UF funding robotic automation in construction project

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Florida Construction News staff writer

A space institute designed to expand exploration of the cosmos and a project to improve construction through robotic automation are receiving strategic funding at the University of Florida (UF)

“The University of Florida is a world-changing institution,” UF president Ben Sasse said in a news release. “Our faculty do incredible work, and we are making some strategic bets on projects that can transform everything from space exploration and agriculture to construction and sports,” Sasse said.

“We want to elevate UF’s reputation as a national research leader and innovator. We’ve been entrusted with resources from the state, and we’re putting those resources to work.”

After UF received $130 million in new funding from the Florida Legislature this year, Sasse announced more than half would be directed to special strategic projects.

This semester, UF received more than 250 submissions, and 40 proposals were selected, including:

College of Design, Construction, and Planning, and Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering:

  • Industrialized Construction Engineering (ICE), $2.5 million over two years – Funding will help harness the power of digital design, AI, and robotic automation to enhance productivity, safety, and quality in residential and commercial construction.
  • Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS): Modernizing IFAS Extension Through AI, $2.7 million over four years – This project will embed business intelligence systems into IFAS to update the extension’s infrastructure, contributing to agricultural productivity and environmental sustainability.
  • UF Research, Herbert Wertheim College of Engineering, College of Pharmacy, and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: UF Space Mission Institute, $2.5 million over two years – The goal of this initiative is to create a hub in which experts across UF’s colleges can work together to answer the most demanding questions related to space exploration, development, and commercialization.

“Our vision for this hub of space exploration sees experts from many colleges at UF working together on the most demanding questions related to space exploration, development, and commercialization,” David Norton, UF vice-president for research, said in a statement.

Chimay Anumba, dean of the College of Design, Construction, and Planning, said the Industrial Construction Engineering initiative will undoubtedly improve the construction industry.

“This funding gives us an excellent opportunity to partner with the College of Engineering to make UF the premier institution for industrialized construction,” Anumba said. “There will be huge societal benefits as we can tackle productivity, safety, quality, and resilience issues in the construction project delivery process.”

The project is also expected to address the pressing affordable housing crisis and enhance the resilience of civil infrastructure.

Also, the Modernizing IFAS Extension Through AI initiative will be pivotal in changing the way agriculture is approached statewide.

“The upgrades to our technology infrastructure through business intelligence and AI applications will not only allow us to expand our reach to meet the needs of more Floridians, but it will also allow for better engagement with other units across UF,” said Andra Johnson, dean of the UF/IFAS Extension. “We’re getting tailor-made solutions to complex problems into the hands of those who need it the most.”

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