Alumni Impressed By Engineering, Computer Science Senior Design Showcase

Photo of six-legged surveillance robot
During the Spring 2018 Senior Design Showcase, “SigSent,” a six-legged surveillance robot, displayed its ability to walk on rough terrain and roll on smooth surfaces.

By Jenna Marina Lee

ORLANDO, Fla. (April 20, 2018) – After Josh Haley ’12 ’14MS saw projects at April 19’s College of Engineering and Computer Science Senior Design Showcase, he’s not so sure that his own project at the inaugural showcase in 2012 would measure up anymore.

“Things that were really, really cool projects when I was an undergrad are now just kind of ‘Eh, I’ve seen cooler,’” Haley said. “The students coming from UCF every year are getting smarter and faster at implementing complex systems. The university has really kept pace on the increasing demands of this industry.”

Haley, a software engineer and assistant technical staff lead for SoarTech, was one of 32 alumni to offer their expertise as judges at the senior showcase this year.

The event featured 123 teams and 600 students. An additional 130 students from nine other engineering colleges presented 25 additional projects for the first Florida-Wide Student Engineering Design Invitational.

The partnership shows how strong engineering and computer science talent is being developed at universities to fuel Florida’s innovation economy. UCF is the nation’s No. 1 workforce supplier to the aerospace and defense industry and is among the nation’s top producers of engineers and computer scientists.

Photo of Josh Haley
Josh Haley ’12 ’14MS, software engineer and assistant technical staff lead for SoarTech

“I think we really impressed the visiting colleges with the scope of our senior design showcase given how large of a university we are and how many teams we have and how well the event came together,” Haley said. “I thought it was a great opportunity to see the focus of the senior projects at some of the universities in the state. I’m familiar with the awesome work that is being done at UCF, but I had no idea of some of the great medial technology applications coming out of Miami and USF.”

Haley is the chair of the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter and previously spent three years as the communications chair for the group. He said many members of the chapter, himself included, enjoy mentoring and interacting with the current students on a regular basis.

He can still recall the stress and workload the students undertake in pulling off a successful project.

Before he become the first in his family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree, he developed his own project – an autonomous robotic rover with a metal detection element that safely navigated a synthetic minefield and reported back successful paths.

The showcase now holds a different vibe to him in his role as a judge.

“It’s a fun event where I can see what’s going on with the student projects, and not just within my own discipline, but across the entire college,” he said. “I think now I have a much greater appreciation for all the wonderful things the other disciplines are doing that I probably didn’t have as an undergrad.”

He said he believes the senior design showcase will continue to improve and grow as the project complexities continue to increase and the students consistently turn out high-quality work. As for the Florida-Wide Student Engineering Design Invitational, he hopes that will become an annual event.

“The statewide invitational allows more cross-pollination of project ideas and priorities. As part of the alumni judging component, we would absolutely would love to have a Florida Cup that travels school to school based on who claims the coolest project for that year.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know This Week – Feb. 19, 2018

1. UCF’s Presidential Search Committee selected eight semifinalists vying to become the university’s fifth president and next visionary leader. The 15-member search committee will interview the semifinalists on Feb. 22 and 23 at the Student Union. Following the final interview, the committee will vote to bring three to five finalists to campus. Find out more about the semifinalists.

2. The UCF football team announced the date of its annual spring game: Saturday, April 21, at 6 p.m. at Spectrum Stadium. More details about activities surrounding the game will be forthcoming.

3. Three Knights are featured among Orlando Weekly’s annual selection of its “10 people making Orlando a better place to be.” College of Engineering and Computer Science alumni Ricky Ly ’08 and Albert Manero ’12 ’14MS ’16PhD along with College of Medicine alumna Rasha Mubarak ’08 all received shoutouts in the recent article.

4. This year’s recipients of the Order of Pegasus, UCF’s most prestigious student award, were announced Friday. Of the 22 honorees, four are already alumni of the university.

5. Let’s make Monday a little more fun. Take this UCF Study Abroad-inspired quiz to find out where you should travel this year!

Alumnus Holds Key To Big Data

Big Data Symposium’s keynote speaker Lee Odess ’99 alongside his family

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (Jan. 23, 2017) – In the past, the biggest threat from a data breach was to the individual. But now with the onset of Big Data, there are much bigger threats and even bigger opportunities.

Few people, however, understand what Big Data is or how it can be used, said Lee Odess ’99, vice president of UniKey and the keynote speaker for UCF’s Big Data Symposium on Jan. 26 at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

“The goal of my presentation is, more or less, to give real life examples of what Big Data is and the impact it can have,” Odess said. “Typically you are either super smart on Big Data and have a hard time communicating it, or you are a person who has heard of it but isn’t too sure how to get started. My goal is to bridge the two.”

Practical examples of Big Data are everywhere and can be implemented by both big and small companies. For instance, a company can analyze marketing impacts via its social media reach; predictive analytics can narrow in on customers’ shopping preferences; or it can help analyze where a business should open up its next retail location.

Big Data’s role in our society is one of the reasons UCF’s Colleges of Science, Business and Engineering and Computer Science came together to host the symposium. UCF business professors Robert Porter ’81 ’10PhD and Amit Joshi, PhD; statistics professor Shunpu Zhang, PhD; and Ivan Garibay ’00MS ’04PhD, director of UCF Research Information Systems and chief information officer at the UCF Office of Research and Commercialization, are among the speakers who will talk about practical ways companies, nonprofits and individuals can tap into Big Data to benefit their communities and society.

Odess was a natural choice for the talk because of his familiarity with the use of Big Data within his own profession.

“For UniKey we didn’t wake up one day and say, ‘Hey, we need Big Data.’ We did however say, ‘Hey, we need to start understanding exactly how, when, where our customers are using the locks and mobile applications powered by UniKey,” he said. “So we put the systems and tools in place to be able to collect every bit of data we could. Then once we had it, we spent the time to come up with the algorithms and dashboards to easily digest the information. Now, with a touch of a button we are no longer guessing how, when and where customers are using the product. We are 100 percent clear on it.“

In 2012, Odess was the director of sales operations for security company Brivo Systems when he was watching “Shark Tank” on television one night and saw fellow UCF alumnus Phil Dumas ’05 pitching his smart lock. It was the first time in Shark Tank history that all five investors wanted to buy into an idea.

Odess reached out to Dumas after the show and said that given their UCF roots and similar industries, they should get to know each other. Dumas agreed.

They kept in touch over the years, and when Brivo Systems was sold in 2015, Odess wanted to join with a startup that had growth opportunity. He saw UniKey as that opportunity.

His day-to-day responsibilities as vice president include business development, human resources, participation in the overall strategy for the company and its existing customer base.

Dumas and Odess aren’t the only Knights with UniKey. Odess said 80 percent of the company’s 50 employees are alumni.

“Initially people think we’re from Silicon Valley. When we tell them we’re from Orlando, we explain to them we have some hidden gems here, one of them being the university,” he said. “We look for people that want to be in this area. We think the school does a really good job preparing the students for work. It just makes sense. There isn’t a need for us to look outside what’s in front of our face.”

Odess speaks from experience.

Born in Cleveland, he grew up in South Florida before he moved to Pittsburgh, where he graduated from high school. He considered nearly two dozen universities and picked UCF because he said it just felt right.

“There seemed to be a lot of history to be written,” he said. “I liked that.”

The day after he graduated with his bachelor’s in business, he packed up his car and started driving toward Pennsylvania, where a job with Lutron Electronics awaited him.

After eight years with Lutron, he moved to Washington D.C. and worked for a variety of companies, including several startups of his own, Fresh Confections and energy + light + control llc.

In order to become more acclimated to a new city, he rekindled his relationship with UCF by joining the D.C. alumni chapter.

Now that he’s back in Orlando, he is happy to have an opportunity to further his relationship with his alma mater by lending his time to the symposium.

“I’m proud of the fact that I have an opportunity to make a difference,” Odess said. “There’s a true partnership with the university – it has aspirations and goals, and I feel like it realizes that the people that have come out of it are going to help carry it in that direction.”

The Symposium will be held Jan. 26 from 6-8 p.m. at the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center. The event is free, but RSVP online is required. To learn more about the event, click here.

UCF Alumni Honors 30 under 30

Alumni association recognizes 30 young, successful Knights during inaugural awards dinner

30-under-30-awards

By Angie Lewis, ’03

The UCF Alumni Association was proud to host its inaugural 30 under 30 awards dinner Friday, Nov. 20, honoring the outstanding achievements of 30 successful Knights.

Young alumni currently make up one-third of UCF’s alumni population, making them the university’s largest constituent base. The 30 under 30 awards program allows the UCF community to celebrate the achievements of these young alumni and the impact they’ve made in the areas of business, research, leadership, arts, community, education or philanthropy.

Awardees were chosen based on nominations submitted by fellow Knights, friends, families and co-workers.

Many of this year’s recipients — most of whom traveled back to campus from locations across the country — were also recognized on the field during the UCF vs. ECU football game Thursday night, alongside the UCF Alumni Association’s 2015 Distinguished Student Award winner, Yudeysis Cores, and 2015 Michelle Akers Award winner, UCF’s Limbitless Solutions.

The following evening, alumni, families and friends, as well as members of university administration, advancement staff, and academic and volunteer leadership, and the evening’s host, UCF alumnus Todd Woodard, ’95, gathered for the awards celebration, held in the Grand Ballroom of the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center.

This year’s 30 under 30 inaugural class included:

Joshua A. Andone, Esq., ’11

Attorney, Hale, Hale & Jacobson
College of Business Administration

Stephanie C. Bolyard, MSENVE12

Graduate Research/Teaching Assistant, UCF
College of Engineering and Computer Science

Keith Brawner, ’08, MSCPE10, PhD13

Adaptive Tutoring Scientist, United States Army Research Laboratory
College of Engineering and Computer Science

Naomi Brownstein, ’08

Assistant Professor, Florida State University College of Medicine
The Burnett Honors College & College of Sciences

Janelle N. Burrowes, ’13

Service Director, Boys & Girls Club
College of Arts and Humanities

Shelby J. Campbell, ’08

Doctor of Audiology, My Family ENT
College of Health and Public Affairs

Amanda N. Castro, ’12

Anchor/Reporter, 41NBC/WMGT
College of Sciences

Chris Castro, ’10

Program Manager, Office of Sustainability & Energy/Senior Energy Advisor to Mayor Buddy Dyer, City of Orlando
College of Undergraduate Studies

Brett R. Chiavari, ’07

Owner & President, BC Restaurant Group
College of Business Administration

Aaron Dietz, MA13, PhD14

Research Associate, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
College of Sciences

Reshad D. Favors, Esq., ’10

Attorney & Fellow, Congressional Black Caucus Foundation/United States Congress
College of Business Administration

Julie Frost, ’12

Performer, Comfort Crew for Military Kids
The Burnett Honors College & College of Arts and Humanities & College of Sciences

Christopher R. Frye, ’13

Physics Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University
The Burnett Honors College & College of Sciences

Andre Garcia, ’08

Human Factors Engineer, Northrop Grumman Corporation
College of Sciences

Lindsay C. Gartrell, ’10

Corporate Training Manager, The Kessler Collection Inaugural Class
Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Adam J. Giery, ’08, MA11

Principal, Strategos Group
College of Education and Human Performance

Jen Glantz, ’10

Founder and CEO, Bridesmaid for Hire
College of Arts and Humanities & College of Sciences

Kristin Harris, ’11

Associate Celebrity Editor & Talent Relations, Buzzfeed
College of Sciences

Jake Junot, MBA11

Vice President of Global Accounts, C3Research
College of Business Administration

Bridget D. Keefe, ’09, MPA11

Executive Director, Downtown Orlando Partnership
Rosen College of Hospitality Management & College of Health and Public Affairs

Jamile M. Kitnurse, ’08, MBA10, MSBM11

Regional Marketing Manager, Diamond Resorts International
College of Business Administration

Stephanie Ann Koszalka, MSW12

Director of Human Trafficking Victim Services, Florida Abolitionist Inc.
College of Health and Public Affairs

Albert C. Manero, ’12, MSAE14

Lab Director, The Limbitless Project
The Burnett Honors College & College of Engineering and Computer Science

Lauren Niederhiser, ’12

Assistant Project Manager, Walt Disney Imagineering
The Burnett Honors College & College of Engineering and Computer Science

Gregory A. Pearlman Jr., ’08

Financial Advisor, Northwestern Mutual
College of Business Administration

Leigha Audrey Proctor, ’10

Director of Business Development, Transperfect Translations
College of Sciences

Aubree A. Rider, ’10

Co-founder & Owner, The Heroes Group
College of Business Administration

Danny A. Rivera, ’12, MPA14

Special Assistant to Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orange County Government
College of Health and Public Affairs

Colton J. Tapoler, ’12

Instructional Lead, Florida Virtual School
College of Arts and Humanities & College of Education and Human Performance

Victoria Vighetto, ’10, MNM13

Executive Director, March of Dimes Central Florida Division
College of Health and Public Affairs

Congratulations to all! Go Knights! Charge On!

Black & Gold Gala 2015 — Professional Achievement Award
College of Engineering and Computer Science

CECS-Patz
College of Engineering and Computer Science Dean Michael Georgiopoulos presented the college’s
2015 Professional Achievement Award to Benjamin J. Patz, ’85.
Benjamin J. Patz, ’85 | Managing Director, The FAN Fund

The UCF Alumni Association and College of Education and Human Performance presented their 2015 Professional Achievement Award to Ben Patz at the annual Black & Gold Gala on Oct. 22.

Ben co-founded Coleman Technologies Inc., which provided IT and systems engineering services to public and private organizations. In 2010, the company merged with and into Presidio Inc., a professional and managed services firm delivering advanced IT infrastructure solutions.

Prior to founding CTI, he had 15 years of experience in system analysis, design and testing for the Naval Research Laboratory, Lockheed Martin and Coleman Research Corporation.

Most recently, he established the FAN Fund in which to invest professionally managed angel capital in growth-oriented companies in the technology and life sciences sectors in Florida.

The Patz family has strong ties to UCF, including Ben’s father, Dr. Benjamin W. Patz, who was a research scientist and UCF engineering professor, and his siblings and their families:

  • Dr. Mark D. Patz, ’83, ’87, ’97
    • (wife) Donna Curley Patz, ’86
    • (daughter) Lindsey Patz, ’14
    • (son) Tyler Patz — current UCF student
  • Susan Patz Pringle, ’86 — College of Education (UCF Athletics Hall of Fame 2000 inductee)
    • (husband) Bruce Pringle, ’84
  • Amy Patz Lewellyn, ’89
    • (husband) Mark Lewellyn, ’87, ’89
  • Dr. Eric M. Patz, ’15

Ben went to UCF early, doing dual enrollment, receiving his bachelor’s degree in mathematics by the time he finished high school, and entered the graduate mathematics program at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the undergraduate engineering program. He returned to UCF and earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering in 1985.

He’s served on the Dean’s Advisory Board of the College of Engineering and Computer Science since 2009.

Learn more about Ben:

UCF Alumni Honors 2015 Jefferson Award Recipients

JeffersonAwards-Blue+Buit+Ayala
Three of this year’s UCF Jefferson Award recipients included (left to right) Mark Blue, ’89, ’08, ’10, College Chapter Volunteer of the Year; Crystal Buit, ’06, Constituent Chapter Volunteer of the Year; and Matthew Ayala, ’11, Regional Club Volunteer of the Year.

On June 12, the UCF Jefferson Awards & Alumni Volunteer Reception celebrated its eighth year recognizing some of the UCF Alumni Association’s most active volunteers for their countless acts of generosity and numerous volunteer hours. Hosted by the UCF Community Volunteers Alumni Chapter, these awards focus on public service and the importance of giving back.

The event kickstarted the alumni association’s Chapter and Club Council Meeting weekend, during which alumni chapter and club volunteers from across the nation gathered to discuss plans for the upcoming year.

Todd Bowers, ’77, a graduate of the College of Business Administration, who serves on the college’s Dean’s Advisory Council, the UCF Athletics Association Board of Directors, the UCF Foundation Finance Committee and the UCF Inclusive Education Team, was the evening’s master of ceremonies. Anthony Jenkins, Ph.D., UCF’s senior associate vice president and dean of students, was also in attendance as a guest speaker for the festivities.

Congratulations to this year’s recipients:

Regional Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Ivette Herald, ’04, Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter

Ivette has been chair of the Chicago UCF Alumni Chapter for the past four years. With her leadership, the chapter grew from 10 active members to nearly 50, and its Facebook page has increased to more than 400 followers.

“Our chapter’s mission is to create a home away from home for alumni, and I stress the importance of making those connections during every board meeting and through my actions,” she says. “It’s important that we make alumni feel welcome. I think that passion is what has helped our club evolve into a chapter in one year, and keeps alumni coming to our monthly events and watch parties.”

The other nominees included: Eric Braga, ’00, Space Coast UCF Alumni Chapter; Chris Brown, ’05, Tampa Bay UCF Alumni Chapter; Samantha Malone, ’04, Denver UCF Alumni Chapter; Thomas Marron, ’86, New York UCF Alumni Chapter; and Sara Singer, ’10, Southeast Florida UCF Alumni Chapter

Regional Club Volunteer of the Year—
Matthew Ayala, ’11, Southwest Florida UCF Alumni Club

Matthew just completed his third year as chair of the Southwest Florida UCF Alumni Club. Under his guidance, the club has seen a significant increase in its watch party attendance, as well as its Senior Sendoff event, after which other clubs now model their Senior Sendoffs.

“I look at this as a job,” he says. “Every day is another opportunity to enhance UCF’s brand, and I try to do something for the club each and every day.”

The other nominees included: Bakari Dowdell, ’14, Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club; and Becky Koziuk, ’03, Jacksonville UCF Alumni Club

Association Committee Volunteer of the Year—
Dan Ward, ’92, UCF Alumni Board of Directors/PR Committee

After serving a six-year term on the UCF Alumni Association Board of Directors, Dan returned this year to chair the public relations committee, developing strategies to increase awareness and relevance of the association and the Knights it serves.

“We’ve brought additional structure to the PR committee this year, and added a team of dedicated volunteers who give of their time and help us promote the association,” he says.

College Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Mark Blue, ’89, ’08, ’10, UCF College of Engineering & Computer Science Alumni Chapter

Mark currently serves as vice chair of the UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter. Along with a fellow chapter member, he championed the college’s new Career Kickoff, which became a signature event for the chapter.

“I believe in direct engagement between students and alumni for the benefit of both,” he says. “As alumni, we can provide great insight, skills, training, guidance and contacts for the students. In return, the students infuse us with passion and energy for our university and our profession.”

The other nominees included: Tom Alexander, ’03, UCF Nicholson School of Communication Alumni Chapter; and Tiffany Carrion, ’08, UCF Rosen College of Hospitality Management Alumni Chapter

Constituent Chapter Volunteer of the Year—
Crystal Buit, ’06, UCF Community Volunteers Chapter

This past year, Crystal served as chair of the UCF Community Volunteers Chapter. Like other volunteer leaders, she says she wanted the year to be a success and had a passion for outreach and engagement, being sure to personally connect with as many alumni as she could at each event, letting them know she was thankful for their participation and welcomed their future involvement.

“I hope I have positively impacted the association by creating opportunities for alumni to reconnect with one another, while reminding those in the community of UCF’s tremendous and generous alumni presence and base,” Crystal says.

The other nominee was: Justina Oldehoff, ’09, UCF Young Alumni Chapter 

Student Volunteer of the Year—
Jill Dutmers, 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassador

Jill has been a 4EVER Knights Ambassador for the past three years. During her junior year, she served as secretary of the 4EK officer board. She also chaired Knights of Legend, 4EK’s annual networking event for students and alumni. This past year, she served as the student alumni association’s president.

“As an ambassador, I’m only required to work 50 hours’ worth of events,” Jill says. “Yet, I attend everything — every meeting, every event, every social gathering — regardless of whether I need the hours. It’s not that I don’t have coursework or law school applications or family obligations waiting for me at home. It’s just that I want to be the kind of outstanding leader who inspires those who follow through my actions rather than my words.”

The other nominee was: Mackenzie Chase, 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassador 

In addition, three alumni were honored with Shining Armor Awards, recognizing their chivalry to the 4EVER KNIGHTS program and the 4EVER KNIGHTS Ambassadors by donating their time and talent to help 4EK succeed.

Those recipients were:

Peter Cranis, ’84, ’88

Mike Griffin, ’84

Tiffany Payne, ’97

Congrats to all!

VIEW EVENT PHOTO GALLERY

Alumnus Texas Instruments Executive Meets with Student-Athlete Engineers He’s Committed to Support

BrianCrutcher

By Zack Thomas
Managing Editor, UCF Foundation

“I know what it takes to be a student-athlete and an engineer,” said Brian Crutcher, ’95, speaking last week with a group of UCF student-athletes majoring in engineering. “I know athletes are competitive. Really competitive. You don’t go out there to be second, third or fourth. You want to win. And we need that exact same trait in the business world.”

Crutcher, who played defensive back for the Knights while pursuing his electrical engineering degree and now serves as executive vice president of business operations for Texas Instruments, was on campus to help lay the groundwork for the College of Engineering and Computer Science Student Athletes Program. The program will help student-athlete engineering majors like Crutcher persevere through a curriculum that is rigorous even without the added demands of being an athlete. Crutcher has committed $200,000 over the next five years through his Crutcher Family Fund to support the program.

His ultimate intent, Crutcher says, is to ensure that students like him realize their engineering career goals and then carry forward into the workplace the leadership and teamwork skills — and, of course, competitiveness — that are second nature in sports. Despite UCF’s heavy emphasis on academic achievement for student-athletes — the university’s graduation rate for student-athletes is No. 1 in the nation among NCAA Division I public institutions — engineering majors frequently switch to less demanding disciplines during their first two years. The new program will focus specifically on shoring up math support to freshman and sophomore CECS student-athletes and providing one-on-one graduate advisor tutoring and mentoring.

Crutcher spent more than an hour with the student-athletes, recalling the challenges he had faced, listening to theirs, and answering a flood of questions about applying and interviewing for jobs and life in the professional world. His core message was a simple one though: “Don’t quit. I guarantee you it will be worth it.”

UCF Community Honors Lives of Eternal Knights

The Pegasus seal in the Student Union is decorated with golden roses and candles during the annual Eternal Knights ceremony, which honors the lives of students who passed away during the year.
The Pegasus seal in the Student Union is decorated with flowers and candles during the annual Eternal Knights ceremony, which honors the lives of students who passed away while enrolled. (PHOTO: Bernard Wilchusky, Central Florida Future)

On Thursday, April 9, at 4 p.m., fellow students, alumni, faculty and staff gathered in the Pegasus Ballroom at the Student Union for the annual Eternal Knights ceremony, during which they honored the lives of 11 Knights who passed away during recent academic terms, and observed 22 seconds of silence — two seconds for each student we lost.

Those named as Eternal Knights at the 2015 ceremony included:

  • Marc Abrams | Health Services Administration, College of Health and Public Affairs
  • Adam Bee | Biology, College of Sciences
  • Lauren Bonn | Nursing, College of Nursing
  • Santiago Diaz | Psychology, College of Sciences
  • Brandon Dickerson | Film, College of Arts and Humanities
  • Kuistin Gaskin | Film, College of Arts and Humanities
  • Shayne Ivill | Interdisciplinary Studies, Office of Undergraduate Studies
  • Melanie Kaprocki | Computer Science Ph.D., College of Engineering and Computer Science
  • Crevan O’Ceallaigh | Criminal Justice M.S., College of Health and Public Affairs
  • Melissa Ostrom | Nursing, College of Nursing
  • Jasen Stone | Health Services Administration, College of Health and Public Affairs
  • Dara Wells | Exceptional Student Education M.Ed., College of Education and Human Performance

“Gone yet not forgotten, although we are apart, your spirit lives within me, forever in my heart.”
—Unknown

Budding Partnership

Alumni best friends introduce high-efficiency water treatment technology to medical marijuana cultivation center

Michael Williamson, '07 (left), purchased a water treatment system from his best friend, Michael Boyd, '05,  to save and reuse water in his company's new 80,000-square-foot, hydroponic, medical marijuana cultivation center.
Michael Williamson, ’07 (left), purchased a water treatment system from his best friend, Michael Boyd, ’05 (right),
to create a more sustainable environment to hydroponically grow medical cannabis in his company’s new 80,000-square-foot facility.
Michael Boyd, ’05 | Senior Sales Manager, Desalitech
Michael Williamson, ’07 | Plant Manager, Kind Love

By Angie Lewis, ’03

Michael Boyd, ’05, doesn’t remember the first time he met Michael Williamson, ’07, but he knew they’d become great friends after a discussion about a soccer match on TV spilled out into the parking lot of the former Underground Bluz, near UCF, for a real game.

“Those impromptu games became late-night traditions throughout the remainder of our college years, and afterward,” says Boyd, who earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering technology.

The guys would eventually become the best of friends, even as their career opportunities later took them more than half a country apart.

Based in Newton, Mass., Boyd serves as the senior sales manager for Desalitech, a $20-million organization that manufactures high-efficiency water treatment and wastewater reuse products.

About six years ago, the company started in Israel, a country built on the outskirts of a desert, with limited access to available water resources, which is why it has become one of the leading water treatment hubs on the planet.

“Between 1930 and 2000, the world population tripled from two billion to six billion, and by 2050, it will reach nine billion,” Boyd explains. “Increased production of food and energy, along with rising economies and industrialization, are all increasing the demand for water. Yet, water resources are overwhelmed, and many are already depleted from overutilization, which leaves desalination and water reuse as the only available new sources of water.”

He says industry is responsible for nearly 60 percent of fresh water withdrawals in the U.S. and in other developed countries, with agriculture accounting for an additional 30 percent. He adds that while reverse osmosis is widely applied for water purification, traditional RO systems can create excess brine waste, do not use water supplies efficiently and consume too much energy.

In contrast, Desalitech’s ReFlex RO systems, featuring Closed Circuit Desalination™ technology, reduce brine waste by up to 75 percent and energy consumption by up to 35 percent, compared to traditional RO designs.

ReFlex RO System
ReFlex RO System

Based in Denver, Co., Williamson is the plant manager for Kind Love, a medical marijuana dispensary, which also includes an 80,000-square-foot hydroponic cultivation center.

Williamson, who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis his freshman year of college.

“[The MS] caused me to be temporarily paralyzed from the waist down,” Williamson explains. “With the uncertainty of my future personal health, I changed my major to interdisciplinary studies with a focus on digital media. My thought process at the time was, if I was going to be in a wheelchair from time to time, or permanently, I wanted to make sure I could work, earn, create and contribute to an organization. Digital media gave me the ability to be able to work on a computer from anywhere.”

After many lackluster visits to medical dispensaries as a patient, he and his partners were inspired to create Kind Love in 2009. He says they saw much room for improvement and recognized an opportunity to help the underserved market of women and seniors.

“The cannabis plant is made up of chemical compounds called cannabinoids,” he explains. “Though scientists aren’t exactly sure, it’s estimated that there are at least 85 cannabinoids that make up the cannabis plant. The most well-known and popular cannabinoid is tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Though THC has medicinal benefits, particularly with gastrointestinal issues and inflammation, it’s most commonly characterized by a psychoactive effect, which is described as a relaxing and cerebral high.

“Currently, most Colorado analytical labs have standards and are testing for four to 12 of the 85 cannabinoids. Thanks to legal access to these analytical labs, the medical community started to notice rare strains of cannabis that were extremely low in THC and elevated in cannabidiol, or CBD. Through selective breeding techniques, cannabis breeders have managed to create new varieties with high levels of CBD and little to no THC.

“After my first high-CBD discovery at our research and development cultivation facility, we started hunting for more high-CBD genetics through breeding and acquisitions with other medicinal breeders. Unlike THC, CBD has no high or mind-altering effects. It’s a non-psychoactive and has a huge range of medicinal benefits and properties, such as antiemetic, anticonvulsant, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, anti-cancer and antidepressant.”

In fact, Kind Love holds the record for the highest CBD ever recorded, and is helping to treat patients with cancer and MS, as well as children with seizures, and many more. Williamson is working with CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta on many of these high-CBD projects, which should produce results later this year.

While he respects soil growing, Williamson says Kind Love grows its plants hydroponically because it offers more environmental control and sterilization for large-scale cannabis agriculture.

“People forget that organic soil is organic — meaning it’s full of beneficial and non-beneficial bacterias, molds, fungi, and various insects, which can cause serious damage to cannabis crops if not controlled appropriately,” he says.

When the company was in the process of building its new cultivation facility last year, Williamson researched reverse osmosis machines. The best one he could find on the market was recovering 75 percent good water, with 25 percent going to waste. His previous cultivation facilities were operating at 33 percent good water, with 67 percent waste.

Realizing he was looking at the wrong technology, he looked at Desalitech’s ReFlex reverse osmosis system with CCD technology, which would give him 93 percent good water recovery, with only 7 percent wastewater.

Williamson says his friend was originally doing him a favor, since Boyd thought Kind Love’s operation was probably too small to utilize his company’s system, but he flew to Denver anyway to calculate the numbers. To their delight, Kind Love’s new cultivation facility qualified for Desalitech’s smallest full-scale system, which is commonly used as a pilot for large power plants.

“Michael Boyd and I both demand the absolute best of the best when it comes to our projects, and where and with whom we invest our time and money,” Williamson says. “Of course, it was very cool to do business with a dear friend and colleague, but, more importantly, I knew that I had one of the best systems that money could buy, because I knew he wouldn’t associate with or be a part of anything less. I am very grateful for his friendship, his strong communication skills and ability to execute. His general demeanor and hard work ethic continue to inspire me every day to work harder, smarter and faster.”

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Meet Kind Love medical marijuana dispensary’s plant manager, Michael Williamson, as he explains his decision to partner with best friend Michael Boyd’s water treatment company, Desalitech:

Engineering the Magic

Engineering alumna gives fellow Knights a behind-the-scenes look at Walt Disney World’s four theme parks

cecs-disney

AlumKnights at Work | CECS Alumni Chapter

By Sarah Dillon, ’06

The UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science Alumni Chapter launched its new AlumKnights at Work series on Nov. 13, when 30 CECS alumni gathered at Walt Disney World’s Design & Engineering offices to meet UCF alumni working within Disney’s engineering departments and learn how they’re putting their degrees to work.

CECS alumna Katie Kelly, ’06, a mechanical engineering graduate, led the charge for the evening’s program and introduced alumni to Disney engineers.

Jeff Gloudeman, manager within architectural and facilities engineering, demonstrated the unique challenges that Disney engineers are faced with including limited attraction downtime and the uniqueness of each facility and attraction on property.

Mike Labonge, director of ride and show engineering, discussed the Disney workflow process and how Disney engineers are required to work with the creative team to develop innovative guest experiences.

Jerold Kaplan, director of projects and show systems, showed the group a four-year, time-lapse video of the new Fantasyland expansion, which recently opened at the Magic Kingdom Park, and discussed how civil, mechanical, electrical and control engineers were used in the building of the project.

Michael Tschanz, director of technology and analysis, demonstrated how computer simulation is changing the way that the Walt Disney Company is building its theme parks.

After hearing about how each department plays its part, the group adorned safety glasses and headed to the Walt Disney World’s Central Shops, to see where the magic of Disney is made and maintained. Alumni guests had the opportunity to see the building and refurbishing processes of many of the resorts’ attractions and show pieces, including those used at Space Mountain, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and the Jungle Cruise. Disney engineers also discussed the importance of the refurbishments in continuing to provide guests with amazing experiences year after year, as well as how the operating design of each vehicle is designed specifically for each ride.

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The AlumKnights at Work is a new professional development series created to spotlight UCF CECS alumni and their professions. The events look to explore the many ways our alumni are putting their degrees to work. CECS AlumKnights will host other alumni guests for event programs that will contain the technical applications used in their everyday work, as well as insider information on what’s new and interesting with their companies. Walt Disney World Design & Engineering was the first in the series. The second event will take place at Kennedy Space Center in spring 2015.