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Local News

IHMC Breaks Ground On Expansion Project

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Bob Barrett
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WUWF News

Scientists and dignitaries from across the state converged on downtown Pensacola Monday morning for the official groundbreaking ceremony at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition’s. The institute has been planning a major expansion in the city for years and while construction began in mid-January, the institute took time for an official ceremony.

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Credit Bob Barrett / WUWF News
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WUWF News

Dr. Ken Ford, the Founder and CEO of the institute said they planned the ceremony around their board meeting so all the institutes friends and supporters could be there.  Dr. Ford says the expansion will allow the institutes staff to work in lab that were designed to be labs from the beginning. "We love the old building we're in, but for some of the work we do it's not appropriate."  Dr. Ford also says the expansion will allow the entire IHMC team to work together on the same campus.

Florida representative Clay Ingram, chair of the Transportation and Economic Development Appropriations Subcommittee in the Florida legislature also spoke to the crowd saying IHMC  is the "living, breathing personification of STEM education".

The Institute for Human and Machine Cognition announced their major plans last year, but the project was delayed because of last April’s floods which caused damage to the institute’s facilities and necessitated some architectural updates in case of future floods.

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Credit Bob Barrett / WUWF News
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WUWF News
Dr. Ken Ford

Dr. Ford says he’s confident and satisfied with those changes. "We raised the building and did a substantial redesign and I think we should be okay."

The crowd that gathered in the sunshine on Monday included members of the institute’s board of directors, scientists and the institute’s support staff. Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson was there and talked about what this project meant for the county saying this is an "invaluable type of industry because of the knowledge base and the people it brings".

One of the new features that generated a lot of talk at the groundbreaking is the new second floor observation deck in the new addition. Dr. Ken Ford says that’s one of his favorite parts of the project. "Hundreds of people visit the robot lab every month and it interrupts the work when they visit. It's also not entirely safe for visitors who aren't acquainted with robotics and the hazards associated with them". Dr. Ford says the public will be able to go upstairs onto the second floor and observe the lab through a glass wall.

If all goes according to plan, the expansion project at the Institute for Human and Machine Cognition will be completed in late spring of 2016.