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Bloom Bakery raising 'dough' to help others

"Creating jobs is our secret ingredient."
Such is the slogan of Bloom Bakery, a downtown entity that offers premium pastries and breads as well as opportunities for Clevelanders facing employment barriers. Now the social venture is asking for a little extra "dough" to continue its mission.
Last week, Bloom Bakery launched a $25,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to provide capital for its Campus District location at 1938 Euclid Ave. (The bakery has another shop at 200 Public Square.) Funding will go to hiring additional staff, says Logan Fahey, Bloom Bakery co-founder and general manager.
"Our reason for doing (crowdfunding) was to get the community involved," says Fahey. "We rely on the consumer to find us and appreciate the mission."
Supporters can pre-purchase coffee, lunch, corporate catering, and exclusive baking lessons before the campaign ends June 10. Bloom Bakery is a benefit corporation - essentially a hybrid of a standard corporation and a nonprofit - owned by Towards Employment, a Cleveland nonprofit that offers job training and placement as well as removal of employment barriers for people previously involved in the criminal justice system.
All revenue from Bloom Bakery goes to Towards Employment's job readiness programs. Meanwhile, the bakery educates, trains and employs low-income and disadvantaged adults for work as bakers, baristas and other positions. Entry-level jobs pay $8 to $10 hourly, with opportunities available for upward mobility within the company.
"Our sole purpose is to give a second chance to individuals who otherwise wouldn't get one," Fahey says. "These jobs can be resume builders or allow people to move onto supervisory positions here."
Bloom Bakery currently has 15 staff members, ranging in age from their 20s to early 60s. New employees are vetted through Towards Employment programming, then undergo another month of training at the bakery.
As of this writing, the social venture's crowdfunding effort has reached 10 percent of its goal. Fahey and his fellow staff members will spend the next couple of weeks pushing the campaign via social media and word-of-mouth. The ultimate goal is to become the state's best bakery while continuing to operate as a "business with a heart."
"There's a large segment of the population in need of an opportunity," says Fahey. "If we become the best bakery, then we can create as many jobs as we want." 

Tribe 'hackathon' puts area tech talent into the game

If Northeast Ohio is to be a leading Midwest technology hub, it will need top-tier software developers to kickstart the growth process, observers say. Organizers of a baseball-centric programming competition know that finding tech talent is critical to the region's future, but that doesn't mean some creative fun can't be had while the search takes place.
The Tribe Hackathon, representing a partnership among the Cleveland Indians, Progressive Insurance and coding boot camp Tech Elevator, brought together 14 software-savvy teams last weekend to build apps, prototypes and visuals meant to improve the fan experience.
Participants showcased their innovations at Progressive Field's Terrace Club. Winning submissions were chosen based on categories including "most creative" and "best user interface."
A collection of college-aged friends from Stow aimed to add a new twist to the classic sport with FanVision. Harnessing the Google Carboard head mount, the FanVision mobile app would allow fans to place a smartphone into Google's cardboard viewer, creating an immersive heads-up display (HUD) that shows enhanced game data in a virtual reality space.
Cameron Sinko, whose team won in the "most creative" category, says the fully functional app would put viewers directly on the field.
"They would have a connection to their own personal sandbox," Sinko says.
Meanwhile, a group from Medical Mutual took home second place for Shake, a web-based app for a multiplayer version of Progressive Field's Hot Dog Derby race. Users would take control of animated versions of the combating condiments (ketchup, mustard and onion) on the stadium scoreboard, literally shaking their phones to help their character win the race.
"It's something easy for fans to interact with," says app co-creator Matthew Russo. "It's in the spirit of getting the crowd involved."
While the baseball club has no plans to use participant-created apps and virtual reality games, simply hosting the tech initiative highlights the region's skilled brainpower, says Indians' senior vice president and chief information officer Neil Weiss.
"It's inspirational to watch people do something they love, " Weiss says. "They're building networks with each other."
Anthony Hughes, founder and CEO of Tech Elevator, takes a global perspective when considering the hackathon event he helped produce.
"Cleveland has this image as a manufacturing town with its glory days behind it," says Hughes. "This city can be a tech town with its glory days still ahead." 

Birchwood students head to Maryland for history competition

Next month, an eclectic group of students from Birchwood School will attempt to make history at an event that celebrates the same diversity the West Park private independent school embodies.
The National History Day contest, set for June 12-16 at the University of Maryland campus, invites 3,000 middle- and high-school students from the United States, Guam and American Samoa, as well as international schools in China, Korea, South Asia and Central America. Birchwood will happily add itself to the mix, considering 60 percent of school enrollment is comprised of children of immigrants hailing from Europe, Asia, Africa and points beyond.
Birchwood's young competitors will present the same projects that pushed them through local and regional contests. Ten seventh- and eight-graders - Jocelyn Chin, Steven Sun, Jake Wei, Sophia Vlastaris, Alia Baig, Nadia Ibrahim, Channin McNaughton, Jane Nilson, Isabella Issa, and Aasma Cozart - advanced to the nationals following a state competition held at Ohio Wesleyan University on April 30.
At the national event, students will present research based on the theme of "Exploration, Encounter and Exchange in History" in the form of a documentary, exhibit, paper, performance, or website.
Jane Nilson took first place at the state program for a paper on Cleveland's Hough riots. The highlight of Jane's research on this contentious event, which was characterized by vandalism, looting and arson, was a two-hour interview with a National Guardsman on the scene during the violence. As excited as Jane is to show her work to an international audience, it's the info-gathering that truly turns her dials.
"I didn't know much about Cleveland history before writing the paper," she says. "I'm a highly competitive person, but it's really about the research."
Alia Baig and Jocelyn Chin designed a website that explores the 1906 San Francisco earthquake and fire, a process that taught the duo just how unprepared the U.S. was for such a large-scale disaster.
Honing one's stage presence is also part of the proceedings, students say. Channin McNaughton and Aasma Cozart learned this during several performances on labor organizer Mary Harris "Mother" Jones. Though Channin was initially nervous about "yelling" at audience members as part of the presentation, sheer repetition diminished any jitters she may have had.
"We have to put our all into this project," Channin says. "If you do that you deserve a chance to win."
Isabella Issa, Sophia Vlastaris and Nadia Ibrahim acted out the story behind Title IX, a statute prohibiting gender discrimination at publicly funded educational institutions. Isabella is looking forward to the larger stage, particularly after the hundreds of hours she and her partners have put into their presentation.
"You can pull an all-nighter preparing, so when your name and state is called, that's what makes the long nights worth it," she says.
Nadia's purpose, meanwhile, is informed by Birchwood's stated mantra of personal fulfillment going hand-in-hand with hard work and social participation.
"It helps to know you've worked this hard and made it this far," she says.
Steven Sun, who with Jake Wei put together a documentary on neurosurgeon Harvey Cushing, didn't exactly relish the project's heavy-duty research portion. However, he appreciates how the long stretch of work over the year has prepared him for the next level of his education.
"There are high-schoolers not doing what we're doing," Steven says.
Social studies teacher Connie Miller, a staff organizer for the contest, encouraged students to choose events and people that had major impacts on the world around them.
"This (program) ticks off boxes of what we're doing at Birchwood," says Miller. "Students are not just reporting history, but analyzing events that changed history."
Being a normal group of teenagers, the collective Birchwood crew is thrilled to take a trip that includes a tour of nearby Washington, D.C. They also expect to join the long-standing National History Day tradition of exchanging state-centric buttons with their fellow competitors.
Ultimately, school officials want their charges to have fun while taking part in a globally recognized contest that will build both their studying and social skills.
"We're very proud of our students," Miller says. "They've proven they can keep up with writing and revising over and over. That says a lot about Birchwood." 

Further reading: Diversity, curriculum set West Park's Birchwood School apart

Cleveland Clinic presents 'health challenge' to residents

The Cleveland Clinic has issued a challenge to foster healthy lifestyles in three Greater Cleveland communities. It's now up to citizens in these neighborhoods to take up the gauntlet, program creators say.
The Clinic's summer health challenge launches on June 4 in Cleveland's Fairfax, Glenville and Hough neighborhoods. Over six weeks, neighborhood team members are encouraged to undergo health screenings and attend various health, wellness and exercise sessions at partner institutions, with participants earning points for individual activities.
Everyone who completes the challenge will receive certificates and prizes, say program managers and Clinic staff members Chantel Wilcox and Marsha Thornton. Teams with the most overall points after six weeks will be the winner of a special neighborhood trophy. The idea is to offer a bit of fun and sportsmanship around a serious issue, say event creators.
"You can't just put a health center somewhere and provide programming," says Wilcox. "You have to give an opportunity for people to be engaged in changing their lifestyle."
The challenge kickoff will be held at the hospital system's Langston Hughes Health and Education Center, 2390 East 79th Street on June 4 at 11 a.m.

Mammography and blood pressure screenings, HIV support and diabetes education will be among the available services for participants age 18 and up. Community partners including Fairfax Renaissance Development CenterGlenville Recreation Center and Thurgood Marshall Recreation Center, meanwhile, will offer health-minded competitors free exercise classes and work-out equipment.
Programming is targeted toward people with chronic physical issues as well as their caregivers.
"Often it's going to be caregivers who are motivating those with chronic diseases," says Watson.
Next month's program will mark the health challenge's third iteration since 2015. Last winter's version drew 200 participants, a figure organizers hope to double this time around.
A lack of efficiency in how traditional care is delivered compelled Clinic officials to create the challenge. As lack of health education is a major reason for wellness disparities among economic groups, access to health services can effectively alter lifestyles and even lead to unforeseen outcomes.
"We've had three participants who've stopped smoking," Wilcox says. "The program engages and encourage people to go further (than six weeks) and keep this going."

Cleveland Institute of Art delivers first group of grads from Uptown campus

Each year, the Cleveland Institute of Art (CIA) seeks to build on an internationally recognized heritage of innovation that dates back to 1882. The independent arts school sent its latest iteration of hopeful creatives into the world last weekend during its 2016 commencement event.
Bagpipes and cheers heralded the entrance of 117 CIA graduates for the ceremony held May 14 at Cleveland Museum of Art's Gartner Auditorium. Students arrived in home-decorated mortarboards for a two-hour celebration of inventive boundary-pushing that school officials believe will serve them well in whatever career they choose.
"We've built a community of peers here at CIA, creating works that make people comfortable with being uncomfortable," said Grafton Nunes, CIA president and CEO.
The 2016 graduating class leaves CIA with a visual arts and design education in 15 majors:
* Painting
* Drawing
* Ceramics
* Glass
* Printmaking
* Industrial design
* Graphic design
* Interior architecture
* Jewelry + Metals
* Illustration
* Animation
* Game design
* Photography + Video
* Sculpture + Expanded Media 
?* Biomedical art 
This year's graduates also hand down a legacy marked by significant milestones and exciting projects, administrators said. For example, the 2016 class was the first to graduate from CIA's unified campus in Uptown. CIA had been operating as a split campus since 1976. The addition last fall of the 80,000-square-foot George Gund Building on Euclid Avenue helped centralize operations for the 2016 academic session.
CIA's newest grads also had their work appear on a high-definition video mesh above the Gund facility's entrance. Among the projects represented were animated shorts created for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History's planetarium dome and an architectural redesign of Cleveland Metroparks Zoo's primate, cat and aquatics building.
In past years, CIA's body of 550 students has gone on to design products or display artwork worldwide, while the school has long served as a resource of public arts programming through gallery exhibitions, visiting artist lectures and showings at the Cinematheque repertory theater.
Oscar-nominated actor Willem Dafoe, who gave this year's commencement address, said any type of artistic endeavor, be it a big-budget tent-pole movie franchise seen by millions or an abstract chamber piece viewed by two-dozen, is nurtured by hard work.
"It's all making, problem solving and doing," said Dafoe. "My mantra for you is, the work itself is what will sustain you."

Cleveland's growing 'maker movement' the focus of TV host's visit

In recent years, Cleveland has demonstrated itself as an early adopter of the "maker movement," an umbrella term for the convergence of independent inventors and designers who relish the creation of new high-tech devices as well as tinkering with existing ones.
An April 27 visit by movement advocate and former Mythbusters host Adam Savage put a national spotlight on the North Coast's growing DIY fervor, with Savage meeting area stakeholders and community leaders to help foster support for the next generation of innovators. The day-long event was designed as a lead-up to the 2016 National Week of Making (June 17-23), announced earlier this year by the White House.
“This visit was intended to highlight the growing ecosystem of making and fabricating in Cleveland," says Lisa Camp, associate dean for strategic initiatives at the Case Western Reserve University school of engineering, who prepared the day's activates along with Sonya Pryor-Jones, chief implementation officer for the MIT Fab Foundation. "There's lots of excitement from people who want to work together because of the potential of these spaces."
Savage's first stop was Case's think[box], tabbed by the school as an open-access center for innovation and entrepreneurship. The 50,000-square-foot space in the Richey Mixon Building invites would-be creators to realize their ideas through digital prototyping or traditional fabricating. A $35 million renovation of the seven-story building began in 2014. The upper three floors are scheduled for completion this fall.
Each floor represents the order of the product design process, with new entrepreneurs receiving the necessary technology and guidance as they work their way up.
"The concept is to begin with a product idea, then come out with a company," says Camp.

Other stops on Savage's Cleveland makers tour included Design Lab High School, Cleveland Public Library's TechCentral maker space, the MC2 STEM high school at Great Lakes Science Center, and several fabrication locals in Cleveland's Slavic Village and Central neighborhoods.
"It was a robust visit," says Pryor-Jones. "From our perspective, the best opportunities for education, entrepreneurship and  development exist when we figure out how to engage all communities."
During an outing to the City Club of Cleveland, regional higher-education students showcased potential products they fabricated themselves with 3D printers and laser cutters. This kind of collaborative ingenuity will be needed to drive Cleveland's economic engine, spinning out companies that build everything from heart-rate monitors to fuel-cell powered bicycles.
"Keeping up that collaboration is the challenge," says Camp. "Cleveland is a manufacturing city and working together can bring innovation to that space." 

Circlepass to offer discounted admission to four University Circle venues

Last Thursday during their spring meeting, University Circle Inc. (UCI) representatives announced a forthcoming Circlepass, which will bring a popular tourist concept to the city's cultural focal point.
CirclePass will be one combined ticket for the Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland (MOCA), the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and the Western Reserve Historical Society's Cleveland History Center. Circlepass will be discounted by 25 percent off regular admissions.
Each pass will remain valid for ten days and is valid for one entry at each museum. Hence users may visit all the venues on one day or over several days. Circlepass will be available for purchase online and users will receive it via text or email. Those who prefer a paper experience will be able to print out their pass. Smart phone users will be able to display the pass therein. UCI expects to officially launch the much-anticipated program by the end of the month.
Lisa Sands, UCI's director of marketing and communications noted that similar types of event passes are available at cities such as Toronto and Seattle among others, but University Circle's unique layout sets Circlepass apart.
"What makes Circlepass unique and especially appealing is the proximity of each participating institution," said Sands at the meeting. "Unlike most passes in Boston and Chicago, the Circlepass experience is entirely walkable."
Sands said she hopes Circlepass attracts visitors of all walks, be they conventioneers, groups or those who might make a one-tank trip from Pittsburgh, Columbus or Erie. She mentioned the PNC Bank's support of the program several times.
While still in the pilot stage, Sands said UCI hopes to eventually add other area venues, hotels and restaurants, but the organization felt launching ahead of the RNC was critical.
"The time is right to launch it this year with all the excitement and visitorship destined for our city," said Sands, noting the affordability and convenience of the pass concept. "They're very popular with tourists."

NASA offers cutting-edge tech to entrepreneurs

A commercial startup licensing program from NASA's Glenn Research Center is putting the organization's cutting-edge technology into the hands of private startups, including a portable device for use in the fitness market serving as the venture's first spin-off.
Startup NASA, offered by the space agency's technology transfer program, allows new companies to choose from a portfolio of 1,200 NASA-patented inventions in aeronautics, instrumentation, robotics and more. Startups are encouraged to apply the technology to products and services in the commercial marketplace.
In early April, Startup NASA signed a licensing agreement with AirFlare LLC of Nashville, Tenn., to produce Glenn-patented metabolic-analysis sensors originally designed for astronauts exercising during long missions. The mask-like device's earth-based applications include monitoring metabolic and cardiovascular data, which can then be transferred to a fitness enthusiast's exercise or diet regiment.
The agreement makes AirFlare the main source for the public to access NASA's tech in the fitness market, says Kim Dalgleish-Miller, chief of the agency's Technology Transfer Office. AirFlare owes no upfront fees, nor will the growing business have to give NASA minimum payments over the product's first three years. Once the company starts selling its product, NASA will collect a standard royalty fee.
"Startups can take that small amount of capital and plug it into the technology itself," says Dalgleish-Miller. "They can use that money to get their business going."
The NASA initiative is meant to help burgeoning companies address two major challenges; raising funding and securing intellectual property rights, Dalgleish-Miller says. Program patents are protected by the U.S. government and pre-vetted for viability, giving startups a boost without as many complications.
"Companies are getting their feet wet with a startup license," says Dalgleish-Miller. "They can work on the technology for a couple of years, and when they're ready for full-up commercialization, they can go and do that."
NASA has signed eight startup licenses since the program launched last October. Interested entrepreneurs can scope potential patents on the program website and download a sample licensing agreement. Ideally, more startups will transform NASA technology into robust economic and business opportunities, Dalgleish-Miller says.
"We have lots of smart people working here, so creativity and innovation is ongoing," she says. "Anything we can do to tap into that technology and improve the economy is very exciting." 

Walkabout Tremont to showcase neighborhood's eclectic nature

Last December, the Tremont ArtWalk ended a 23-year run as an artist-sponsored event that brought together galleries and bars for a neighborhood celebration. The good times are far from over, thanks to a new tradition planners say will take in everything Tremont has to offer, art included.
Like its predecessor, Walkabout Tremont will occur the second Friday of every month. However, the now weekend-long event will expand the scope of the original ArtWalk by showcasing area food, fashion and music along with the local art scene, says Michelle Davis, assistant director of the Tremont West Development Corporation.
"There's going to be a different presence on the street than what we had with the ArtWalk," says Davis. "We want people to come and explore the neighborhood."
Walkabout Tremont launches Friday, May 13 from 6 to 9 p.m. with extended shop and gallery hours, outdoor entertainment and pop-up tents highlighting Cleveland artists. The Friday night kickoff will also feature live music, tango lessons and stage shows. Visitors are encouraged to visit businesses both established and brand new, from women's boutique Banyan Tree to Ake'demik, a jewelry and gift shop that launched in early May.
Event-goers wanting to make a weekend of it can stay at an area bed & breakfast or Airbnb location, note walkabout organizers. Family-friendly activities include enjoying a treat at Tremont Scoops or A Cookie and a Cupcake, a neighborhood audio tour on Saturday and a local church service on Sunday.
"People are going to see a vibrant community when they're walking from place to place," Davis says.
Founded in 1993 by a handful of artists and activists including long-time resident Jean Brandt, the original ArtWalk blossomed into an institution emulated throughout the city. Brandt stepped down in late 2015, citing the event's widespread influence as well as its ongoing food focus as reasons for departing.
Walkabout planning is led by a volunteer group of Tremont residents, business owners and artists, among them development corporation board chair Lynn Murray. The ArtWalk facelift they've brainstormed more closely reflects the creative, if still arts-infused, community Tremont has become, says Davis.
"It's about enjoying the neighborhood as it is," she says.  

MomsFirst lends a much needed hand to pregnant area teens

It is a sobering statistic: African-American infants in Ohio die at more than twice the rate of white babies, according to 2014 data from the Ohio Department of HealthTo battle that troubling number, the Cleveland nonprofit MomsFirst program offers critical support services and education to the area's pregnant and parenting population in an effort to reduce these potentially lethal outcomes.
In Cleveland, younger parents often need the most aid, says Lisa Matthews, program director for an organization recognizing its 25th anniversary this year. Last year, one-third of 1,823 mothers reached by MomsFirst were teenagers, some as young as 13.
Narrowing the disparity in infant mortality rates is the group's overall goal. Program participants, many of whom are students at the Cleveland Municipal School District (CMSD), receive individual service plans that screen them for postnatal depression and educate them on prenatal care, breastfeeding and safe sleep practices.
Community health workers visit new or expecting moms at home at least once a month, providing them with a much needed support system.
Lisa Matthews"It's like having the big sister or mother they never had," says Matthews.
Families stay enrolled in the program until their child is two years old. Finding underserved mothers quickly is vital considering the three leading causes of infant mortality - prematurity/pre-term births, sleep-related deaths and birth defects - usually take place before a child reaches its first year, Matthews says.
Infant death rates in African-American communities may derive from poverty and other environmental or social stressors. MomsFirst, on site at the nonprofit May Dugan Center in Ohio City, considers these factors in its implementation of fatherhood support services and educational programming.
In addition to its support of teenage mothers, MomsFirst sponsors teen-led summits and peer advisory sessions at eight CMSD schools. Boys and non-pregnant or parenting students are welcome at the sessions, which cover topics like family planning, child development and STD prevention.
For girls still in high school, pregnancy can curtail, if not outright eliminate, continuing education. To that end, MomsFirst helps its charges navigate day care, transportation, literacy issues and other barriers.
"Pregnancy doesn't have to mean the end of an educational career," says Matthews.
Juvenile detention centers are the nonprofit's newest venture. Pregnant offenders are given case plans, while those with and without children are provided with  educational support. In combination, the services provided by MomsFirst can lift up a population in dire need of help, organization officials say.
"We still have a disparity that's unacceptable," Matthews says. "There is a long way to go." 

Socially minded landscaping firm gives struggling Clevelanders a second chance

Rich Alvarez is a firm believer in second chances, an outlook shaped by 15 years in the police force and a firearms accident that nearly killed him.
Alvarez's experiences led him to create New Life Landscaping, a Northeast Ohio social enterprise that hires Greater Cleveland residents facing barriers to employment. New Life services include weekly landscaping maintenance, weed removal and installation of patios and decks. The ultimate goal is to train employees for franchise ownership, with newly minted entrepreneurs eventually hiring others in similarly challenged situations.
"When people are given a second chance, they really appreciate the opportunity," says Alvarez, a North Olmstead resident.
New Life currently has two employees and is seeking seasonal help for the summer. While some new hires may come from Craig's List, Alvarez is hoping to find workers through local ministries as well as nonprofits like Oriana House, a Cleveland area chemical dependency treatment center and community corrections agency.
Every New Life employee has a background that would likely make them unemployable elsewhere, Alvarez says. Ex-offenders, military veterans and destitute individuals are all job candidates at the landscaping company.
Alvarez, 46, met his share of underserved offenders during a long police career in Lakewood and with the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA).   
"I noticed the same people coming back over and over," he says. "They'd say they couldn't find a job. It was easier to for them to spend time in jail where they'd get fed and have a roof over their heads."
A near-death experience involving an accidentally discharged firearm further pushed the ex-policeman into social entrepreneurship. Alvarez, who ran his own landscaping business while with the force, and his partner came up with the idea in 2014 when both were volunteering for a prison ministry. 
Now that New Life is off the ground, the next step is finding a qualified franchisee. New Life will front $30,000 to launch a prospective business, with the franchisee paying back the initial investment over time. New Life's model is based on ventures like Columbus-based Clean Turn, which trains the formerly incarcerated in an array of supportive services.
Alvarez aims to create employment opportunities for those who will eventually populate a growing and skilled workforce. It's a goal he think fits well in Cleveland.
"There's lots of parallels between the city of Cleveland and people here who are facing barriers," says Alvarez. "This is a Rust Belt town on the rebound that's reinventing itself. We're giving people left behind by society a chance to rebuild themselves as well." 

2016 Vibrant City Award winners announced

Earlier this week Cleveland Neighborhood Progress (CNP) honored the 2016 Vibrant City Award winners amid 600 guests gathered at the Cleveland Masonic Auditorium. The winners were chosen from a field of 21 finalists.
CNP president Joel Ratner honored Cleveland Metroparks with the first-ever Vibrant City Impact Award. The community partner was recognized for its role in managing the city’s lakefront parks, rejuvenating Rivergate Park and bringing back a water taxi service.
Ratner also bestowed the Morton L. Mandel Leadership in Community Development Award upon Joe Cimperman.
"Joe is a true champion of the city of Cleveland and Cleveland’s neighborhoods," said Ratner. "He truly is a visionary for making Cleveland a fair and equitable place to call home for all city residents."
Cimperman recently left Cleveland City Council after 19 years and is now the President of Global Cleveland.
Click here to see the seven other Vibrant City Award winners.

Recap: Space App Challenge at NASA Glenn

On an average day, Brian Gesler works as a computer programmer at a Cleveland insurance company. But for one weekend last month, he was busy creating jet packs that could one day be used by astronauts on Mars.
He crowded around tables in a conference room at NASA’s John H. Glenn Research Center campus with a team he’d just met. Some sketched prototypes across sheets hung on the walls, others pecked away frantically on laptops. They called themselves Moon Tang Clan.
Gesler and his team were one of 17 groups in Cleveland that took part in the 2016 International Space Apps Challenge. Since 2012, the hackathon has brought together coders, artists, and general tinkerers to use open data provided by NASA to spark solutions to many of the aeronautics and space agency’s most pressing hurdles. The event now spreads across 161 locations around the globe.

Continue reading here.

Metroparks a-buzz over cicada emergence

Parts of eastern Ohio will be abuzz for the next couple of months with the emergence of the 17-year periodical cicadas. Cleveland Metroparks is using this rare opportunity to educate the public about a mysterious, yet harmless insect.
"We want our neighbors to join us and understand how this organism survives and thrives," says Mark Warman, an education specialist at the West Creek Reservation.  

April's warm temperatures will hasten cicada activity by mid-May, says Warman. The park system's cicada-related programming begins May 10 at West Creek with a primer about the creatures' life cycle. Additional all-ages events scheduled through the end of June include nature walks and a birding/cicada expedition on Hinckley Lake.
Naturalists view the cicada invasion as a cause for celebration rather than concern. While the insects can be noisy in large numbers, they don't sting or bite. Nor are they bent on destroying crops or gardens in some biblical plant Armageddon. Cicadas can cause branches to fall off through egg-laying, but this is not harmful to mature trees, says Warman.
Periodical cicadas are expected to emerge in parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Long Island, NY. Unlike their greenish-black cousins that appear each summer with a "ch-ch-ch" sound, the 17-year cicada is black and orange and makes a continuous buzzing noise.
This year's crop started life as eggs in 1999. After hatching, the rice-sized nymphs spent the past 17 years underground sucking nutrient-rich fluids from tree roots. The winged adults emerge for three to five weeks to mate and feed on plant juices. Females will then lay hundreds of eggs in tree branches, beginning the cycle anew.

While it's unknown where heavier pockets of Northeast Ohio cicada activity will be, the public can help by sending tweets and Instagram posts regarding larger swarms. Metroparks is asking would-be citizen scientists to report sightings with the hashtags #cicadas2016 and #broodV, the latter of which designates the number of cicada swarms recorded since 1948.
Ultimately, the phenomenon is a chance for people to learn about a misunderstood insect that means humanity no harm, Warman says.
"It's a reminder that the earth was wild at one time," he says. "It's going to be a neat thing for people to experience."

Facebook taps local comic book shop for small business council

Two years ago, Facebook announced plans to turn 25 million small businesses into advertisers that would help the ubiquitous social media network with strategy and development.
John Dudas, owner and co-founder of Carol & John’s Comic Book Shop, became part of that plan earlier this month when he was invited to join Facebook's 2016 Small Business Council (SMB). Dudas spent two whirlwind days at the mega-company's Menlo Park headquarters in California, representing one of 13 businesses selected for the group.
Prior to the announcement, Dudas went through an extensive interview process that weighed how his Kamms Plaza shop engages customers through its social platforms. Facebook reps were impressed with C&J's family-friendly online presence, illuminated by a Facebook page that cheerily welcomes everyone.
"Comics are a male-dominated industry, so we use social media to show how important it is for women to feel comfortable in the store," says Dudas, who runs the shop with his mother Carol Cazzarin.
The SMB council is modeled after a 12-member client committee Facebook launched in 2011, which includes agency leaders as well as representatives from the company's largest advertisers. The small council advises the company on development of its tools. In return, Facebook provides ongoing support through a password-protected page.

"We'll test beta programs and ideas, and (participating council members) will communicate with each other with any issues we have," Dudas says. "Once you're on the council, you're on for life."
Joining the store owner at Facebook's sprawling, city-like headquarters was a diverse range of businesses, from a retro pinball arcade to a 24-hour diner. The fast-paced two days were spent exchanging ideas and engaging in a kind of social media walkabout, where participants shared hashtags to show online followers where they were on Facebook's campus.
The trip had its share of surreal strangeness as well. Seeing his shop's logo on the Jumbotron at 1 Hacker Way was particularly overwhelming, Dudas says. He also met Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, who popped in to thank group members for their hard work.
Now that he's back in Cleveland, Dudas is mulling his own social media strategies for upcoming C&J events including its annual Free Comic Book Day on May 7. One possibility is targeting cell phone carriers located within a 25-mile radius of the shop.

"Like we can do a 'Captain America for President' campaign during the RNC, and people will get it on their phones," poses Dudas.
Whatever comes next, the comics' proprietor is excited to share love for the medium through his digital channels.
"We care about our product and get to engage with the community," says Dudas. "We're glad we can make that kind of impact." 
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