Michael Panko retired as a colonel from the U.S. Army in 2016 after 29 years in uniform. He then settled in Oviedo, Florida near the University of Central Florida. His return to the Orlando area has been fortunate for both the University of Central Florida (UCF) and Technical and Project Engineering, LLC (TAPE).
On April 19, 2018, Mr. Panko, now a TAPE capture manager, served as an alumni judge at the annual UCF College of Engineering and Computer Science (CECS) Senior Design Showcase. The event is part of CECS’ mission to expose students to industry and to prepare them for success in the marketplace. The competition included over 150 innovative products created by around 600 graduating seniors from UCF and nine other Florida universities.
Mr. Panko, dozens of other CECS alumni, and faculty judged projects covering topics including microgravity, unmanned aerial vehicles, and finding water on Mars. He thought the quality of projects was “absolutely phenomenal.” Many CECS students go on to work in the aerospace and defense industry.
The Senior Design Showcase afforded Mr. Panko the ideal in-person opportunity to become involved in the CECS Alumni Chapter. He received his Master of Science in modeling and simulation (M&S) from UCF in 2002 under the Army’s Advanced Civil Schooling Scholarship. This degree afforded him the foundation to support the Army as a simulation operations officer. He immediately put these new skills to work when attending Army Command and General Staff College, followed by deployment to Iraq in 2003. His other assignments included Weisbaden, Germany in the 1st Armored Division and Grafenwoehr, Germany in the 7th Army Training Command. After returning stateside in 2007, his assignments included U.S. Southern Command, the U.S. Army War College, and U.S. Army South.
“My purpose in helping judge the Senior Design Showcase was twofold,” Mr. Panko explained. “One, I finally had the privilege to support UCF and observe some of the country’s best and brightest talent on display. Two, with TAPE recently establishing a Products Division, I wanted to get a feel for the types of innovations and innovators that TAPE could possibly sponsor at future showcases.”
Mr. Panko joined TAPE in 2017 at the Orlando office, which is within walking distance of the UCF campus. It is also nearby Army Program Executive Office Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) headquarters. Mr. Panko helps identify contracting opportunities and partners, particularly within TAPE’s M&S capability and at PEO STRI.
“Mike has been a great addition to our Orlando office,” TAPE CEO and President Louisa Long Jaffe said. “I am excited by the potential for him to bridge local talent and resources with TAPE’s efforts to provide innovative solutions to clients.”