A group of Florida Polytechnic University students have taken on the mission of making the City of Winter Haven a “smart community” to better prepare it for the challenges of the future.
The Winter Haven Economic Development Council (WHEDC) partnered with the city of Winter Haven and Florida Polytechnic University to take the first steps into making that objective a reality.
“Our goal is to build on Winter Haven’s rich fiber optic network and the rapidly expanding business and residential markets with high-value, innovative, smart communities ideas that have been proven elsewhere and can be customized to meet our local needs,” said Bruce Lyon, president of the WHEDC.
Throughout this semester, six Florida Poly students have taken part in an internship with the WHEDC to conduct a comprehensive assessment aimed at developing high-tech ideas and recommendations from projects that have been implemented and proven valuable in other communities worldwide. The effort includes interviews with residents, businesses and government leaders.
The information collected will be used to determine how various sectors – government, environment, health, infrastructure, public safety, transportation, business and innovation, and housing and commercial development – can benefit from smart community initiatives.
“This assessment will enable decision-making on strategic and tactical guideposts towards community improvements that will make our lives healthier, easier, and more productive while expanding our economic base through innovative deployment of new technologies,” said Lyon.
Kyle Cook is one of the Florida Poly students taking part in the assessment. The senior from Lake Mary, Florida, is majoring in computer engineering with a focus in embedded system design. He says the concept of making a community “smart” is much more than throwing a bunch of technology at cities and using sensors.
“In addition to cutting-edge technology, it’s a matter of using existing technologies in ways that aren’t implemented in the general Winter Haven community yet,” said Cook.
The internship, he says, has provided him and his peers an invaluable out-of-class experience.
“It’s almost vital if you’re looking to go toward industry because having this practical experience puts you ahead of your competition and also confirms whether you’re in the right field or not,” he said. “If you like what you’re doing, then you know you’re in the right place.”
The students will present their research to the WHEDC board of directors later this spring. Lyon expects the organization to continue working with Florida Poly students as the smart community initiatives move closer to implementation.