The Synapse Innovation Summit brings together innovators from all industries and stages of development to connect technology, regionally-based innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems throughout Florida.
This week, we're at the Synapse Innovation Summit Tampa Bay 2018. We are located in the STEM Pavilion at Amalie Arena where we get the opportunity to speak to a variety of makers, ranging from renewable streetlights to 3D printed rockets.
It was a distinct pleasure to spend some time with Dr. Byron Clayton, CEO of the Advanced Robotics for Manufacturing (ARM) Institute. The institute, located in Pittsburg Pennsylvania, is the result of a public/private partnership that was formed by the federal government. With a five year, $80 million grant, along with funds from academia and industry, they are tasked with a wonderful challenge: To advance robotics and robotics education.
Yes: that caught our attention, too!
It's no secret that certain manufacturing jobs are disappearing with an older workforce as machining is quickly becoming a lost art in this country. We've encountered this first hand through our close relationship with the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation (FCDI) here in Florida, as they forge new relationships in the community to help create safe spaces for the FIRST students to create and build, as well as try to find a platform for internships and apprenticeships. Also, it is currently too expensive for small and midsize manufacturers to compete effectively and therefore maintain a stable and growing workplace. But it is extremely important that we not lose this integral cog in the manufacturing wheel.
Through technology, ARM aims to lower costs. The result enables them to make robots safer and more versatile so they can effectively work with and around people. To accomplish this, they are conducting project calls, or Requests for Proposals (RFPs), designed to advance technology and lower the barriers to adoption. This, in turn, will give manufacturers the ability to buy, adopt and use robotics throughout the manufacturing process. When this happens, they not only become more productive locally but can also begin to compete with overseas companies.
The exciting result is that they will be creating new pathways. As these companies better position themselves through technology, they will increase their workload and thus create more jobs. During the process, they are working with high school and college students to come up with innovative solutions that will eventually create these pathways and fill the newly created jobs.
Imagine being able to drive down the road and not only have great lighting but be able to stay connected to the internet. Now imagine being able to do this without any equipment connected to the electric grid. This is possible because of VRenewables, a solar and wind-powered lighting system.
It is a series of streetlights designed for use either residentially or commercially through the DOT. The residential lights are smaller units and come with options for the size of pole and brightness of the lights, or lumens. These are available in small units of 2-10, as needed. For commercial needs, they are available in units of 1000-2000 to utility companies.
The hotspot advantage is to have a consistent connection to internet and Wi-Fi. For pedestrian traffic, the ability to have and keep a strong signal is a huge benefit, not just for entertainment but for safety reasons. In addition to public and private roads, you can also see a great advantage on college campuses. Since safety on campuses has become such a high priority now, both for the students and the professors and staff, the current measures are no longer effective. Having this system installed on campus would give the schools the ability to control lighting and ensure that communication is always available in the event of a dangerous situation.
Another place where safety and security are important is at performances spaces. Even though security is tight at the gate before you enter, there is a potential for the parking lot to become an area of possible concern. Outdoor concert venues also provide a potential location for danger. By upgrading their existing outdoor lighting, the facility greatly reduces the possibility for dangerous scenarios. This is a win-win situation.
The cost of these lights varies from $500-$110,000. The Tampa Bay area manufactured products are available now.
The advancements made in technology are always on our radar here at PLuGHiTz Live. Whether in communications, environmental engineering or entertainment, we love to see the progress that is made. It is particularly interesting when it happens to be fun gadgets that are being improved upon. Now, let's amp that up a bit - the improved gadget for today's discussion is a drone that is controlled by your mind. Short of something the likes of flying cars, it doesn't get any cooler than that!
Dr. Marvin Andujar, with the University of South Florida's Computer Science and Engineering Department, was kind enough to stop by and show off this new technology. He and his team have been working to perfect their Smart Drone in the school's Neuro-Machine Interaction Lab. Flying the drone with your mind is possible, in large part, due to the Brain-Computer Interface device that they created. This is what allows your mind to send commands to the drone. And as cool as this is on its own, one of the real-life applications in which they use this device is to race drones. The goal is to allow people with physical challenges the ability to pilot the drones themselves, using only their brains. This is so exciting because it equals the playing field for those who couldn't normally compete in this type of activity. Thus making it a universal sport where everybody can compete at the same level. The participants are able to imagine the movements and the drone will perform the tasks.
To accomplish this, they start off by creating a personal profiler of the pilot, which in turn trains the device to complete certain movements to correlate with specific thoughts. To begin this process, they have the pilot meditate for a few minutes to get the brain to a neutral state. Then they ask them to think of very specific things, like pushing a chair forward or opening your left hand. This creates patterns that they save to their profile, and these patterns are different for each individual. They then decode the iAnd they also have an eSport version with a simulator drone that allows you to fly your drone anywhere through your computer.nformation and send it to the drone through the profile via a software that was also created for the process.
Not only can this technology be applied to drone racing, but it also has many other practical real-world applications, as well. It's also good practice to train your attention, especially for those who have ADHD. Other health initiatives could relate to communicating with those who are incapacitated. And just imagine the possibilities in the smart home arena, from opening and closing doors to changing the color of the lighting depending upon your mood.
Be sure to watch the full interview to learn more specifics regarding the drones, the races and how Lucas Films was interested in the technology as it relates to "The Force."
One of the coolest trends in the startup space is incubators: facilities specifically designed to help a startup go from concept to market. Especially for first-time entrepreneurs, there are a lot of pieces of starting a business that are completely unknown and unexpected. These incubators can help with those challenges, as well as help these new companies find customers and partners to enhance their corporate journeys.
One of the great incubators in the Tampa Area is run through the University of South Florida as part of the USF Connect program. The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator is a process which allows students, faculty, and the community to get involved and receive assistance. While the majority of the companies in the program are USF students and faculty, the TBTI has begun accepting non-school related companies to join and receive the benefits of the program.
Unlike many incubators, the companies that participate in TBTI are not always required to be technology in focus. In fact, one of the companies that exhibited at the Synapse Innovation Summit had designed a product to make frosting cakes easier. The product was so easy to use that the owner could speak to an audience about the product while using it. Another non-technology companies involved in the TBTI is a company that produces a consumer skateboard that has built-in storage.
Other companies involved in the incubator, however, are technology-based. For example, several of the companies are working on technologies to prevent, diagnose and treat various types of cancers. Other companies are working to improve cybersecurity problems, including providing 24/7 security services.
The Tampa Bay Technology Incubator through USF Connect is always looking for new companies to assist. If you have an idea you would like to pitch, you can reach out through their website.
Every company, whether big or small, needs marketing. For some, it is done through word-of-mouth, but most need an active process in which they can tell the world about their unique goods or services. For a startup, deciding what you need can be a challenge, and implementing what you need can be nearly impossible. That is where Modern Consulting 360 comes into play. This company has a strong focus on startups and understands the needs of entrepreneurs.
The company got its start after CEO Matthew Nauss had done some marketing for a company he worked for after he left the Army and while he was at the University of Tampa. He had tried some strategies that were less focused on the old way of doing things, hence the modern moniker. He decided that, since his strategies had worked well for himself, he would try implementing those ideas for others. The process was repeatable and successful, and Modern Consulting 360 was born. After some time, Nadia Kaminskaya joined the team, bringing with her outside marketing experience.
In addition to the marketing services, Modern Consulting also provides services like sales and supply chain consulting as well. Building a sales strategy is something that even the most successful companies can fail at on their own. Bringing in a consultant to look at what you are doing and make suggestions on areas of waste, or areas that could be better focused on can improve performance greatly.
MC360 does not just serve the startup community, but also work with small and medium business, as well. While they primarily serve the Tampa Bay area, they do have clients in other areas of the country. Recently, they have gotten to work with some nonprofit organizations, for whom they offer their services for free.
With the increase in educational focus on technology, it was only a matter of time before extracurricular activities began to follow the lead. Our FIRST Looks series focuses on one of the long-running programs, but FIRST is not the only game in town. We have seen a rise in interest for the VEX robotics program over the past few years. We have also seen new ideas come about that are gaining some serious traction.
One of those newer ideas is the Electrathon. This organization produces an electric car race program, which encourages participants to build a certain size vehicle to compete against other teams. The difference between this race and others is it is not about speed, but instead about the number of laps completed within the time limit. While this might sound like semantics, it is not; in the former, you complete a certain number of laps in a little time as possible, while in the latter you complete as many laps as possible within a given time.
There are a number of factors that can contribute to completing fewer laps, with the primary challenge, of course, being battery performance. The age of the battery can contribute to the amount of power it can produce, as can the type of battery, with Lithium Ion providing more power per pound than the more traditional Lead Acid.
Outside factors, though, cause the biggest challenge. The weight of the vehicle, including the weight of the driver, can create different requirements on the mechanics. A heavier vehicle will require more power to move the same distance, and will likely do it in a longer timeframe. The distance between the wheels can also change the performance because it will change the way the driver interacts with the vehicle. These are just some of the considerations that must go into the design of the car.
Unlike many programs of this type, including FIRST, Electrathon has teams from high schools, colleges, and the general public all competing together on a single track. No preference is given to a particular group, so all compete equally. Anyone can join a team, and if you are in Florida, a great resource is the Electrathon of Tampa Bay website.
We get to see Chris Willingham at many of the events that we attend, and he's always serving multiple capacities based upon the numerous projects that he is involved with. Today at Synapse Innovation Summit, he is with Prograde Laboratories. And how fun for us that he's showing off rockets!! And he brought one to show off in the interview.
They are known to experiment with all kinds of cool and crazy things when they are creating. So their projects get a lot of second looks and questions from observers. That's why they named this particular rocket, Don't Ask. To make it even better, it's a high powered rocket, so it goes higher than regular model rockets. Oh, and did we mention that the majority of it was 3D printed?
For their purposes at Prograde Laboratories, high powered rocketry is both a hobby and used for education. There is a competition called NASA Student Launch Initiative that has inspired them. Whereas most of the rockets are made out of wood and commonly available materials. For theirs, they wanted to take it a step further see how far they could go using 3D printing. They basically chose the standards and just started designing on that scale. Everything except the body tubes is 3D printed. The payload includes a camera mount for a go pro as well as a phone mount to be used for the avionics. This type of rocket can usually go anywhere from 2,000 to 10,000 feet, depending upon the exact specs.
Their goal here at this event is to not only estimate overall interest in their projects but also to figure out where they go from here. So far, they have had a lot of interesting people stop by the booth with all kinds of ideas. There has been some educational interest in it and also questions as to how to possibly use them in competition. The really cool thing is that rocketry is a craft that is perfect for schools and workshops because it actually uses all aspects of STEM. From the obvious applications in science and technology to engineering and math with the design and 3D modeling/printing.
We can't wait to see how they progress and look forward to their next projects.
The Executive Director of the Foundation for Community Driven Innovation, Terri Willingham, stopped by our booth to help us wrap up our coverage of the Synapse Innovation Summit. The FCDI team organized the STEM Pavilion here at the Summit today. They worked with USF and UT for what they thought were going to be about 20 exhibits, which quickly and unexpectedly turned into 30 booths. But they found a way to accommodate everybody, as they always do because showcasing these wonderful inventions and achievements in education and technology is what is truly important.
The FCDI invited Dr. Byron Clayton of the ARM Institute as their guest at the Innovation Summit. He not only participated in a workshop but also came to meet the AMRoC and EMS teams. It was a great way to further their connection with him and the Institute. We at PLuGHiTz Live were also fortunate to get a chance to meet Dr. Clayton and have him as a guest on the show. It was truly inspirational to discuss the Institute's initiative to enhance and expand STEM and manufacturing in our country and how supporting the small to midsize manufacturers that do the bulk of the work and also invest back into their communities.
It's no secret that we have a great relationship with the Willingham's and have Terri on our show whenever we get the chance. One of the things that we love about our relationship with them is that we literally have a front row seat to witness all of the great things that they are doing for local students and the community as a whole. Their efforts are now turning into a full-blown educational arena with an emphasis on skills-based learning. We get to hear about their visions and watch how it all evolves, every step of the way, as well as offer our assistance from time to time. We are there for the triumphs as well as the challenges and we are proud to be a part of their extended team.
Check out Terri's interview to learn more and discover how they have, through the years, developed a tight team of great and enthusiastic people. You can also keep up with everything that AMRoC has going on by following them on Twitter, click here for direct access to their page.