Engineering the Future

The term “partnering” for engineering schools like Florida Institute of Technology used to describe having students “co-op” or alternate semesters at area high-tech companies. Those programs still exist, but research and public-private partnerships are gaining new prominence on campus today.

Support by local industry “has always been strong, but it’s probably stronger now than it has ever been. For me, it’s very exciting,” said Fredric Ham, dean of the College of Engineering, the largest on campus with 2,000 undergrads and 700 grad students.

“It can actually involve several different facets, like a cooperative agreement for joint research ventures,” said Ham. “A lot of the larger companies now look to universities as their research arm and want to engage portions of the faculty in some of their programs. It can happen on two levels: one could be to actually work with them on a specific program. Maybe they need some expertise that perhaps they don’t have. The other part of it is an applied research component.”

Real-World Experience

The other mainstay of partnerships is getting future engineers real-world experience with internships and co-ops with companies like Harris, Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, DRS and Raytheon, he added.

“Partnerships are part of the recruiting strategy for the best students and sometimes they pay off as future employers,” Ham explained. “As seniors they have to get together as a group and design and build something. And lo and behold, guess who is heavily involved in that? Industry. They not only help us fund some of these projects, but some of the engineers actually work with the students on the projects by giving them advice and acting as mentors. A lot of the students end up working for these companies.”

The new slogan for the college is, “We engineer the future.”

Not Only in Engineering

Business college enrollment and community involvement have grown because of a new master’s degree program and the establishment of the Center for Entrepreneurship and New Business Development, officials said.

“We get involved with the community on several different levels,” said Annie Becker, dean of the Nathan M. Bisk College of Business, now with 300 undergraduate students on campus and 50 MBA students. About 12 students are enrolled in a new master’s degree program in Innovation and Entrepreneurship (MSIE).

“There are many opportunities for us to become engaged with, not only our regional community, but really the state and nationwide,” Dr. Becker said. “And benefits from the partnerships can be a two-way street.”

“In the last 10 years, we’re the third fastest growing private university in the country, growing over 122 percent. Partnerships of all types fit into the Florida Tech philosophy of being an integral part of the local economy,” FIT President Anthony Catanese said. “The point is we very much want to be part of the economic development of this region because as this region grows, so does Florida Tech. I think that’s what’s special about the university.”

Florida Tech Research


Student Aid — Mainstream Engineering of Rockledge sought Florida Tech’s help in launching the company’s new HVAC Remote Monitoring System (RMS) product. Students developed a full, go-to-market strategy for the company.


Research Park Grows — Florida Tech Research Park, a partnership with Melbourne International Airport, now has headquarters on NASA Boulevard in Melbourne. The park continues to welcome tenants, most recently Archo Solutions Engineering USA, of Sao Paolo, Brazil, and previously, Revolution Technologies.

Wind Power — Y.I. Sharaf-Eldeen, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, received a one-year, $54,107 research grant from Florida Power & Light Co. to study the wind resource potential in the utility’s service area.

On the Road — Florida Tech College of Engineering faculty members were awarded about $750,000 in research contracts from the Florida Department of Transportation for three projects, including one to explore usage of ground tire chips below the asphalt or concrete driving surface.


For National Security — Marco Carvalho, Harris Institute of Assured Information, leads a security effort to design and implement a command and control framework for moving target defense management and computer network coordination. The project, in collaboration with the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition, is funded by a $1.9 million award from the U.S. Department of Defense.

Off Vietnam — Steven Jachec, ocean engineering faculty member, received a $303,000 grant from the Office of Naval Research for work in coastal oceanography and coastal resource to understand the interaction of ambient coastal ocean flows, which also involves Vietnamese researchers.

• Better Drinking Water — Virender Sharma, College of Science faculty member, joins in a National Science Foundation-funded grant to develop to control harmful cyanobacteria from drinking water reservoirs worldwide. Sharma will receive about 50 percent of the $400,000 in awarded funds.