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Greco Middle School's Outdoor Classroom Promotes STEM, Environment

Students and teachers at Greco Middle School in Tampa will soon have a new classroom alternative, providing hands-on access to environmental learning and other real world skills.

The outdoor classroom project is being led by the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The collaboration is also supported by the School District of Hillsborough County as well as parents, teachers and administrators at Greco Middle School.

The classroom will include Florida-friendly landscaping improvements and other educational tools that will be integrated into the curriculum. Teachers will be able to reserve the space for a given period during the day to teach outside. Lesson plans might focus on storm water management or structural support for bridges.

"The whole idea is to incorporate aspects that are environmentally friendly and can serve as teaching points," says Travis Barnes, board member for Florida Gulf Coast Chapter of USGBC. "We’re also getting the school more engaged with the community at large."

The classroom is a nice pairing with Greco’s strong focus on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields and on-site community garden, a collaboration with the City of Temple Terrace.

The implementation is part of USGBC’s Green Apple Day of Service on September 27. The goal is to promote sustainability at K-12 as well as college campuses on a global scale. This is the third year the Florida Gulf Coast Chapter has participated in the event. Last year’s project was a school garden at Muller Elementary School in Tampa that has since been formally incorporated into the school’s curriculum.

40 – 50 volunteers are expected to help with the buildout, including parents, students, teachers, staff and the business community.

The project’s title sponsor is Julius the Architect. Other sponsors include the Phoenix Agency and Tampa Bay Trane.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Travis Barnes, USGBC

Hillsborough's EDI2 Program Celebrates Successes

Hugs, handshakes and a bit of humor keep the energy level high at Tampa Bay WaVE as a growing number of technology entrepreneurs leading the local startup community and public officials celebrate the 1st anniversary of Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Innovation Initiative (EDI2) program. 

Hillsborough County commissioners led by Mark Sharpe, who will join the Tampa Bay Innovation Alliance after he leaves office in November due to term limits, set aside $2 million to provide financial support for growing the startup community. The Alliance includes USF, University Community Hospital, H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Busch Gardens.  

Setting aside funding for EDI2 is a recognition by Hillsborough that future economic and job growth, particularly in the Tampa Bay region, is much more likely to result from the cumulative effect of nurturing innovative startups than by investing the bulk of additional resources into attracting giant corporate headquarters.

So far, since its launch in June 2013, 55 applicants have received $598,583 to support networking and educational events, industry promotions and service providers. Additional program and application information is available online.

Some of the programs funded include:
  • East Tampa Business and Civic Association for the 2014 MLK Technology Business Expo
  • Hillsborough Community College Foundation for the Veterans Entrepreneurial Symposium
  • Learning is for Everyone, Inc. for the Robocon Tampa Bay 2013
  • Moffitt Cancer Center for the Business of Biotech 2014
  • Startup Bus for the Startup Bus Tampa Bay
  • Startup Grind, Inc. for eight monthly meetings
  • Tampa Bay Technology Forum for the Tech Trek 2014, Engine Peer Network Event, and Entrepreneur Network
  • Technova Florida, Inc. for the Tampa Code Camp and Ignite Tampa Bay
  • TiE Tampa Bay for the TiE Breaker III and TiE Angel Forum
  • University of Tampa for the Southeast Entrepreneurship Conference 2014
For more information about EDI2, contact Economic Development Manager Jennifer Whelihan with Hillsborough County’s Economic Development Department at 813.272.6217.

Writer: Diane Egner
Source: Jennifer Whelihan, Hillsborough County’s EDI2

Urban Conga Transforms Downtown Parking Spaces On National Park(ing) Day

On September 19, a handful of metered parking spaces in downtown Tampa will take on a different purpose.  Instead of cars, you’ll find car parts, art and musicians.

As part of National Park(ing) Day, Urban Conga, a group of local creatives who promote community awareness through the use of play, will be taking over random parking spaces and turning them into parks. The goal is to encourage less driving and more walkability in the downtown area.

National Park(ing) Day is a worldwide event that began in 2005 by Rebar, a San Francisco-based art and design studio. The idea is for artists and activists to create debate about how urban space is allocated by transforming parking spaces into temporary public spaces. The event is now a global movement, with 162 cities in 35 countries expected to participate this year.

Urban Conga collaborated with University of South Florida art student Maeghann Coleman to design the spaces in downtown Tampa. The music-themed area will feature old tires and other car parts that can be used to make music, as well as a musical bench with piano keys. Jazz musicians from USF will also participate.

"It’s the idea of tactical urbanism," says Ryan Swanson, co-founder of Urban Conga. "We want to bring people there, not only to hang out but also to play."  

The Florida chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA Florida) recently ran a statewide parklet competition, in which Urban Conga received second place for their design. The $1200 prize will be used to fund the project. The City of Tampa is also supporting the project through the allocation of the parking spaces for the day.

Urban Conga is also promoting collaboration by asking people to send in pictures of what they’re doing in their areas.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ryan Swanson, Urban Conga

Pecha Kucha V15: Engaging, Enlightening, Inspiring

Creatives, designers, students and community advocates will convene at the Tampa Museum of Art September 5 to hear unique ideas and experiences that make Tampa Bay a better place.

The event is Pecha Kucha, named for a Japanese term for "chit chat."

Speakers will talk for just over six minutes about something they are passionate about. In an effort to keep things interesting and moving, the format is 20 slides, each lasting 20 seconds each. In true "anything goes" style, speakers don’t know much about the participants ahead of time, and vice versa. Speaker names are released, but topics remain unknown until the event.

Pecha Kucha Tampa Bay is held four times a year and begins with an hour of socializing, followed by an hour of presentations.

"As always, there is no theme," says Ken Cowart, the event’s organizer. "It’s a mixed bag of creative people sharing their ideas."

Hope Donnelly, co-owner of 8-Count Studios at the Rialto, plans to speak about her experience as an entrepreneur renovating historic space in downtown Tampa. She first attended Pecha Kucha V13 in November of 2013 and immediately knew it was something she wanted to be a part of.

"It’s a sincere, organic way to connect with interesting people," says Donnelly. "It’s really engaging and human, and I love that!"

Other presenters at Volume 15 include:
  • John Denger. Director and advocate at The Well
  • Marcus DeSieno. USF art student
  • Tony DeSisto. Founder of Citizinvestor, a kick starter for cities and public projects
  • Courtney McCalden. Graphic designer
  • Sarah Ogdie, Community Tampa Bay
  • Jim Reiman. Photographer, art professor and founder of SwedeFest Tampa
  • Mark Weston, Architect and digital fabrication professor at USF

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Ken Cowart, Pecha Kucha; Hope Donnelly, Rialto

Florida Bookstore Day Celebrates Local Bookstores, Authors

Tiffany Razzano was driving down Central Avenue in downtown St. Petersburg when she spotted a poster in the storefront window at Daddy Cool Records promoting Record Store Day. She then drove past Wilson’s Book World and thought, "Why is there no bookstore day?"

She did some research only to learn that California is the only state that has fully developed the concept of a bookstore day.

So why not Florida? Why not now? she thought. The result?

The inaugural Florida Bookstore Day will take place at independent and used bookstores in cities throughout the state on November 15, concentrating on the Tampa Bay area, where Razzano runs Wordier Than Thou, a group that supports creative writers through open mic events, a literary magazine and a radio show.

"I wanted to do something big," says Razzano. "It’s a celebration of independent bookstores and the writing community. People won’t even know they’re at a literary event."

Her goal is to showcase local bookstores and the writing community. Soon after she started talking up the concept in social media and elsewhere, Razzano connected with book lovers in Orlando who wanted to be part of the celebration. Bookstores from the Panhandle to the Florida Keys have now signed on to participate. Expect a day of book releases and author signings, open mics and workshops on literary topics

Local participants include: Inkwood Books, Mojo Books and Music, Old Tampa Book Company and Oxford Exchange in Tampa, Standup Librarians, Wilson’s Book World and Wings Bookstore in St. Petersburg, Book Bank in Largo and Back in the Day Books in Dunedin.

An after party will take place at the Venture Compound in St. Petersburg, featuring local authors and literary organizations, the Bluebird Books Bus, raffles and food trucks.

The event is sponsored by Florida Antiquarian Book Fair and also received a grant from Awesome Tampa Bay.
 
Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tiffany Razzano, Florida Bookstore Day

Working Women Of Tampa Bay Expands Statewide

A Tampa-based networking group for female professionals and entrepreneurs is expanding throughout Florida.

Working Women of Florida is an expansion of the Working Women of Tampa Bay professional networking group, which Jessica Rivelli founded in Tampa in 2009. WWoTB currently has 750 local members in Tampa, with an additional 100 statewide. The group expanded to include an Orlando chapter in 2012.

"Our immediate goal is to grow Working Women throughout the state of Florida to includes chapters in Fort Myers, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, Orlando and Jacksonville,'' says Rivelli.

Events include lunch-and-learns, coffee chats and educational seminars with local and national successful female entrepreneurs and businesswomen.

The group's second annual state conference will be Sept. 11 and 12, 2014, at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater, FL. Rivelli expects 300 female entrepreneurs and executives from around the state to attend.

Keynote speakers include Alex Sink, former Chief Financial Officer for the state of Florida; Bevan Gray-Rogel, Encore Tampa Bay president and founder; Lisa G Jacobsen, Executive Coach at Workplace Solutions Tampa; and Dr. Jennifer Hall, Director of Coaching at the Leadership Development Institute at Eckerd College.

Tampa Bay-based speakers also include Angela Ardolino, founder of Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine; Dotty Bollinger, COO and president of Laser Spine Institute; and Lee Lowry, past president of The Junior League of Tampa.

Registration for the Working Women of Florida State Conference is available on the event website.

To help grow WWoF, Rivelli hired Lauren Tice as Director of Development for Working Women of Florida. Tice is a Florida native who grew up in Temple Terrace, northeast of Tampa, and graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in Communications.

"Lauren's role is to expand Working Women through out the state,'' says Rivelli. “She'll be traveling regularly to grow chapters and get talented professionals involved. I'm very excited to have her on board.''

Tice has a background in networking and communications, having previously served as Coordinator of Member Services for the Greater Temple Terrace Chamber of Commerce for close to five years. More recently, Tice worked as events manager and eventually director of The Regent, a special events and performance venue in Riverview, southeast of Tampa.

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Jessica Rivelli, Working Women of Tampa Bay

Programming Academy The Iron Yard Expands To Tampa Bay

A new school for programmers is coming to Tampa Bay this fall. The Iron Yard Academy, an intensive 12-week-long training program, is set to open its doors in downtown St. Petersburg in September 2014.

The programming school will be located "within walking distance of some of the best local spots in town,'' says George Junginger, campus director for the Iron Yard's Tampa Bay location.

Aspiring developers can apply to either Rails or Front End Engineering courses. The cost for each 12-week course is $10,000. Part of this price tag includes mentoring, job placement after course completion and career support.

The Iron Yard Tampa Bay staff has already begun to build partnerships with local software and tech companies, including Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay.

"[CToTB] founder and CEO Sylvia Martinez is on our Employer Advisory Board, and will work closely with our staff to help us develop our program in a way that's best for Tampa Bay area companies,'' says Junginger.
  
A full staff, including two Tampa natives, has been hired to run the Tampa Bay branch of the Greenville, S.C.-based startup school. The Iron Yard has 10 other locations scattered through the country, mostly in the southeast. Tampa Bay is the second Florida location for the startup school; the other is in Orlando.

Brian Burridge, a Safety Harbor resident who attended St. Petersburg College, is set to be Rails instructor. Burridge is the CEO and founder of Commendable Kids. Justin Herrick, a Tampa resident who is a self-taught programmer, is Front End instructor.

Students in the Rails program will be taught Ruby on Rails (a popular framework for building servers) and develop skills to manage databases. Front End Engineering students will learn skills to create attractive, functional websites and applications.

The Iron Yard is currently accepting applications for classes, which are slated to begin September 22nd, 2014. Each course will be capped at 15 students per 3-month session.

"We chose to start small, so that we'd maintain the level of quality we know employers are looking for in developers,'' says Junginger, who expects both courses to fill. A few applicants have already been accepted.

The Iron Yard Academy welcomes students from a variety of backgrounds and skill levels.

"We're looking for a pre-existing mindset, not necessarily a pre-existing skill set,'' says Junginger. "The five attributes of the optimal Iron Yard student are: passion for solving problems with technology; genuine enjoyment of the craft of programming; genuine desire to have a career in or related to programming; extremely strong work ethic; and an ability to learn quickly,'' he explains.
 
Before searching for a space, the Iron Yard began conversations with leaders in the local tech community. The feedback is clear, says Junginger: "Everyone has been extremely excited about what we are bringing to the tech economy in the area and sees it as a need.''
 
Free programming classes for kids aged 7-17 will be offered later in 2014.

"There are great resources for startups in Tampa, and we want to support the people doing that work by training great developers,'' says Junginger. "We're privileged to play a part in the growing Tampa Bay tech scene.''
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: George Junginger, The Iron Yard

How To Create A Custom Song For Your Special Event

When a couple wanting to have a baby got the news that they were expecting, the sister of the mother-to-be commemorated the event in a uniquely modern way: by requesting a custom song for the new family.
 
CustomSong, an entrepreneurial startup based in the Tampa Bay region, brings musicians from around the world together on one website. Customers can request an artist or have one assigned to create a personalized piece of music for a special event, from birthdays to baby showers. Choose between a range of styles like acoustic guitar, soft romantic piano and full band.

Songs can be gifted or earmarked for a specific event, like the parent's dance at a wedding or a custom birthday tune. Customers fill in the details for lyrics, communicating directly with the artist via the Custom Song platform. Once lyrics are finalized and approved, the artist will record the song.

"It's a song that is truly original and personal, created just for you,'' says Custom Song cofounder Heather Andrews of Tampa. "It really helps create a special moment.''

Andrews, a graduate of James Madison University in Virginia, and co-Founder Kristina Anderson of Clearwater, a USF grad, operate CustomSong out of their home offices, local co-working spaces and coffee shops.   

If you are making a video or photo montage of the event, says Andrews, your custom song is a natural soundtrack.

CustomSong began in 2013 and launched in summer 2014, but Andrews had the idea in mind for years. The personalized event product concept was inspired by Custom Ink, where Andrews previously worked.

"Working there and making these custom shirts for special events, I saw that customers were so happy with them,'' says Andrews. "Being a part of a business where you can create something specifically for a customer that gets them excited, I was in search of, 'what can I do to be in that area of business?' ''

Despite a self-professed inability to carry a tune, Andrews and Anderson decided to try the world of music-making. They began to notice that while some individual artists were offering custom songs, they were struggling when it came to things like turnaround and customer service.
 
"They just want to create good quality music,'' Andrews says. "We thought there was a good opportunity there to create the platform, be the business side of it, and manage all of the back-end details for a site where artists could offer their services.''
 
The site standardizes things like pricing, quality, song length and turnaround time (two weeks).

"We give both the customer and the artist a guarantee, something to feel confident and comfortable with,'' says Andrews.
 
Sample songs are available on the CustomSong website.
 
From online research to attending Open Mic nights, scouting new talent is an aspect of Custom Song that Andrews and Anderson are discovering takes time.

A small number of musicians from the United States and the UK are currently active on the site. The cofounders plan to expand into other areas and attract more foreign-language speaking artists.
 
"We're trying to grow more artists, but to do it carefully and slowly. We want to make sure the artists also have a great experience,'' says Andrews. "The platform is very targeted to customers, but it's also a channel for artists to earn additional income. We want to find people who have creativity and talent, and work with them one-on-one to make sure that they fit with our model.''

Interested in creating music with Custom Song? Sign up here.

The most rewarding aspect of the process for Andrews is knowing that custom songs are a part of moments like weddings or expecting a new baby.

"I don't know the couple, but just knowing the background story, it touches me,'' she says. "It's amazing to be part of creating these songs for those big events in life.''

Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Heather Andrews, CustomSong

Health Insurance Innovations Announces Acquisition, Expansion

With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the demand for information about health insurance products has increased dramatically. Consumers often turn to websites to help them navigate the insurance space and learn about available options.

A recent acquisition by Tampa-based Health Insurance Innovations (HII) aims to capitalize on this need and provide more reliable, easily understood information for consumers.  

HII is a cloud-based technology platform that links health insurance agents with consumers to provide quotes and sell customized, flexible insurance plans. Silicon Valley-based HealthPocket is a data aggregation technology that provides a repository of health insurance information for consumers to view and purchase, including both private and government-funded options. The website allows consumers to rank available plans by price, doctor or other factors such as prescription drug needs.

The merging of the two companies will provide even more customized services for consumers to help navigate often confusing information about health insurance options.

HII plans to use the acquisition to fuel the company’s growth and competitive advantage, including sales and continuing the track record of success. The company is taking over additional office space in their Tampa location and will eventually expand their local employee base.

"Consumers will be engaged with the tools and data to help them make better and more informed decisions which lead to lower annual healthcare costs," says Kevin Coleman, head of research and data for HealthPocket. "We really hope to empower the consumer to make the best decisions."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Sources: Kevin Coleman, HealthPocket; Mike Kosloske, HII

On Tampa Bay's Radar: A New Exercise App To Help You Get Fit

Do you spend a lot of time traveling for work or constricted in a home office? The new iOS app Fittr could be your fitness solution.

Initially developed as a workout service for people at home with limited equipment, Fittr now features unique workouts suitable for home, the gym, a park or a hotel room.

Fitness is a fast-growing niche market for purveyors of mobile applications. From exercise apps designed for your smartphone or tablet to app-based nutritional databases, there is no shortage of opportunity to exercise with the help of a hand-held device.

The Tampa Bay-based startup team behind Fittr plans to distinguish itself from the competition in a few ways.

"The noticeable difference between our workouts and our competition is that ours is a 1-2-3 punch: It's adaptive on the run, it learns from the user over time, AND learns from the data of the entire group,'' says Fittr's Chief Marketing Technologist Kiki Schirr. "Here's an example: Don't want to do squats today? Swap it. Swap squats a few times and we'll stop suggesting it,'' Schirr explains.

Once the app learns the habits and likes or dislikes of your age group or weight range, it will aim to offer tailored suggestions that take the data into account.

In addition to adaptive fitness routines, the Fittr app utilizes a motivational point system that rewards users who increase workout difficulty or length over time. Exercises that earn a certain number of points on day one earn less on day four unless you up the intensity or number of reps. To boost your overall Fittr score (and to get a more well-rounded workout), you'll have to change things up. Points are calculated based on a variety of factors, including your personal fitness level as well as data from the overall set.

Once opened, the application prompts you to answer a few questions about your fitness level and workout habits. Choose between goals like Lose Weight, Get Cut and Get Stronger. Track metrics that matter to you, whether it's weight lost or inches gained. Plug in preferences and custom information like the type of equipment you have available on a given day.
Fittr CEO Tyler Perkins, an athlete and ACE-certified personal trainer, designed the foundation of every Fittr workout.

New users can download the app and enjoy a free one-week trial of built-in exercises. After that, it's $11.99 per month to join the workout service. Multi-month packages will be available soon, Schirr says.

Along with Schirr and Perkins, Fittr's team includes Chief Design Officer and Project Manager Nolan Perkins and CTO Seo Townsend.

The first version of Fittr was released during a launch party on July 16 at Tampa Bay WaVE. A Fundable campaign for Fittr also opened that day.

Post-launch plans include adding nutrition content and building an Android-compatible application.

"After nutrition, we'll be adding social aspects. After social aspects, it's device integration. Then social round two, then adding niche exercises, then more devices, and then... we have so many wonderful things planned for this app!'' Schirr says.

The startup team was recently accepted to Tampa Bay WaVe's FirstWAVE accelorator program.

"Fittr is incredibly grateful for all the opportunities that the Tampa Bay area has provided. From the [Hillsborough County] EDI2 initiative, Tampa Bay Innovates, Ignite Tampa Bay, StartupGrind (http://www.83degreesmedia.com/features/grind042214.aspx), TBTF, or Collaborative Technologies of Tampa Bay, everyone has welcomed us with open arms,'' says Schirr. "However, we owe an even deeper debt of gratitude to Tampa Bay WaVE, which has provided us access to amazing mentors and other startups who've been there before.''

"Tampa is full of great opportunities for startups,'' Perkins agrees. "We're grateful for all the support of the Tampa Bay community.''
 
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Kiki Schirr, Chief Marketing Technologist, Fittr

Quest Diagnostics Opens National Center In Tampa, Creates 350 Jobs

Quest Diagnostics will provide about 350 jobs at the new diagnostics center that is now open in Tampa near Busch Gardens.

Job positions are in customer service, logistics and human resources. Company officials anticipate hiring will continue through 2015. Some of those jobs will be subsidized with state and local funds.

The 48,000-square-foot facility, at 10441 University Center Drive, will provide customer service and logistics operations for  Quest's nationwide operations. As one of two Quest Diagnostics National Operations Centers, it also will share human resource services for the company's 45,000 employees. The second national center is in Lenexa KS.

"This new center will elevate Quest's customer services to the next level of responsiveness and quality," says James E. Davis, Quest's senior vice president of operations. "It reflects our comittment to delivering a superior customer experience and providing diagnostics insights that will help people lead healthier lives."

The architectural design is by San Francisco-based Gensler which has a Tampa office. Construction is by Rhode Island-based Gilbane which has several locations in the Tampa Bay area.

The Tampa facility will provide state-of-the-art technology to monitor air and ground transportation of patient specimens from about 2,200 patient service centers nationwide. Quest's services include advanced genetic cancer tests as well as routine cholesterol and diabetes screenings.

In Florida, Quest has full-service clinical laboratories in Tampa, Miramar and Orlando.  There also are dermatological pathology laboratories and offices and patient service centers statewide.

The center is expected to create about $9.3 million in capital investment.

Quest is eligible to receive about $675,000 in incentives from the state's Qualified Target Industry Program. About $540,000 is from the state with the remainder from the city of Tampa and Hillsborough County. The funds will subsidize up to 175 jobs that will pay a minimum average annual salary of slightly more than $47,500.

"Florida's life science industry is one of the best in the nation and as companies like Quest Diagnostics expand their presence in Florida, the sector will continue to grow and more businesses will look at the state as a vital location," says Gary Swoope, president of Enterprise Florida, the state's chief economic development organization.

Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Gary Swoope, Enterprise Florida

Bike-Share Program Gets Ready To Roll In Tampa

Bicycle wheels are almost ready to roll on Tampa streets. Some assembly is required.
 
Beginning in late August, 300 rent-able bicycles scattered across more than 30 locations in downtown, Channelside, Ybor City, Hyde Park and Davis Islands will kick-start Coast Bike Share, the city's long-anticipated "bike share" program.
 
Mayor Bob Buckhorn hopped aboard one of the blue bicycles for a short spin down the sidewalk by City Hall.
 
"I think it is one more amenity that will allow the city to take its place as a great American city," he says. "I couldn't be more excited. We want them to succeed. I want to see blue bikes all over downtown. We're going to paint the town blue with these bikes."
 
Before residents get their pedal time, Coast Bike Share  will assemble more blue bicycles at a warehouse on Franklin Street. But ahead of the August launch, memberships are available for purchase.
 
They include a special $99 annual membership that comes with 90 minutes of ride time per day instead of the standard 60 minute ride, and a free helmet.
 
Daily ride costs will be $5, monthly memberships, $30, and annual memberships, $79. Reservations will be available on the spot via a keypad on the bicycle, online or by phone.
 
The bicycles weigh in at a relatively light 39 pounds, well below the industry standard of 51 pounds. Cruising speed is 11 miles per hour. They have baskets in the front and operate with a shaft drive rather than greasy chains. "They are very easy to ride," says Eric Trull, Coast's program manager.
 
The bike share system, and its tech savvy bicycles, are from New York City-based Social Bicycles which also has programs in Phoenix, Orlando and San Francisco. Tampa's program is managed by Miami-based Cyclehop which has 20 years experience in the cycling industry.
 
Residents can keep their eyes peeled for "coming soon" signs that will be placed at rental hubs including Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park and City Hall. As the program expands, Coast officials anticipate adding kiosks in the SoHo district, Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights and Westshore. The University of South Florida plans to launch its own bike-share program, Trull says.
 
Advertising opportunities also are available for small businesses and other organizations that want to sponsor a bicycle kiosk. For information send an email to this address.
 
Writer: Kathy Steele
Source: Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

Startup Aims To Increase Connections, Community With Micro Experiences

In today’s digital world, we often lose the ability or desire to connect on a personal level or try new experiences. A new start-up hopes to change this by giving millennials (defined as ages 21 – 33) and others a chance to network and engage in a whole new way.

Tampa-based Outeraction encourages people to step outside of their comfort zone by participating in micro experiences such as rock climbing, kayaking, paddle boarding, cooking classes and brewery tours. In order to facilitate interaction, the experiences are limited to 30 people, cost $30 each and last no longer than three hours.

"Social media drowns everything out. I wanted to change the way people interact." says founder Matt Rutkovitz, University of Tampa graduate.

Rutkovitz formed the company out of a need to help people and make their lives better. He wanted to create a consistent and trustworthy environment that would make people comfortable with trying something different.  

The intention of the events is not business networking or dating. The goal is to create experiences that will get people connected with their community and their peers.

Outeraction also works with local companies to provide an outsourced employee benefit called a "Fun for Businesses" package. These events are not limited by age or quantity and are aimed at increasing employee team building, communication skills and productivity.

Some events also have a philanthropic component, such as an upcoming Habitat for Humanity event.

"Community is the capstone of growth," says Rutkovitz "We have to connect with each other as much as possible."

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Matt Rutkovitz, Outeraction

Tampa General Hospital Designs Prediabetes Education Program

A new community outreach program at Tampa General Hospital is designed to prevent diabetes and other health conditions by identifying those at risk before the diseases take effect.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated over 79 million Americans age 20 and older have a condition known as prediabetes. Most do not realize they have the condition because their symptoms are not as severe as those with diabetes. It is a serious health condition that increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Risk factors can include: being a woman who has had a baby over nine pounds in weight at birth, having a parent, sister
or brother with diabetes, being under 65 years of age and getting little to no exercise and being 45 years of age or older.

Recognizing the need in the community, Tampa General Hospital (TGH) is offering free educational sessions to help those at risk to achieve optimal health through lifestyle choices such as diet and exercise. The program involves 16 weekly sessions followed by eight monthly support group meetings.

"We’d like to teach people the skills to prevent developing diabetes," says Tamika Powe, Community Health Educator for TGH, adding that the benefits can trickle down to family members as well. "Hopefully they’re taking the information they learn in this program back home to their families to help everyone make better choices."

The program is funded by TGH and is limited to 12 registrants per class in order to maximize effectiveness. The next session begins in September at locations in Tampa Palms and South Tampa. Participants must meet qualifying criteria.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Tamika Powe, Tampa General Hospital

Florida Universities Rank Among Best For Patents, Innovation

Innovation continues to grow among Florida’s top research universities, as indicated by a recent global ranking of universities by the number of patents granted in 2013.

The University of South Florida (USF), University of Florida (UF) and University of Central Florida (UCF) were granted 239 patents all together. This puts the group ahead of other prestigious groups such as the research Triangle in North Carolina (Duke University, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill) and the Texas universities (the entire University of Texas system, Rice University and Texas A&M University), all of which have a longstanding tradition of high quality research and technology innovation.

Together, the Florida universities head the Florida High Tech Corridor Council,  an economic development initiative whose mission is to grow the state's high tech industry through research, marketing, workforce development and entrepreneurship. The Corridor’s partnership involves over 25 organizations, 14 state and community colleges and 12 workforce boards.

"It’s great to be recognized by the National Academy, which is well more than 100 universities." says Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor Council President. "The report reflects the strength in our 23-county corridor region."

The report was produced by the Tampa-based National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association and recognizes the role that patents play in university research, innovation, technology and eventually workforce enhancement. The goal is eventually to commercialize the patents, thus creating companies and jobs surrounding the success of the products or services.

Berridge attributes the success to the leadership within each university and the emphasis placed on the importance of high quality research. "It represents not only the university but the professors who are doing the heavy lifting in generating the technologies through their input and that of their top students," says Berridge.

USF was ranked 12 overall, with 95 patents granted – up from 83 in 2012.

Writer: Megan Hendricks
Source: Randy Berridge, Florida High Tech Corridor
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