Building a University's Technology Infrastructure from the Ground Up

Tom Hull, VP and CIO, Florida Polytechnic University
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Tom Hull, VP and CIO, Florida Polytechnic University

As Vice President and Chief Information Officer at only university wholly dedicated to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). More than 550 students were part of the inaugural class, and that population has nearly doubled in our second year.

Strategically located between Tampa and Orlando at the heart of Florida’s High Tech Corridor, Florida Poly is dedicated to the principle that innovation occurs when research and creativity are applied to real-world challenges. The University offers six undergraduate degrees, two master’s degrees and 19 cutting-edge concentrations in emerging fields like Big Data Analytics, Nanotechnology, Cyber Security, Cloud Virtualization and Machine Intelligence. The curriculum is market-inspired and problem-based. Students and faculty work together in a hands-on learning environment to solve real-world challenges. The goal is to graduate students who enter the workforce job ready and go on to become leaders and entrepreneurs in high tech industries.

To facilitate this advanced learning model and to remain at the cutting edge, it is essential for Florida Poly to not only have today’s most advanced technology, but also an infrastructure designed to scale and adapt as rapidly as technology changes in the 21st Century.

Florida Poly’s campus includes all-new systems for administration and academics. The university embraces a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) philosophy, and an advanced data network converges wireless, wired and personal mobile devices through a unique Cisco networking configuration. Classrooms are all equipped with cloud-based workstations, and the university’s library is 100 percent digital, providing more than 135,000 titles electronically to students, faculty and staff on any device of their choosing. In addition to full-room instructional computer labs, the university has 11 innovation labs that provide a market-driven niche set of high-tech capabilities. These labs are designed to be responsive and interconnected while supporting the work and research of students, faculty and industry partners.

They include a: • Rapid Application Development (RAD) Maker space Lab: The RAD Maker space Lab is an interdisciplinary environment with 3D printing hardware, digital object scanners, AutoCAD software and RAD technology. This lab is a resource for students pursuing core engineering degrees, computer engineering degrees, and computer science and information technology degrees and Tom Hull also allows for advanced prototyping and adaptive manufacturing. The space is a multi-vendor lab that has enough capacity for an entire class of students to engage in engineering design projects simultaneously. This is especially helping in the latter part of each semester when multiple research projects become due.

“The goal is to graduate students who enter the workforce job ready and go on to become leaders and entrepreneurs in high tech industries”

• Supercomputing and Student Data Center Lab: This is a high-performance computing environment that includes a high capacity processing, storage and network data center complex. This lab is used for several courses in the College of Innovation and Technology, particularly for big data analytics and cloud virtualization concentrations, and in the College of Engineering’s required “Design I” course. The Student Data Center side allows students to have hands-on experiences with their own virtual computing server. This lab has expanded our technology partnerships for education, research and career development in the state of Florida through high-speed computing, information mapping, academic initiative computing and big data user cases.

• Cyber Gaming and Digital Media Lab: This lab consists of technologies and techniques in all areas of digital media used for online content and application development including social media, mass media, gaming and simulation. The lab spans several areas of media technology and integrates with the Supercomputer and the Visualization and Technology Collaboration (VTC) Robotics Lab in the areas of robotics, voice recognition, wearable computing and other related topics.

• Visualization and Technology Collaboration (VTC) Robotics Lab: The VTC Robotics Lab is composed of two facilities that employ advanced media and digital imaging software systems, fixed and mobile displays, multi-projection systems, scalable visualization and virtual reality to explore topics like information mapping, data digestion, robotics, creative visualization and user interface technologies. Students and faculty in the lab are studying robotics in the areas of engineering and information technology and exploring the theory behind automation and remote device management. The purpose of the lab is to facilitate collaboration among faculty, students and industry partners to deliver more engaging and impactful applications of advanced robotics hardware and software.

• Cyber Security Lab: The Cyber Security Lab is a sequestered network environment that comprises servers, transport facilities and end-user workstations to replicate and simulate real-world cyber security threats and hacker techniques. The intent is to teach the theory behind complex cyber hacks, develop an understanding of the technology and vulnerabilities across the information technology systems landscape. We then consider counter-measures and incident response tactics across platforms and applications.

 Current students, prospective students and visitors to these innovation labs and the Florida Polytechnic University campus are excited and inspired by the ultra-modern technology and infrastructure we have developed and the learning and research possibilities we are able to provide. With a technology framework built to scale and evolve continuously into the future, the next phases of technology development at Florida Poly are going to be just as exciting as this first phase, if not more so.

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