Turkey and technology collide at Great Lakes Science Center’s ‘Turkey Tech’

This story originally appeared in The News-Herald and The Morning Journal

Great Lakes Science Center

The Great Lakes Science Center in Cleveland is shown in July 2009. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan)

When you think about Thanksgiving, science and technology might not be the first things that spring to mind.

Sure, there’s the chemistry of starch behind the family recipe for gravy. And in the last four hundred years since the “First Thanksgiving” in 1621, kitchen gadgetry has come a long way. But, robots, 3-D printing and vacuum chambers aren’t the images that are typically conjured when turkey day draws near.

This year, the Great Lakes Science Center, 601 Erieside Ave. in Cleveland, aims to change those perceptions with Turkey Tech, a holiday-themed event Nov. 27-29 “where turkey and technology collide.” Regular admission to the Science Center gives access to the planned activities and presentations, with additional registration required for a couple of the items due to limitations on space and participation.

With the potential for chilly outside temperatures and the long weekend many look forward to from school or work, Science Center Communications Director Joe Yachanin explained that the event programming sought to give families a fun option for how to spend the holiday time.

There’s a bit of Thanksgiving-themed stuff developed just for the event, plus a holiday theme to several mainstays like the Big Science Show, he said.

“We thought, what better way to celebrate Thanksgiving weekend with the people in your family than coming downtown and visiting the Great Lakes Science Center,” said Yachanin. “We’re always looking for things to do that can engage multiple generations.”

On top of all of that, Yachanin said, the timing worked out for the debut of National Geographic’s “Robots 3-D” film in the OMNIMAX theater on Nov. 27, showcasing the latest successes and failures in robotics research.

“It’s a tour of robotics labs around the world, so that people can see what sorts of advancements are being made in the world of robotics,” Yachanin said.

RoboThespian, a humanoid robot actor designed to interact with humans in a public setting, acts as the film’s narrator. Viewers will be introduced to several high-profile robotics projects like CHIMP, ATLAS, Herb the Butler and more.

For more robotics, VEX Robotics exhibitions are scheduled all day for all three days. Builders will be demonstrating how to design and build robots with the VEX Robotics Design System, a platform geared towards students.

One of the more intriguing Turkey Tech exhibitions, which will run all day throughout the weekend, is the vacuum chamber floor demonstration. Attendees can see what happens when different Thanksgiving side dishes are put into the chamber to have the air sucked out of them completely and then put back in.

“It works really neat with whipped cream on top of pumpkin pie — to see the whipped cream expand and contract right before your eyes,” Yachanin said. “It works really well because there’s a lot of air in the whipped cream. It’s really neat to watch the food literally change size right before your eyes.

“And the education person doing that demonstration can of course explain the science behind how changing the air pressure affects the food.”

Both the Maker Workshop and Family Turkey Launch Tournament are free with regular admission, but require additional registration due to space and material limitations. The Science Center is asking for a donation of canned food for this event as well.

In the Maker Workshop, scheduled for Nov. 27 at 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., participants will get an introduction to 3-D printing and make their own cookie cutters.

The turkey launch, scheduled for Nov. 28 from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., challenges teams to construct a catapult using a basket of household objects provided. The catapult will then be used to launch plastic turkeys, with the winner being the team able to propel their turkey the closest to landing in a pot, with a bullseye for getting it to land inside.

“The closer you get, the more points it will be worth,” Yachanin said. “It’ll be tournament style, and the top teams will go home with a turkey trophy.”

Visitors who have been to the Science Center before may not recall seeing any bowling lanes on the premises. Nevertheless, Turkey Bowling is scheduled Nov. 27-28 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Nov. 29 1-4 p.m. Set up in open exhibit space, participants will get to make and decorate their own head pins and then hit the boards for a chance to roll their own turkeys, or three strikes in a row — a term that originated when bowling tournaments handed out grocery items (like turkeys), eventually becoming part of the vernacular.

A staple of the Science Center, the Big Science Show will have a few surprises in store for anyone who’s seen it before. Turkey Tech-themed elements were integrated into the show, scheduled to run on Nov. 27 at 2 p.m., Nov. 28 at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m. and Nov. 29 at 2:30 p.m.

“One of the new demonstrations is an explanation of why Thanksgiving Day parade balloons are full of helium instead of hydrogen,” Yachanin said. “And another one we’re doing is called the Tesla Turkey. We’re going to be conducting electricity through a turkey on a giant Tesla coil.”

For parents looking to take advantage of Black Friday shopping, the center is also offering a one day camp-like program called “Parent’s Day Out” on Nov. 27 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. By registering in advance, children ages 6-13 can be dropped off at GLSC for a day of supervised scientific fun with hands-on activities, a pizza lunch, an OMNIMAX film, the Big Science Show and more. The cost per child is $30 for nonmembers and $25 for members.

Like the Spooktacular Science Day in October, Turkey Tech continues a programming schedule of holiday-themed events. Coming up, GLSC plans a whole week of wintry/cold themed activities for Winter Week, Dec. 26-Jan. 2.

“Lots of kids are home from school, on winter break,” Yachanin said.

“We’re trying to put in a bit of added incentive with fun, wintry-themed activities. We’ll probably do some fun stuff with liquid nitrogen that week.”

Events like carpet skating will take place, with plans to run a snow machine inside GLSC to complete the wintry atmosphere for visitors.

“We basically just want people to make family memories,” Yachanin said.

“Come down and have a little fun with science. Hopefully we’re going to make it engaging and expose people to some level of creativity that they don’t normally associate with science.”

GIS Day at Lakeland Community College showcases geographic software

This story originally appeared in The News-Herald and The Morning Journal

GIS Day 1

Dakota Benjamin from Cleveland Metroparks shows the E384 unmanned aircraft during a presentation by GIS Manager Stephen V. Mather (left) to guests during GIS Day at Lakeland Community College on Nov. 18. The craft is part of a fleet used by Cleveland Metroparks that includes rotorcraft drones and kites for surveying land and gathering geospatial data.

Since 1999, the third Wednesday of each November has been designated as GIS Day, a grassroots global event developed by Esri — an international supplier of GIS software — that lets users and vendors of the geographic software to showcase their applications to the public.

On Nov. 18, Lakeland Community College hosted a GIS Day event, organized by Lisa Stanich, geospatial technology program assistant, and Mark Guizlo, professor and chair of the department of geography and geospatial technology.

The free and public event took place across two rooms set aside for presentations and demonstations, and a third room for exhibitors.
Lakeland also uses GIS Day to showcase their Geospatial Technology program. Developed in 2011, it is the first program in the state that’s aligned with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Geospatial Technology Competency Model designed to produce a skilled workforce.

“We set ours up based on the needs of the industry,” Guizlo said.

While developing the program, Guizlo attended professional meetings for the industry, noting that there were few academics there at the time. At the meetings, he began building relationships with industry leaders to help shape the program.

“We used the (Labor Department) model to guide what we are doing, and no we have a very professional, skills-based approach.”

GIS program participant Caroline Petersen, who manned the department’s exhibit table, was enthusiastic about her experience.

“It’s an amazing program that’s opened up so many doors for me,” she said.

Fellow student Joe Gragg agreed.

“From what I’ve heard, students coming from Lakeland’s GIS program are a year or two ahead when they go on to four-year programs,” he said.

Starting off the day, GIS instructor Bobby Oliver showed attendees a selection of free and open mobile apps for geospatial data collection. She explained that casual users and consumers can take advantage of app capabilities to gather useful information for things like fitness and health tracking.

One of the apps, Endomondo, can track workouts like running or biking, measuring speed, distance and elevation. Using the data, the app provides feedback on how to meet exercise goals.

“There’s lots of free software out there for your phones,” Oliver said.
Most of these sorts of apps are designed to sync with users’ social media networks, making it easy to share your successes or compare with other enthusiasts.

Sharing large swaths of data across multiple entities is one of the broader uses of GIS data, exemplified by municipal organizations like the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District.

Robert Stoerkel and Dennis Quigney, both graduates of Lakeland’s GIS program, presented attendees with a variety of ways NEORSD collects, uses and shares data.

With over 1 million customers in a 355-square-mile service area and over 90 billion gallons of water treated each year, managing geospatial data is vital.

Customized data logged in their Enterprise GIS system is used to aid many other departments, including Homeland Security, in order to coordinate infrastructure projects and ensure safety and stability for both consumers and professionals in the coverage area.

“Everyone in the district is using this app once a day,” Stoerkel said.

Michael Foley, GIS specialist with CT Consultants, a local municipal engineering and planning firm in Mentor, echoed Stoerkel’s sentiments about the importance of geospatial data.

“People don’t care about maps, they care about apps,” he said.
Situated in the exhibit hall, Foley explained the work that went into developing and managing a comprehensive database and map for the city of Euclid’s sewer system using aerial photos and other techniques. The resulting web application allows the city to access and input data as needed.

Aerial photography was also the focus of Cleveland Metroparks presentation, where GIS Manager Stephen V. Mather showed what his department’s fleet of unmanned craft can provide.

Using OpenDroneMap, an open source toolkit, in conjunction with both fixed wing and rotorcraft drones as well as kites, they’re able to reconstruct the world using series of overlapping photos from repeated drone flights.

The highly-detailed maps created allow for precise attention to problems like erosion, stemming invasive species like phragmites and promoting healthy vegetation growth.

GIS Day 2

A selection of quilts on display at GIS Day at Lakeland Community College on Nov. 18 created by Debbie Berkebile, owner of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures. Berkbile uses GIS data to create artistic representations of geographic locations, including (from left) the Painted Desert, Eye of Sahara and Sustina Glacier.

Exhibitor Debbie Berkebile, owner of Mountain Trail Quilt Treasures, puts her GIS training to use for an artistic pursuit.

Using image data from various locations around the globe, she creates quilts and uses topographical information to hand-paint landscape features on them.

“Each one has characteristics of what the colors really mean,” she said.

“I’ve been quilting for over 15 years, but this I just started after graduation. I like mapping.”

LCCC hosts regional InnovateHER competition

This story originally appeared in The Morning Journal

Photo courtesy of the Economic and Community Development Institute  Glynis Byrd (center) with business partner Sam Bigham pitches the TidyCup to the InnovateHER 2016 regional judges' panel. Byrd and Bigham developed and patented the product, which is designed specifically for women to collect mid-stream urine samples. Byrd's pitch won first place, giving her a chance to pitch in the national round in Washington D.C. in March 2016.

Photo courtesy of the Economic and Community Development Institute Glynis Byrd (center) with business partner Sam Bigham pitches the TidyCup to the InnovateHER 2016 regional judges’ panel. Byrd and Bigham developed and patented the product, which is designed specifically for women to collect mid-stream urine samples. Byrd’s pitch won first place, giving her a chance to pitch in the national round in Washington D.C. in March 2016.

As director of the Small Business Development Center at Lorain County Community College, Lisa Hutson had been looking for a project to partner with the Women’s Business Center of Ohio on along with Jan Conrad, WBC director in Cleveland. So when it came time for the national InnovateHER 2016 competition, she knew she’d found it.

“I’d like to host this,” Hutson said of the competition, aimed at addressing the needs of women and their role in the economy. “It’s a great way to highlight Lorain County and some of the things going on here.”

Geared specifically for entrepreneurs whose products or services directly enhance the lives of women and their families, LCCC hosted the regional finals on Nov. 12 at The Richard Desich Business and Entrepreneurship Center, 151 Innovation Drive in Elyria. From a field of about 25 applicants who submitted business plans, ten finalists were chosen for an opportunity to pitch a panel of judges, with the first place winner moving on to a final round and a chance to pitch in Washington D.C. in March 2016 for a shot at winning $70,000 in prizes provided by Microsoft.

As put forth by the U.S. Small Business Administration, InnovateHER challenges entrepreneurs to present products and services that have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, have commercialization potential and fill a need in the marketplace.

“We would have had more (competitors), but they didn’t meet the women-centric criteria,” said Conrad. “Even so, paring the submissions down to just ten was difficult.”

The finalists who were chosen to pitch presented a diverse array of ideas, from a babysitting exchange app to a program that helps women get training and placement in sustainable employment. Slotted in ten minute blocks, presenters entered the room to pitch and field questions from a panel of four judges, exiting when done so that none of the finalists heard the others’ presentations.

“It’s really cool that this is a women-centered competition,” said Muhga Eltigani, who pitched her startup NaturAll Club, a home delivery service for organic hair care products she makes herself. Eltigani, whose YouTube channel has videos demonstrating how to make her products at home using natural ingredients like avocado and banana, recognized a need from her viewers who said they didn’t have time to spend making their own products.

After all the pitches had been made, the judges left the room and all the competitors gathered to await the announcement of winners.

Judge Dennis Willis, a business coach from ActionCOACH in Elyria, described the judges’ difficult task in choosing a winner.
“The tough thing is choosing between good and good,” Willis said. “You all did really awesome.”

Third place winner of the InnovateHER competition was Laura Steinbrink’s Brilliency, a software platform that helps consumers see their utility usage on a website and teaches them how to save money with consumer-engaged efficiency.
“Our goal is to shift the paradigm of how energy is bought, sold and traded,” said Steinbrink, noting that Brilliency can be useful for both homeowners and renters alike.

In second place was The Digital Mosaic, a website and app launched by Natalie Bauman. Her background in video production, writing and documentary storytelling inspired the service, which helps users capture moments on video to craft their own stories.

Coming in first place was Glynis Byrd’s TidyCup, a patented product designed specifically for women to collect mid-stream urine samples. Byrd, who has over 30 years of experience in health care, saw a real need for a product like hers. With her business partner Sam Bigham, they’ve spent the last 8 years doing research, developing the product and getting it patented.
Although Byrd said the pitch process is “nervewracking,” she was happy for the opportunity and exhilarated to come in first place.

“We’re the independent inventor,” she said. “We like these sorts of contests because we can be on an equal playing field.

“You’ve got to keep pushing forward and don’t give up.”

Tech growth on the rise in Northeast Ohio

A shorter version of this article originally appeared in The News-Herald and The Morning Journal

Special thanks to the managing editor for feedback and suggestions for tightening it up. At the end of the day, i actually like that version more – it’s more concise with a better ending.

This version contains more detailed information and sources that made the article too long for print, as well as some stuff that was redundant in light of previous newspaper coverage.

technology growth 1

State of the art

A recent Forbes article posits Cleveland as the Midwest’s answer to Silicon Valley.

A growing hub for entrepreneurs in the technology industry, the city and surrounding area of Northeast Ohio continues a trend of upward movement. The latest quarterly report, released in August from Team NEO, a regional collaboration of business leadership partnered with the nonprofit economic development corporation JobsOhio, indicates positive trends.

Business growth

By the numbers

Among those trends are an 18 percent employment growth and gross regional product growth of 40 percent in the headquarters and professional services sector between 2000 and 2015. That is creating almost 21,000 jobs and more than $19 billion in Northeast Ohio economy.

The low cost of doing business, combined with a healthy workforce, the region’s educational opportunities and overall quality of life and cost of living have attracted not only established Fortune 1000 companies to build their presence here, but fostered the growth of entrepreneurs.

More specifically, Team NEO’s data shows 34.9 percent growth between 2000 and 2014 in information technology, including professional services, shows growth. That is about 5 percent above the national average.

And wiith 20 percent since 2007 coming out of a national recession, this makes it one of the few sectors in the state that has exceeded pre-recession levels.

These two industries are grouped together for a couple of reasons, according to Jacob Duritsky, vice president of strategy and research at Team NEO. The direct technology sector, represented by the IT component, includes software publishing and what people tend to think of as “Silicon Valley activity.”

Northeast Ohio is unique, though, because of how embedded IT is in the region’s strong concentration in manufacturing and professional services like corporate headquarters, accounting and similar firms.

Looking at the data this way gives a broader picture of both the direct and indirect impact of technology in the area.

“Thinking about it geographically, it makes sense to look at the data from the metropolitan level, to think about it from the Cleveland (metropolitan statistical area) perspective, which includes Lake and Lorain county, and also picks up Cuyahoga and Geauga, and Medina,” Duritsky said,

“The trend is encouraging,” he said. “It’s certainly impacting the entire metro level through community patterns, through workforce, through job opportunities.”

The Forbes piece is focused primarily on Cleveland-based nonprofit Jumpstart’s CEO, Ray Leach, whose goals are to foster entrepreneurship in the region. He(HE OR FORBES?) projects an additional 10,000 new jobs over the next 10 years and billions in investment dollars.

Northeast Ohio’s rich history of manufacturing and making things is having an impact on this transition as well, with computer product manufacturing projected to be one of the highest growth sectors in the coming decade, according to Team NEO data.

“Think sophisticated, integrated chips that work through aerospace products and automotive products – some pretty high value-add computer components that we’re starting to make here through Eaton, Parker Hannifin and others,” said Duritsky.

Support from business community

In Lake County, growing the technology industry is something area business leaders take seriously, with organizations like the Mentor Area Chamber of Commerce taking action towards fostering that growth.

“The concept of incubators and growth accelerators are starting to really pick up the pace in Lake County,” said Al DiFranco, Mentor Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO. “There are a couple of groups that are investigating whether or not that makes sense, and we’re definitely doing that in Mentor.”

Along with City Manager Ken Filipiak, DiFranco recently traveled to the Akron Global Business Accelerator, a facility that the city provides to help young companies and entrepreneurs get going.

“We went down there with the understanding that this is something we’d like to think about doing in Lake County, and Mentor wants to take the lead on it,” DiFranco said. “It’s catching it on the startup of the startup, if you will, of the idea – but it’s been there, and it’s just growing that we’re trying to find a way to be able to partner with and help these startups.”

More and more people want to take their ideas and start a business, but might not have the time or resources to take that risk, according to DiFranco. Although still in the early stages, he said, the city and chamber are thinking of ways they can help those with an idea plant that seed by replicating best practices in Cleveland and Akron to promote Lake County entrepreneurs.

“The tech industry of course is going to be at the head of that,” DiFranco said.

Another example of Mentor’s commitment to the technology industry is the Aerospace Updates & Opportunities symposium on Oct. 1, part of a series hosted by the City of Mentor International Trade Initiative. Presentations from NASA, Boeing and other industry giants are aimed at educating local businesses and building networks.

Whether homegrown entrepreneurs are staying in Northeast Ohio, companies are relocating here or native Clevelanders who moved away are coming back, which DiFranco refers to as a “boomerang effect,” he pointed out that people recognize the region as a great place to raise a family with reasonable cost of living.

DiFranco said that at an Aug. 25 Lake County Chamber of Commerce luncheon to discuss the Republican National Convention, Destination Cleveland CEO David Gilbert remarked that the delegation was hearing more and more good things about Cleveland and the city’s continued growth.

“One of the things the Chamber does very well is we try to represent small businesses in a way they can’t themselves,” DiFranco said, noting networking as one of the things the Chamber can assist with. “That’s why the Chamber is definitely going to be involved in these conversations.”

In Lake County, larger, established companies like Steris and Avery Dennison know where entrepreneurs are coming from, DiFranco said, and they’re looking for people to partner with. Through the Chamber, mutually beneficial relationships can emerge, he said.

financial symbols coming from hand

Finding the funds

One of the biggest challenges for startups and entrepreneurs is the practical matter of securing funding, as noted in the Forbes article, and Jumpstart is just one of many resources in the region that exist to help those with an idea turn it into a marketable business.

The Great Lakes Innovation and Development Enterprise, on the Lorain County Community College campus, is another of those resources. In addition to providing support services, GLIDE offers the Innovation Fund, a pre-seed funding program that gives early stage monies to startup technology companies, according to Dennis Cocco, co-director of GLIDE.

“We deal with companies in the very early state,” Cocco said. “They generally have an idea, they have technology that they either have a patent for or in the process of patenting. They may need to build a prototype. They may need to validate a technology’s market presence. And we help them at that early stage.

“We’re the first money other than friends and families that those companies receive,” he said.

The GLIDE fund, which covers the 21 counties in Northeast Ohio economic development region, has encouraged partners to help source the fund. Youngstown State University, NEOMED, Stark State University, University of Akron and Cleveland State University are all partners along with LCCC who support GLIDE with both funds and services.

Since starting in 2007, GLIDE has given out over $10 million, to about 170 companies, according to Cocco. Those companies have gone on to raise over $200 million through what is called “follow-on funding.”

The State of Ohio looks at three factors as far as what GLIDE is creating: how many dollars of follow-on funding do award recipients generate, how much revenue they’ve given and how many jobs they’ve created – over 500 new jobs so far.

“One of the things we require of every recipient is to help give back to other young entrepreneurs, either through lectures, coursework or internships,” Cocco said. “That way, students at the universities in Northeast Ohio can work next to the entrepreneur and learn what it’s really like to start a business.”

But it’s not just money that GLIDE offers, according to Cocco. Though funding is certainly an important element for entrepreneurs, they need lots of other things as well, and resources like GLIDE exist to offer those things.

For first-timers new to running a business, tasks like hiring employees, securing insurance and a host of other matters can be overwhelming. GLIDE and similar organizations exist to help them understand what the owner of a technology business needs to be successful.

“Every one of them has to raise millions of dollars at some point in time,” Cocco said. “It’s our job to show them how to prepare for that. Besides giving the money it’s coaching, counseling and mentoring – those are just as important.”

After the region experienced huge growth in the manufacturing industry in the mid-20th century, Cocco described a sort of complacency in the1960s and ’70s that led to stagnation.

“One of the things we were not doing well is our job growth was not going well and we weren’t creating new enterprises at the rate that other regions were, particularly the east coast and the west coast,” Cocco said. “We stopped being creative, we stopped being innovative, we stopped creating new enterprises.”

But in the last decade or so, there has been a concerted effort by many in the state to change the course and create pathways for people to start new business – and there are people in the region like GLIDE who want to help them do that successfully.

“We have great support from Columbus and the State of Ohio, and Ohio Third Frontier, probably better than almost any other state in the Union,” Cocco said. Ohio Third Frontier is an initiative to expand research and technology economic development in the state. He also cited the region’s university base as a major component of what makes Northeast Ohio attractive to entrepreneurs.

“I also think, quite frankly, that it’s Northeast Ohio itself and the people here,” Cocco said. “We want to make this a good place to be, and when you come here, people are amazed at how willing people are to help.”

Nuts and bolts

Armed with knowledge and funding, entrepreneurs with technology startups often face challenges when it comes to production as well. Firms like JPG Advisors, based in Painesville, specialize in technical and operational solutions to help overcome those challenges.

“I formed (JPG Advisors) to work with businesses in transition,” said Jim Gray, owner. “Originally it was with troubled businesses, but now a lot of it is businesses that are going to the next level.”

Gray, an industrial engineer who also holds an MBA from the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University,

“I’m an operations guy,” Gray said. “You’ve got the technology – now how are you going to make it? You have a widget, I can help you develop a plan to make the widget.”

Considerations of what equipment is called for, production costs and facility needs are just a few of the things Gray helps clients with as a process specialist. His strength lies in taking a prototype model that an entrepreneur developed and translating to a practical production method by refining and improving the process.

“Lake County has almost the full spectrum of manufacturing processes,” Gray said. “There’s a lot of small manufacturing businesses around here – it’s one of the strengths of Lake County. If you know the players, you can find a source to help you build a product.

“We’ve got a lot of capabilities here – how can we leverage that up? Even if you don’t have the product, you might have the processes. Somebody might develop the product elsewhere, and they can come to the Lake County area and say ‘why don’t you make this for us?’

“Even though I know the other ends of the business, I like to put the focus on how to get something built. Not everybody thinks that way. They think about the product, they think about the finances. There’s a lot of those resources available. So I look at ‘how do you make it?’ ”

Steps to success

Getting to the production stage is one thing. Between having an idea and putting a product onto the market, a whole lot of education takes place – whether at a formal institution or not.

Education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics – collectively called STEM, or STEAM, made popular by a growing awareness of the contribute of art to advancing the other disciplines – has been a topic of focus for several years.

Here in Northeast Ohio, there is a strong commitment to exposing and encouraging youth to STEM education during early years at school.

In Lake County, the recently opened School of Innovation in the Willoughby-Eastlake school district opened its doors to grades three through five on Sept. 15. Inside the new school, students experience a new approach to learning, incorporating a quarterly capstone project and partnerships with active area businesses to serve as not only resources and mentors, but as an audience for student exhibitions as well, explained Gina Kevern, director of curriculum, instruction and assessment for Willoughby-Eastlake City Schools.

“For this first quarter, the entire school is working on the same capstone, with each grade addressing specific essential questions,” Kevern said. “All of the students are investigating the outdoor space to learn about the property and determine which areas might be the best spots for different learning opportunities.”

By mapping the property, identifying ecosystems and topographical features, studying the plants and animals and learning about soil and erosion, students are developing features like a garden and walking path, and how those projects could impact the environment.

“The concept behind project-based learning units is helping students understand how to solve problems through the research and design process,” Kevern said.

As regards to business partners, school Principal Brian Patrick is arranging weekly “Career Moments” meetings for students to hear presentations from people in different fields to get exposure to their options during their K-12 education.

“As the school grows each year, eventually becoming a grade 3-12 building, our business partners will be crucial as students participate in shadowing and internship experiences,” Kevern said.

To help students expand on the practical learning opportunities, the school has a fabrication lab outfitted with laser cutters, 3-D printers, a milling machine and more. Patrick McKinney, director of technology at Willoughby-Eastlake Schools, explained the importance of the school’s approach to education.

“We live in an obviously tech-driven world,” McKinney said. “We’re really excited to put a fab lab in the school, so we’re exposing our kids to that technology early. These digital-native kids will be building on the programs so they’ll be ready to go.”

On a larger scale, facilities like the brand-new think[box] on the Case Western Reserve University campus welcomes anyone to visit and tinker or invent creatively.

The newly-renovated space that opened Oct. 1 is a seven-story, 50,000-square-foot facility. Touted by CWRU as one of the world’s largest university-based innovation centers, the $35 million facility offers the public not only space and technology, but guidance from industry experts to transform ideas into viable products and businesses.

At the end of the day, to answer the Forbes article’s question, there are no shortage of examples in education, funding and guidance at each step of taking an idea from pitch to production in Northeast Ohio.

Boasting what many consider to be the region’s low cost of living, combined with solid manufacturing base and strong infrastructure – plus a powerful commitment from state government to supporting technology industry growth – the Cleveland area could certainly be considered a contender for the title “Silicon Valley of the Midwest.”

However, what is more important is that Northeast Ohio has evolved and emerged with its own unique identity as an attractive place for technology to thrive.

Aerospace and aviation symposium in Mentor draws leaders from around the world – and off it completely

This story originally appeared in The News-Herald

Submitted Dr. Janet Kavandi, deputy director of NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, spoke on Oct. 1 at the Aerospace Industry Updates & Opportunities symposium hosted by the City of Mentor and the Ohio Aerospace Institute. Kavandi, a patent scientist-turned astronaut, has logged more than 33 hours in space and traveled over 13.1 million miles in 535 Earth orbits. The event was held at Noah's Event Center, 8200 Norton Pkwy., Mentor.

Dr. Janet Kavandi, deputy director of NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, spoke on Oct. 1 at the Aerospace Industry Updates & Opportunities symposium hosted by the City of Mentor and the Ohio Aerospace Institute. Kavandi, a patent scientist-turned astronaut, has logged more than 33 hours in space and traveled over 13.1 million miles in 535 Earth orbits. The event was held at Noah’s Event Center, 8200 Norton Pkwy., Mentor.

Ohio’s Aerospace Industry was the topic of a recent event in Mentor that was geared toward fostering growth both locally and across the state.

As part of the City of Mentor International Trade Initiative’s quarterly symposium series, about 75 people gathered Oct. 1 at Noah’s Event Center for Aerospace Industry Opportunities & Updates.

Hosted by a partnership between the city and the Ohio Aerospace Institute, a nonprofit advocate of aerospace research and technology development, leaders in the industry both local and global gave presentations designed to build networks, create connections and advance the state of the industry in Northeast Ohio.

“Aerospace is such a growing sector in the national economy, and internationally,” said Ronald M. Traub, director of economic and community development for Mentor. “It’s great to have experts of this caliber to speak to Mentor area businesses, and it’s value-added for our local business to take advantage of their expertise.”

One of the experts on hand, state Representative Rick Perales, R-Beavercreek, was enthusiastic in his commitment to advancing aerospace in Ohio.

“My strength, my forte, my sweet spot has been aerospace,” Perales said of his background, having served in the U.S. Air Force and as commander of the 788th Civil Engineer Squadron at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. “I’m here for a specific reason: getting the state more involved (in aerospace).”

As a junior representative in 2012, Perales saw a need to bring together the state’s industries, universities and government to help advance aerospace, and formed the Ohio Aerospace and Aviation Committee. Comprised of three Democrats, three Republicans and 15 civilians from military, industry and academia, the committee works to identify problems and solve them.

One of those problems, Perales noted, was branding — Ohio didn’t have a strong identity for its aerospace industry, something the committee worked to correct.

“This is the Midwest, we don’t beat our chests about it, we just go out and do it,” Perales said of the region’s persona.

The symposium’s keynote speaker was Dr. Janet Kavandi, deputy director of the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland.

It’s a position she’s held since February. Before taking on the role, Kavandi was a patent chemist-turned-astronaut, a veteran of three space flights as a mission specialist who’s logged over 33 days in space with 535 Earth orbits.

Prior to her presentation, Kavandi spoke to The News-Herald about the Glenn Research Center’s commitment to supporting aerospace and aviation industries. At that particular research center, one of 10 NASA facilities around the country, the focus is on aircraft engines, space power and communications primarily. Work on sensor equipment there, for example, played a part in the recent announcement of NASA’s discovery of water on Mars — something “not incredibly surprising” to scientists like Kavandi, but still “really exciting.”

She also touched on her time in space, and the change in perspective that astronauts often experience.

“I appreciate a lot of the impact of humanity on the earth,” Kavandi said, “because you can see it. Things like pollution and deforestation.”

During her presentation, she also noted the incredible views from space, like looking down on Africa and seeing a lightning storm travel hundreds of miles across the relatively dark continent. She was also able to confidently answer a question about the validity of building permanent settlements on places like the moon, or Mars.

“Technically, we can do it right now,” she said. “We could have done it 20 or 30 years ago. We have the technology, it just depends how many politicians get behind it.”

Earlier presentations from industry leaders like Boeing, Parker Hannifin, McDonald Hopkins and several people from the OAI covered a broad range of topics for small businesses in the aerospace industry, from securing funding, to forming strong partnerships with larger establishment firms and potential legal hurdles and challenges businesses might face.

“There is no industry in the world in which there is more of a leader than aerospace that the U.S.,” said Michael Heil, president and CEO of OAI. “It all started right here in the state of Ohio with two brothers — Wilbur and Orville Wright. Ohio is not just No. 1 in aerospace, we’re No. 1 by a long way.”

Cleveland’s Internet2 Technology Exchange offers chance to envision, collaborate, innovate

This article originally appeared at The News-Herald and The Morning Journal

Northeast Ohio’s growing identity as a desirable place for the technology industry to thrive will be getting another upgrade when the Technology Exchange presented by Internet2 comes to the Cleveland Convention Center, Oct. 4-7.

Internet2, a global community of research, academic, industry and government leaders focused on innovative technology creation and collaboration, is bringing the conference to Cleveland in its second year with a theme of “Envision. Collaborate. Innovate.”

According to the nonprofit’s website, the Technology Exchange’s goal is providing opportunities to share expertise and advance the state of the art. Technologists, scientists, students and others will have a chance to build new connections and redefine the future of research and education in high-performance computing, virtualization, cloud services and a variety of other disciplines.

The event is hosted by a partnership between Case Western Reserve University, the Ohio Academic Resources Network and the Ohio Valley Internet2 Consortium, with additional support from OneCommunity, a Northeast Ohio nonprofit working to expand high-speed broadband access and adoption in the region.

Sue Workman, chief information officer of CWRU, cites several reasons for Cleveland being chosen as the site for this year’s Technology Exchange, including the people resource, the attractive climate for industries to settle here and OneCommunity’s 100-gigabit fiber optic network along Cleveland’s Health-Tech Corridor — the nation’s first commercially available network of its kind.

“Those kinds of things really are attractive to technical environments,” Workman said. “There’s also now several data centers popping up. The use of commercial data centers, to be able to host the kinds of infrastructure that you need is really an attraction as well.”

Focused on higher-education technology, the conference will have people from universities and institutions, as well as vendors, advanced technology demonstrations, workshops and keynote presentations from industry leaders.

Featured speakers include Susan M. Gordon, deputy director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency; Charlie Catlett, founding director of the Urban Center for Computation and Data who will speak about open data and instrumenting cities based on work with the city of Chicago; and Workman herself, presenting with radiology professor Mark Griswold.

They will cover insights about how the partnership between CWRU and Microsoft HoloLens — the first fully untethered, see-through holographic computer — is transforming learning.

“HoloLens is a holographic, mixed-reality experience, really,” Workman said.

A Community Showcase is also planned, offering an informal venue featuring topics and demos given by the community. Those wishing to utilize the venue can submit abstracts aimed primarily at innovative research, new technological breakthroughs and in-session demonstrations that provoke discussion and interaction with attendees.

Programming isn’t just limited to the Convention Center, either, like an evening reception on Oct. 5 planned at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

“And right before the Tech Exchange will be the think[box] grand opening,” Workman said. CWRU’s renovated new home for the innovation center, a $30 million facility, is set to open Oct. 1. “We’re hoping to get people through to see tours of that. The Health Education Complex will have a tremendous amount of technology, and we’ll be using the HoloLens to look at ‘how do we teach differently?’ There’s a lot going on right now.”

Registration information for the Technology Exchange is found on Internet2’s website, and the community has a #TechEX15 hashtag on Twitter for keeping up-to-date with news.

Ingenuity showcases Cleveland’s transition

What’s your transition? Ingenuity evolves along with the city and community

This story originally appeared at The News-Herald and The Morning Journal

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Ingenuity Cleveland takes place Oct. 2-4 at Voinovich Park in Cleveland and features an array of music, artistic programming, performances, hands-on activities and large-scale art installations. This year’s theme is “Transition.”

Now in it’s tenth year, Ingenuity Cleveland’s mission to reinvigorate and reinterpret the city through the creative arts has evolved from it’s roots as a movable, multi-day and multi-venue festival into a yearlong programming schedule – and this year’s theme “Transition” refers not only to changes taking place within festival itself, but speaks to the region’s transition in the national culture itself.

Featured at the festival this year is a campaign called “What’s Your Transition?” that exhibits not just the festival’s story but a number of large-scale entities around town who have gone through their own transitions. The festival takes place Oct. 2-4 at Voinovich Park in Cleveland and features an array of music, artistic programming, performances, hands-on activities and large-scale art installations.

“We used to say that we animated Cleveland’s spaces through the intersection of art and technology,” said Emily Appelbaum, program director for Ingenuity. “That is definitely still true. Animated spaces with world-class programming is definitely a piece of the mission. But we’re not called upon to activate these forgotten about places in Cleveland anymore because there aren’t too many places in downtown Cleveland that are still forgotten about.

“Now we kind of think about it as taking that same idea, to activate underutilized resources and instead applying it to the artistic community itself,” she said.

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Appelbaum, a native Clevelander, is brand-new to Ingenuity, with 2015 being her first festival. She grew up in the area, and studied architecture at Yale before heading west to work at the intersection of architecture, community organizing and public art. She returned to Cleveland about a year ago, and worked with LAND studio, who helped redesign Public Square, before joining Ingenuity in the spring.

Investing in the Northeast Ohio community through a creative, rather than physical landscape, is inclusive of not only visual studio arts. On the other side of the spectrum from traditional gallery artists, Ingenuity is a showcase for builders, makers and tinkerers of all sorts. In addition, this creative landscape is inclusive of the region’s wealth of industry and manufacturing as well.

“We have a long history of making things here (in Northeast Ohio),” Appelbaum said. “We have a long history of fabricating, manufacturing and industry. Right now is the time when those activities are really in the national conversation. We’re returning manufacturing to America, but doing it in a way that’s all about creativity and innovation.

“Cleveland is extremely well situated for that.”

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In the same way the festival has grown from its roots utilizing physical spaces, Ingenuity helps to build the connections between these facets through collaboration, integrated projects and functionality.

“It’s about reinvesting in the community, and helping projects grow that will strengthen that community,” Appelbaum said.

In the spirit of collaboration, Ingenuity brings in people from all over as collaborators. This year, artists are coming from places like California, Colorado, New York and Toronto as well as nearer locations like Pennsylvania, Chicago and Toledo.

San Francisco artist Tom Franco, brother of actor James Franco, who started several community-based art spaces in the bay area, is coming to work directly with local artist Guerin Wolf. The two are working together on a large-scale installation called “Pipe Dreams,” a collaborative, community-built art project.

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Ingenuity is a nonprofit that works through corporate sponsorships, something that’s very important to the festival, according to Appelbaum.

“Rather than simply approaching corporate partners and having them slap their name on a sign, we try to build highly-specific programs that further their mission and our own,” she said. “That might be having them come out and showcase a new product in an interesting way – and by product I mean something that the artistic community will benefit from.”

One of those partners this year is HGR, a large-scale industrial surplus distributor who gets “all kinds of crazy equipment,” according to Appelbaum, one-of-a-kind pieces like what would come from an old factory. They are sponsoring a project onsite called Iron Architects, allowing people to build site-specific installations around the clock during the festival.

For those who wish to volunteer, donate or contribute, Appelbaum emphasized that there are ample opportunities.

“We raise money up until the day the festival starts,” she said. “There are still opportunities for corporate exhibitors, definitely for volunteers – we’re looking for the entire creative community to come together and build this event.

“This should be an event by the community, for the community. We’re here to facilitate and help build new collaborations, but ultimately the event should grow into what the community here wants to see it as.”

Ingenuity is free to attend. Event organizers suggest a $10 donation. The festival takes place Oct. 2-4. On Friday Oct. 2 the hours are 5 p.m. to 1 a.m, Saturday Oct. 3 noon to 1 a.m. and Sunday Oct. 4 noon to 5 p.m.

Since publication of this story on Sept. 17, ticket prices have undergone a change. VIP tickets are available that grant access to special programming, tastings and talks were at a cost of $45 or $70 for a pair. The prices have been updated, and tickets for the VIP Salon are now only $20 each. They are available through Eventbrite under the heading Ingenuity VIP (Very Ingenious Person) Experience.

Ingenuity has also created a passport that allows visitors access to the Great Lakes Science Center and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for a discounted rate during the festival, which takes places Oct. 2-4. The cost for the passport is $30, also available through Eventbrite at Ingenuity Passport.