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.”

Just the Facts

Each year, UCF Marketing publishes a facts guide, highlighting the university’s successes in numbers. Here are the facts for 2014-15:

UCF at First Glance

GROWTH WITH QUALITY AND DIVERSITY

  • Fall 2014 freshman class set UCF records with an average SAT score of 1256 and an average high school GPA of 3.9.
  • UCF set records for diversity in the fall: 41 percent of students are minorities and 22 percent are Hispanic.
  • UCF is the nation’s second-largest university with 60,810 students, including 52,532 undergraduates, 7,858 graduate students and 420 M.D. students.
  • UCF ranks second among Florida’s state universities with 275 National Merit Scholars enrolled.
  • UCF’s six-year graduation rate is 69.7 percent, third best among Florida’s state universities.

PREPARING STUDENTS FOR THE WORKFORCE

  • More than 20,000 students gain practical experience through co-ops, internships and service-learning projects annually.
  • UCF awarded nearly 2,000 baccalaureate degrees in STEM fields in 2013-14, the second-largest number in the State University System.
  • Career Services helped 30,000 students search and compete for jobs in 2013-14.

AN AFFORDABLE, BEST-VALUE EDUCATION

  • 48 percent of UCF students graduate without any educational debt. Nationally, only 33 percent of students graduate debt-free.
  • Kiplinger and The Princeton Review consistently rank a UCF education among the nation’s best value.

A LEADER IN ECONOMIC IMPACT

  • UCF employs about 11,000 faculty and staff members. The university impacts more than 112,000 additional jobs and adds $7.73 billion of value to the economy, according to a 2009-10 study by the Florida Board of Governors.

Enrollment

TOTAL: 60,810
Undergraduate: 52,532
Freshman: 6,513
Transfer: 7,476
Graduate: 7,858
Medical Professional: 420

Hispanic (21.6%), African-American (10.5%), Asian and Pacific Islander (5.7%) and Multiracial (3%)

$44.9 million awarded to Bright Futures students (second-largest amount in Florida)

77 percent of undergraduate students received financial aid

$437 million in financial aid awarded

275 National Merit Scholars enrolled, a UCF record

Fall Freshman Profile

Average SAT Score: 1256* (1849**)
Average ACT Score: 27.4
Average High School GPA: 3.9

Fall Freshman Profile, The Burnett Honors College

TOTAL: 506
Average SAT Score: 1398* (2057**)
Average ACT Score: 31.5
Average High School Weighted GPA: 4.3

*Critical Reading and Mathematics
**Critical Reading, Mathematics and Writing

Degree Programs

TOTAL: 210
Bachelor’s: 92
Master’s: 83
Doctoral: 31
Specialist: 3
Professional: 1


Degrees Conferred (as of Summer 2014)

TOTAL: 265,582
Bachelor’s: 217,552
Master’s: 43,830
Doctoral: 3,613
Specialist: 587

Top 15 Majors by Enrollment

  1. Psychology
  2. Health Sciences: Pre-Clinical
  3. Biomedical Sciences
  4. Nursing
  5. Mechanical Engineering
  6. Hospitality Management
  7. Accounting
  8. Biology
  9. Interdisciplinary Studies
  10. General Business
  11. Finance
  12. Elementary Education
  13. Marketing
  14. Computer Science
  15. Criminal Justice

Cost of Attendance (estimated per semester†)

IN-STATE
Tuition and fees: $2,972
Books and supplies: $573
Room and board: $4,879
TOTAL: $8,424

OUT-OF-STATE
Nonresident tuition and fees: $10,484

†Based on 14 undergraduate credit hours

Facilities

The main campus is 1,415 acres, approximately one-third of which is managed for conservation.

  • 180 buildings
  • Housing: 11,593 beds (includes affiliated)
  • Bright House Networks Stadium: 45,000-seat capacity
  • CFE Arena: 10,000-seat capacity

Research Funding

2013-14: $145.6 million
UCF researchers have earned more than $1 billion in external grants and contracts during the past decade.

Endowment Assets

June 30, 2014: $155.5 million

Operating Budget

2013-14: $1.5 billion

Employees

TOTAL: 11,074
Faculty members: 1,961
Staff members: 9,113

Regional Locations

  • Center for Emerging Media
  • Executive Development Center
  • Florida Solar Energy Center
  • Health Sciences Campus at Lake Nona
  • Rosen College of Hospitality Management

Regional Campus Locations

  • Altamonte Springs
  • Cocoa
  • Daytona Beach
  • Leesburg
  • Ocala
  • Palm Bay
  • Sanford/Lake Mary
  • South Lake
  • Valencia Osceola
  • Valencia West

Alumni

More than 235,000

Unless otherwise noted, figures are for Fall 2014.


UCF Goals

  1. Offer the best undergraduate education available in Florida.
  2. Achieve international prominence in key programs of graduate study and research.
  3. Provide international focus to our curricula and research programs.
  4. Become more inclusive and diverse.
  5. Be America’s leading partnership university.

The goals are directions of travel. We’ve changed, and the way we pursue the goals has changed. —John C. Hitt