Knights’ Love For Bacon And Bots

Courtesy of Exploding Bacon

By Jenna Marina

ORLANDO, Fla. (May 10, 2017) – With a name like Exploding Bacon, it’s hard to believe that the moniker was the second choice for a local youth robotics team led by alumna Elise Cronin-Hurley ’90 ’94MPA.

Organized Chaos was voted as the winner – conceptualized by a random name generator – but when the mother of the lead mentor doodled a pig riding a rocket as a potential logo, the team knew it needed to reverse its decision.

Now, 12 years since that day, Exploding Bacon is coming off its largest win in team history as a Chairman’s Award finalist at the 2017 Houston FIRST World Championships.

FIRST was founded nearly 30 years ago to inspire young people’s interest and participation in science and technology. The Chairman’s Award is FIRST’s most prestigious award and is given to the teams that best represent a model for others to emulate.

“We are very proud because it’s definitely not just this year’s Exploding Bacon team who won that award. It’s built on a lot of people’s sweat and tears and a lot of effort and just a passion and a heart for it,” Cronin-Hurley said. “We’re very close knit group. Once you’re bacon, you’re always bacon.”

Cronin-Hurley had never heard of Exploding Bacon when she drove her son, Zachary, to the team’s headquarters for the first time in 2011. Unsure of what her teenager was signing up for, she wanted to learn more about the program, so she stuck around that first practice and has been there ever since.

Zachary, now a mechanical engineering major, is one of three current UCF students who volunteer with the team and said he has incorporated lessons and textbook materials from his coursework at UCF into his role as a mentor for Exploding Bacon.

Over the years, Cronin-Hurley’s role has also changed. She worked her way from serving as a volunteer parent to the lead of the FIRST Robotics Club program.

The political science, organizational communication and public administration alumna owns a freelance graphic and web design business. She said she never envisioned working with students or becoming a teacher. Yet, the relationships she has built over the years has kept her coming back.

“You really care about their individual progression and what they’re able to accomplish, and you want to help them,” she said. “I work all day on a computer for 8-10 hours and then I come here for 2-5 hours a night. This is what feeds me. Working with them feeds me.”

Dominic Canora, who attends Lake Highland Prep, is co-president of the 30-member team this year and will attend UCF in the fall as a freshman, choosing the university over Georgia Tech.

His fellow team members hail from 12 different schools or home school. They span five different counties, and some drive one hour each way to attend a four-hour practice session weekdays during competition season.

In a six-week span, the 30-member team builds and programs an industrial-size robot to play a difficult field game against more than 15,000 students from around the world.

Exploding Bacon’s robot, which was built in a six-week span, at the FIRST World Championships | Courtesy of Exploding Bacon

In addition to its annual competition, Exploding Bacon established the #FIRSTLikeAGirl video campaign to share the stories of the women and girls on the team to inspire and encourage girls everywhere to pursue their interests in STEM.

Alexis Bishop is a UCF student and a mentor on the team who has eagerly helped develop the program.

“I take pride in being a role model for girls on the team,” she said. “It’s been a really great thing to be a part of. It’s really important to me that they know if I can do this, they can definitely do this.”

Exploding Bacon also participates in an average of 30-40 demonstrations and outreach events each year, and in this year alone has totaled 1,130 volunteer hours.

The team holds STEM summer camps and has created an international outreach program that provides Spark science kits with reusable experiments and instructions for students with few resources to help them develop problem solving skills in their own communities.

“We’re trying to figure out how to make the world be a better place,” Cronin-Hurley said. “Everybody needs to pitch in, so if we can help spark those problem solving skills in kids in their own countries, then maybe we can help build everything from the ground up.”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know this Week—Nov. 14

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1. The 2016 30 Under 30 class gathered to be honored Saturday at FAIRWINDS Alumni Center during the Indoor Tailgate. They then were recognized on the field at Bright House Networks Stadium during the football game. This incredible group of individuals includes CEOs, researchers, an NBA referee, teachers, medical professionals and game developers. VIEW THE CLASS.

2. If you live in Central Florida and love UCF (who doesn’t?), then you don’t want to miss an unforgettable evening this Wednesday at the Country Club of Orlando. AlumKnights and friends of UCF are cordially invited to a social reception and a special conversation with President John C. Hitt that discusses the importance of IGNITE: The Campaign for UCF’s impact on the university’s future. For more information and to register, click here.

3. UCF Football is bowl bound! Thanks to a 24-3 victory over Cincinnati on Saturday, the Knights will be heading to a bowl game for the seventh time in the last 10 years. For more information and to secure bowl game tickets, click here or call 407-823-1000. The Knights’ bowl destination will likely be announced on Dec. 4.

A big thank you again to all our service members who were honored on Military Appreciation Day! The Marching Knights put on quite a #UCFSalutes halftime show.


P.S. Twenty-five of the special helmets worn by the UCF football team last Saturday are now available for sale. Part of the proceeds will be donated to charity. Learn more information, and purchase now.

4. UCF political science student Amber Mariano made headlines late last week after becoming the youngest person elected to Florida’s House of Representatives. The 21-year-old’s win was one of the biggest upsets of the Florida state races. She ran against incumbent Rep. Amanda Murphy, and defeated her in a squeaker by less than 750 votes. “It’s awesome that I get to fight for my community. “I’m ready to work,” she said. Spoken like a true Knight.

5. As we gear up for football’s final home game of the season, here are some Must Knows:

– UCF Alumni Indoor Tailgate will start at 5 p.m. Here’s a look back at last week’s fun: PHOTO GALLERY.
– Gameday attire is a little trickier this Saturday: Lower Level and Student Section #UCFansWear white, Upper Level #UCFansWear black
– If you aren’t in town and need a watch party, check out our official locations. The game will air on ESPNews.
– Traffic alert: Due to Light Up UCF, part of West Plaza Drive is closed until January.  Speaking of Light Up UCF, it officially opens this Friday (Nov. 18).

 

In Her Own Words: How Scholarships Changed My Life

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Lisa Kauffman is a dual major (radio television; political science) in the College of Sciences and expects to graduate in December 2016. She is this year’s recipient of the Sonja Rose Nicholson Endowed Scholarship and the Margaret Gerow/Daniel J. May Communications Scholarship. She currently interns within the Orange County Government Communications Division and hopes to pursue a career in the field.

“I began my journey at UCF as an 18-year-old freshman. I was a pretty naïve kid who didn’t know what I wanted to study or what I wanted to do. I didn’t know what I was good at, and I wasn’t really confident in myself or my abilities. But I was excited to learn and I was ready for the adventure.

“It was a few years ago when I applied for scholarships through the College of Sciences. I remember the day when I was notified I received my first scholarship very clearly. It was one of the last days of final exams. I had just finished a three-hour exam and I was exhausted. I had way more caffeine than sleep in me at this point. I had my last exam just 30 minutes after this final was completed. I was dreading it. I was on my way to the exam and I decided to check my email. I opened it up and saw I was awarded a scholarship. I was elated. Suddenly all of my exhaustion lifted out of me, and I was motivated to ace that exam and finish the semester strong. That motivation, that inspiration didn’t leave me when I completed that exam. It didn’t leave me the next day or months. It stayed with me for years.

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Lisa Kauffman met the Lutheran Church Charities’ K-9 Comfort Dogs at her internship with the Orange County Government Communications Division

“Knowing that someone read over your degree audit and saw how hard you worked in your classes, or saw your resume or read about your passions and goals in the essay you wrote when you applied, and said, ‘This student has potential. I’m going to invest in this student,’ — that is one of the most inspiring and motivational moments for a student. By recognizing our potential, you’re helping us recognize the potential within ourselves. You give us motivation and the confidence in our abilities to pursue our passion.

“Through my past internships, campus involvement and confidence in my abilities, I am leaving UCF knowing the path I want to pursue. For me, my passion is political and government media and communications. I am currently interning at Orange County Government in the Communications Division. I know my journey wouldn’t have been the same if it wasn’t for my donors and the incredible support and inspiration they provided me with. As I said, I started college as a naïve freshman who was unsure of myself. I am leaving college as someone who recognizes my own potential and who is confident in my passion and my abilities. I will never lose that excitement to learn. I love UCF. I love going here. So thank you, donors. Thank you for investing in us and helping us recognize our own potential. I truly hope and plan to one day be in your seats and help students see their own potential.”

Spread Of Support

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By College of Sciences Communications

ORLANDO, Fla. (Sept. 14, 2016) – There are diehard Knights, and then there are Carol Lawrence, ’71, and her husband, Jim, ’70.

Their lives are so entwined with UCF that John T. Washington, UCF’s first African-American faculty member and for whom a campus building is named after, officiated their wedding in 1972.

Carol and her husband have remained active with UCF as philanthropists and proud Knight fans over the last four decades. In early August, the Lawrences established the Jim and Carol Lawrence Funds, making a generous donation to UCF.

“UCF is the reason we have been married almost 44 years so we wanted to acknowledge its contribution to our relationship,” Carol said. “Also, because we benefited greatly from our FTU educations, we felt it would be appropriate to give back to UCF by leaving it a portion of our estate.”

These funds will support departments, clubs and organizations across the university for which Jim and Carol maintain a passionate advocacy. Seventy percent of the gift will support six different academic departments and initiatives, with half of their gift allocated to the Department of Psychology and the Department of Political Science – Jim’s and Carol’s majors, respectively.

The fund will also create an endowed fund in sociology, coastal research, public administration and Africana studies. This support will be used for scholarships, resources, faculty salaries and grants. In addition, the funds will provide operational support for the UCF Equestrian Club and UCF Alumni Engagement and Annual Giving.

As unwavering Knight Fans, the Lawrences also designated 25 percent of the fund to support UCF Athletics to establish student-athlete scholarships.

Due in part to her continued partnership with UCF, her accomplishments as a professional and her extensive community engagement, Carol was honored by the College of Sciences this year with the Outstanding AlumKnight award.

“I am honored to count Carol Lawrence as our AlumKnight,” said Kerstin Hamann, Ph.D., Pegasus Professor and chair of the Department of Political Science. “Carol embodies UCF values through her professional success, community involvement, and her enduring dedication to UCF. She is a wonderful role model for our students and we are delighted to present her the award.”

The Lawrences attended UCF when it was still Florida Technological University, just a few years after FTU welcomed its inaugural class.

Jim graduated in 1970 with his undergraduate degree in psychology before earning his master’s degree in psychology from Middle Tennessee State University and doctoral degree in psychology and child development from the University of Kansas.

Carol graduated with her undergraduate degree in political science/public administration in 1971.

“That graduating class was so small, maybe 400 or less,” Carol recalled. “The graduation ceremony was held off campus.”

After graduating from UCF, Carol earned her master’s degree in public administration from Florida Atlantic University and went on to work as a research associate at the FAU-FIU Joint Center for Environmental and Urban Problems. There, she worked with the late Dr. John M. DeGrove, the architect of Florida’s 1985 landmark growth management legislation.

Carol left the center in 1976 to work as a budget analyst and lobbyist for the Miami-Dade County State Legislature. The couple moved back to central Florida in 1980 where both found success as licensed real estate brokers. They remain active brokers of their 32-year old RE/MAX office.

However, after more than 25 years since leaving UCF, Carol decided in 1998 that being owner and manager of a company wasn’t her only end goal and enrolled in the University of Orlando School Of Law, now known as Barry University Dwayne O. Andreas School of Law.

“I was 56 years old when I enrolled,” Lawrence said. “That’s an age when most people are contemplating retirement, and I set out to fulfill the dream of being an attorney that I had since I was 14 years old.”

Upon passing the exam in 2002, Lawrence was sworn in as a member of the Florida Bar. After years of working only for herself, she described the move to start her own law firm as a natural progression.

She opened her law firm in 2003 and a title insurance agency in 2006, both of which she still owns and operates today in addition to her role as an owner and broker of her and Jim’s RE/MAX franchise.

Although she now works up to 13 hours per day at three different jobs and volunteers for numerous community activities, Carol has no intention of giving up her dynamic life.

“When someone asks me why I haven’t retired, I have a go-to reply,” she said. “‘Retire? Why, I’m just getting started.’”

Five Things Alumni Need to Know — March 7, 2016

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Here are five things you should know this week:

  1. The UCF College of Sciences hosted its second annual Outstanding AlumKnights awards ceremony on Thursday, honoring 10 Knights from each of the college’s nine departments, as well as the Nicholson School of Communication.
  2. Pegasus Magazine was delivered to mailboxes and inboxes last week. Read a digital copy, or download the Pegasus Magazine iPad app.
  3. Hear ye, here ye! The Orlando Shakespeare Theater, in partnership with UCF, presents performances of “The Tempest” through March 27 staring UCF alumna, Gracie Winchester, ’14, and “The Adventures of Pericles” through March 26.
  4. Did you know UCF has a student belly dancing club? The Shimmy Knights are dedicated to promoting positive body image and teaches students who want to learn the art of belly dancing!
  5. Looking for ways to get involved? View the UCF Alumni events calendar to find a local event near you!

College of Sciences Recognizes its Newest Group of Outstanding AlumKnights

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On March 3, the UCF College of Sciences and its alumni chapter hosted their second annual Outstanding AlumKnights awards ceremony. The college’s dean, Michael Johnson, hosted this year’s festivities, which took place in the Grand Ballroom of the UCF FAIRWINDS Alumni Center, where guests enjoyed music, cocktails, heavy hors d’oeuvres and a photo booth, in addition to the award presentations.

Congratulations to all of this year’s Outstanding AlumKnights!

The 2016 awardees were:

  • Anthropology | Amanda Groff, Ph.D., ’03, ’05, ’07, lecturer, UCF Department of Anthropology
  • Biology | David Breininger, Ph.D., ’09, lead wildlife biologist, NASA Ecological Programs, Kennedy Space Center
  • Chemistry | Robert DeVor, Ph.D., ’03, ’08, scientist/principal investigator, Vencore Inc.
  • Communication | Marci Gonzalez, ’05, reporter, ABC affiliate, New York
  • Mathematics | Robert Muise, Ph.D., ’88, ’90, ’03, senior staff systems engineer, Lockheed Martin
  • Physics | Howard Bender III, Ph.D., ’97, ’98, R&D program manager, National Security Technologies LLC
  • Political Science | Carol Lawrence, ’71, attorney at law, Carolyn J.B. Lawrence P.A.
  • Psychology | Diane Robinson, Ph.D., ’06, ’10, program director, Cancer Support Community/Integrative Medicine Department, UF Health Cancer Center, Orlando Health
  • Sociology | Monica Mendez, Ph.D., ’02, ’08, executive director, Dress for Success Pittsburgh
  • Statistics | Tiffany Wills, ’06, assistant vice president/actuary, Hannover Life Reassurance Company of America

VIEW PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT

UCF Alumna Crowned First Miss Florida World America 2015

(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy Barón DaParré)
Kailyn Perez, ’13, dancing during the talent portion of a pageant
(Photo: Central Florida Future/Courtesy Barón DaParré)

By Marina Guerges
Central Florida Future

Most shoppers enter a mall to window shop, try on clothing or purchase items. UCF alumna Kailyn Perez, however, received a little more than what she bargained for.

In February 2013, Perez, a UCF student at the time, and her sister entered a Bloomingdale’s with the intention of trying on sunglasses. They instead walked out with a career-changing recommendation for Perez.

Jewelry consultant Peter Morales spotted Perez in the store and immediately complimented her beauty, asking her if she had ever modeled. He then suggested she try out for a beauty pageant, and little did Perez know what she thought was a simple compliment could ultimately lead her to being crowned as the first-ever Miss Florida World America 2015 in April.

Morales, who has been working as a fashion designer for more than 20 years, said when he saw Perez, he knew that “this is a girl who is not going to be overseen.”

He suggested Perez attend a preliminary round for Miss Florida USA, which was being held in Kissimmee, and offered to design her pageant dress because he specializes mostly in beauty pageant gowns and couture dresses.

Although she never thought about entering a beauty pageant, Perez said she didn’t want to miss what could be a great opportunity.

“Kailyn has the ability to communicate through a way of talking and projecting herself that is very unique and very powerful,” Morales said. “Everything she does, she does with a big smile.”

When Perez decided to take part in the pageant, her ambitions, enthusiasm and personality shined through. She eventually won runner-up and gained a new perspective on how she could connect her personal goals to the pageant world.

“Through pageants, I realized I can reach people and have an influence in a way I wouldn’t have otherwise,” she said. “I have that drive to make a change in my community and be able to spread a message of positivity to young women and to people in general.”

Although she didn’t win Miss Florida USA, she realized how inspired she became while experiencing the pageant world.

Last March, with the help of Morales, Perez decided to apply to a newly formed pageant, Miss Florida World America 2015.

She used her innate flair in public speaking, her personal experiences and her dance background to showcase her talent and make her way to the top.

Growing up in a single-parent household, Perez gained a special appreciation for her family.

“I have the most amazing mom and family in the whole world,” Perez said. “I couldn’t imagine not having that kind of support in my life. I couldn’t imagine that for children.”

Working with organizations such as A Kid’s Place and the Faine House, Perez focuses her platform on foster youth and providing homes, education and life-long skills to children in need.

The Tampa native started at UCF in 2010, majoring in political science, while also working as a freelance model.

During her time at UCF, Perez was involved in the Student Government Association, taking on the roles of senate representative and chair of the Elections and Appointments Committee.

With the dedication toward different outlets in college, Perez was unsure about the path she would take after graduation.

After graduating in December 2013, Perez was accepted to law schools in and out of state, but decided she wanted to model full time and pursue a business endeavour. She will, however, go back to that dream as she pursues a corporate and Internet law degree at Stetson University this fall.

“If you have a goal or dream, and you’re not sure exactly the plan, take advantage of every opportunity, especially at UCF.”

In the intermin, Perez has launched a start-up company called Sociover, which focuses on teaching proper social media etiquette and offers services that can revamp social sites.

“Through pageants, I realized what a source social media is,” she said. “I use it to promote my platform and my personal brand.”

While continuing to work on her company and modeling, Perez plans on fulfilling more accomplishments in the pageant world. On July 3, she will compete against 50 other young women in Washington, D.C., for the chance to be crowned Miss World America 2015. The winner will represent the country at the esteemed Miss World 2015 pageant.

“I hope I can represent Florida well,” Perez said. “I hope I can represent our school in the best way possible.”

While some students go into college without the vision of what their career path will look like, Perez says it’s important to soak in every opportunity that is presented.

“If you have a goal or dream, and you’re not sure exactly the plan, take advantage of every opportunity, especially at UCF,” Perez said. “As long as there is some kind of good that can come from it, go for it because you never know where the opportunity can lead you to one day.”

This article appeared in the Central Florida Future online. It has been slightly edited for style. See original story.

College of Sciences Presents Inaugural Outstanding AlumKnights Awards

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On Feb. 5, the University of Central Florida College of Sciences and its alumni chapter hosted the inaugural Outstanding AlumKnights award reception at the Orlando Science Center.

COS Dean, Dr. Michael Johnson welcomed the crowd, and faculty representatives from each of the college’s 10 departments and school presented the awards to their respective recipients.

The 2015 awardees were:

  • Anthropology | Keith Edwards, ’10, ’11, president, Medstar Medical
  • Biology | Alice Bard, ’86, ’89, environmental specialist II, Florida Department of Environmental Protection Division of Recreation & Parks, Bureau of Parks, District 3
  • Chemistry | Jennifer McKinley, ’94, ’96, co-founder and chief operating officer, IRradiance Glass
  • Nicholson School of Communication | Clay McMillan, ’90, president, CMI Production Services
  • Mathematics | Aicha Elhor Gillespie, Ph.D., ’00, senior vice president of Citi Shared Services Global Re-engineering
  • Physics | Clara Rivero-Baleine, Ph.D., ’01, ’03, ’05, mechanical engineer, Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control
  • Political Science | Ybeth Bruzual, ’05, morning news/political coverage anchor/moderator, News 13
  • Psychology | Kristin Chase, ’03, director of organizational development department, Universal Orlando
  • Sociology | Nicholas Guittar, Ph.D., ’01, ’05, ’11, assistant professor of sociology, Valdosta State University
  • Statistics | Stephanie Urdahl, ’05, assistant vice president and actuary, Financial Solutions Pricing Department, Hannover Re

Not only did the event honor the college’s most outstanding alumni, but it also raised money for scholarships through a silent auction.

Guests had fun interacting with exhibits at the science center, including a hands-on liquid nitrogen demonstration that had everyone jumping at the explosion of an expanding balloon! They also enjoyed live music, while sipping drinks and snacking on hors d’oeuvres — including the crowd-favorite flaming donuts. To finish off the evening’s festivities, awardees and their families dressed up in UCF props and captured their Knight pride in the photo booth.

VIEW PHOTOS

Distinguished Student 2014

Donna Perez, '83, '88 (left), the 1982 winner of the Distinguished Student Award, presented this year's award to Cynthia Florentino, '14. (PHOTO: Brandon Chestnut)
Donna Perez, ’83, ’88 (left), the 1982 winner of the Distinguished Student Award, presented this year’s award to Cynthia Florentino, ’14.
(PHOTO: Brandon Chestnut)
Cynthia Florentino, ’14 | Google Policy Fellow, U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

Cynthia Florentino graduated from UCF with a political science degree after dedicating the majority of her time to professional development and extracurricular involvement. Florentino served in a cabinet position for the UCF Student Government Association and enrolled in a federal college program, where she became chair of the President’s Leadership Council her senior year. She currently attends graduate school in Washington, D.C., and continues to pursue her dream of transforming lives with the use of the Internet as a tool for empowerment.

Learn more about Cynthia: