Students buckle up as a Daytona military simulation company sets its sights on driver's ed training.
By Ken Ibold
A Daytona Beach company may transform one coming-of-age ritual for teen-agers as it adapts cutting-edge military simulation technology to driver's education.
Raydon Corp. made its mark using simulators to teach soldiers how to drive armored Bradley vehicles and shoot from moving Abrams tanks. Using the same technology, the company has created the Raydon Virtual Driver, a souped-up video game intended to help students become safe drivers. Orange County public schools now have 10 of the $15,000 driving stations.
For decades, driver's ed simulators have involved placing students at a set of rudimentary automobile controls and having them react to images of driving situations projected on a screen. Although the traditional simulators teach some situational awareness, they can't match Raydon's simulator for realism, says Deborah Quackenbush, vice president of commercial products for Raydon. Her company's technology, she says, "gives students a much richer experience."
The Raydon Virtual Driver, along with a companion multimedia package for classroom work, puts students on a virtual road behind the wheel of a fairly authentic car mock-up. Students lose points for such nuances as not adjusting the mirror or not checking the blind spot during lane changes. A major foul-up, such as a collision or running off the road, terminates the lesson. Students have to complete a lesson successfully before moving on.
The company plans to modify the program, which was developed in cooperation with the Florida Department of Education, so the package is more attractive to driver's ed programs around the country.
The capabilities have already caught the eye of the Warsaw Community Driver Education Co-op, an Indiana driver's ed co-op that runs high school classes and also trains teachers in Indiana and Michigan for driver's ed instruction. In three months, the co-op ran 65 students through the program with excellent results, says Leslie Richardson, a program instructor.
Raydon sees potential beyond high school. Noting that driver's license examiners lead the state in workers' comp claims, Quackenbush says the simulator also could be used to screen license applicants for basic skills before examiners administer road tests.
In the meantime, the company is optimistic about its chances of being a big player in the driver's ed game. Says Quackenbush confidently: "We're going to kick it up a notch."
In the News
DeLand -- Intellitec has landed a $23.4-million contract to produce upgraded detection systems used by the military to spot and identify biological warfare agents. The fully automated system uses lasers to identify potential threats in locations as diverse as ships and desert encampments. The system also may have applications in a civil counter-terrorism role.
Heathrow -- Developer Ron Pizzuti will sell all of his holdings in the Heathrow International Business Center, including eight buildings that comprise nearly 1 million square feet of office space and 92 acres of undeveloped land. Pizzuti says he does not plan to sell a tract in downtown Orlando. He plans to build two office high-rises, a hotel and restaurant/retail space there.
Orange County -- County commissioners approved an $800,000 incentive package for Indra Sistemas SA, a Spanish company that makes flight simulators in east Orange County. The deal gives Indra $160,000 in county tax relief and $640,000 in state tax relief over the next six years if the company hires and keeps 160 employees at an average wage of $61,000 a year. The 6,000-employee company currently employs 36 people locally at an average of $97,000 a year.
Orlando -- BellSouth plans to close call centers in Orlando, Daytona Beach, Fort Pierce and Panama City and relocate the jobs to the company's other 28 call centers. About 122 people in Orlando and 91 in Daytona are affected.
Fliers using Orlando International Airport will be guinea pigs for an arsenal of new security screening devices being tested by the National Safe Skies Alliance, a non-profit organization testing the equipment for the federal government. Orlando is one of two permanent test sites, along with Knoxville, Tenn., because of its high passenger count and the wide variety of objects tourists carry with them. ... Also at OIA, the on-again, off-again expansion is off again, or at least delayed. The proposed opening date of June 2005, already delayed from December 2002, will slide while the airport authority studies demand and considers how to accommodate new security measures.
Lockheed Martin Corp. has been awarded a $12.7-billion contract to provide support for F-16 fighters flown by 16 foreign countries. The 23-year contract includes engineering services, technical support and weapons systems acquisition/integration.
The Mall at Millenia released a list of more than 90 retailers that have signed leases at the upscale shopping center that will open in October. In addition to such names as Tiffany, Gucci and Cartier, mall officials unveiled a list of luxury retailers that cannot yet be found in central Florida. The 1.2-million-sq.-ft. mall will have about 150 retailers -- two-thirds of them will be new entries to the area and about 20% are in the rarified Tiffany/Gucci/Cartier genre.
Baldwin Park, the neighborhood rising on the former site of Orlando's Navy training center, may look a bit familiar when home sales begin this summer. Seven of the 10 builders selected to construct homes in the area were also builders in Walt Disney Co.'s Celebration. Baldwin Park managing director David Pace picked the 10 companies, apparently relying heavily on his experience in helping launch Celebration, where he was real estate director for seven years.
Sanford -- The U.S. Attorney's Office has ended its criminal investigation of SunJet Aviation, the charter company that operated the Learjet that carried golfer Payne Stewart and five others to their deaths in 1999, without seeking prosecution. When investigators seized the company's records, maintenance logbooks and other data in April 2000, the company was unable to continue operating according to FAA procedures and closed.
Jerome P. Keuper -- Founder of FIT
MELBOURNE -- Jerome P. Keuper, founder and president emeritus of the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, died March 25 after a long illness. He was 81.
In 1958, Keuper opened Brevard Engineering College for scientists, technicians and engineers at what is now Kennedy Space Center. The school -- which Newsweek called "the night school for missile men" -- was renamed in 1965. Keuper served as president until 1986.
Keuper was an Army intelligence officer during World War II. He later earned degrees from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University, receiving his doctorate in nuclear physics from the University of Virginia.
During his career, Keuper served on the Florida Board of Independent Colleges and Universities, where he was president of the Council of Presidents, and was director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta's Jacksonville branch. He was also a member of the advisory boards of the National Energy Foundation and the Institute of International Education.
Alfred A. McKethan -- Banker, Citrus Grower
BROOKSVILLE -- Alfred A. McKethan, a Hernando County banker and founder of Florida Citrus Mutual,died here March 31. He was 93.
McKethan, retired chairman of what is now SunTrust Bank/Nature Coast, led the effort to create the original Sunshine Skyway project. He also helped choose the location of Florida Presbyterian College, now Eckerd College. He was a member of the Florida Citrus Commission and in 1962 was the first chairman of the governing board of the Southwest Florida Water Management District. In 1994 he was honored by the late Gov. Lawton Chiles.