July 16, 2012
by Mark Ollig
This week, your humble columnist is on assignment in Florida, so I thought it would be interesting to investigate Florida’s technology scene.
The Florida High Tech Corridor Council (FHTCC) is where I ended my search.
The FHTCC is where business and higher education are working together.
One of the reasons stated on its website for starting the FHTCC “is to grow high tech industry and innovation in the region through research, workforce, and marketing partnerships.”
“The FHTCC came about in the mid-1990s, as an effort to save a $1.4 billion, 1,500 job expansion from going off-shore,” said Randy Berridge, president of the Florida High Tech Corridor Council.
Berridge went on to say the FHTCC has grown into supporting 400 companies, and 1,200 projects engaging 2,400 students working side-by-side with Florida universities.
According to Berridge, the FHTCC has invested $56 million into various Florida corridor projects. The return to the state, the companies, and the universities has been over $1 billion dollars. “That’s a pretty good partnership,” said Berridge.
The FHTCC is, according to its website, “a regional economic development initiative of the University of Central Florida (UCF), the University of South Florida (USF), and the University of Florida (UF).”
Encompassing 23 counties across Florida’s mid-section, one of the FHTCC’s fastest -growing technology sectors covers computer modeling, simulation, and training.
The simulated situations students participate in create real emotions, real interaction, and real learning.
The FHTCC STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics program) called techPath, is a focused educational curriculum. It was established to help students explore future science technologies and science-driven careers.
One of techPath’s online videos explained some of the amazing things being accomplished using a combination of computer software and hydraulics.
The simulated technicians, or “simtechs” as they are called in the video, are working on the cutting-edge of technology, as they create real-life working simulations students can use to learn, and gain experience from.
One member in the FHTCC is the Raydon Corporation.
Raydon is located in Port Orange FL. The company develops simulation training products.
“I get to work with software, hardware, engineering . . . all different types of fields,” said Ron Knighton, who is a simtech and works at Raydon.
In one example, a realistic human-like plastic patient simulator, composed of computer circuitry, was used for training nursing students.
This realistic-looking, plastic patient is a combination of a high-speed computer, intelligent software, pneumatics, hydraulics, and electronics.
Medical Education Technologies, Inc. (METI) located in the Florida high tech corridor, manufacturers and maintains these plastic, human patient simulators.
The human patient simulator is being used to train nursing students to save lives.
“It’s unbelievable. You have the heart sounds, the chest is rising . . . it talks, and the eyes works” said Jim Grimm, a student who worked with the patient simulator.
“You could actually see what you’ve been reading . . . it was cool!” commented Nadia Hayes, another student.
“It’s like the first encounter of a real person,” said student Mary Montgomery.
“One of the greatest challenges is just making it as close to a human being as possible,” said METI field service technician, Eric Carrasquillo.
“We have to make sure these simulators are capable of fooling a clinician into believing that what they are actually practicing is real,” said Tom Bloomfield, METI manager of Production/Test.
There are also many community colleges located within the Florida high tech corridor, including the Daytona Beach Community College (DBCC).
“You can incorporate many lessons on biology, mathematics, physics, computer sciences . . . all by demonstrating facets of this in the simulator,” said J.S. Gravenstein, M.D., at McKnight Brain Institute at the University of Florida, where the human patient simulator was originally developed.
Steve Burley, Director of Economic Development at D.B.C.C. said, “With the help of our industry partners, we have developed a two-year program for simulation maintenance technicians. There are plenty of jobs . . . our graduates have their choice of several jobs, and the pay is outstanding.”
Some of the students who graduated from the DBCC. were quoted on techPath’s online video as saying they had received various computing degrees.
The techPath’s motto is “Cultivating tomorrow’s workforce.”
“So what will the future hold? Whatever it is, we’re ready,” states the message at the end of a techPath video.
Florida is definitely as active a participant in the high-tech industry as any high-tech company out in California’s famous Silicon Valley.
You can follow the FHTCC at “FloridaHighTech” on Twitter.
Its website is located at: http://www.floridahightech.com.