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WURK: Community radio for East and West Tampa

When Dee Jackson was growing up in the 1970s and '80s in West Tampa, his neighbors helped keep him in line when he became too curious. They were quick to reprimand him -- all over the neighborhood -- before he even got home.

But many people are reluctant to discipline another’s child these days, which empowers them to do wrong things, he says.

“That village concept, we have to get that back,” Jackson asserts.

That’s the idea behind 96.3 low-power FM station WURK, a community radio station serving East and West Tampa and a diverse audience of 460,000 potential listeners 24 hours a day in Hillsborough County. Its broadcast area extends from Mango on the east to the Howard Frankland Bridge on the west, Lutz on the north and MacDill Air Force Base on the south.

Other platforms, such as the Internet, expand the 100-watt station’s listening area to the entire globe.

WURK is intended to be a positive voice in the East and West Tampa neighborhoods, reporting the good news instead of the bad. It will be working to boost literacy and reduce high school dropout rates through job training.

“I know we will utilize radio as a tool to get the village back in shape,” says Jackson, who co-founded WURK with Horace Bailey.

The nonprofit, locally programmed station was made possible by the Local Community Radio Act, signed into law by former President Barack Obama. It was about five years in the making.

As a music producer, recording engineer and graphic designer, Jackson had been interested in doing radio programming as an outlet for musicians for a long time. He was inspired to actually start one while volunteering as an after-school youth arts coordinator in Brooksville.

WURK, owned and run by Rainbow Heights Neighborhood Association and Crime Watch Inc., offers music in a wide range of styles including Hip Hop, Folk, Latino, Jazz, Blues, Rhythm and Blues, Classical and Reggae. It is intended to appeal to African American, Carribean, Irish, Scottish, Italian, Latino, Indian, Jewish, Chinese, and other local groups.

“Our goal is to eliminate the division and create unity,” Jackson says.

Jackson, WURK’s General Manager, wants the station to serve as an outlet for musicians, but it also is intended to be a training ground for journalists, producers and graphic artists. The process has begun with two youths reading public service announcements. Later on trainees could cover high school football games.

In the future, he would like to partner with other media, training broadcast trainees by having them read on the air news stories written by the partners. Attributing the stories to the original news outlets would help them gain potential new readers.

Those who are trained may find jobs at the station as it grows. Job and business opportunity announcements by the station are intended to help others find success.

WURK also intends to help bridge a generation gap by reaching out to seniors and young people. “There was a communication breakdown,” he explains.

Now the radio station is focusing its attention on recruiting advisory board members; it currently has five including Dr. Carolyn Collins, former NAACP Tampa Chapter President; businessman Willie Anderson; James Green, who retired from United Parcel Services; Ralph Smith of Computer Mentors of Tampa; and Benjamin Baisden of West Tampa Alliance.

It's also soliciting funds to better help what he calls the “underserved,” in Tampa. “Funding is the key to be able to initiate those programs,” he says.

WURK, which has been on the air since April 2, already has raised some $25,000 for the endeavor. “I think the market is watching,” he says. “Participation is coming, and we’re growing with the help of a lot of our volunteers ... sharing our info on social media.”

While the station’s name is in line with its mission to train youths for jobs, it was actually inspired by all the work required into getting its call letters approved, Jackson says.


A force for healing through the arts in Tampa

Those who have found creative passions know how uplifting and soul-nourishing the arts can be, even in rough times. For military veterans, simply returning to civilian life can be difficult and painful on many levels.
 
Enter: Creative Forces.

In a joint project between Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs, the NEA, and Americans for the Arts, Creative Forces Summit will be honing in on Tampa for panel discussions revolving around military healing arts and community collaboration at the Straz Center on Oct. 23 & 24.
 
Panel discussions range from types of creative art therapies to building a more collaborative union between the arts and military communities, with performances and open mic sessions interspersed throughout the two-day event.
 
Art therapists who work closely with veterans see the progress of their work, albeit anecdotally. One of the highlights of this event will be talks by Andrea Assaf, artistic director of Art2Action -- which has been working closely with veterans since 2011. She will discuss her role in leading the program design for creating a clinical study to measure tangible success with military healing arts.
 
“We spent a year doing this study, which was designed by a collaborative process. In order to measure impact, we had to come up with a mixed-methods approach where the USF Psychology Department leads a quantitative process while the VA works on qualitative process,” Assaf says.
 
She has been running volunteer workshops at a branch of the VA, the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center, for over 4 years. While Assaf’s strengths rest in theatre, poetry and creative writing, she brings in guest artists to open up veterans to other artistic mediums.

The James A. Haley Veterans' Hospital is already a Creative Forces clinical site, with Tampa working on a Telehealth Pilot Program for veterans in rural areas. Being nearby, the MacDill Air Force Base doesn't hurt either. Their approach to art therapy is simple: Treat it as a need, just like any other treatment.

“I see the arts change and move people. Artistic expression is an important component in the healing and recovering process. What the government wants to see in terms of funding is data. The intention of this study is to document what we know intuitively into usable data to inspire further study and investment both from private and public funds in supporting this kind of work,” Assaf says.

For more information about arts programs and events in Hillsborough County and the Tampa Bay region, visit The Arts Council website.

To suggest additional story ideas, email 83 Degrees.

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Digital marketplace can cut surgical supply expenses

A Largo-based startup has opened a digital marketplace for the surgical supplies resale industry. Think eBay. Or Amazon. For single-use surgical supplies like staples, needles, shears, forceps, mesh and patches.

The company, called The Index, wants to combine both E-bay and Amazon online sales strategies for the niche market where waste adds up to billions annually.

“The manufacturers, they typically sell in boxes of six, 10 or 100. That’s the only way a facility can buy a product,” explains Founder Jon Bird. “Once they open a box, the manufacturer won’t take it back.”

These medical/surgical supplies only have a limited shelf life, so items used infrequently can easily expire. Additionally, a change in physicians and/or contracts may mean certain supplies are not used, or not used as much.

“They come from the manufacturer with a finite shelf life, typically about five years,” Bird says. “We have an opportunity to sort of rescue those products before they expire.”

The first online marketplace designed to bring together hospitals, surgical centers, manufacturers, wholesalers, and resellers, The Index requires users to sign up and be vetted. Sellers can list their own products for sale, much like vendors do on Ebay, or let The Index handle the sales and shipping, much like Amazon does.

Membership is free. The Index makes money by keeping 10 or 20 percent of the sales, depending on the sales model.

Bird noticed the need for more advanced technology when he was employed in the medical supply industry. He realized how inefficient it was for buyers to request multiple quotes on one or two items by email, then wait for replies.

“I just felt that there had to be a more efficient way, without having all the overhead of brick and mortar,” he says. “I felt we could accomplish this if we had the right tool, the right technology.”

The Index, started in late 2015, has 50 buyers and sellers primarily in the southeastern United States, plus more than 10,000 unique product listings.

“The back-end technology, which is proprietary, is relatively revolutionary,” Bird says. “What it can accomplish can be revolutionary.”

It will save money, reduce waste and allow hospitals to do what they do best: save lives, adds spokesman Franco Ripple.

Although the medical/surgical resale market is huge, with some hospitals potentially spending $5 to $10 million annually on these products, the company doesn’t plan to stop there. Its goal is to expand into medical equipment and medical power tools.

The privately-funded company has a staff of six and plans to grow its sales staff in the next year. “Our goal is to add between four and eight sales people,” he says. “Some would be inside, and some would be out.”

 It also plans to double its 3500 square foot offices at the end of the year.

The Index is entering the scene at a time when the industry’s group purchasing organizations are coming into disfavor. Some facilities are choosing to do their own purchase negotiations -- and avoid the fees.

I think we’ve come in at a great time,” Bird notes.


St. Pete investor, USFSP create forum for OPEN learning, sharing ideas

Much like open source software transformed the software industry, a St. Petersburg-based thought cooperative is poised to change people's lives through intellectual exchanges and collaborations in the greater Tampa Bay Area.

The cooperative is aptly called OPEN, the Open Partnership Education Network. It will be encouraging open sharing and innovation, while providing the tools that make it possible.

“In our current paradigm, the philosophy is closed and you work within your silos,” explains Walter Fernando Balser, OPEN’s Founding Director.

Similar to the collaboration spawned in the software industry by open collaboration on software like Wordpress, an open source publishing platform, OPEN looks to bring together people to share ideas. Some themes they are working with include seeds, future cities and radical schools.

“It’s revolutionary for the city of St. Petersburg, but it’s not revolutionary for other cities like Austin, Texas,” Balser asserts.

Themed events are more than interesting meetings where people can network, talk about interesting ideas and then go home and forget about it. “You have a framework in place that allows those thought leaders to continue to collaborate on the next experiences,” he explains.

The open framework for St. Petersburg could be shared very easily with any community, he adds.

OPEN evolved from an idea by Jim Aresty, a St. Petersburg transplant, who enjoyed the intellectual stimulation offered by the nonpartisan forum, the Aspen Institute in Colorado. A retired women’s clothing manufacturer, Aresty was a long-time resident there and frequent summertime visitor of the institute.

After he began spending the winter’s in St. Petersburg about three years ago, he became captivated. “I absolutely just fell in love with the city. First and foremost, I just love the people,” Aresty says. “It feels really Midwest to me, very uncompetitive, friendly.”

But he missed the institute while here.

“I want the community to be invigorated and enlivened and educated, in the hopes that it will improve people lives,” Aresty says.

He now splits his time between St. Petersburg and Aspen, spending seven months in St. Pete. And OPEN is off and running, expected to officially start themed discussions in November in connection with the city’s Et Cultura Festival featuring music, film and interactive culture. All thanks to contributions from Aresty.

Initially, he provided enough funds for a staff director for one year, expected to expire in July, with office space and administration provided by USFSP. Now he’s providing significant funding that can continue the endeavor for five years, after which it’s intended to be self-supporting.

OPEN is partnering with the USF College of Marine Science, St. Petersburg College’s Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions, Poynter Institute for Media Studies, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital and Et CulturaIt plans to continue to grow its network.

Ultimately, Aresty believes St. Pete will be attracting more people like him: middle-aged and older folks with part-time residences here who want “to be inspired and to be invigorated intellectually, to be involved and to have ways to learn and to grow,” he says.

“I just thought it was a great way to give to my new city that I love,” he says.


Local Boys and Girls Clubs hiring childcare workers

The Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay are hiring at locations in Hillsborough and Pasco counties. The organization is looking for helpers for its Summer Day Camp as well as its year-round after-school programs.
 
“We’ve starting the process, coordinating the number of hires we’ll actually need [for the summer],” says Sandra Kay-Weaver, VP of Talent. “Ideally we’d like to have everyone on board by the end of May, and in our training.”
 
The organization usually brings on 50-70 staffers to oversee camp programs; experience in childcare is not mandatory. “It’s very helpful if they have experience working with children in groups,” she says.
 
Applicants must be at least 18 years of age. The camp positions’ pay averages $8.75 to $15 an hour depending on job experience, Kay-Weaver says. Some positions are fulltime and some are part-time, depending on the club’s need. “Hopefully they [the applicants] are engaging, fun,” she says.
 
Part-time positions are available year-round for the after-school program. “We are always recruiting for a pipeline of part-time positions,” Kay-Weaver says.
 
Cassandra Thomas, Director of Marketing and Communications, says there usually are more part-time positions than full. “One of the biggest areas we seem to have trouble filling is bus drivers,” she adds.
 
Because staff interacts with children, screening is rigorous. “We do very meticulous drug screening, background checks,” says Thomas, “and it does include people working on the administrative side as well. We tend to go into the clubs too.”
 
At Bethune Park in Wimauma, Club Director Ronneka Peacock says the need for after-school program specialists is immediate. “My club absolutely needs people right now,” she says.
 
She prefers people with some kind of childcare experience, even if it’s babysitting. “I’m looking for staff and are able to have fun and still have the kids respect them and listen to them,” she says.
 
Those who are interested in applying for jobs at Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay can begin the process online. Information is available on internships and volunteer opportunities as well. Candidates also can check the club locations and pick up an application on-site.
 
The organization has a full-time staff of about 40 to 50, who work at the administrative offices or the clubs. These positions do open up periodically. “It’s always a great idea if they have Boys and Girls Clubs in their background,” Kay-Weaver says. “We want people who are dedicated to our mission.”

On The Ground: RCMA welcomes new leadership from Miami-Dade

To read this story in Spanish, please follow this link.

For the first time in 28 years, Redlands Christian Migrant Association (RCMA) of Florida will welcome new leadership.
 
Gayane A. Stepanian, 45, an executive with the Boys & Girls Clubs of Miami-Dade, has been picked as RCMA’s next Executive Director. 

Stepanian will succeed executive director Barbara Mainster, 75, on Jan. 2. 

RCMA is a nonprofit organization that provides high-quality child development services for farmworker families and other rural, low-income families in child-care centers, family day-care homes, after-school dropout prevention programs and charter schools. Mainster served as executive director from 1988 to the present. 

“I am inspired and humbled to join RCMA,” Stepanian says. “I am thrilled to join others who are absolutely dedicated to delivering world-class child care and education for our most vulnerable kids.” 

The organization, which began with 75 children in two child-care centers, now serves nearly 7,000 children in 68 centers in rural areas of 21 Florida counties. It also operates three charter schools, in Hillsborough and Collier counties.
 
“I think you will all agree that Gayane is a wonderful addition to the RCMA family,” Mainster told the RCMA staff, via e-mail. “I like her, and know you will, as well.” 

More than 80 percent of the children RCMA serves are Hispanic, and 11 percent are African-American. In addition, 85 percent of RCMA employees come from backgrounds similar to the communities they serve. 

Mainster believes that Stepanian’s background qualifies her as an excellent successor. Stepanian is the daughter of a Mexican mother and an Armenian father, and is fluent in English and Spanish. 

“My parents came to this country with nothing but their sheer will,” Stepanian says. “It is that same will and passion that I see in our volunteers, staff and families at RCMA. RCMA, to me, is like coming home.”
 
Since 2014, Stepanian has been Director of Grants Development for the Boys & Girls Clubs in Miami. She is a child safety expert with degrees in psychology and education, and is a mother of three teenagers. 

Restaurateur encourages patrons to skip the straw

Drinking straws are standard fare at most restaurants. Whenever we order a cold beverage, it usually comes with a straw, and we use it to slurp our water, teas or sodas in a matter of minutes. Afterwards, the straws end up littering our beaches and landfills.
 
“We see those [straws] out on the beach everywhere, those and cracker wrappers,” says Ed Chiles, owner of Chiles Restaurant Group.
 
So Chiles decided to do something about it. He has quit serving “old-style,” non-biodegradable plastic beverage straws.
 
“If they want a straw they’re going to get a straw. We’ve got a good [biodegradable] backup,” says Chiles, who owns Ana Maria’s Sandbar, Bradenton Beach’s Beach House and Longboat Key’s Mar Vista Dockside restaurants.
 
Chiles is partnering with the Washington, D.C.-based Ocean Conservancy to educate the public about the single-use plastic straws and protect our oceans. According to the Conservancy, straws are one of the top 10 items collected during cleanups.
 
Chiles’ campaign includes green messages encouraging customers to “Skip the Straw.”  So far, it has been working.
 
“I think it has gone very well overall. I think people understand. At first, there’s that little pause. They think about it and they get it,” Chiles says.
 
His servers are on board. “Our people have embraced it. If your servers aren’t behind it, you’ve got a problem,” he explains.
 
Chiles calls removing the plastic beverage straw “one small step.” He’s already ditched plastic cups and individually wrapped crackers, opting for glasses and sleeves of crackers. Plans include a complete line of eco-friendly “to go” containers and reusable packing crates.
 
He has gardens to grow their own herbs and spices. “The kitchen guys go out and work it,” says Chiles, an honorary faculty member of the University of South Florida’s Patel College of Global Sustainability. “We are all about local sustainable.”
 
Although his menus feature seafood, you also may find wild boar, considered an invasive species. “We take lemons and make limoncello,” he quips. “People think they [wild boars] are not any good, but they’re wrong. It’s fabulous. It’s one of my favorite meats.”
 
Even his parking lots are environmentally friendly. For the last decade, he has been a leader in pervious or porous parking lots, setting an example about how to deal with stormwater on commercial properties.
 
Chiles isn’t stopping with the beverage straw. Now he’s looking for a bio-degradable cocktail straw.

White House recognizes Tampa Bay as TechHire Community

Tampa Bay is now officially a TechHire community, which is pretty good news for jobseekers here between 17 and 29. That is if they’re willing to learn new computer skills like java programming, mobile applications or web development.
 
White House officials and community leaders announced Tampa Bay’s TechHire designation last Thursday in separate events. Tampa Bay is now one of more than 70 such areas nationwide.
 
The designation indicates Tampa’s Innovation District, which includes the University of South Florida, Busch Gardens and Moffitt Cancer Center, has met White House TechHire standards. It bolsters the area’s opportunities to achieve job-training goals.
 
Mark Sharpe, CEO of Tampa Innovation Alliance, says the designation “cements you in the [TechHire] club.”
 
“The whole point of bringing the public and private institutions together is to create opportunities for everyone,” Sharpe adds. “There is a sense that not everyone has benefited from trade and from the emerging tech economy. When people don’t have that opportunity, it creates frustration and, in many instances, struggle.”
 
“It [the designation] identifies us as a community that is working towards improving our IT industry sector, that we’re looking for ways to make opportunities available -- for people, for companies,” adds Edward Peachey, President and CEO of CareerSource Tampa Bay, which is partnering in the initiative.
 
Tampa Bay received a $3.8 million federal grant last summer to fund technical training in the community and connect people with jobs. Some $150 million in grants were awarded to 39 TechHire communities, with the communities kicking in nearly $50 million in additional philanthropic, private and other funding.
 
Nationwide, more than 4,000 people have been trained and connected to higher-paying job opportunities.
 
Peachey notes the TechHire designation is distinct from the funding, which lasts for three years. “Being a TechHire community has a longer life to it,” he explains. “What really stands out is the partnership that it creates between employers and community-based organizations and government. And the recognition that we’re all working together to improve our community for the tech companies and tech employees.”
 
The designation also facilitates information sharing about developing a tech workforce, he adds.
 
The TechHire initiative, launched by President Barack Obama in March, 2015, is building a pipeline of tech talent to local communities across the nation, creating jobs and facilitating business growth.
 
Tampa Bay was one of 20 communities added to the initiative Thursday. Three others were in Florida: Central Florida, including Sumter, Lake, Orange, Osceola and Seminole counties; Alachua and Bradford counties; and Pensacola.
 
CareerSource Tampa Bay is fast-tracking IT training and employment opportunities for more than 1,000 out-of-school youth and young adults through 2020. Some jobs are in health care. Employers such as BayCare Health Systems and Cognizant Technology Solutions are working to advance the community’s economic health and technology industry.
 
The training program is short, and can take about four months, Sharpe says.
 
Those who are interested in free training can apply online at http://www.careersourcetampabay.com or visit one of the CareerSource Tampa Bay offices.
 
The alliance and other initiative leaders will be meeting with the business community Dec. 15 as part of its effort to develop its employment base – which already numbers more than 200.
 
Unemployment rates for IT jobs in the Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area were greater than one percent in August, 2015, compared to 5.2 percent overall, according to a CareerSource workforce analysis.

New Pinellas housing partnership launches Get Ready program

The Pinellas County Housing Authority and Habitat For Humanity of Pinellas County have partnered in an effort to streamline the many steps of buying and keeping a home.

Their collaborative new program, called “Get Ready,” aims to help aspiring first time homeowners by offering what they call “wrap around services” for people who know they’d like to own their home, but may be unaware of all the things that need to be in place to make those dreams come true. 

“People looking from afar don’t always know the ins and outs of home ownership,” says Debbie Johnson, Executive Director at the Housing Authority

The counseling provided by Habitat for Humanity will include training on the various aspects of what people need to think about when becoming first time homeowners, from personal finance management to cleaning up credit scores.

People will also be coached on practical things, like taking into account how many bedrooms and bathrooms they’ll need to accommodate their family, and then looking at how much money it will cost yearly to afford that home. 

The goal is to make sure home buyers are financially stable so they’re set up for success from the beginning. 

Once the training is completed, the PCHA will award participants first-time homebuyer certificates that can help them with their downpayment.

“Partnering with Habitat for Humanity was natural. They coordinate it all so well and they require sweat equity. They require commitment,” Johnson says. 

The first orientation for the “Get Ready” program was Sept. 22, and about 30 people came to the event. The following week Habitat For Humanity of Pinellas County had already received five applications.

“It was a great turn out. Just a huge amount of enthusiasm in the room. I think a lot of people are ready,” says Johnson. “I’m excited for the families to have an opportunity for someone to sit down and show them what to do. They can do it. I have full faith they can do it.” 

For more information about the “Get Ready” program, contact Candi Hagler, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas’s VP of Homeowner Services, at 727 678-3692.

National stroke awareness group honors local marketing campaign for innovation, creativity

A campus event at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg with national hip hop recording artist Dee-1 is not where you would expect the American Heart Association to promote its message about learning the warning signs of stroke.

But that’s exactly what the American Heart Association Tampa Bay chapter did this spring during National Stroke Month. And for that enterprising event, along with its creative use of social media and strategic partnerships with local businesses, hospitals and media, the chapter recently won a national award.

In September, the chapter received the American Stroke Association’s national award for Best Integrated Campaign for American Stroke Month 2016 among markets with a corporate sponsor. Frontier Communications is the Tampa Bay American Heart Association corporate partner.

According to Lily Conrad, communications director for the local AHA chapter, one of the goals for this year’s campaign was to engage millennials.  

“We wanted to reach them with the message that stroke can affect anyone at any time and how important it is to know stroke’s warning signs,” says Conrad.

To accomplish that, the chapter organized the USFSP event with Rapper Dee-1, who is a spokesperson for the national American Heart Association. His rap song communicates the association’s healthy lifestyle message.

“The USFSP event was our kick-off event for the stroke campaign and having Dee-1 there, along with games and other activities for the students, made it very successful,” says Conrad.

Dee-1’s song, “Salle Mae Back” about paying back his student loans after graduating from Louisiana State University was a record hit with millennials concerned about student debt.

The chapter also reached the community through widespread use of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. The results exceeded the chapter’s expectation.  

“We’ve been using social media for a while, but for this year’s campaign, we really took it to the max and had our largest engagement numbers ever,” says Conrad. “This was also our first time using Instagram for the campaign.”

To create a personal connection with the dangers of strokes, the chapter worked with Jen Petit-Homme, marketing manager for Frontier Communications, Tampa Bay, and her mother, Yolande Petit, a stroke survivor.  

Their images and story were used extensively to help promote the national stroke month theme:  “Stroke Hero – Stroke Heroes spot a stroke F.A.S.T.” Fast stands for face dropping, arm weakness, speech difficulty, and time to call 911.

“It is so meaningful to be nationally recognized for our efforts to raise stroke awareness,” says Kate Sawa, executive director of the American Heart Association Tampa Bay. 

“Frontier Communications and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association had a vision to equip our community with lifesaving education. We’ve been fortunate to accomplish this through unique community events, engaging corporate employees, and working closely with healthcare systems and incredible stroke survivors,” says Sawa.

The Tampa Bay Metro AHA chapter’s campaign was evaluated on the basis of creativity and innovation, planning, execution and evaluation. Judges noted the chapter’s “impressive” strategic alliance and volunteer engagement, as well as “expansive” market reach through social media posts, media coverage, sponsors and events. 

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.

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.”
 

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.

Tampa Bay WaVE offers more workshops with help from grant

Tampa Bay WaVE can now do more workshops with the help of a grant from Bank of America.
 
WaVE, a local nonprofit, that helps entrepreneurs with their start-ups, received $27,500 from the large bank to help them with their workshop series. The workshops will educate local entrepreneurs on a variety of subjects with the hope that the companies started here will stay and create high-wage tech jobs in the Tampa Bay region.
 
“The workshops are open to the public and are instructed by Tampa’s best industry experts,” says Gracie Stemmer of Tampa Bay WaVE. “They cover everything from marketing, CEO Leadership, design and development, accounting, legal and finance.”
 
To date, the nonprofit has supported over 70 startups and created over 300 jobs as a result of those new companies. Bank of America recognized the work Tampa Bay WaVE has done in a statement.
 
“Tampa Bay runs on the sweat and innovations of small business owners and entrepreneurs, and we're all lucky to have Tampa Bay WaVE growing this important part of our economy," Bill Goede, Tampa Bay president of Bank of America.stated in the news release "Supporting our future technology leaders and the economic health of our community is a no-brainer."
 
The Startup Workshop Series will have over 100 workshops over the next year. Each workshop is an hour long and are free to members, $25 for the public and $10 for students.
 
For more information, visit Tampa Bay WaVE’s website.

Upcoming Tampa Bay technology meetups, coding events in spring 2016

Spring is officially here, Rays baseball season has begun in St. Petersburg, and members of the local technology and startup community are busy planning upcoming tech meetups in the Tampa Bay area.

To learn more about where to go and what to expect when rubbing shoulders with Tampa’s business leaders, entrepreneurs, and founders, check out the upcoming tech events listed below.

Thursday, April 7: USF Connect's Organize Your Business for Profitable Growth
3 p.m.
USF CONNECT
3802 Spectrum Blvd.
Tampa FL 33612

Learn how to grow a business from a retired Air Force colonel and business adviser. 

Saturday, April 9: Gulf Coast Maker Con
9:30 a.m.
Florida State Fairgrounds, Special Events Center
4800 U.S. Highway 301
Tampa FL 33610

See what can happen when innovative makers, crafters, inventors and artists come together to showcase their talents! The annual event has displays on everything from sustainable heritage to cutting edge drone technology.
 
Thursday, April 21: F***Up Nights Tampa Bay (FUN Tampa Bay)
6 p.m.
Rialto Theatre
1617 N. Franklin St.
Tampa FL 33602

FUN Tampa Bay started as a chapter of a national group with a meeting of successful entrepreneurs back in November 2015 at Ybor City’s Blind Tiger Café and CoWork Ybor. Led by organizer Maria Alithinos, who has a background in PR and marketing, the group is a little different from typical gatherings of business leaders. Rather than highlighting success, F*** Up Nights Tampa Bay brings well-known members of the business community together to talk about failures, losses and the trials of being an entrepreneur.
 
Monday, April 25: Tampa Bay Technology Forum’s Professional Women’s Network Luncheon
11 a.m.
Hilton St. Petersburg Bayfront
333 1st St. S.
St. Petersburg FL 33701

Join local entrepreneurs and leaders to celebrate and recognize women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) careers, and to encourage female leaders in these industries to provide mentorship to girls and women.
 
Thursday, April 28: Geek Breakfast (recurring monthly)
7:30 a.m.
Jimbo's Pit Bar-B-Q
4103 W. Kennedy Blvd.
Tampa FL 33609

Join local self-described “geeks” as they enjoy breakfast BBQ and discuss all things technology. Recurring on the last Thursday of each month.
 
Friday, April 22: NASA Space Apps Challenge Hackathon
6 p.m.
Softwerx, at the corner of 19th Ave. & 13th St. in Ybor City, Tampa

Work together with attendees and sponsors from Tampa Hackerspace and Microsoft to develop code with the use of NASA’s extensive data files.
 
Thursday, June 2: Code-a-thon: Improve Medical records for Foster Children
12:30 p.m.
Adoption Related Services of Pinellas, Inc.
3941 68th Ave. N.
Pinellas Park FL 33781

Put your hacking skills to good service by coding for a cause.
 
Friday, June 3: Codapalooza, A National Day of Civic Hacking Event
7 p.m.
Peak 10
8350 Parkedge Drive
Tampa FL 33637                       

The theme of the weekend-long event is “Gimme Shelter,” a nod to the code fest’s goal of helping the homeless population in Tampa Bay. The event is co-hosted by the Tampa Innovation Alliance, along with Code for Tampa Bay and the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.
 
Saturday, June 4: Pinellas Hack-a-thon, A National Day of Civic Hacking Event
8 a.m.-8 p.m.
The Iron Yard
260 1st Ave. S., Suite 300 
St. Petersburg FL 33701
           
Develop solutions for real-world community problems using data from Pinellas County during this one-day hack-a-thon, part of the National Day of Civic Hacking.             
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