Northwest Florida Roundup
Three University of West Florida undergraduate students and a research professor are developing technology designed to help handlers better communicate in the field with military dogs, search-and-rescue dogs and law enforcement dogs. Their device features a small camera that can be mounted onto a dog sent into hazardous environments, such as missions to locate enemy bunkers, improvised explosive devices or people trapped in collapsed buildings.
“It’s an extremely low-light sensitive camera that can transmit a video feed and other information to the handler’s phone or tablet,” says Ty Faist, a member of the UWF design team. Faist says the device can transmit video and audio data from dozens of feet away. “Being able to see around the next corner can make all the difference,” he adds.
- The University of West Florida was recognized as a Best for Vets school by the Military Times for the fourth consecutive year. The institution ranked No. 28 out of more than 100 four-year schools surveyed, marking its highest ranking to date. “The culture at UWF supports veterans through thoughtfully created programs designed to ease their transition into civilian life,” says UWF President Martha D. Saunders. “We will continue adding new resources and enhancing existing programs to support those who have served.”
- Tallahassee Community College has been awarded $1 million from the National Science Foundation that will provide 60 students with full tuition and fees over the next four years. TCC is the only state college in the country to receive the NSF investment to provide scholarships for the growing number of students seeking associate’s degrees in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM).
- Pensacola-based Ascension Sacred Heart has two new health-care facilities under construction. A $19-million, 58,000-sq.-ft. surgical center now under construction will include six outpatient operating rooms, imaging equipment, a breast health center with mammography and a dermatology center. Meanwhile, a $9.5-million, 17,500-sq.-ft. outpatient rehabilitation center is expected to be operational by this spring, says Sacred Heart spokesman Mike Burke.
- Panama City-based Gulf Coast Regional Medical Center has announced plans for a $62-million expansion scheduled to get under way late this year. The expansion will include 52 new patient rooms and three floors built adjacent to the north and south towers of the hospital. Holly Dean, the hospital’s COO, says the expansion is expected to create 100 new full-time jobs.
- Arizona-based Nammo Defense Systems is purchasing Chemring Ordnance facility in Perry for $17 million. Chemring employs about 250 workers in Taylor County.
- The University of West Florida has received a nearly $2-million gift from the estate of the late Ron and Val Besser. The endowment from the longtime UWF supporters will provide scholarships for students in the theater, history and English departments.
- Construction of the $150-million Washington Square hotel and mixed-use project in downtown Tallahassee is at a standstill. Rick McCraw, project director for the Tallahassee Community Redevelopment Agency, says the landowner, Fairmont Tallahassee, is still negotiating with the city and cannot provide a date when construction will resume. When construction starts, the project, which will feature a 267-room Lowes hotel, should be completed in about a year, Fairmont spokesman Walter Hall wrote in an e-mail to McCraw.
- Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen closed its locations in Destin and Panama City Beach in late fall, less than a year after the restaurants opened.
- The Florida Department of Agriculture will administer a $380.7-million grant from the federal government to help the Panhandle’s timber industries and farms recover from damage caused by Hurricane Michael in 2018. “In the coming months, we’re going to be working with our state agencies to make sure we’re getting checks in hand and trees in the ground,” says Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried.
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