FAMU, FSU, TCC Join Forces in Research Showcase

Dec 3, 2015

For the first time ever, Tallahassee’s three institutions of higher learning brought the fruits of their research together the evening of Tuesday, November 29. The joint “Discovery on Parade” exhibit at the Turnbull Center was a showcase of technology and innovation.

Will McClusky graduated from FSU, left town and then returned to affiliate with the DOMI Station Incubator. His startup firm, called “Proper Channel”, has an online tool that helps organizations develop and track processes as well as develop personnel.

“Let’s have the expert who knows all the shortcuts be able to hop in there and share those best practices so now the new person who comes in can perform just like an expert right out of the gate,” he said as he showed off the product.

Brandon Reese, a post-doctoral student at the FAMU/FSU College of Engineering, was demonstrating advanced robotics; machines capable of adapting to unexpected situations on the fly.

“We can write an algorithm that either auto-pilot-controls a vehicle, could control an airplane, or for a more visible demo, we’re controlling a pendulum here,” he said, while a screen graphic of a pendulum accurately tracked the random gyrations of a dot.

Then there was Florida A&M University Associate Chemistry Professor Dr. Nelly Mateeva. She’s been working with flavonoids; compounds from plants, including edible fruits and vegetables, for use in new drugs to battle HIV and cancer. She said these substances have far fewer toxic side effects than most synthetically-based medications. “Those natural products don’t,” she explained. “Nothing is perfect in this world, but generally yes; they have less side effects and are less toxic.”

FSU Vice President of Research Gary Ostrander said these were just a few of the exhibits spread out across two floors and several rooms of the Turnbull Center.

“We have 70-plus booths, tables set up today,” he said. Each one distinctively different from the one next to them. Pretty neat what’s happening at all three of our higher education institutions.”

Top-notch collegiate research can attract big money to spur additional research. And Ostrander said his own school just broke all records in that regard.

“For the five years ending June 30th, we had $1,248,000,000. So those are competitive research grants, contracts the faculty are winning from international, national funding agencies, private foundations and state grants all totaled.”

Most of which, Ostrander said, stays where it lands.

“So that’s money that in turn then that’s being circulated in the Tallahassee/Leon County community. It’s going to movie theatres, it’s going to restaurants, it’s going to stores, so there’s a huge impact that all the universities are bringing to this community.”

Larry Lynch is Director of the Entrepreneurial Excellence Program with the Economic Development Council of Tallahassee/Leon County. He sees all this research transforming the commercial landscape of the Capital City.

“We’ve got these smart people graduating from FSU, FAMU and TCC. This is the way we get them to stay because they’re forming their own companies and making those companies large and then companies on the outside that already exist go, ‘What’s going on down in Tallahassee? I better go find out about it.’ and they start investing too, so that’s why we’re so excited about this.”

That wasn’t the only thing to be excited about. The next day (Wednesday, Nov. 30) was MuniMod Demonstration Day at the downtown IMAX Theatre. That’s a contest hosted by the Florida League of Cities. Twenty students from the three local schools would present the products they’d developed that are useful to municipal governments. The winner would take home a $5,000 thousand dollar prize.