The University of Florida Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering has announced the establishment of its second Innovation Station, UFIS at the REEF. Located in northwest Florida near Eglin Air Force Base (EAFB), the new engineering extension program will leverage the infrastructure and resources afforded by the UF Research and Engineering Education Facility (REEF) while providing further expansion of community outreach and workforce development opportunities to EAFB and the surrounding community.
Established in 2016, UF Innovation Stations (UFIS) are regionally based locations dedicated to driving economic and workforce development in critical regions of the state and strengthening Florida’s role in the global innovation economy. They are designed to meet the university’s goal of serving its land grant mission by providing measurable impact to Florida’s tech economy through proactive access to UF talent, technology, infrastructure and students.
REEF, which opened its present campus in Shalimar, Florida, in October 1995, will continue to provide support for the graduate education needs of the Eglin community in concert with UFIS. REEF will also continue to respond to Air Force research needs and opportunities through collaboration with the Air Force Research Laboratory.
The UFIS at the REEF will build on current offerings and grow to include:
- Expanded support of graduate school programs for Eglin Air Force Base personnel through the Electronic Delivery of Gator Engineering (EDGE) online and distance learning programs
- Support for regional workforce development through
- Standard and industry-specific engineering certification short courses
- Facilitation of a talent pipeline for regionally based internships and full-time employment
- Support of college pathways for engineering degrees and careers in the Northwest Florida region
- Support for community educational outreach through:
- Partnerships with the Hsu Educational Foundation and other community organizations aimed at developing STEM talent in the region
- Innovative professional development for STEM educators
David Jeffcoat, Ph.D., will serve as the director of UFIS at the REEF. He is currently Adjunct Associate Professor for Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering at the REEF. Faculty and staff within the Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering in Gainesville will support Dr. Jeffcoat and his colleagues as they develop this new Innovation Station. “We are looking forward to expanding the services and support we can offer to industry to grow our local economy and build on the strength of our region,” Jeffcoat said.
As a long-time partner with the REEF, the Economic Development Council of Okaloosa County (“EDC”) applauded the establishment of this new UFIS location. Nathan Sparks, EDC Executive Director said, “The EDC is excited to welcome the University of Florida’s Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering’s second Innovation Station to the REEF. We know that our region’s technical employers – like those that comprise our TeCMEN committee – will benefit greatly from having direct access to leading academics and researchers housed within the UF Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering who can assist them in solving real world challenges.”
The first UFIS facility was launched in Sarasota, Florida, where it has contributed to the regional community with a variety of K-12 Programs, a partnership with the State College of Florida and a talent pipeline program that links UF Engineering students with local industry partners for internships and full-time employment opportunities. Learning from programs that have served the Sarasota County region, the UFIS at the REEF will also look to partner in the regional community and engage stakeholders to develop programs that meet the local needs in Okaloosa and Walton counties.