15 Ways Florida Tech Came Together Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic

On March 12, Florida Tech became one of the many universities across the nation that shifted to online learning because of the coronavirus pandemic. By this time, all campus events were either canceled or required to take place virtually for the foreseeable future.

The Florida Tech community, like the rest of the world, was suddenly faced with an unprecedented crisis.

However, it is in circumstances like these that the relentless Florida Tech spirit shines through most. Immediately, the community came together—from a distance—like never before.

How so, you ask?

Here’s a Roundup of 15 Ways Florida Tech Came Together Amid the Coronavirus Pandemic.

Campus and Community Initiatives

  1. Faculty and Staff Successfully Transition Classes and Labs Online

With the cancelation of in-person classes, Florida Tech had to rely on technology like never before. The information technology department assisted and trained faculty to use programs like Zoom, Canvas and Panopto before online classes were set to begin. Within the first week, professors were already getting creative with their new virtual classrooms.

Read more about Florida Tech’s transition to online classes.

2. Students and Staff Come Together to Offer a Campus Video Tour

Can’t come tour the campus? No problem. Florida Tech’s student ambassadors worked with staff to produce a campus video tour. These students truly care about providing a great experience for future panthers (and nostalgic Alumni)! Watch the full tour below.

3. Students Continue Philanthropic Efforts Virtually

COVID-19 did not stop the civic engagement office from (virtually) hosting one of the most popular philanthropy events of the year: Relay for Life. To participate, the community generously donated online to the American Cancer Society and made digital luminarias, honoring those who have fought or are currently fighting cancer.

Read all the details about Florida Tech’s virtual Relay for Life.

4. Staff Member Sews 50 Face Masks for Campus Dining

Forida Tech Residence Life director sews face maks
Hetherington wears a homemade mask.

Florida Tech Director of Residence Life Jacqueline Hetherington, with the help of her mother, Cheryl Horbert, created 50 homemade masks for workers in Campus Dining. Hetherington is part of Florida Tech’s Pandemic Response Team, which consists of people from multiple departments working to help the university navigate the coronavirus situation. She was also featured in this “From the Frontline” Q&A spotlight.

Read more about Hetherington’s mask-sewing effort.

5. WeVENTURE Helps Small Businesses Navigate Crisis

weVENTURE at Florida Tech

WeVENTURE, Florida Tech’s women’s business center in the Bisk College of Business, began virtually offering expert small business consulting services and other insights at no cost to local entrepreneurs and continues to do so as the situation unfolds.

Read more about weVENTURE’s effort to support small businesses.

6. Larsen Motorsports Launches STEAM Education Virtual Tour Initiative

Blazing Trails, the nonprofit educational outreach organization at Florida Tech affiliate Larsen Motorsports, has been hard at work promoting STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) education among young learners. Under normal circumstances, the team, led by Florida Tech alumni and students, promotes STEAM education while on the road. Due to the pandemic, members took their lessons virtual.

Watch a virtual tour featuring NASA astronaut and Florida Tech executive Winston Scott!

7. Residence Life Team Makes a Heartfelt Thank-You Video for Florida Tech Staff

Florida Tech staff have been working hard to ensure that students living on campus during the pandemic remain healthy and safe. Their efforts have not gone unnoticed. In this heartfelt thank-you video, Residence Life team members gave staff the appreciation they deserve.

8. Florida Tech Hosts First-Ever Virtual Commencement

Coronavirus concerns may have canceled Florida Tech’s traditional commencement ceremonies, but social distancing measures didn’t stop the university from honoring the hard work and accomplishments of its graduates. Faculty, staff and local production companies worked tirelessly behind the scenes to produce spring 2020 virtual commencement. On May 8, thousands of people tuned in live to commemorate the class of 2020.

Watch the full virtual commencement ceremony on YouTube.

Health Care Support Initiatives

9. Faculty, Staff and Students Use University 3D Printers to Make Face Shields for Health Care Workers

Using on-campus 3D printers, a team led by Executive Vice President for Academics Marco Carvalho and including student project director Juan Avendano Arbelaez, lab director Deep Patel and electronic lab manager David Beavers, produced and delivered dozens of face shields for health care workers on the Space Coast.

Read more about Florida Tech 3D printing face shields.

10. Gleason Performing Arts Center Shines Beacon of Hope for Front-Line Workers

Gleason Performing Arts Center joined the #LightTheSky movement, spearheaded by the entertainment industry. The movement encouraged people to project lights into the sky as beacons of hope for those working on the front line against COVID-19.

Watch the video below to see the lights in action!

11. DBA Student Leads Business Incubator Developing New Medical Technology

florida tech DBA student
Volunteers assemble PPE sanitization unit.

As the director of TechPort, an unmanned aircraft system business incubator, education center DBA student Tommy Luginbill normally doesn’t work within the medical industry. However, since the COVID-19 outbreak, he and his team have found ways to manufacture and sanitize vital health care equipment.

“I think that the world has woken up to the idea that medicine and health care are more important than maybe we were taking it,” Luginbill says.

Read the full story about TechPort’s efforts developing technology to combat COVID-19.

Research Initiatives

12. Professor’s Research Proposal Seeks to Develop Robots to Limit Interaction with Infected Individuals

Veton Kepuska, a computer engineering and sciences associate professor, has proposed the development of a voice-only system, aided by speech recognition, to substitute for physical interaction and help prevent potential disease contamination and spread. Spurred by the COVID-19 pandemic, Kepuska is seeking federal funding to develop a prototype system, which he would then install into a humanoid robot that could communicate and perform tasks with potentially infected individuals.

Read more about the COVID-19-related research proposal.

13. Indian River Lagoon Outreach Team Kickstarts a Virtual Science Bus

Under normal circumstances, the Florida Tech Indian River Lagoon Science Bus travels to schools to provide hands-on education. In an effort to continue this virtually, the team has taken to its social media pages, creating educational modules about marine science and ocean engineering topics.

 Read more about Florida Tech’s virtual science bus.

14. Ph.D. Student Uses Machine Learning to Bring Clarity to COVID-19 Situation

Nandini Rakala ’20 Ph.D., then an operations research doctoral student in the mathematical sciences department, has confirmed several key factors associated with COVID-19 after using machine learning to analyze data associated with the virus.

Read the full story about her research and findings.

15. Florida Tech Partners with U.S. Air Force for Stronger COVID-19 Response

Faculty and students from Florida Tech’s Center for Advanced Data Analytics and Systems (CADAS) are working with a team from the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command/Intelligence Data/Tech Futures Division (ACC/A29) and the Air Force Research Lab/Multi-Domain Sensing Autonomy Division (AFRL/RYA) to bring artificial intelligence and machine learning to COVID-19 planning and resource management.

Read the full story about Florida Tech’s partnership with the Air Force.

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