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Eglin offers facility to students

The Research and Engineering Education Facility at Eglin Air Force Base, just a few miles from the University of West Florida Fort Walton Beach Campus, allows computer engineering and electrical engineering students the opportunity to learn with hands-on training.

According to the UWF Emerald Coast website, the partnership between the University of Florida and the UWF now provides seamless education in engineering for UWF students. UWF students in undergraduate engineering now have the opportunity to immerse themselves in an engineering and research environment.

UWF students began utilizing the REEF in 2008. UF students have been using the facility even longer, Thomas Gilbar, the academic adviser at REEF, said.

According to the University of Florida website, the 45,000 square-foot REEF facility includes 15 research laboratories, two professionally equipped taping studios, auditorium seating for 110 people, a student computer laboratory and office space for the students and faculty.

Approximately 65-70 UWF students are enrolled at this time, Gilbar said.

“I know all of the professors, and they all know me,” Alia Rodriguez, a UWF student studying at the REEF, said.  “Even the professors that haven’t taught me know who I am.  If I’m at school working on an assignment, there is always someone there who can help me. I can walk about 10 feet to a professor. I can find out who in the building has taken the course already since we all know each other.  It takes me about 30 seconds to park, and I don’t have to pay for it.”

The program enables UWF faculty and students to work collaboratively with UF faculty and students on projects and to exchange ideas. Once UWF students complete the undergraduate program, they can continue their education at the graduate level with UF at the same facility, according to the UWF Emerald Coast website.

UWF has three faculty members who currently teach at the REEF, Andreas Fuchs, Bassam Shaer and Thomas Gilbar.

UWF also has two staff members at the REEF, Lesta Hill, who is in charge of student support, and Dale Baskett, who is in charge of the information technology services.

UF offers graduate programs in industrial and systems engineering and mechanical and aerospace Engineering.  They also offer other programs via distance learning, Gilbar said.

Gilbar said that the most popular majors that utilize the REEF from UWF are electrical engineering and computer engineering. REEF also has a few computer science majors, he said.

“All of the electrical engineering and computer engineering courses are taught here, so students will learn circuit analysis, electronic circuit analysis, filtering, control systems, electrical energy, electromagnetics, digital design, microprocessors and applications, communication systems, robotics, VHDL and VLSI, computer programming, data structures and systems and networks,” Gilbar said.

The program also supports the greater Eglin Air Force Base community and responds to Air Force research needs. UWF/UF-REEF students gain valuable experience while working with world class researchers from UWF/UF and the Air Force on a wide range of relevant and challenging research topics, according to the UWF Emerald coast website.

“I wouldn’t switch schools or campuses,” Rodriguez said. “It’s nice being part of such a close-knit community.”

 John Stevenson
Staff Writer 

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