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.

Colleges of Business, Engineering and Sciences Host Joint Networking Knight

CBA-CECS-COS-Networking-Knight-Jan2016

Nearly 70 UCF alumni gathered for an evening of professional networking on Jan. 21. Alumni chapter volunteers from the College of Business Administration, College of Engineering and Computer Science, and College of Sciences partnered to host the event, which took place at the law offices of GrayRobinson in downtown Orlando.

While guests mingled with other professionals from a multitude of diverse fields, Dean Paul Jarley (business), Dean Michael Georgiopoulos (engineering) and Dean Michael Johnson (sciences) each addressed the group of Knights, speaking on the importance of networking, mentorship and advancement.

It was a great Networking Knight to kick off 2016!

SEE ORIGINAL POST + MORE PHOTOS

Charles Gray, founding director of GrayRobinson, played an instrumental role in the history of the University of Central Florida. Gray was honored by the UCF Alumni Association in October with the 2015 Champions Award for his continuous support and advocacy for the university.

UCF Alumni Honors 30 under 30

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

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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:

Engineering Students Repair Vandalized Pegasus Sculpture

Engineering students, from left, Anthony Defilippo, Cullen Fitzgerald and Jennifer Ambrose repair the damaged "Wind Dancer" sculpture of Pegasus, which lies hobbled on its back in the Manufacturing Lab at the College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Engineering students, from left, Anthony Defilippo, Cullen Fitzgerald and Jennifer Ambrose repair the damaged “Wind Dancer” sculpture of Pegasus, which lies hobbled on its back in the Manufacturing Lab at the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

By Mark Schlueb

A group of engineering students are repairing a sculpture of Pegasus vandalized two weeks ago.

The “Wind Dancer” sculpture of Pegasus that sits in front of the Burnett Honors College was damaged on Sept. 3 after UCF’s first football game of the season. Security camera video captured a man trying to climb atop the winged horse, which was left bent and staring skyward. Despite the offer of a reward, police have not yet caught the vandal.

Burnett Honors College alumnus Jeff Douglass, ’02, founder and CEO of Cybis Communications who contributed significantly to the original cost of the sculpture in 2007, has offered to cover the cost of repairs. As it turns out, those costs should be minimal.

College of Engineering and Computer Science Professor Ali Gordon recruited several seniors majoring in mechanical and aerospace engineering to repair the sculpture. Students Jennifer Ambrose, Anthony Defilippo, Cullen Fitzgerald and Chad Robinson removed it from its base on Tuesday and moved it to the Manufacturing Lab at the College of Engineering and Computer Science, the same lab where the Limbitless team produces 3D-printed arms and hands for children.

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The students found that the vandal’s rough treatment of the relatively delicate aluminum sculpture had sheared off its mount and caused several pieces of its “mane” to come loose.

On Wednesday, Ambrose, Defilippo and Fitzgerald designed a new mount for the sculpture and used a machine lathe to begin forming it. They expect to weld the aluminum sculpture where needed on Thursday, with the hope of having it back in place before the next home football game this Saturday.

Defilippo says it should be much sturdier after they make the repairs and modifications.

This story appeared Sept. 17, 2015, on UCF Today. It has been slightly edited in accordance with AP and alumni association style guidelines. See original article. 

UCF Professor Lands $1.1 Million Grant,
Pioneers New Technology

subith-vasu-lab-student
Graduate student Owen Pryor shows undergraduate student Justin Urso how to operate
the shock tube in Subith Vasu’s lab.

By Zenaida Kotala
Assistant Director, UCF Communications and Marketing

The University of Central Florida is one of only two universities in the nation to land a federal grant that could revolutionize the technology used to run power plants.

The U.S. Department of Energy awarded UCF mechanical and aerospace engineering assistant professor Subith Vasu $1.1 million to investigate how power plants might be able to abandon the use of water to generate energy from steam and instead use supercritical CO2, a fluid state of carbon dioxide.

Supercritical carbon dioxide is an attractive alternative to government agencies and private companies for several reasons. If the technology can be developed to make the switch, it could mean less use of water — a natural resource in short supply in some parts of the nation. Commercial companies are also interested because supercritical CO2 is more efficient at transporting heat — a key principle, which power plants use to generate energy. Better efficiency equals less cost and potentially a bigger profit margin. In addition, it is possible to reduce the size of power-generating turbines by using sCO2 instead of steam. Using sCO2 as a working fluid enables carbon capture and storage) in certain cycle systems. In those systems, the power plant exhaust CO2 is stored underground instead of released into the atmosphere.

Georgia Tech was the only other university to earn money from the Department of Energy’s University Turbine System Research Program for research in this field.

“There are not many universities conducting research in this area and we already have a head start in the world,” Vasu said. “We’re working diligently on turbine technology and Florida is a major hub for the industry. Our goal is to maximize power-generation efficiency, reduce emissions, and become leaders in this area.”

Siemens, Alstom, General Electric, Pratt & Whitney, and Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems among others are the key players in the industry, and UCF works with most of them on ongoing research through its Center for Advanced Turbomachinery and Energy Research. The center in the College of Engineering and Computer Science is headed by professor Jayanta Kapat.

Vasu is using the grant to develop a combustion computer model for the design of combustors, where fuel is burned at power plants. The model will provide insights into the processes that occur during the burning stage. Once a model is verified, he and his team will disseminate this tool to industry so they can design optimum sCO2 combustors.

Vasu’s broad areas of expertise include alternative fuels for propulsion and internal combustion engines, shock wave physics, laser diagnostics and sensor technology. He has a Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from Stanford University and has published multiple papers in each of his areas of expertise. He is also working with several international researchers on a variety of research aimed at everything from helping improve the efficiency of airplane engines to developing sensitive sensors that can detect toxic chemicals aboard commercial spacecraft.

Vasu’s team includes about a dozen graduate students including Owen Pryor who is working on this project. There are also several undergraduate students, many of whom have interned for engineering and space companies such as Space X, Siemens and others. His former graduate students are employed by major gas turbine companies.

This article originally appeared Sept. 8, 2015, on UCF Today.

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

17-Year-Old UCF Graduate Lands Software Job

AdrianGilliam
(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy of Adrian Gilliam)

By Bridgette Norris
Central Florida Future

Most students graduate college in their early 20s, but Adrian Gilliam was ready a bit earlier.

At age 17, Adrian graduated from UCF this spring with a computer software job awaiting him at Optima Healthcare Solutions.

“Living in Orlando influenced my decision to attend UCF,” he says. “UCF has a really good engineering program — especially for computer science. I never was really trying to be the youngest graduate. But, being such a young graduate is something I’m proud of. I’m just a normal [alumnus].”

Adrian is one of UCF’s youngest graduates, in addition to a 16-year-old who graduated in 1998, according to a press release.

Michael Gilliam, ’93, Adrian’s father and College of Business Administration alumnus, says he was beaming ear to ear when he watched his son walk across the stage at graduation.

“I don’t think age had anything to do with [him] maintaining good grades and involvement,” Michael explains. “He just set his priorities and spent a lot of time making sure he had acceptable grades and high enough grades to get into graduate school if he decided to do that. I think it was just a matter of him setting his priorities.”

At the age of 4, Adrian started home schooling through Florida Virtual School. As he continued to learn online, taking honors and advanced placement courses, he was also learning martial arts and Mandarin, in which he is now fluent.

He enrolled at UCF at the age of 13.

“I think from the beginning, a lot of what encouraged me to take this route was my parents,” Adrian says. “As I started progressing, I definitely became more self-motivated. If I hadn’t of taken the route I did, I would be going into my senior year [of high school].”

His father accredits his patient and helpful personality to his involvement with martial arts.

In 2007, Adrian won his first of several national-level tournaments at the U.S. Open Karate Championships. At age 10, he earned his black belt.

“Growing up, people always said, ‘Don’t you miss normal school, or wish you went to normal school?’ Adrian says. “But, you can’t miss something you never had. I was very happy with the experience and opportunities I had. I felt like I was still able to get social interaction through things like martial arts while still being able to excel academically.”

He jokes about his biggest struggle at UCF being that he was not able to sign up for the Recreation and Wellness Center because he wasn’t 18.

During his time on campus, he served as president and vice president of the Asian Pacific American Coalition, senator for the College of Engineering and Computer Science in the Student Government Association, and an undergraduate teaching assistant for an introduction to programming course.

Although Adrian is currently taking a break from school, his long-term goal is to continue his education and eventually become a professor.

This article appeared in a May 20, 2015, edition of the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.