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Johnson & Johnson new Tampa operations center opens, actively recruits

Well known health care product company, Johnson & Johnson, opened the doors to its North American Global Services Center in the Hidden River Corporate Park in Tampa earlier this week.

The 88,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility will house 240 employees, to start, with plans to create over 500 jobs total by 2020.

“This new center expands our strong business presence within the state of Florida and we are excited to be a more active member of this vibrant Tampa community,” says Erin Champlin, VP of Johnson & Johnson Global Services in a prepared statement.

The Tampa office will house several departments including finance, operations, IT, procurement and human resources. Jobs related to these fields will be available in the coming months and years as the company works toward filling all of its positions.

The opening of the new center, comes a little over a year after the company announced its plans to expand its operations in Florida. With incentives from the state, Johnson & Johnson promised to create jobs averaging annual earnings of at least $75,000, as well as a capital investment of $23.5 million to the region.

Currently, the company has approximately 25 positions posted on its website for the new operations center in Tampa. Most of the jobs are in the fields of IT and HR.

To view the open positions at Johnson & Johnson's new operations center in Tampa, follow this link.

Fall season rolls out plethora of tech events in the Tampa Bay region #networking

Fall if upon us, and with a new season brings a wave of innovative tech events to attend in the Tampa Bay region. In the coming months, there are plenty of meetups, gatherings and events focused on technology and innovation.

Here are a few to add to your calendar:

Saturday, October 15th: TiECon Florida
8 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Embassy Suites by Hilton Tampa-USF
3705 Spectrum Boulevard, Tampa

The TiECon conference, is an annual event that brings entrepreneurs together. Similar to the TED conferences for its inspirational tone, past speakers have included Frank Morsani of Automotive investments and Bharat Desai of Syntel. This celebration of entrepreneurship highlights all of the pillars of TIE including education, mentoring and networking.

The cost of the event is $99 for the public, free for members. 

Thursday, October 20th: CollabTB Geek Social
Cheap Restaurant and Bar
5:30 p.m.
309 S. Howard Avenue, Tampa

CollabTB, otherwise known as Collaborators Technologies of Tampa Bay, is a network that connects techies throughout the region. Join their group for a casual geek social night. The venue host is offering a free drink and free appetizers. This informal event will have no booths or speakers, just a chance for self-proclaimed geeks to connect with each other.


Tuesday, October 25th: Florida Center for Cybersecurity Third Annual Conference
8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Tampa Convention Center
333 S Franklin Street, Tampa
 
This annual conference will draw a diverse audience from experts to students. Highlights of the event include keynote speakers, break-out sessions, live demonstrations and networking opportunities. The conference gives attendees the chance to exchange ideas, network and explore innovative approaches to counter cyber threats.


Thursday, October 27th: StartUp Xchange
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Big Storm Brewing Company
12707 49th Street North, Clearwater

Presented by the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, this monthly networking event helps entrepreneurs, innovators and mentors connect. This month's get-together features several speakers from around the region including Chris Paradies, Intellectual Property Attorney, JJ Robert, Director at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, Antony Francis of Head of Lettuce Media and Ron Stein of FastPath Marketing.

Friday, November 11-Sunday, November 13th: StartUp Weekend Tampa
6:30 p.m. (Friday) to 9 p.m. (Sunday)
The Cuban Club
2010 N Avenida Republica De Cuba, Tampa

Known for launching some of the most successful startups in Tampa Bay, Startup Weekend is a 54-hour event where innovators, inventors, developers, marketing gurus and enthusiasts pitch ideas for new startup businesses. After pitching ideas, attendees form groups and work all weekend to develop prototypes and demonstrations to present Sunday evening. The event in Tampa will be one of over 200 events happening around the world, as it is Global Startup Weekend (GSW).

Tampa-based sound reduction company scores in Fenway Park

Innovative Tampa-based manufacturing company makes major league after closing deal with Fenway Park.

Acoustiblok is the inventor and manufacturer of noise attenuation products for the past 20 years. With its headquarters in Tampa, the company offers a full range of services to solve noise and vibration issues including infield problem identification, acoustical testing, design, engineering and installation support.

The company just celebrated a big win with the installation of its All Weather Sound Panels at Fenway Park. The panels were put in place to reduce noise coming from a chiller and other mechanical equipment. 

“Our patented panels are continuing to gain approval as an effective weapon against many types of industrial noise,” says Anne Knight of Acoustiblok, Inc. “All Weather Sound Panels were originally designed to withstand the harsh environments of offshore drilling rigs and considered to be the strongest sound panels anywhere.”

After the installation was completed at Fenway, sound meter results showed 81 decibals (dB) inside the enclosure and 64.4dB outside of the enclosure, a reduction of over 16dB.

“We’re not just a sound abatement products company; we are a noise solution company,” Founder and President of Acoustiblok, Lahnie Johnson stated in a press release. “We are very pleased with the success of the Fenway Park project.”

Johnson originally came to Tampa to work for Honeywell before starting Acoustiblok, which is a NASA spinoff company.

In addition to the installation of its sound panels at the famous ballpark, the local company has been involved in other major projects around the world. Other major projects include Cinema City in Beirut, Lebanon, MARTA in Atlanta, Georgia and ARTIS System in Brazil. For more information on the Fenway Park project, as well as the others, click here

Who is hiring in Tampa Bay? October job news roundup

Healthcare, banking and engineering are just a few of the professional fields that are seeking qualified candidates in this month's job news roundup from 83 Degrees.

Here's who's hiring in the Tampa Bay region:

Branch Banking and Trust Company (BB&T) is seeking a Mortgage Lending Underwriter III in Tampa. In this role, the chosen candidate will perform credit analysis and review mortgage loans to meet required guidelines. The ideal person for this role possesses a Bachelor's degree, and five years of mortgage lending experience.


The full-service logistics company, FreightCenter, in Palm Harbor is hiring a SEO/SEM Specialist. To qualify for this position, a high school degree is required, Bachelor's degree in marketing preferred. Two to three years of recently proven SEO experience in a corporate or agency environment


Northern Trust Corp. is currently recruiting an Investment/Trust Administration Associate in Sarasota. In this role, the associate will be responsible for account administration and investment management for the bank's clients. Three to five years of experience in financial services, including working with wealth management clients in a related role, is desired.


The pharmaceutical company, Arbor Pharmaceuticals, in Sarasota is seeking a qualified Neuro Health Specialist. To be considered for this position, a candidate must have a Bachelor's degree, and two to five years of pharmaceutical sales experience. 


The medical technology company Stryker in Lakeland is looking for a Supplier Quality Engineer. The Supplier Quality Engineer will complete audits of new and existing suppliers per Stryker requirements to ensure compliance, among several other responsibilities and duties. This position requires a Bachelor's degree in engineering, and three years working on-site with suppliers.


Saddle Creek Logistics Services in Lakeland is in search of a Digital Marketing Analyst. This specialist will be responsible for the development, maintenance and performance of all of Saddle Creek’s digital marketing vehicles including website, social media, digital advertising and email campaigns. To be considered for this position, a candidate must posses a Bachelor's degree in marketing or related field, and at least five years of proven work experience in website management, SEO/SEM and marketing automation.

Tampa startup to market fitness wearable to professional athletes

A wearable fitness technology company in Tampa appears to be moving along the right track for success.

LiftSync, the brainchild of University of Tampa (UT) student and co-Founder Matt Phillips, has not even hit the market yet, however, its potential has shown to be quite mighty. After winning Startup Weekend Tampa Bay in the fall of 2015, the company was voted the global winner of the Disruptors and Big Ideas Track of the Global Startup Battle.

Phillips, created the product along with fellow UT students Patrick Schroeder and Mariner Cheney. Since winning their pre-market accolades the team engaged with UT's Entrepreneurship Center.

“The Entrepreneurship Center helped us get our offices, as well as connect us with key people to get us moving forward,” Phillips says.

He also credits the center for getting him connected with Ark Applications, a private equity and consultation firm, which has invested in the startup.

With so many wearable fitness devices on the market, what sets LiftSync apart is its purpose and consumer. Unlike other wearables that may track steps, miles or overall activity, this product is specifically designed for weight training programs and professional athletes.

“To put it simply, an athlete will put on two bands, one on each wrist, and it will connect to sensors on the weight, and then information and analytics can be tracked through our application,” Phillips says.

He goes on to say that while the device can track everything from volume to velocity to increase performance, it can also reduce the risk of injury. The idea of not overexerting oneself to the point of injury is especially important to Phillips, as the idea for the company came to him after losing a basketball scholarship himself due to injury from weight lifting.

The consumer will not be the mass market, but strictly targeted athletes within major athletic organizations such as the NCAA. While there are other products like LiftSync on the market, according to Justin Smith, Managing Director of Ark Applications, the competition does not measure up.

“Data analytics is very important, and we can bring that into the weight room,” Smith says. “There is no one out there that uses the Bluetooth technology with the weights. The others may be able to let you know about how much an athlete is lifting, and how many reps they are doing, but no one has as many features as what we do. We call it performance enhancement through data.”

Courier tech company moves into Tampa market

An innovative courier service is dropping into the Tampa market.

Dropoff, a company that has turned the on-demand same-day delivery service industry on its head, is now offering its services in the Tampa Bay region. The company, which got its start three years ago, has experienced steady growth, with operations located in major cities throughout the U.S.

“Dropoff is headquartered in Austin, Texas, and currently operates in major Texas cities such as Dallas, Austin, San Antonio and Houston,” says Sean Spector, CEO of Dropoff. “The company launched it's East Coast operations in August with service in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, and its West Coast operations in Los Angeles in July. Dropoff’s expansion to Florida brings its service to all three of the most populous states in the US, which are California, Texas and Florida.”

The company’s proprietary technology platform, which offers real-time tracking and confirmations, as well as web and mobile ordering capabilities are just a few of the keys to its success. Its dispatch automation system, known as ‘Intelligent Dispatch’ is a game changer in its industry.

“Dropoff is disrupting the courier market by leveraging its proprietary logistics technology and highly rated service to create a nationwide same-day delivery solution for businesses. Intelligent Dispatch automates an otherwise very manual courier process and provides Dropoff near infinite scale to customize and manage huge volumes of delivery requests as it expands across the country.”

Spector came up with the idea for the company in late 2013 after having a lackluster experience with a local courier. After having to call to confirm that his time-sensitive and confidential package was delivered, he found that very few couriers at the time provided delivery confirmations, and no one offered real-time package tracking. He knew there had to be a better way, so he gathered his former colleague and set out to create their new company.

Dropoff works with many well-known brands including Whole Foods, Neiman Marcus and JW Marriott. In the Tampa market, the company expects to be working with companies in several industries including healthcare, retail, food and grocery markets. 

Students at low-income schools get unique experiences through MOSI's outreach program

When low-income schools can't make the trip to MOSI Tampa, the museum goes to them.

In an effort to bring enriching experiences to students at low-income schools, MOSI Tampa has created a program that will offer hands-on activities related to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM). MOSI will schools throughout the region, starting with 15 elementary schools in Polk County this year.

The idea behind the outreach program is to introduce students to technology in a fun way, but also help them realize their potential. The program will enable children to explore STEAM related disciplines through activities like creating their own robotic creations.

“At MOSI, we’ve found that one of the best ways to get kids to look toward career paths in important fields like science and engineering is to get them doing real science and engineering themselves,” says Grayson Kamm of MOSI. “Once they're exposed to these fields in new ways such as building and programming their own robots, they get far more interested and engaged. Some students start to picture doing this kind of cutting-edge work as part of their own future careers.”

Kamm says this program was made possible through the George W. Jenkins Fund within the GiveWell Community Foundation. This fund specifically applies to Title I schools, which are defined as schools with high numbers or high percentages of children from low-income families.

MOSI's outreach program is titled Robot Roundup. In the program, 3rd-, 4th- and 5th-grade students will have the chance to understand the technology and engineering behind robots, as well as assemble their own.

“This is a way for MOSI to help bring a fresh spark to students, which reinforces what they’ve learned in class and makes it real for them creating an inspiration their classroom teachers can build on during the years ahead.”

Some school visits have already begun. The list below includes all of the schools that will be participating in the program.
 
  • Edgar L. Padgett Elementary, Lakeland
  • Elbert Elementary, Winter Haven
  • Walter Caldwell Elementary, Auburndale
  • Sleepy Hill Elementary, Lakeland
  • Wahneta Elementary, Winter Haven
  • Palmetto Elementary, Poinciana
  • Garden Grove Elementary, Winter Haven
  • Phillip O’Brien Elementary, Lakeland
  • Medulla Elementary, Lakeland
  • Lewis Anna Woodbury Elementary, Fort Meade
  • Loughman Elementary, Davenport
  • North Lakeland Elementary, Lakeland
  • Pinewood Elementary, Eagle Lake
  • Purcell Elementary, Mulberry
  • Southwest Elementary, Lakeland
In addition to the Robot Roundup, MOSI offers other hands-on science experiences to schools throughout the state. Other outreach programs include a mobile science lab, and a portable planetarium. For information on MOSI's school outreach programs, visit the museum's website.

Tampa Bay Area tech companies are hiring, check out who is posting jobs

Looking for a career in technology in the Tampa Bay region? 83 Degrees can help. Read on to find which local technology companies are hiring in this months hiring roundup.

Safe Connect, a software company based out of Lakeland is looking to fill a Customer Support Engineer, as well as some sales positions. The Customer Support Engineer requires a Bachelor's degree, as well as four years of technical support work experience. The sales positions include a Business Development Representative, Inside Sales Representative and a Territory Sales Manager. These sales positions require a Bachelor's degree and software sales experience. 

Also out of Lakeland is Epic-Premier, a technology company that offers solutions to help the insurance industry. The company is currently recruiting a Business Analyst to research and analyze client's business requirements. The position requires an Associate's degree and two years of relevant work experience.

LabTech Software based in Tampa has several openings for qualified candidates. Positions include Software Engineer, Quality Assurance and a Business Development Manager. A Bachelor's Degree is preferred for all of the positions, however, relevant work experience is required.

A Sarasota-based software company that offers technology solutions to the insurance industry is seeking a Configuration Management Administrator. Tropics Software Technologies is a fast-growing company. The ideal candidate possess a computer science degree and relevant work experience in software support and configuration management.

EASA Software in St. Petersburg is in search of a Java Developer and a Technical Services Specialist. To qualify for the developer position, you must have a computer science degree and experience developing software. The other position requires an engineering or computer science degree, and experience building customer applications for in-house software. 

The IT giant, Tech Data, which is headquartered in Clearwater, has 20 job openings currently ranging from Product Managers to Project Managers, Sales Reps and Accounting positions. The Fortune 500 company is a one of the world's largest distributors of technology products, services and solutions, and works with companies like HP, Apple, Cisco and Microsoft.

Inc. magazine names Clearwater top spot for fast-growing companies

Business is booming in Clearwater, according to Inc. magazine.

The monthly publication, which focuses on national business and industry growth, ranks Clearwater No. 1 in the country for the number of private businesses to make the magazine’s annual Inc. 500 list of fastest-growing companies. 

Relative to its population size of more than 110,000 residents, Clearwater was able to beat Irvine, CA, Atlanta, GA, Hollywood, FL, and Alexandra, VA for the top spot.

Four Clearwater-based private companies -- Stratus (66), e-Telequote Insurance (113), KnowBe4 (139) and Digital Media Solutions (434) -- ranked in the Inc. 500 list, which is published in the magazine’s September edition. 

Additionally, the city had five businesses make the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing companies:
  • Progressive Dental (739), 
  • GovDirect (1,150), 
  • Pure Air Control Systems (1,638), 
  • CWU Inc. (1,939), and 
  • Murphy Business & Financial Corporation LLC (3,061).
While some might be surprised that Clearwater tops such a prestigious list, Denise Sanderson, the city’s Economic Development and Housing director, isn’t shocked by the news. She says it “illustrates the significant concentration of successful, high-growth businesses” in the area.

Millions of visitors flock to Clearwater Beach each year, making tourism the city’s top industry and the backbone of its economy. But Clearwater is also home to a number of diverse business sectors as well, including information technology, software, finance, insurance, marine science, medical technology and manufacturing.

Sanderson says the city will continue to do what it can to entice new companies. In fact, the city’s Economic Development & Housing Department recently teamed up with several public and private partners to launch Clearwater Business SPARK, a network of resources for businesses in the greater Clearwater area, this past spring.
  
“Clearwater welcomes businesses with its favorable business climate, great infrastructure, talented workforce and exceptional quality of life,” she says. “[It] has and will continue to attract entrepreneurs, startups and established businesses poised for growth and expansion.”

AT&T gives grant to offer business workshops in 2 St. Pete high schools

Young entrepreneurs in Pinellas County have a unique opportunity to bring their business and technology ideas to life.

With a $25,000 grant from AT&T, budding entrepreneurs at Gibbs and Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg will be able to take part in a series of workshops aimed at developing their entrepreneurial ideas. The financial contribution from the communication giant was made to the Pinellas Education Foundation's Next Generation Entrepreneurs and Next Generation Tech programs.

“The workshops will be crafted to help provide high school students with tools and skills they would need to take their innovative ideas and turn them into products and services that can be marketed in the real world,” says Karen McAllister of AT&T.

The grant is expected to reach as many as 200 students at the two high schools. The workshops teach high school juniors and seniors real world business skills for success including, everything from product and service development to software design.

McAllister says teaching the next generation these vital skills is a priority for her company.

“Since 2008, AT&T has committed $350 million toward helping at-risk students graduate from high school prepared for college or their career, and the Pinellas Education Foundation shares this passion with us,” she says. “Today’s students are tomorrow’s workforce, whether as entrepreneurs or employees.”

During the workshops, students will immerse themselves in enriching activities such as creating business models and developing business plans. Students will also have the opportunity to be mentored by business professionals during the process. At the conclusion of the workshop, business models and plans will be submitted to a panel of judges as students compete for money to develop their products and services.

McAllister explains that the Pinellas Education Foundation chose Gibbs and Lakewood high schools because they have innovative career academies that will provide fertile ground for these workshops.

“As part of the communities where our employees live and work, we want to ensure these students have every chance at success.”
 

Moffitt chosen to be site of cell therapy studies, latest treatment in cancer

Moffitt has been chosen by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute as a research facility for cell therapy.

The world-renowned cancer center in Tampa, Moffitt, is one of five institutions selected and approved facilities to produce cell-baed therapies for scientific research by the National Institute of Health (NIH), and its National Hearth, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).

Cell-based therapies are treatment in which living cells are injected into a patient. This emerging science could be a game-changer when it comes to treating cancer.

"Until recently, cancer treatment options have been largely limited to radiation and chemotherapy,” says Linda L. Kelley, Ph.D., principal investigator and director of Moffitt’s Cell Therapy Facility. “Immunotherapy represents a paradigm shift in which the person’s own immune system is boosted to specifically target and kill tumor cells.”

The cancer center in Tampa will manufacture human cells, which will be used to help develop clinical trials to evaluate the new therapies safety and effectiveness.

Being one of the chosen centers for this innovative study is considered an honor, and includes infrastructure funding from NHLBI, with an opportunity to receive additional funds as the center completes therapy requests from other institutions across the country.

“The award was competitive,” Kelley states. “Interested centers had to go through a rigorous application process to demonstrate their expertise and capabilities. Moffitt has the appropriate cell therapy facilities, renown investigators performing cutting-edge research in immunotherapy and on-going clinical trials for patients using novel immunotherapies.”

She goes on to say that while up to eight facilities were considered, only five were ultimately chosen. The four other institutions selected are City of Hope, University of Miami, University of Minnesota and Baylor College of Medicine.

Note dates for upcoming Tampa Bay Area tech events

As we get ready to exit out of summer, a season of networking and innovative tech events are in the works.

83 Degrees has the scoop on where tech-centric events are taking place and when, so mark your calendars because there is a lot happening in the Tampa Bay region.

Friday, August 19: TechStart Tampa Bay's TechJam
District 3
6:30 p.m.-10 p.m.
802 E. Whiting St.
Tampa

Tech Jam is held every August to raise funds for TechStart Tampa Bay, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing education, inspiration and opportunities in technology to at-risk youth. This year the event will feature a battle of the bands competition, food, cocktails, raffle, activities and an exclusive VIP after-party.  More than 400 people are expected to attend.

Friday, August 26: HomeBrew Hillborough
Hivelocity
8:30 a.m.
8010 Woodland Center Blvd. #700
Tampa

Homebrew Hillsborough is a monthly collaborative coffee networking group for techies and entrepreneurs. The group meets at different locations throughout Hillsborough County. In August, the group will have its monthly meeting at Hivelocity Hosting. Hivelocity is a data center headquartered in Tampa, which is growing and expanding with an additional center in the area.

Wednesday, August 31: F*Up Nights Tampa Bay
Cigar City Brewing
6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
3924 W. Spruce St.
Tampa

This event celebrates the mistakes all great innovators and entrepreneurs make. The event includes keynote speakers Ryan Rutan, founding partner of Startup 3.0; Lisa Brock, Founder and Principal of Brock Communications; and Alfred Goldberg, President of Operations for Absolute Mobile Solutions. There will be time for networking, an open mic to share your own stories of failure and a complimentary brew from Cigar City Brewing.

Wednesday, September 7: Tampa Bay Technology Forum
 
Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront
8 a.m.-1:30 p.m.
333 1st Street South
St. Petersburg
 
This half-day event connects Tampa Bay’s best and brightest in the tech arena. The day features a morning of discussions on the region’s top technologies and its impact on the world by Tampa Bay’s top technology thought leaders and innovators. There will also be a lunch panel moderated by Ryan Dorrell, Chief Solutions Officer at AgileThought, and plenty of networking opportunities.

Monday, September 12: Code For Tampa Bay Monthly Meetup
Hive @ John F. Germany Library-3rd Floor
6 p.m.-9 p.m.
900 N. Ashley Drive
Tampa

This coding group normally meets the first Monday of every month, however due to Labor Day, they will be meeting the second Monday of September. The next meetup will feature some of the St. Pete National Day of Civic Hacking teams who will report on their projects.

Local government and community groups are encouraged to bring projects and any requests for assistance to meetings.
Snacks and refreshments are provided, however, outside food is welcome as you code, share your ideas and network.

Are you, or an organization you know, hosting a tech-oriented event in the Tampa Bay area in 2016-17? Email us to have your activity included in a future 83 Degrees newsletter. 

Who is hiring in Tampa Bay? Check out this hiring roundup for August

It's a new day in a new month, and some of the region's biggest companies are looking to fill several positions. See who is hiring in this August job hiring roundup from 83 Degrees.

Home Shopping Network's headquarters is located in St. Petersburg, so it employs a large workforce in the Tampa Bay area. The company has several open positions including a Talent Acquisition Coordinator, a Bachelor's degree and previous HR experience is preferred. Other positions include an Assistant Buyer and Software Engineer. For those positions, job candidates need to have a Bachelor's degree and three year's of relevant work experience.

To see a complete list of open positions at HSN, click here.

Another one of the largest employers in the Bay area is Verizon. The telecommuications giant is recruiting Inside Sales Representatives. A Bachelor's degree and one year of sales experience is required. Several other positions are available at offices located throughout the region including Dispatch Clerk, Communications Technician and Customer Service Specialist.

To view all career opportunities with Verizon, click here.

Ceridian Benefits located in St. Petersburg is in search of a Technical Account Manager. This global human capital technology company serves over 25 million users in 50 countries. The ideal candidate possess a Bachelor's Degree and three to five years of experience.

Bic Graphic with offices in St. Petersburg and Clearwater has an opening for an HR Business Partner. This position requires a Bachelor's Degree and three to five years of experience.

One of the largest and most innovative multi-sport training and educational institutions, IMG Academy, located in Sarasota is hiring. One of the many positions that are currently open is a Communications Manager. In this role, the selected candidate will plan, coordinate and execute corporate communications activities for the academy, including brand messaging, internal communications, crisis communications and community relations The candidate will need to possess a Bachelor's degree and have five years working in corporate communications or public relations.

To see open positions at IMG, click here.

Bealls Department Store-Corporate located in Bradenton, is seeking individuals to fill many positions including Staff Accountant. To qualify for this role, you will need a Bachelor's degree and one to three years of experience. Another position open is Merchandise Planner; for this job the candidate will need a college degree and some planning experience is preferred.

For Good: Sarasota Hackathon seeks computer science mentors for teens

Keeping up with computer technology in the 21st century is no small task, even for the most tech-savvy teens. With the computer science industry growing at dizzying rates and creating an increased demand for coding and computing training, the race is on for today's high school computer whiz-kids to download the most competitive skills in tech, logic, critical thinking and design.

The Education Foundation of Sarasota County estimates that over the next 10 years, there will be 1-million more computing jobs than there are graduates to fill them -- an up to $500 billion loss in potential salaries -- and that 30 percent of jobs will require technology and coding skills. In an effort to address the critical need to introduce high school students to education and career opportunities in computer sciences, the Education Foundation will host the region's first #SRQHacks Student Hackathon, Oct. 14-16. 

Limited access to advanced computer science and technology training for students from low-income families is among the greatest challenges Sarasota County schools face in fostering future generations of computing professionals. Today 52 percent of the 43,000 students enrolled in Sarasota County schools qualify for the income restricted National School Lunch Program, and while public school classrooms offer basic computer science training, kids from lower-income families struggle to access learning opportunities beyond the classroom basics. 

The #SRQHacks Student Hackathon aims to reach students whose families may not have the resources for after-school clubs or technology-enrichment programs. Student participants will include Sarasota County students ages 13-18 recruited through Sarasota County Schools, the Education Foundation’s Digital Learning Lab partners and community organizations. 

The hackathon's three-day immersion experience pairs students with tech mentors to build a web or mobile app that positively impacts the community. Prior to the event, Sarasota and Manatee County communities will select area-specific issues, which the student-mentor teams will be tasked to provide app-based solutions for by applying computer science skills and outside-the-box thinking. 

"Our partners and sponsors recognize that an intense immersion coding experience like this has the potential to grab the interest of a student and set him or her on a career path they might not have considered attainable,” says Jennifer Vigne, Executive Director of the Education Foundation of Sarasota County. 

Supporting partners include the City of Sarasota Police Department, the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, New College of Florida and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

“It is part of our mission to create a culture where all students aspire to some type of post-secondary education, whether that means community college, technical school, or a university. This hackathon is a unique way to expose students to coding and match them with mentors who can inspire their interest in pursuing a technology-based career," Vigne says.

The hackathon is currently seeking three types of volunteer mentors to work with students in October: Developers (programmers, engineers and computer science college students or graduates), designers (front-end developers and graphic designers), and innovators (educators and entrepreneurs), as well as event sponsors.

MOSI collaboration aims to enrich experience for those on autism spectrum

MOSI is making changes to its museum for visitors on the Autism spectrum.

The Museum of Science & Industry (MOSI) has developed a partnership with Behavioral Consulting of Tampa Bay (BCOTB). Working under the motto “partnering toward a more autism accessible experience,” the duo hopes to offer families and children in the autistic community more opportunities to participate, without overstimulating.

“Accessibility and inclusiveness is at the heart of what we are all about,” says Grayson Kamm of MOSI. “So as we look at ways to eliminate any barriers to accessibility that we have unintentionally created, it's a perfect fit to have a partnership that helps us understand the best ways to serve families who have members with Autism Spectrum Disorder.”

Some of these barriers include revising maps and signs so families will know what kind of sensory exposure they will experience (lights, sounds, etc) and rearranging some exhibits allowing families to bypass sections that may be cause over stimulation. MOSI is also incorporating these changes on its new website, set to launch in September.

“Our families are always searching for places where they can spend time together that will be supportive of their needs and won’t overwhelm them,” BCOTB President and Founder Kelley Prince  stated in a press release. We’re excited to help MOSI take that to the next level.”

BCOTB works one-on-one with families on the spectrum, with programs customized for each child's needs. The company has been honored with an Autism Impact Award from the International Center for Autism Research and Education, as well as named Most Valuable Resource by Autism Speaks Tampa Bay.

Grayson says the some of the changes BCOTB has recommended will come quickly, while others will take some time, however the community can aid in this process.

“Things like maps and signage can be upgraded without any major delay,” he says. “Larger projects, like rearranging exhibits to group them in a more sensory-friendly way, depends on available funding and planned maintenance schedules; donations or a dedicated funding source would allow us to speed up this process.”

To find out how you can help, click here.
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