By Jamie Calvert

Staff Writer

Florida’s first doctoral degree program for intelligent systems and robotics will be developed here at UWF’s Hal Marcus College of Science and Engineering, thanks to a partnership with the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition.

It is also one of few programs of its kind in the entire nation. The only other schools housing a program like this are at universities like Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

UWF President Martha Saunders said that this initiative has been three years in the making.

“When we put together our strategic plan, we did so with the clear understanding that we are going to build on our strengths and leverage the resources of the region,” Saunders said. “This doctoral program is a good example of that.”

UWF Student Government Association President Brandon Malone was present at the meeting in Boca Raton earlier this month when the doctoral program was approved by the Florida Board of Governors

“It was amazing to watch the first PhD program for robotics research be approved for my university,” Malone said. “It’ll bring good company to the region, and it definitely will put us on the map. I can see it being great for our academics and for commerce. It’s a moment I’ll never forget.”

Pre-professional biology student Paolo Llanera, who studies in Hal Marcus, said he is excited for the new program and what it will bring to his college.

“It’s record breaking,” Llanera said. “I think that it’s good for UWF, just for us to be recognized as having the first in the state. I’m excited to see what students or future doctoral candidates come through the program and what they’ll come up with. They’re gonna have a big impact on the school and on our lives.”

The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition is housed in downtown Pensacola, and was founded by UWF Alumni Ken Ford. It is considered one of the nation’s premier research facilities and boasts world-class engineers.

Ken Ford has been incredibly impactful for the world of academia. He has been published several hundred times, developed a new program for NASA in 1999 and served as its Director, was nominated by George W. Bush to serve on the National Science Council, served as a member of the NASA Advisory Council, has won dozens of awards for his service and much more.

The program will kick off in the fall of 2019 and will remain small- the cap has been placed at 25. However, there are hopes that the future will bring partnerships with agencies like the U.S. Department of Defense and beyond.

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