1. The ChargeOn Tour begins Tuesday 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.
2. In case you missed it, the Central Florida community came together last week to break ground on the new downtown campus that is expected to serve 7,700 students from UCF and Valencia College when it opens in 2019.
3. Shout out to the UCF rowing team for earning its third-straight American Athletic Conference trophy over the weekend! With the win, these Knights join the UCF women’s golf and indoor track and field teams as league champions this year.
Speaking of conference championships — the baseball team has a chance to clinch its first crown since 2004. And they are about to go head-to-head against USF for all the marbles this Thursday-Saturday at home in the final series of the regular season. You won’t want to miss this. Buy tickets
4. The U.S. Army Cyber Center of Excellence will look to UCF for training and research support as a result of a new memorandum of understanding. UCF is qualified to provide the training because of its status as a designated National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education by both the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security.
5. A group of UCF students who make up the Lunar Knights Mining Club will compete this month in NASA’s national Robotic Mining Competition that was developed to help in the exploration of Mars. The competition is designed so NASA can be presented with outside ideas of how to mine on Mars, a goal of future space exploration.
1. The UCF Alumni Giving Challenge launches today. Here are three key questions answered: >What is the Alumni Giving Challenge?
It’s a week-long 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 before the end of their commencement week. >When is the UCF Alumni Giving Challenge?
The campaign runs from May 1 through May 7. >How do I participate?
Visit ucfalumni.com/challenge to make a gift.
2. Another UCF alumnus is headed to the NFL. Former UCF defensive back Shaquill Griffin became the 36th Knight to hear his name called in the NFL Draft on Friday when he was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round, with the 90th overall pick. He is now the third highest UCF defensive back draftee, coming in behind only Josh Robinson (66th) and his position coach, Travis Fisher (64th). Griffin earned a bachelor’s degree in human communications in December.
3. UCF alumna Emily Kramer ’14PhD was honored when an asteroid was named after her to recognize her contributions to planetary science research. Asteroid 10282, aka 1981 ET46, is now officially named Emilykramer. Kramer is a scientist at Caltech’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and earned her doctorate in physics at UCF in 2014.
4. About 7,900 UCF graduates will earn their degrees later this week at CFE Arena. Welcome to the fam, fellow alumni! If you’ve got a cool cap to set you apart from the rest, we want to see it. Check out our #UCFGrad cap contest rules and you can score yourself a cool prize for your creativity.
5. Danny White talks the lazy river, priorities for 2017-18 and highlights of year one as UCF’s athletic director in this lengthy Q&A by the Orlando Sentinel.
On Wednesday, President Hitt discussed the transformative power of higher education, his belief that a university has a responsibility to lift up its community, and — when it comes to the size of the student body — you can be both big and good during his annual State of the University address.
Two UCF professors landed multi-million-dollar NASA grants, focused on asteroids, comets and Venus, for missions that could take flight as early as 2020.
It was a purrrfect ending for a 6-week-old kitten that was discovered under the hood of a UCF journalism professor’s car last Monday.
An Orlando bar made national news, offering patrons free beer during UCF football games until the Knights can break their losing streak.
By Zenaida Kotala
Assistant Director, UCF Communications and Marketing
Sometimes thinking small can get you a big win. That’s certainly the case for a team of physicists at the University of Central Florida.
UCF was one of only two universities selected to prepare an experiment for a miniaturized satellite mission as part of NASA’s Small Innovative Missions for Planetary Exploration (SIMPLEx) program. Twenty-two projects were reviewed and only two were selected for flight, including UCF’s Q-PACE project. The project is a milestone for UCF. It is the first time the university has been selected to design, build and operate a satellite from start to finish.
The Q-PACE project aims to gather scientific knowledge about the formation of planets, from the Earth to the growing number of “exoplanets” discovered orbiting other stars.
Physics professor Joshua Colwell and his team of fellow researchers and students have been building space experiments for several years now and have gotten pretty good at it. They have put several experiments aboard Zero G flights and more recently on the International Space Station. The team has three other projects in the pipeline for commercial suborbital rockets.
“Yes, we’ve been busy,” Colwell said from the Center for Microgravity Research at UCF. “Q-PACE will simulate the very early solar system, when the particles that would eventually grow to become planets were no more than a few millimeters in size. The very gentle particle collisions that Q-PACE will study will also help NASA as it prepares to send astronauts to visit an asteroid with negligible gravity, much like the conditions in Q-PACE.”
The experiment builds on the knowledge gained from earlier research and can’t be duplicated on Earth with much success because of the need for little to no gravity to get accurate results. While one part of NASA and the commercial sector work on new big rockets to get man back into space, projects like those aboard the tiny satellites are becoming important in the quest to be ready to continue exploring the solar system.
“CubeSats are part of a growing technology that’s transforming space exploration,” said David Pierce, senior program executive for suborbital research at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “CubeSats are small platforms that enable the next generation of scientists and engineers to complete all phases of a complete space mission during their school career. While CubeSats have historically been used as teaching tools and technology demonstrations, today’s CubeSats have the potential to conduct important space science investigations as well.”
CubeSats are built to standard specifications of 1 unit (U), which is equal to 10x10x10 centimeters (about 4x4x4 inches). CubeSats can be 1U, 2U, 3U or 6U in size, weighing about 3 pounds per U. They often are launched into orbit as auxiliary payloads aboard rockets, significantly reducing costs.
Other participants on the UCF grant are: Postdoctoral Research Associate Julie Brisset, Assistant Professor Adrienne Dove and Electrical Engineer Doug Maukonen, all from UCF, as well as graduate and undergraduate students at UCF. Associate Professor of Engineering Larry Roe from the University of Arkansas is also a co-investigator, and Professor Jürgen Blum from the University of Braunschweig in Germany is a collaborator. TheFlorida Space Institute is supporting the project as well.
The grant is worth $415,000 and Colwell expects to have the experiment ready to go in about 18 months with a potential launch in 2017.
This article originally appeared Sept. 8, 2015, on UCF Today.
Ambitious and passionate, three Knights are pushing the limits of animation and projection mapping
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.”
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. 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.
Orlando magician, Kostya Kimlat, ’10, appeared on an Aug. 17 episode of the CW’s “Penn & Teller: Fool Us,” a one-hour competition series celebrating magic and featuring the legendary duo, Penn & Teller.
On each episode, aspiring magicians are invited to perform their best trick to try and fool one of magic’s most famous pairs. None of the competing magicians get to perform the trick more than once, and there are no camera tricks, secret edits or helpful camera cuts.
In the seventh episode of the show’s second season, Kimlat performed an original card trick he developed when he was 19 years old. But, Kimlat didn’t go on the show with a focus on fooling the magic duo.
“It was an honor to be invited to perform for Penn and Teller,” he says. “I’ve been watching them since I started in magic 20 years ago, and I never would have imagined this opportunity.”
Lucky for Kimlat, he was able to fool the guys, which means he’ll be opening up for the magicians’ celebrated show at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas in November.
WATCH HIS TRICK:
In 2006, Kimlat was the youngest magician to be featured on the cover of Magic Magazine.
A resident of Orlando, he founded See Magic Live, which trains and books magicians for events across the country. His company’s local team serves as the magicians for the NBA’s Orlando Magic and teaches magic classes for kids and adults at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.
His local ties run deep — he’s a graduate of Winter Park High School and the University of Central Florida, and he’s been a weekly fixture at Christner’s Prime Steak & Lobster, performing an intimate dinner and magic show at the Lee Road steakhouse for the last seven years.
In addition, Kimlat is a motivational speaker, using magic to train employees at organizations around the world, like NASA and GE. When he presents his keynotes and workshops, he unravels magic’s centuries-old principles of perception and secrets of communication, empowering people to be more effective in their business and everyday lives. Often referred to as “the business magician,” Kimlat has presented his sophisticated brand of magic to thinking audiences in more than 200 cities on five continents.
Kimlat graduated from the UCF Burnett Honors College with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. His Honors in the Major thesis was titled, “The Role of Magician and Philosopher in Society: The Archetype of Wonder and its Cognitive Implications in Modern Life.”
He’s currently authoring his first book, titled, “Think Like a Magician.”
Earth’s largest ocean does not intimidate UCF alumna Sonya Baumstein, ’09.
Baumstein, 30, will attempt to be the first woman to successfully row across the Pacific Ocean solo.
According to her website, she wants this to be a female endeavor to show that strength is not defined by gender.
There have only been two successful attempts at rowing across the Pacific, west to east: one by Gerard d’Aboville in 1991, and the other by Emmanuel Coindre in 2005, according to The Ocean Rowing Society.
The Pacific is known to have complex weather patterns, which could affect Baumstein’s mission. But, she is confident that she won’t have much to worry about. Her main focus right now is to keep an eye on the typhoons that are currently hitting the coast of Japan.
Once the coast is clear, and after three consecutive days of permitting weather, Baumstein will be able to start her departure from Choshi, Japan, to San Francisco — a total of 6,560 miles.
During her trip, she will row for three hours on and three hours off, multiple times each day. She has put together 900 packages of dehydrated food and 180 drink supplements. Electricity and fresh water usage will have to be rationed and protected from the elements.
The 23-foot-long, 5 7/10-foot-wide carbon boat was designed by Baumstein herself and a team at the America’s Cup. The boat, named Icha, means “once we meet, we’re brother and sister” in Japanese. It weighs less than 700 pounds and is equipped for science.
Every 10 seconds, samples of salinity, temperature, depth, wind speed and GPS location will be taken and sent back via satellite every hour throughout the entire journey.
The samples are taken as part of a partnership with NASA’s Aquarius Mission to help scientists compare and validate data that they’ve collected by the Aquarius satellite.
The project is a labor of love for Baumstein and her crew, having worked toward this for the last three years. She said everything from its conception, to building the boat, to now waiting on the coast to clear has been a culmination of blood, sweat and tears.
A self-proclaimed “citizen scientist,” Baumstein said she is proud to be a part of a contingency of what she considers modern-day explorers who are helping out different areas of science. She considers it the driving factor in her journey.
Before attending UCF — where she got her master’s degree in non-profit management — Baumstein got her bachelor’s degree at the University of Wisconsin, where she had an active collegiate rowing career.
She encourages students to not get deterred if their original plans fall through.
“This is a job, but it’s a job that I love,” she said. “There may be other routes to get to what you want to do, and, if it’s not exactly as you thought, don’t give up and ride it out. I never thought I would be doing this the way that I am, and it’s not always perfect.”
She credits her current position and status to the network of people around her, including her family, friends and the community.
Samantha Berry, Baumstein’s director of communications, calls her the most determined person she has ever met.
“You really don’t question, when you know her, whether she can do something or not,” Berry said.
In 2011, Baumstein rowed the Atlantic Ocean, from the Canary Islands to Barbados. In March 2012, she tour biked from the Mexican border to Seattle, and in June 2012, she kayaked the inside passage from Seattle to Alaska. In August 2013, she became the first person to stand-up paddle the Bering Strait from Big Diomede to the Alaskan mainland.
“She reminds me that if there is something that you want, you can get it,” Berry said. “It may be exhausting in the process, but determination and hard work does pay off.”
This article appeared in the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.
A UCF student will continue his pursuit of a potential one-way trip to Mars despite recent news that any such voyage would be delayed at least two years, to more than a decade from now.
George Hatcher, a 35-year-old NASA engineer at Kennedy Space Center and a father of two, is one of 100 finalists competing to be selected as an astronaut for the pioneering missions by Dutch nonprofit Mars One.
But this week, Mars One acknowledged it had been unable to secure funding in time to launch a first unmanned mission in 2018, a delay that pushes back any human launch until at least 2026.
The slip fueled already massive skepticism about whether Mars One can come close to raising the $6 billion it estimates will be necessary to launch a crew to Mars.
But for Hatcher, a Merritt Island native, there is a pretty big upside to the delay.
“My general reaction is relief,” he said. “If I am selected, I get two more years with my family.”
Hatcher is married with a 2-year-old son and infant daughter.
Based on his passion for science and his religious beliefs — he is a member of the Baha’i Faith — he is willing to leave his family behind for the opportunity to colonize Mars.
But if that decision ever comes, he’d prefer it is when his children are older and possibly able to understand it better. Now he’s assured of at least two more years on Earth.
He’d have more time if he is selected as an astronaut but not assigned to the first human mission, with Mars One aiming to launch crews every two years.
Hatcher has received no official notice about what’s next, but through fellow astronaut finalists understands that Mars One plans to proceed with its selection of 24 astronauts by the end of this year to start training.
“I am still committed to the program and the application process,” he said.
Bas Lansdorp, CEO and co-founder of Mars One, said in a statement that he believes the venture is moving in the right direction despite the delay.
He cited a contract to develop spacesuits and life support systems, another in work to design a small lander, an advisory board with respected members and global interest in the project, which attracted applications from more than 200,000 people volunteering for one-way missions.
“Is it really a failure if we land our first crew two, four, six, or even eight years late?” Lansdorp said. “I would be extremely proud if we could make that happen and Mars One is still fully committed to keeping that on track.”
When Jeff Tuttle, ’96, mission and technology manager for NASA’s Balloon Program Office, was sent to Antarctica for the space giant’s Antares rocket program, he made sure to pack one very important item (besides a parka!) — his UCF Knights flag, which he proudly displayed in front of Mt. Erebus.
Here’s some of what Tuttle shared with us about his experience on our planet’s southernmost continent:
McMurdo, the home of the U.S. Antarctic Program’s Long Duration Balloon Facility, is a minor city and, as such, has the amenities of all cities. It has a hospital (of sorts), where basic medicine can be administered. They cannot obviously perform any major operations, but there is a doctor on staff. And, they have a church, a cafeteria, and all kinds of recreation indoors and outdoors.
I joke a lot about the cafeteria, but really, the food is very good. Because we travel more than seven miles from McMurdo to our Long Duration Balloon Facility, we have individual chefs come out and prepare us food out there. We had smoked salmon the other day that I would find at any good restaurant. The cafeteria has two items available 24 hours: pizza and cookies.
The passing of the Antarctic Treaty and Antarctic Conservation Act in the U.S. brought several restrictions to U.S. activity on Antarctica. The introduction of alien plants or animals can bring a criminal penalty, as can the extraction of any indigenous species. Another part of this act involves waste management from both recycling and human waste. While this is not a popular subject in Antarctica (or elsewhere), it is part of the culture if you are staying here. No discussion of Antarctic life would be complete without some mention of the pee bottle.
McMurdo dorms and facilities, and Long Duration Balloon Facility have bathrooms. And, to be honest, the shower water is hotter than the water in my apartment in Chincoteague. But, if I were to go on a long hike or walk and have to use the bathroom, per law, I cannot use it outdoors on the ground. Urine or any other waste does not decompose here. It stays. I would have to collect the waste and return it to base for proper disposal. Thus, when going on long ventures, you either hold it or take an “official” waste cup.
McMurdo station is very much into recycling. Approximately 40 percent of all the waste in the station is recycled. That’s really an amazing statistic considering the isolation of the base from the real world. In every dorm and every building in McMurdo, there is a recycling depot. You empty your waste basket every week and place items in either plastic, aerosols, food waste, mixed paper, aluminum beverage, paper towels, glass and non-recyclables bins. There’s also a skua bin — named after an arctic bird that eats anything and hangs around the cafeteria waiting for someone to expose their food, and attacks — which is where people get rid of the things they don’t want. You’ll find shoes, jackets, shampoo and 1,000 other things there for the taking, mostly left by people lightning their load for the return trip.
Many thanks to Jeff for sharing his experience and representing his alma mater! Go Knights! Charge On!
Alumna astronaut featured as one of Central Florida’s “MAKERS”
Nicole Stott, ’92 | Astronaut, NASA
WUCF TV recently aired a segment for its “MAKERS” program, which featured UCF alumna and NASA astronaut, Nicole Stott, ’92, who discussed her experience in the aeronautical industry, as well as how being a woman and a mother has impacted her career.
It was this really wonderful introduction for us to how you make engineering a reality, and UCF was the perfect place to facilitate that.
Watch the segment:
Stott was honored with a Professional Achievement Award from the College of Engineering and Computer Science in 2011. She remains active with the college, as well as the Space Coast Alumni Chapter.