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UCF’s Top Stories of 2014

From announcing a new downtown campus, to pursuing a smart-sensors research center, to winning a major bowl game and whipping up an engineering miracle for a 6-year-old boy born without one of his arms, UCF has been in the headlines all year.

Here’s a look at 10 of the year’s top stories for the nation’s second-largest university:

Downtown campus

President John C. Hitt announced in September that UCF and Valencia College will build a joint downtown campus for 10,000 to 13,000 students. The university is seeking state funding and working with the City of Orlando and other partners to develop the campus on 68 acres adjacent to Interstate 4 and the Parramore Community. No decisions have been made about which programs would move downtown to complement the community and provide opportunities for students. One new academic program to be developed will be for students with disabilities to allow them to attend classes and participate fully in college life. http://today.ucf.edu/game-changer-ucf-pursue-expansion-downtown-orlando/ [1]

A new arm

A group of students led by engineering doctoral student Albert Manero used their free time to design and build an arm for Alex Pring, 6, of Groveland, who was born with one arm. The team uploaded the design, which cost under $350 to make on a 3-D printer, to the Internet so anyone can download the blueprints and help others. http://today.ucf.edu/fulfilling-6-year-olds-dream-ucf-students-design-build-arm/ [2]

Cyber defense

UCF’s Cyber Defense Team won the Raytheon National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition in April. The challenge, sponsored in part by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, included teams from the Air Force Academy, University of California and Rochester Institute of Technology. The national champs met Vice President Joe Biden at the White House as part of their victory trip. http://today.ucf.edu/cyber-defense-team-takes-first-nation-victory-photo-displayed-times-square/ [3]

Top inventor

Optics researcher S.T. Wu was inaugurated into the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame for his work advancing liquid-crystal displays. He holds more than 80 patents on devices used in computer monitors, smart phones and TV screens. The hall’s six inaugural inductees included Thomas Edison, air conditioning pioneer John Gorrie and Gatorade inventor Robert Cade. http://today.ucf.edu/ucf-inventor-lcd-technologies-named-new-florida-inventors-hall-fame/ [4]

New hires

UCF has started a hiring drive to add 200 faculty members by the end of next year. One hundred of the hires will fill new positions; the others will fill vacancies. The hires are being made in every college, with emphasis in STEM and programs that are in high student demand. http://today.ucf.edu/presidents-faculty-welcome-salary-increases-new-hires/ [5]

Top-notch students

More National Merit Scholars chose to attend UCF than another other Florida university this year. The university’s overall enrollment of National Merit Scholars is 275 – 28 more than last year. Incoming freshmen also set UCF records, with average SAT scores of 1256 and an average GPA of 3.91. https://today.ucf.edu/ucf-students-start-new-year/ [6]

Winning student-athletes

Not only did the Knights football team win the 2014 Fiesta Bowl and back-to-back American Athletic Conference championships, the team’s graduation rate ranks No. 3 among public universities in the nation. In all sports, UCF’s student-athlete graduation rate is the nation’s best among public schools. https://today.ucf.edu/ncaa-graduation-rate-ucf-1-among-public-institutions/ [7]

Low-income and first-generation students

UCF this year helped create the national University Innovation Alliance, a coalition to help low-income and first generation students attain an affordable college degree. Ten other universities joined the partnership, including Arizona State, Ohio State and Michigan State. The alliance received a $5.7 million grant from the Ford, Gates, Kresge, Lumina, Markle and USA Funds foundations. https://today.ucf.edu/ucf-ohio-state-texas-among-11-schools-developing-national-playbook-higher-ed/ [8]

Metropolitan consortium

UCF, University of South Florida, and Florida International University – which together serve 63 percent of the state’s population – formed the Florida Consortium of Metropolitan Research Universities to leverage resources. The group’s goal is to work together to improve graduation rates and increase the number of graduates employed in the state. https://today.ucf.edu/state-rewards-ucf-usf-fiu-collaboration-8-5-million-grants/ [9]

Smart sensors

UCF joined with Osceola County, Florida High Tech Corridor Council, Orlando Economic Development Commission, and the State of Florida to develop a smart sensor research and manufacturing center. Analysts predict the industry could top $1 trillion in the near future for the products that help computers run faster, improve air-travel safety, detect cancer sooner and provide other benefits. The center is expected to be open in 2017. http://today.ucf.edu/new-smart-sensors-research-partnership-aims-boost-florida-growing-industry/ [10]