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UNF School of Computing unveils new RF-SMART Intelligent Systems Lab renovations

UNF professionals mingling in the new RF-SMART LabThe University of North Florida’s School of Computing celebrated the opening of its new computer lab Tuesday as part of the institution’s ongoing partnership with local software company RF-SMART.

The RF-SMART Intelligent Systems Lab, housed on the second floor of the John E. Mathews Jr. Computer Science Building (15), will provide 30 desktop computers and seat 49 students, an increase from the 22 seats previously available.

Interim President Pamela Chally, College of Computing, Engineering & Construction Dean Dr. William “Chip” Klostermeyer and School of Computing Director Dr. Sherif Elfayoumy hosted students, faculty and representatives from RF-SMART for a ribbon-cutting ceremony in the lab, the second of its kind funded by the Jacksonville-based company.

Dr. Elfayoumy praised these changes to the classroom/lab hybrid space, allowing for more hands-on learning opportunities for students in the program.

The new space offers many more opportunities for students to engage in their coursework and participate in transformational learning opportunities. Dr. Klostermeyer said the space previously was “cramped and pretty useless,” therefore the redesigned room will better serve the students and faculty in the department.

Prior to the renovation, the classroom had fewer outlets for students to plug in laptops and other devices. That issue has been resolved with power outlets and ethernet ports installed throughout the flooring of the lab. The carpeting has also been removed and newer desks have been installed for an optimized classroom experience.

RF-SMART Chairman Jorge Morales, along with CEO and President Michael Morales, spoke positively on the partnership UNF has made with their company, which has culminated into endowed scholarship and professorship programs, as well as job positions for graduates from The School of Computing.

“[UNF students’] work ethic, their character [and] the way they go about their careers is an absolute pleasure and we’re so excited to continue to invest in the University,” said Michael Morales, current CEO of RF-SMART.

Michael Morales also cited the company currently has more than 50 job openings available and encourages anyone with the right qualifications to apply.

“We are open for business in every sense of the word,” he said.

RF-SMART officials also surprised UNF with a generous donation of 50 Dell laptops, which will be provided to students who are less fortunate and may not have personal computers of their own.

“When a student can’t complete their classes for their work because they don’t have a laptop or because their parents don’t have money, the difference it makes in a student’s life to be able to give them a working laptop is unbelievable,” Dr. Klostermeyer said, thanking the company for its generous gift. “The stories we get [from students] are so profound.”

Dr. Elfayoumy is also optimistic this new learning environment will bolster the University’s eventual application for a Ph.D. program in Computing and “allow us to increase the hands-on component in our curriculum in relation to Intelligent Systems.”

He praised the department’s continued growth, having tripled in size and now offering 300 lab seats to students, with RF-SMART funding a computer lab on the third floor of Building 15.

Elfayoumy said the expansion of the department is critical as the demand for computing graduates continues to surge. He prioritizes the curriculum and space to contain niche classes such as Web Frameworks, a course that when taught he said helped his second daughter, Farrah, land a position working in that specialty at Citi Bank, a Fortune 50 company. His first daughter, Honya, also graduated from the School of Computing and works for Bank of America.

Richard Lentz, a staff member and adjunct professor for The School of Computing, recalled his own time working in this room as a student.

“There was no power and ethernet in this room,” Lentz said. “We used to have to run a power cable over here where the podium was because that was the only power in the entire room.”

Lentz praised the changes to the space and believes the increased space will impact robotics studies and research opportunities for students.

The excitement for the lab’s opening is felt by students, as well.

Kayla Martin, a junior majoring in Information Science and president of the Society of Women Advancing in Technology (SWAT), attended the ceremony and cited the great potential for the new lab for students in her field. She hopes to use her experiences at UNF to pursue a career in software engineering or Robotic Process Automation (RPA) development.

“I’m excited to potentially have more students have an extra space to work to complete projects and classwork assignments,” Martin said.