF
Hae Yuan Chang, a junior environmental science major, decided she wanted to provide healthier food options for students after being frustrated by the limited vegan and vegetarian options on campus.

“I’ve had experiences where I would be on campus for a long time, and I would have to eat some of the options we have on campus that were suitable for vegetarians, and it made me really groggy and not want to do anything, like not want to go to class,” she explains.

Inspired by the vegetarian Hare Krishna buffet offered at the University of Florida, Chang wants to introduce students to fresher-quality ingredients that will have similar flavors of a student’s acquired tastes.

“I definitely want to incorporate ethnic dishes such as curry and stir-fry,” she says. “I want to prove that vegan food isn’t just salad.”

Chang is currently working on her company with the help from UCF’s Startup Community. She is also testing out the flavors of her menu with her six roommates at the Peanut Butter Palace, a sustainable student co-op.

Learning how to completely adjust to a vegetarian diet by cooking and gardening with her vegan and vegetarian roommates, Chang hopes to teach students that it’s really easy to become environmentally aware and it can be beneficial.

Growing your own food lowers food costs and promotes healthy eating, she says.

Chang plans to set up a vegetarian food stand on campus, potentially named “The Beet Bar.”

Molding a Hobby
While developing an app for students to track the night life in Orlando, Cedric Lopez, a senior entrepreneurship major, accidentally stumbled into leather designing.

“One day I decided to make a wallet for myself,” he explains. “Then, I decided to make a laptop cover and posted it online. I got a surprising response from friends, and the orders started coming in. So, I had a hard decision to make: keep working on this app or invest all my time into leather working.”

He decided to brand his products with the help of Blackstone.

Cedric Lopez hand stitches and uses exotic leather for wallets, bags and key chains to make high-quality products. (Photo courtesy of Cedric Lopez)
Cedric Lopez hand stitches and uses exotic leather for wallets, bags and
key chains to make high-quality products. (Photo courtesy of Cedric Lopez)

Previously wanting to become an architect, he uses the same creative process he learned to incorporate into his designing.

“I could see the silhouette of a building, or a feature of that building, and be inspired to make something out of leather,” he says.

Lopez hand stitches and uses exotic leather for the wallets, bags and key chains he crafts, which makes for better-quality products to distinguish his brand.

Abandoning one idea for another has proved to be a challenge for Lopez, but he plans to maintain his brand through perseverance.

“I have learned to just get there and start something,” he says. “You’re going to make mistakes, but that’s when you learn what not to do. Fail fast and fail early.”

Musically Inclined
Turning his uncertainty into a brand, Brandon Nightingale, a senior history and writing and rhetoric major, launched his first mixtape, “Flight ‘n Friends,” in April after receiving encouragement and mentoring from Blackstone.

“Three months ago, I wasn’t sure if I could do it, but I just released the project,” Nightingale says.

He utilized a community of music artists, designers and producers from UCF and his hometown of Jacksonville, Fla., to help with his first music venture.

Brandon Nightingale launched his first mixtape, "Flight 'n Friends," and hopes it resonates with the UCF community. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Nightingale)
Brandon Nightingale launched his first mixtape, “Flight ‘n Friends,” and hopes it resonates
with the UCF community. (Photo courtesy of Brandon Nightingale)

Nightingale said he hopes his mixtape resonates with the UCF community even after he graduates.

“I think people will get the message to bring people together through music because people are moved through music,” he says.

Nightingale recently started performing at local clubs in Orlando and Jacksonville, and he is working on his second project, which will not have as many featured artists.

“Music is something I’ve always dreamed about. I just had to be told I could do it.”

This article appeared in a June 3, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original story.