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FAMU-FSU assistant professor receives grant to study robots

INNOVATION

Reasoning Robots

FAMU-FSU assistant professor Christian Hubicki received $750,000 from the Toyota Research Institute to study ways of teaching robots to evaluate risks while carrying out tasks. The grant is part of a larger initiative from TRI that will distribute $75 million to 16 academic institutions throughout the country.

For a robot, says Hubicki, risk is anything that compromises its ability to complete the task it has been programmed to do. That could be slipping on the ground, being knocked over by a pedestrian, losing power from a battery or overheating. Hubicki’s challenge is to create algorithms that allow a robot to constantly evaluate risk in a changing environment.

“How do we take all these very different sources of failures and put it into one equation for the robot to understand?” Hubicki says. “That’s what this project is all about; giving robots the ability to reason in real-life situations, as opposed to being very rigid in their thinking.”

ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

  • Pensacola developers have made a second offer to buy 400 acres on what is known as the OLF-8 property adjacent to the sprawling Navy Federal Credit Union campus. Two years ago, Hemmer Consulting and 68 Ventures made an offer for the land, but Escambia County commissioners rejected the bid. Subsequently, the county hired Miami-based DPZ CoDesign to develop a master plan with various options for the 630-acre, county-owned site. In January, Hemmer Consulting and 68 Ventures again offered to buy the 400-acre tract for $16 million. However, Escambia Commissioner Jeff Bergosh, who represents the district containing OLF-8, says Hemmer’s $16-million offer undervalues the land. Bergosh says the county’s intent is to have the DPZ plan finalized by midsummer and then make it available to developers, who will be asked to submit plans for consideration. Jackson County officials say Amazon plans to build a 100-employee delivery hub in Marianna. The facility will be among 1,000 small delivery hubs Amazon plans to build in the U.S. over the next few years. Zach Gilmore, director of business development with the Jackson County Economic Development Council, says the company picked Jackson County because of low land costs and proximity to I-10.
  • The University of West Florida is in charge of distributing $10 million in state economic development funds aimed at creating jobs in Northwest Florida. The money comes from the state managed Industry Resilience and Diversification Fund, established by the Legislature following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The eligible counties for funding include Bay, Escambia, Franklin, Gulf, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Wakulla and Walton. The project cap per award is $2 million. Eligible industries include green technology, life sciences, information technology, aviation and aerospace, homeland security, financial and professional services, defense and manufacturing.

ENERGY

  • Gulf Power and Florida Power & Light officials are asking state regulators for a new four-year rate plan agreement that ultimately will bring the companies under the same rate structure. Gulf says the plan will result in lower bills for its Northwest Florida customers at the end of the four-year plan while other Florida customers will see an increase. FP&L’s parent company, NextEra Energy, bought Gulf Power in 2019 for $5.75 billion.

OBITUARY

Attorney Fred Levin

Pensacola native and noted trial attorney Fred Levin died in January at age 83 from COVID-19. Levin began his career in a partnership with brother David Levin and Reubin Askew, Florida’s governor from 1971-79. Levin was instrumental in convincing the Florida Legislature to revise the statute governing Florida’s Medicaid program, which allowed the state to recoup money for the cost of treating lung cancer. As a result of the change, Florida reached a $13-billion settlement with the tobacco industry. Levin earned his law degree from the University of Florida. His financial gifts and support of the UF law school resulted in the institution being named the Fredric G. Levin College of Law.

COVID-19 UPDATE

  • Florida A&M University students were hit with a strict curfew requiring them to be in their residence halls from 10 p.m.-6 a.m. Monday-Thursday and from 12 a.m.-6 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays after school officials expressed “extreme concern” about large on- and off-campus gatherings that violate A&M’s COVID policies.
  • Pensacon, Pensacola’s annual pop-culture convention, has been rescheduled for May 21-23. Founder and CEO Mike Ensley says strict safety protocols will be in place. The event typically draws more than 30,000 attendees. It was originally scheduled for February.

 

Read more in Florida Trend's April issue.
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