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Community College of Philadelphia makes tuition free for eligible students

Earlier this month, Community College of Philadelphia announced its 50th Anniversary Scholarship program -- the school is offering associate's degrees at no cost to eligible Philadelphia high school graduates. And that was only the beginning of the good news.

On April 16, word came down that Philly native and Community College of Philadelphia graduate Deesha Dyer has been named White House Social Secretary. According to a statement from the White House, before starting as an intern in 2009, Dyer worked for the Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust for nine years; she also worked as a freelance journalist from 2003 through 2010. Dyer returned to college at age 29 to get an associate’s degree in Women’s Studies.

"It really is great news," says Greg Murphy, vice president for institutional advancement and executive director of the Community College of Philadelphia Foundation. The national limelight seems perfectly timed to shine a light on the school's new program, which jump-starts a college education for motivated local students who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

"Basically, it’s meant to eliminate barriers," he explains, adding that these are "last dollar scholarships." That means eligible students file a FAFSA and those dollars get added to any state help available (including Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance) and funds from applicable grant programs. But if there’s still a gap in the tuition owed, Community College of Philadelphia can now step in with a scholarship to cover those costs, putting an associate’s degree within reach for the cost of the textbooks.

The program covers any Pell-eligible 2015 graduate of a Philadelphia high school who wants to enroll this fall. They must satisfy the college-level academic placement requirement and be enrolled full-time (at least 12 credits per semester) in a degree program of study.

The scholarship, which the students will apply for annually along with their FAFSA, is good for up to three years or through the completion of an associate’s degree, whichever comes first. To remain eligible for the dollars, students will need to maintain a 2.5 cumulative GPA at the end of each year and meet a few other requirements, including at least one campus or community-based extra-curricular activity.

"The idea is you really want to fund students who are making progress," insists Murphy. "All of that contributes to a student who is eager and ready to enter the workforce or further their education. It’s truly part of what the city wants. The city is looking at a future where they need many workers with higher-level skills, and so we are trying to match what the city needs in terms of creating skilled workers."

The college's 50th Anniversary Scholarship dollars are philanthropic not public. According to a statement, the program is projected to cost $200,000 in year one, $300,000 the following year and $350,000 in year three.

"I don’t think anything before has excited the Foundation board to raise money as much as this has," adds Murphy. "They’re really inspired by this scholarship and what it can do for the City of Philadelphia."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Greg Murphy, the Community College of Philadelphia

 

Penn's ThirdEye uses technology to help the visually impaired navigate the world

Being chosen to present at this year's Wharton Business Plan Competition Venture Finals was a surprise to at least one of the eight teams participating in the April 30 event: The founders of ThirdEye are not even Wharton students (yet) -- they’re freshmen at the University of Pennsylvania. But their technology, an app joined with a wearable Google Glass-type device, has major potential for helping those with visual impairments live more independent lives.
 
ThirdEye co-founder and Chief Executive Officer Rajat Bhageria (author of What High School Didn’t Teach Me) isn’t wasting any time in the quest to build world-changing technology. He teamed up with Ben Sandler (ThirdEye founding head engineer and a computer and cognitive science major), Philippines native David Ongchoco (founding head marketer and media maven), and founding engineer Joe Cappadona (an "athlete, musician, and computer programmer") to develop the technology and business plan almost as soon as they arrived at Penn.
 
"I want to leave a dent in the universe by creating things that people want," explains Bhageria, a Cincinnati native and computer science engineering major. "We believe in empowering visually impaired individuals."

There are a lot of people who could use their technology -- there are about 300 million visually impaired people in the world; they generate over $41 billion in spending on assistive technologies annually.
 
The ThirdEye glasses and app work by verbally identifying common objects for wearers who can pick them up, but can’t see them. For example, its camera and voice can tell blind people what denomination of money they’re handed or what kind of pill bottle or household item they’re holding. (Check out the ThirdEye website for a video demo.)

Other uses include identifying street signs and even being able to read books, menus and newspapers. Bhageria says future updates could incorporate facial recognition software, language translation for travelers, and recognition of individual medications and foods.

They’re already partnering with the National Federation of the Blind to bring the product to market.

Though the young men aren’t enrolled in grad school yet, "we have been leveraging every opportunity at Wharton we can get our hands on," enthuses Bhageria. The team talks to professors weekly, joined Wharton’s Venture Initiation Program startup incubator, participates in Wharton events and competitions, and takes Wharton classes.
 
All that learning and networking -- and the intense time put into current competition -- is already paying off. The company began building their product last September and are already in beta testing with visually impaired individuals. They’re heading for a clinical study this summer with up to 20 participants, with a national beta launch in view for later in the year.
 
As for the April 30 pitch-fest itself, initially the team "had no expectation of doing well considering that most of the participants -- MBA students -- have years of industry experience over us," says Bhageria, but their confidence has been growing.
 
"Now we’re not just in it for the experience," he insists. "We’re in it to win it."

There’s $128,500 in cash and in-kind awards at stake, including the $30,000 Perlman Grand Prize. That would be a great boost to the team as they head into clinical trials, and "could be fundamental in opening doors for insurance to cover our product."
 
The Wharton Business Plan Competition Venture Finals featuring 20-minute presentations from the "Great Eight" finalists is happening 1 - 6 p.m. Thursday, April 30 at the Wharton School.
 
Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Rajat Bhageria, Third Eye

Update: Lancaster Avenue's Neighborhood Time Exchange makes a difference

Winnipeg native and Montreal resident Kandis Friesen loved the two months she spent in Philly this year as part of Lancaster Avenue's Neighborhood Time Exchange (NTE) residency, which offers studio space and a stipend for hours of service the artists contribute to community-based projects.

The intitative, continuing with multiple artist cycles until the fall, is a partnership of the Mural Arts Program, the Ontario-based Broken City Lab and the People's Emergency Center.

An interdisciplinary artist who works with media including sound and video, Friesen, in her mid-30s, has been working as an artist only for the last five years or so.

"Before that, I was doing social justice-based and community-based work," she explains. "I’ve always seen it as part of my life, whether I’m making art or working a different job."

During her NTE stint (which ran from February 1 through April 1), she offered some of those project-manager skills to her peers: negotiating time, projects and space. In a program connecting residency artists to community service requests, that meant "working with really diverse groups of people who might have really different ideas, or similar ideas but…really different personalities," she explains.

Her own contribution to the neighborhood had many facets. She worked with the New Africa Center on a walking tour of Black History in West Philly, focusing on the saga of the self-identified Black Bottom Tribe, a thriving 19th-century African-American community living where University City stands today. The Tribe suffered forcible evictions under city development plans and university expansions in the early 1900s, alongside redlining laws that made it nearly impossible for African Americans to obtain mortgages.

This especially touched on Friesen’s interest in archives and memorials -- and how they’re made and maintained.

She also did a lot of work for the Artistic and Cultural Enrichment (ACE) Program at Martha Washington Elementary School.
ACE instructor Hope McDowell had written a script called More Than Martin, and enlisted Friesen to help her shoot and edit it. In the film, now available online, Martin Luther King, Jr. comes back to say, as Friesen explains, "I’ve been carrying Black History for myself for too long…I would like to introduce you to all these other people in African-American history, and you also might make history."

"It’s a great film, in line with my own practice as well," enthuses the artist. "People being able to tell their own histories."

She also led a variety of arts workshops for Martha Washington students, and collaborated with her fellow NTE artists on other projects, including time with the Earthship Philadelphia project and the New Bethlehem Baptist Church.

"We all helped each other in different ways, and that was also really nice to have a collaborative environment for our community work," she adds. "I think the strength of this residency was that it really was an infrastructure created." The artist residents didn’t operate on any assumptions about what they were bringing to the neighborhood: instead, they listened to hear what needed to be done, to "reinforce or connect what is already happening."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Kandis Friesen, Neighborhood Time Exchange

 

A North Philly grant leaves no excuse for litter

Earlier this year, Keep Philadelphia Beautiful (KPB) announced a new micro-grant program to help local community organizations boost safety, walkability and commerce through resident-led clean-up programs. The first round of grantees included the North 5th Street Revitalization Project, which received $1000. The dollars are already going a long way on a range of initiatives.

The North 5th Street Revitalization Project has been operating since 2008 with funding from the Commerce Department. While their umbrella organization is the Korean Community Development Services Center, they have their own branding and offices.

The initiative's service area covers about a mile and a half of the Olney neighborhood: It runs from Roosevelt Boulevard to Spencer Street, and then a block on each side of N. 5th Street. The organization runs a sidewalk cleaning program (including two staffers who work five days a week to keep litter off the streets), removes "bandit signs," logs and repairs dozens of 311 issues each month and leads neighborhood cleanups, like April 11's city-wide Philly Spring Cleanup Day, which drew about sixty neighbors to volunteer.

The Project also focuses on public safety, holding twice-yearly meetings with police representatives and local merchants to discuss issues of crime and security, and helping participating businesses install security cameras through a dedicated city program. And it provides a wide range of business assistance, from helping locals get business permits or apply for eligible grant programs, to facilitating a business association and offering financing help.

"We have 340 active businesses on North 5th Street," says Program Director Philip Green. Most of them are small "mom and pop" stores, and many are "immigrant-owned and operated, so it’s really hard for them to obtain traditional bank loans."

Finally, the Project promotes the corridor in general through events such as open mic nights, community clean-ups and seasonal programming.

The KPB dollars funded a fun DIY photo-shoot for Philly Spring Cleanup Day volunteers, which the organization will share throughout the coming year, keeping the spirit of the clean-up alive and reminding people that maintaining the neighborhood is a year-round activity.

Leftover dollars will go to projects such as revamping the Project’s existing brochure on responsible homeownership and neighborhood maintenance, and translating it into multiple languages for Olney’s diverse community. Green also hopes the money will help buy more "Keep 5th Clean" tee-shirts -- like the ones teen clean-up crew captains wore on April 11 -- as well as decals for neighborhood recycling bins.

"Community clean-ups aren’t really about the trash ending up in a trash bag and going away to the dump," explains Green. "It’s really about the message that community residents cleaning up sends to other people."

Teenagers working in festive matching shirts are particularly motivating, he hopes.

"People will see that and realize that they have absolutely no excuse to litter, and no excuse not to take pride in their neighborhood."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Philip Green, North 5th Street Revitalization Project

 

A cure for Alzheimer's? Penn State launches crowdfunding site to boost brain-repair research

A Penn State team has launched a crowdfunding campaign to support its promising research on brain repair.

"Our revolutionary technology holds promise as a potential treatment for many brain injuries and disorders," explains Gong Chen, a biology professor and the Verne M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences, who heads the research. "We recently discovered a way to transform one type of a patient's own brain cells -- called glial cells -- into healthy, functioning nerve cells that can replace those damaged by Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, brain trauma, spinal-cord trauma or stroke. For the first time in history, our revolutionary technology now can reverse glial scars back into functional neural tissue inside the brain."

According to an article written by Penn State spokeswoman Barbara Kennedy and originally published in the Centre Daily Times, Chen’s team has published research describing its success: "Even in very old mice with Alzheimer’s disease, [they were] able to regenerate many functional neurons from the internal glial cells of these mice and to replenish the lost neurons in the brains of the mice. This research raises the hope that neural-replacement therapy might someday help human patients."

The new month-long crowdfunding campaign has a $50,000 goal and ends at the end of April. The money will allow the lab to purchase critical equipment and materials, and to proceed more quickly to clinical trials. 

"It will take at least an estimated $1 million per year to hire highly skilled people and to carry out vital tests on several specific disorders," says Chen. "With [funding] we can move our lab research to human clinical trials much faster, perhaps shortening the delivery of drug therapy to patients from 10 years to five years."

Source: Barbara Kennedy, Penn State University
Writer: Elise Vider

Calling all Makers: NextFab opens second location in Fishtown

 NextFab, a "gym for innovators" that provides members access to a variety of fabrication tools, celebrated the grand opening of its second location on Friday. The new outpost is on the first floor of Impact Hub Philadelphia, a socially-minded co-working space in Fishtown.

While the pairing of a business space with a workshop may seem odd to some, the match was well-made. The lovingly restored building at N. 4th and Thompson Streets was formerly occupied by 3rd Ward, a Brooklyn-founded (and now defunct) maker space.

"We learned that 3rd Ward had left a fair amount of equipment and some spaces fit out as workshops, and that Impact Hub was pondering what to do with them," explains Evan Malone, president of NextFab. "Our working together seemed to be a logical solution."

In addition to taking over unused space and equipment, Malone is also excited to be close to where people live and work -- there is a large community of artists, designers and tinkerers in the Fishtown, Northern Liberties and Kensington communities.

"It's not as large as our Wash Avenue location, but it provides well-rounded wood and metal shops, and a very quiet and comfortable CAD and electronics lab," enthuses Malone. "We are most excited that North 4th has NextFab's first shop dedicated to jewelry making and we have a professional jewelry designer on staff."
 
Keep an eye on the NextFab website for special offers throughout the month in celebration of the new space and for partnership projects with Impact Hub later this year.

Writer: Hailey Blessing
Source: Evan Malone, NextFab

In Harrisburg and Philly, news from the craft beer boom

From across the Commonwealth comes big news on the brewing front.

In Harrisburg, Zeroday Brewing Company cut the ribbon on its new space in the Midtown neighborhood. Husband-and-wife team Theo and Brandalynn Armstrong (Theo is the brewer; Brandalynn handles the business side) say the name Zeroday pays homage to a hiking term: it refers to a day spent exploring a town, off the trail.

"We want Harrisburg to be a zero day town," explains Theo. "It’s a place worth stopping and exploring."

The Armstrongs kicked off the project in 2013 with an official brand launch, corresponding crowdfunding campaign and guerilla-style pop-up events that allowed them to introduce community members and beer lovers to their suds.

On tap for opening day: Firstborn, a dry stout; Wits End, a Belgian Witbier; Cheap Date, an American Blonde ale; Dolce Vita, a Chocolate Hazelnut Sweet Stout; and Zeroday IPA, along with a menu of light fare.

According to Brandalynn, they're committed to utilizing Pennsylvania vendors for food and other products. As weather permits, the brewery plans to partner with area food trucks to provide additional selections during weekend hours. 

Meanwhile in Philadelphia, the University of the Sciences announced the launch of a Brewing Science Certificate for the fall semester.

The university says the program is an acknowledgement of the beer boom: America’s breweries account for over 110,000 jobs. According to the Brewers Association, about 1.5 breweries open every day in the U.S., with more than 150 in the mid-Atlantic region alone. In 2014, production of craft brews grew 18 percent by volume and 22 percent by sales.

The best positions in this growth industry often require formal training in brewing science. The post-baccalaureate, 18-credit certificate program delves deep into the biology, chemistry, physics and math of creating the perfect pint. The program can be completed full-time in one year, or part time in two, followed by an internship with a local brewery partner.

"Demand has never been greater for trained professionals with a passion for this extraordinary work," insists Dr. Peter B. Berget, chair of the Department of Biological Sciences at USciences.

Source: Brandalynn Armstrong, Zeroday Brewing Company and the University of the Sciences.
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Drexel and TechGirlz partner to teach game design to young women

Girls just want to have…parity in the tech world.

With the aim of addressing gender inequality in the sector, Drexel University’s Entrepreneurial Game Studio is working with the Philadelphia nonprofit TechGirlz to create a virtual game design class that will be made available, free-of-charge, to schools and students nationwide.

This set of self-contained, online instructional videos and educational materials will guide middle school and high-school-age students – and their teachers – through a basic game design curriculum. 
 
"Our goal is to give young women a little taste of game design," explains Frank Lee, an associate professor in Westphal College of Media Arts & Design and founder of the Entrepreneurial Game Studio. "Many of them are already playing video games, but we’re hoping our workshops will inspire them to ask questions about how they’re made, and think about how they could make them better. We want to make a program that is useful and engaging enough that students will get enough basic coding knowledge to make a simple game."

"Our goal for this program is to make sure girls understand what technology is all about and how they can be part of it," adds Tracey Welson Rossman, founder of TechGirlz. "This particular program is targeted to increase the number of girls who understand how cool creating games can be."

Participants in TechGirlz’ ongoing workshops and summer programs are currently testing the game design curriculum for an anticipated fall launch. According to Welson Rossman, the nonprofit is also planning to expand its workshop offerings nationwide. 

Source: Tracey Welson Rossman, TechGirlz and Drexel University
Writer: Elise Vider

New GSK dollars at the Food Trust will boost youth health and wellness citywide

A $5 million GSK IMPACT Grant to a Philadelphia collective led by The Food Trust will allow the local food and health access leader to significantly expand its existing HYPE (Healthy You, Positive Energy) program to reach 50,000 kids over the next three years.

The dollars, administered through the Philadelphia Foundation, are going to boost programs at nine partner organizations citywide, with a special focus on North Philadelphia. The new collective’s work will be known as Get HYPE Philly!
HYPE has already been working with local kids in about 100 different schools over the last several years, explains Food Trust executive director Yael Lehmann.

"It’s going to build on this existing program," she says. "And at the same time we’re going to be working with all these other groups," who will also be expanding their own work. 

The Get HYPE collective includes Guild House West’s Greener Partners, East Park Revitalization Alliance’s Common Market, The Village of Arts and Humanities, and the Garden Education Program of Norris Square Neighborhood Project. Also partnering under the Food Trust umbrella are the Free Library’s Culinary Literacy Center (and branch-based teen mentoring program), The Philadelphia Freedom Valley YMCA, The Philadelphia Youth Network, The Enterprise Center Community Development Corporation and Equal Measure, which will help evaluate the Get HYPE programming’s impact throughout the grant’s three-year span.

Some of these organizations will focus on urban farming, nutrition, literacy through food-based activities, and exercise; others will build on different aspects of overall health such as workforce development and entrepreneurship.

"This is really going to strengthen the networking between all of our agencies," insists Lehmann. "It’s going to have this awesome ripple effect throughout the city."

Lehmann is particularly excited about the new youth advisory board the grant will create, which will consist of about fifteen to twenty teens from around the city. They will be able to direct mini-grants of up to $2,000 (or a total of $70,000 per year for the life of the program) to student-led initiatives focused on things such as exercise, urban agriculture and healthy food donations.

"It’s not just window-dressing. They’re going to have some work to do," Lehmann says of the students who will be involved (their selection process is still TBD).

The grant’s allowance for evaluating the programs is also important, she insists, "to be able to tell the story, and look at how this is impacting kids in Philly, and help us adjust as needed."

And she hopes Get HYPE Philly! will continue far beyond the initial three-year roll-out.

“From day one, all the collective partners and the Food Trust will be thinking about how to sustain this beyond the grant," she says. "We see this as a long-term project."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Yael Lehmann, The Food Trust

 

Students from Philadelphia and Mongolia come together on climate change

The Women in Natural Sciences (WINS) program at Drexel’s Academy of Natural Sciences has been going strong for 32 years, and now a special grant from the U.S. Department of State’s Museums Connect program is allowing a team of 15 Philly public high school girls to collaborate with 15 girls from Mongolia on a globe-spanning project.

For the last several months, the teens have been using online courses, Facebook and Skype to study climate change and its cultural impact. Then last week, four girls from the Mongolian side of the project, administered through the National Museum of Mongolia’s ROOTS program, had a whirlwind visit to Philadelphia. This July, five public high school girls from Philadelphia will reciprocate with their own two-week trip to Ulaanbaatar, the capital of Mongolia.

The climate change focus of the youth program is three-pronged, explains WINS manager Betsy Payne: "One is water, one is food, one is the cultural repercussions."

Currently, there are 60 girls in the WINS program citywide, but the Museums Connect dollars (administered by the American Alliance of Museums) allowed for just fifteen Mongolian girls and fifteen Philly girls. WINS sophomores and juniors were invited to apply for the program, and were selected based on a range of criteria.

"Even though it’s a one-year program, we’re hoping it has repercussions where they might be able to do more in the near future," says Payne of the age group she decided to target and applicants' dedication to the program’s offerings. The Academy was also "looking for the girls who hadn’t had other opportunities of major travel." 

The lucky travelers are George Washington Carver High School of Engineering and Science sophomore Faatimat Sylla; junior Geré Johnson from the Mathematics, Civics and Sciences Charter School of Philadelphia; Harleen Gonzalez, a sophomore at Central High School; Academy at Palumbo sophomore Linda Gutierrez, and Philadelphia High School for Girls junior Ti’anna Cooper.

The project’s capstone, for both teams of girls, will be a final display based on what they’ve learned in their year of cross-continental collaboration. The form it will take will be up to the students, as long as it deals with climate change and cultural exchange: a short play, a museum activity, a presentation of specimens or something else the young women devise.  

The Mongolian students' U.S. trip was packed with classroom visits and science as well as some historic sight-seeing in Old City, cheesesteaks on South Street, a Lancaster farm visit, a tour of Washington, D.C. that included the Smithsonian Natural History Museum, and even some good old-fashioned retail therapy at the King of Prussia Mall.

By early fall, the two intercontinental teams will develop lessons and presentations about climate change that will be incorporated into the public programming at the Academy of Natural Sciences and the National Museum of Mongolia.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Betsy Payne, The Academy of Natural Sciences

 

Penn Medicine expands at newest University City Science Center building

The University City Science Center in West Philadelphia is now fully leased at its newest building at 3737 Market Street with the expansion of its anchor tenant.

Penn Medicine University City is expanding into an additional 56,000 square feet or two entire floors. With this lease expansion, Penn Medicine occupies almost 268,000 square feet in the 13-story laboratory and office building. 

"3737 Market’s rapid lease up exemplifies the attractiveness of the Science Center as a location of choice in the innovation ecosystem," insists Science Center President and CEO Stephen S. Tang. 

The new building has achieved LEED Gold certification for its core and shell design. The structure also incorporates innovative energy efficiency features, an extensive green roof system with a white roof membrane that helps reduce heat emissions from the building, and an innovative storm water management system. It is the first health care building in Pennsylvania to have a chilled beam system, an advanced convection HVAC system designed to heat or cool large structures. 

Wexford Science & Technology, a real estate company specializing in facilities for institutions such as universities, university-related research parks and health care systems, and the Science Center jointly developed the building, which opened in September.

According to its website, the Science Center now comprises 16 buildings across a 17-acre campus offering "both plug-and-play incubator space for startup companies and office and lab space for established companies."

Source: University City Science Center
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Local startup Pulse InfoFrame brings its cloud-based platform to patient care

Alice Solomon, senior director of Pulse InfoFrame, has some questions: "Is it a problem that Starbucks is using the latest in analytics to get you a better cup of coffee, but we aren’t doing it to save your life? Is it a problem that the oncologist treating your mother may be totally unaware of how other doctors around the country and around the world are successfully treating different types of cancer? Is it a problem that your doctor diagnoses high blood pressure, prescribes meds, and sends you on your way to change your diet and sedentary lifestyle? Yes, yes, yes."

Pulse, a health care technology startup at Philadelphia's University City Science Center Digital Health Accelerator, is aiming to solve those challenges with its clinical and research platform, providing data, management and integration systems targeted at the highly detailed requirements of medical specialists. Physicians, hospitals, researchers, and medical device and pharmaceutical companies can use the cloud-based platform to capture, organize, model, store and share detailed administrative and medical data with patients and other health care stakeholders. 

The company was founded in 2011 in Canada, where it is providing the platform for a national melanoma registry, and has an office in India. Pulse originally came to Philadelphia as a participant in the Canadian Technology Accelerator and is committed to launching its U.S. operations in the region. Pulse already has its local first client, Simon’s Fund, a Lafayette Hill-based nonprofit focused on research and awareness of sudden cardiac arrest and death in young athletes and children.

According to Solomon, electronic medical records "are administrative and billing tools…they were never intended to solve patient care problems. The Pulse platform focuses on improving patient care by looking at what we call ‘little data,’ which is customizing data collection to pull what is relevant to the clinician with the goal of solving real big questions. We support 22 diseases globally (including cancer, diabetes and heart disease), provide mobile access and promote patient engagement in their own health. We find out why things happen."

Source: Alice Solomon, Pulse InfoFrame
Writer: Elise Vider

Local startup BioBots prints living tissue

In the sounds-like-science-fiction department comes BioBots, a Philadelphia startup developing high-resolution, desktop 3D printers that generate living tissue.

"BioBots is like a 3D printer, but instead of using plastic filament to create 3D structures, it uses mixtures of biocompatible materials (like collagen) and living cells to create 3D tissues," explains CEO Danny Cabrera. "The finished product that comes out of the BioBot is alive."

The first-generation BioBots 1 printer can generate a dozen different cell types. 
  
With over 120,000 patients in the United States on organ-transfer waiting lists, building replacement organs is a long-term goal for the company. For now, the printers are primarily used for research.

"Biofabrication technology is definitely becoming more and more accessible in functionality, ease of use and cost, and that is going to greatly accelerate the pace of development," says Cabrera. "We are currently focusing on making the best research tool for our customers, taking structures out of lab note books and onto lab benches. It’s only a matter of time before those same structures start leaking out of the lab and into the clinic." 

Co-founder Ricardo Solorzano started working on printing 3D tissues -- and built the first prototype -- in his University of Pennsylvania dorm room. In August, he and Penn classmates Cabrera and Sohaib Hashmi launched the company. The startup initially grew at the DreamIt Health incubator and recently received funding from Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania

BiotBots is also opening a seed round of funding; actively promoting its beta program; offering testers a bioprinter and support for $5,000; and recruiting for its R&D team.

"The BioBot 1 is exciting, but it’s definitely not all we have up our sleeves," insists Cabrera. "Look out for a radical change in a few healthcare-related industries and new industries being created by our technology."

Source: Danny Cabrera, BioBots
Writer: Elise Vider
 

Turning artists and creatives into entrepreneurs at Corzo Open Office Hours

According to Todd Hestand, manager of incubator programs at University of the Arts’ Corzo Center for the Creative Economy, there’s no excuse for creative professionals in Philly not turning their ideas into businesses.

"This is one of those great lies," he explains. "Artists love to say that there’s no resources out there for them, there’s no funding, and that’s all just a big excuse…there are tons of resources out there for artists. You just have to go out and look."

One of those resources is the Corzo Center (which receives funding from PECO, Wells Fargo and the Knight Foundation). It offers a four-pronged program for different levels of engagement, including free lectures and workshops, Corzo’s Open Office Hours program, two-week business Boot Camps, and a Creative Incubator Grant.

The Center defines artists as broadly as possible -- everything from musicians and performers to fine artists, craftspeople and industrial designers. And they can help any artist who wants to start a business, either for- or non-profit, from supporting themselves with their own practice to developing an app.

Hestand, a serial entrepreneur with a long resume as an executive management consultant who is also an artist and musician, first came across Corzo Director Neil Kleinman about five years ago when he joined Philly Startup Leaders.

"He said he was running this thing called the Corzo Center," recalls Hestand. "I said, 'Who’s on your team?' He said, 'Well, just me.' I said, 'Well, not anymore.' That was about it."

Hestand is also the administrative coordinator for the Open Office Hours program, providing unlimited, free, confidential entrepreneurship counseling sessions to the public. This rapidly growing four-year-old initiative offers access to about 25 experts at three different partner locations: UArts, the Curtis Institute and NextFab.

All consultants are well-rounded business strategists, but aspiring entrepreneurs can pick from a long list of specialties including accounting, marketing, PR, taxes, finance, web design and development.

While the Corzo Center isn’t the only place in the city offering counsel to aspiring entrepreneurs, "there really isn’t any other organized, growing operational office hours capacity for artists starting businesses in Philly," argues Hestand.

Recently, a new scheduling platform through the Timely app has dramatically increased program participation: The number of appointments has doubled every month since it launched.

Hestand estimates that 100 people used the old platform last year, but that number could easily jump to three or four hundred in 2015.

"All locations are free and open to the public," he urges. "Sign up for a much help as you need."

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Todd Hestand, The Corzo Center for the Creative Economy

 

PlanPhilly finds a new home at WHYY's NewsWorks

Ever since its launch in 2006 as a project of University of Pennsylvania’s PennPraxis design school, PlanPhilly has been in a fortunate yet challenging funding situation. Now, with a new home at WHYY's NewsWorks, the publication is looking at some exciting new horizons.
 
In itself, PlanPhilly is "not an entity," explains manager Matt Golas, a veteran journalist and former Metro editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. The publication features in-depth reporting on the Philadelphia City Planning Commission, zoning code battles, and all aspects of the Philly's built environment, from transportation to historic preservation to casinos and the Delaware Waterfront.
 
"We're a project of something else that’s a 501 (c) 3, so the idea of bringing money in was unbelievably complex," says Golas. "We were very reliant on foundations."
 
Though PlanPhilly had the good fortune of funding from the William Penn Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation (which is making the current move possible), and the Knight Foundation, it had long wanted to expand and diversify its financial footing. And with increasing readership -- up to 150,000 pageviews per month -- that shift is warranted.
 
Their new home will help them achieve this goal. Golas will transition into the new title of project editor at NewsWorks, while maintaining a "non-fiduciary relationship" with Penn -- the university is supportive of the move and will continue to help PlanPhilly get the scoop. (The site's reporters and editors will become independent contractors at WHYY.)
 
"They’re fundraising experts," says Golas of WHYY. "It has way more potential for us to generate some revenue and work toward being more sustainable."
 
With longterm financial stability, Golas hopes PlanPhilly will be able to expand their coverage in the Northeast and other outlying areas of the suburbs such as Conshohocken, Cherry Hill and King of Prussia. They want to produce a record of more zoning and development meetings, and also to begin to master the world of podcasts and radio segments.
 
And the benefits aren’t just for PlanPhilly: WHYY’s NewsWorks, a longtime content partner, will get a boost as well.

"We have some unique areas of coverage and unique people doing it," explains Golas. Examples include their in-depth coverage of zoning issues, their attention to the Land Bank, and stories about transportation geared towards the user experience. Since so many people listen to WHYY in their cars or while riding on SEPTA, it’s a perfect fit.

In the future, the PlanPhilly site may merge with the NewsWorks site, but for now, they're staying put. While PlanPhilly reporters will work out of WHYY headquarters when they’re not out on their beats, "you’re going to able to find PlanPhilly the same way you find it now," insists Golas.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Matt Golas, PlanPhilly


Alaina Mabaso is also a freelance contributor at WHYY’s NewsWorks. 
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