UCF President John Hitt furthered the university’s reputation as a leading institution for engineering and computer science at the National Engineering Forum (NEF) regional dialogue on campus last month.

Ninety-one Orlando leaders including representatives from industry, students, faculty, and government agencies – gathered to discuss opportunities for ensuring engineering’s continued growth regionally and statewide, and its sustainability and competitiveness in the global economy. A sampling of key recommendations that emerged from the evening’s dialogue include:

  • Directing Pell Grant and student loan support toward engineering studies.
  • Recruiting future engineers from underrepresented groups and regions – and start STEM engagement before high school.
  • Align university curriculum to multi- and transdisciplinary opportunities, and focus state and federal funding efforts and peer review to reward/provide grants to multi-disciplinary initiatives.
  • Connect industry and universities to initiate “junior design projects” and develop more relevant senior design projects that map to the real world.
  • Jeff Wilcox, NEF founder and vice president for Engineering and Program Operations at Lockheed Martin, said, “NEF exists to acclaim the role of American engineers and shine a light on three central challenges facing our engineering enterprise: capacity, capability and competitiveness – we call them the 3C’s. NEF travels the country and convenes regional dialogues in partnership with local engineering leaders to identify solutions to those 3C’s.”

    As host of NEF’s 17th regional dialogue, President Hitt said UCF’s “roots” in engineering date to 1963 when “state leaders envisioned an institution that would educate students for promising space-age careers in engineering, electronics, and other technological professions.” UCF’s scope has broadened through the years and the College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) is the largest of its kind in Florida and 9th largest in the nation, serving more than 9,500 graduate and undergraduate students.

    One of these students, Albert Manero II, delivered the keynote address at the NEF dialogue. Manero is a UCF mechanical engineering Ph.D. candidate and executive director of Limbitless Solutions, an Orlando-based non-profit organization that is devoted to bringing volunteers and technology to the kids who need it most. In his keynote, Manero said, “In addition to NEF’s 3Cs, I’d like to add a fourth C – for compassion,” said Manero. “If we practice engineering with compassion, if we do more in our free time to apply our engineering skills to causes that matter, we can change the world.”

    Michael Georgiopoulos, Ph.D., CECS dean and EECS professor was instrumental in organizing the program.  “I personally have had the opportunity to connect with a number of stakeholders who truly care about the future of our educational institutions and the students who matriculate in them. This is where UCF has played an integral role in finding a solution [to the challenges facing engineering].”


    “Supporting and expanding the field of engineering is important to the progress of our region and state,” says MJ Soileau, Ph.D., vice president of UCF’s Office of Research and Commercialization. “As the second largest university in the United States, UCF is proud to house one of the nation’s leading engineering programs. NEF brought together a diverse group of innovative minds and fostered productive dialogue directed toward ensuring the growth and sustainability of the industry.”

    NEF brings together individuals who have a stake in preserving and growing the American engineering enterprise. Chad Evans, executive vice president of the Council on Competitiveness and NEF partner said, “We need engineers themselves – along with the business community, government leaders, educators and the media – collaborating to enlighten our collective national consciousness about the power of engineering and its vital role in our nation’s competitiveness in the global economy.”