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Kristen 'Brent' Venable will head the robotics program at UWF


Reasoning Robots

Kristen "Brent" Venable has been appointed inaugural director of the Intelligent Systems and Robotics program for the University of West Florida and the Florida Institute for Human and Machine Cognition. She joins UWF from Tulane University, where she held a joint appointment as a professor of computer science and research scientist for IHMC.

Venable, who will shape the new program, hire faculty and recruit doctoral students, will focus her research on the design and deployment of intelligent systems able to reason about preferences. She says she will work with students “on ways you can represent human thought in a program and code that will create a computational representation of human behavior, such as human decision making."


  • Pensacola has been awarded a $12.5-million federal grant to help fund a $210-million expansion of ST Engineering’s aircraft maintenance operation at Pensacola International Airport. The state and local governments will match the grant with more than $36 million. The project calls for three hangars, a warehouse and office space. ST currently has one large hangar at the airport. Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson says ST’s five-year expansion plan has the potential to create some 1,200 jobs.


  • Triumph Gulf Coast gave preliminary support for a $40-million allocation to Panama City to build a marina convention center — a multi-use facility to replace the Panama City Marina Civic Center that was damaged by Hurricane Michael last year. The Triumph board oversees the multi-year disbursement of $1.5 billion in settlement money from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The next step, says City Manager Mark McQueen, is to begin the detailed application process.
  • Escambia County commissioners have named Janice Gilley county administrator. Gilley had been associate vice president of external affairs at the University of West Florida.


  • Destin businessman Ryan D. “Jume” Jumonville and his wife, Raven, have given $1 million to the Destin Charity Wine Auction Foundation. The donation will be distributed among the children’s charities the foundation supports in the Destin area. Jumonville is chairman of United Networks of America, which provides products and services that reduce health care costs for businesses.


  • St. Joe broke ground on Titus Park, a 1,000-home development on a 600-acre site in Bay County, in late spring. Texas-based home builder D.R. Horton is the general contractor for the first phase, which will consist of 154 homes. “We’ve had this project in the works for a little over a year,” says St. Joe CEO Jorge Gonzalez. “We definitely accelerated the project in light of the housing demands Hurricane Michael created.”


  • The Unmanned Safety Institute, which provides flight safety training and certification for drones, has established a training center at Gulf Coast State College’s satellite campus in Port St. Joe. USI’s training curriculum focuses on safety best practices in drone applications, including inspections of cell towers, power lines, wind turbines, agricultural uses and other scenario-based uses.
  • Eman El-Sheikh, academic director of the University of West Florida’s Center for Cybersecurity, attended NATO’s cyber-defense conference in Portugal earlier this year. UWF is the first U.S. academic institution to be invited by NATO to showcase its cyber-security program. UWF is one of only eight Department of Homeland Security-designated Centers of Academic Excellence in the nation.


  • American Airlines will begin non-stop, daily service between Panama City-based Northwest Florida Beaches International Airport and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in January.


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