| Follow Us: Facebook Twitter Youtube RSS Feed

Summit - University : Innovation + Job News

5 Summit - University Articles | Page:

SEAB Empowers St. Paul Students to Bridge Cultural Divides

In schools, it’s common for there to be a divide between the administration and the student body that’s hard to bridge. Local schools are trying to reach out, shown by the Minneapolis Board of Education’s decision to give a student representative a nonvoting seat on the board.

For students, though, that move rung hollow: a token position that didn’t have voting rights. Looking to improve its own interactions with students, St. Paul Public Schools (SPPS) is taking a new approach through Student Engagement and Advancement Board (SEAB), a 13-student group that researches and recommends changes to improve the educational experience.

SEAB, now in its second school year, was formed under the guidance of Shaun Walsh and two of her peers. To mitigate the popularity factor of an election, Walsh and her peers chose an application process and interviewed students, grades 10-12, from St. Paul schools.

The first year SEAB established a framework. This year’s agenda is action focused. To improve student inclusiveness, SEAB recommends three changes: The ability of students to choose to wear cultural garments at graduation; to examine the district’s disciplinary programs; and to adjust the district’s social studies program to better reflect the diverse student population of St. Paul schools.

Last year, graduating senior Chandra Her was asked to remove a traditional Hmong stole that violated an existing rule against personal modifications to the graduation uniform.

“Many of the other students had their cultural items physically taken off of them and confiscated,” says Skyler Kuczaboski, a senior at Harding Senior High School. “I think this is extremely disrespectful and I want to make sure none of this happens ever again.”

This disconnect between student emotions and the Board of Education is what inspired Central sophomore Rajni Schulz to join SEAB this year. “It confuses me that decisions in SPPS are not made by the people ultimately effected by them; the students,” she says. “The diversity present in the SPPS community is a beautiful thing,” she adds, which is why the graduation rule has become one area of focus.

While the experience gives its participants valuable leadership and community building experience, the purpose of the group is to improve the student experience for all 60,000 SPPS students. They research and identify issues, taking suggestions from the Board of Education but making their own decisions on topic, tone and recommendations, and speaking with the general student population.

Walsh recalls a presentation at the close of the 2015-2016 school year as evidence of SEAB’s influence on students’ lives. “[A SEAB student] was in a meeting with a board policy work group with kind of cantankerous adults and she really held her own,” Walsh says. She’s also proud that the students followed her advice and requested the right to evaluate their facilitators. In other words, the students can fire her.

The purpose all along was “to take the power to the people,” Walsh explains. Students are standing up for themselves, using their power in constructive methods that are bearing results.

“I’ve been surprised at the receptiveness with adults,” she says, citing a presentation from late last school year where SEAB members used their own experiences as students to describe challenges to their learning environment. “Different departments have used that phrasing in their presentations [this year],” Walsh says, showing that when SEAB speaks, educators listen.

“They still only represent 13 students, they don’t represent the student body,” Walsh admits, but she sees SEAB as a foundation for more effective student-education board interaction.
 

FocusStart, a startup that gets medical devices to market

Bringing a new medical device to market is a costly, time-consuming process. Innovations that seem like a slam dunk in the research lab often turn out not to work as intended during development. Clinical trials require minute, painstaking attention to detail. Federal regulators, understandably, demand proof that any new device is reasonably safe and works as its manufacturer claims. Each of these steps requires adequate funding and skilled manpower.
 
At the end of it all, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance firms must be willing to reimburse providers that use the device. With rare exceptions, devices that don’t qualify for reimbursement—a highly complex consideration—fail to find traction in the market.
 
“Even with unlimited funding, it can take two years or more to complete the process for relatively simple medical devices,” says FocusStart founder and CEO Dr. Daniel Sigg.
 
Sigg and FocusStart co-founder Peter DeLange, who previously ran a successful medical device startup called Devicix (recently purchased by Nortech Systems, a local medical engineering company), had each spent years searching for a better early-stage device development model. When they met a few years back, they quickly realized their professional skills complemented each other.
 
So they founded FocusStart, a St. Paul startup that shepherds promising medical technologies through the tricky testing and development phase, refines validated devices for commercialization, and seeks strategic partners (typically multinationals) to complete the regulatory approval process and actually bring devices to market. FocusStart’s model is less capital-intensive than traditional medical device development models, though the company still assumes risk for technologies that don’t pan out during development.
 
FocusStart currently has four promising technologies in its portfolio: a cardiac product that may reduce blood clot risk following certain surgical procedures; a urological catheter that may reduce the risk of certain infections; a “smart” respiratory inhaler; and a “tissue tension sensor” that may promote better outcomes following partial and total knee replacement procedures.
 
Sigg and the team are devoting substantial energy and attention to the tissue tension sensor, which is capable of directly measuring ligament tension without requiring an invasive cut. Direct measurement enables surgeons to properly “balance” the knee during the replacement procedure, reducing the likelihood of complications or outright failure.
 
The sensor could potentially benefit other orthopedic procedures, such as rotator cuff and ACL surgeries, though FocusStart is concentrating on knee replacement for now. According to Sigg, it also has potential as a training tool for newer surgeons, who lack the intuitive “feel” of more experienced operators.
 
Although each technology is different, FocusStart’s development approach is fairly standardized. First, the company approaches a research institution to work out a licensing agreement for the technology. FocusStart works with the University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, the University of Zurich (in Switzerland) and an Israeli inventor.
 
“We quickly found that these agreements are fairly standard, with some variation,” says Sigg.
 
FocusStart generally would pay a royalty on future sales of the product, possibly with an equity component to sweeten the deal for the institution should the technology find its way into a marketable device.
 
“We find it easier to develop relationships locally,” says Sigg, adding that his Swiss background (he grew up in Switzerland and attended medical school at the University of Basel) probably helped with the Zurich partnership.
 
FocusStart’s lean model helps, too. “Once [our partners] understood our approach, we become more successful in finding very interesting technologies,” says Sigg. And the combined expertise of the firm’s principals—Sigg was a board-certified anesthesiologist and subsequently amassed almost two decades of medical research and development experience, while DeLange had the business chops to build Devicix into a successful concern and boasts insider knowledge of the medical device field—doesn’t hurt.
 
But that doesn’t mean swift success is assured. FocusStart has been “fortunate” to receive National Institutes of Health grants during the early going, but the company continues to seek government grants and private funding—a process that will likely continue as Sigg and DeLange seek out and develop promising new technologies.
 
There’s no such thing as a perfect batting record in the medical device business. “As we do our own work, we may find challenges or problems that weren’t apparent previously,” says Sigg. “Occasionally, you have to know when to say ‘that’s it’ and walk away [from a technology].”
 

Corridors 2 Careers strengthens workforce development

Ramsey County’s successful Corridors 2 Careers pilot program—which connects economically disadvantaged residents of communities along the Green Line, including Frogtown, Summit-University and Cedar-Riverside, with workforce training resources and employers in the area—already has several notable successes.

According to the program’s exit report, more than 1,400 residents of Green Line neighborhoods participated in the initiative, and nearly 90 percent had no previous knowledge of workforce resources in the area. As a direct result of their participation, 65 local residents found gainful employment and an additional 47 enrolled in basic or continuing education classes.

The pilot project also encouraged local job applicants to obtain—and local employers to recognize—the ACT National Career Readiness Certificate, “a portable credential that demonstrates achievement and a certain level of workplace employability skills,” according to ACT. The public-private partnership between Ramsey County and Goodwill-Easter Seals will continue to push this certification.

Of the five-dozen employers that participated in the pilot project, more than half were unaware about local workforce development resources that connect prospective employees with willing employees in transit-served areas. At least eight hired Corridors 2 Careers participants.

Now, the project has blossomed into a larger partnership between Ramsey County Workforce Solutions, Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board and Goodwill-Easter Seals of Minnesota. At least nine workforce development organizations have already committed to support the partnership, which aims to increase the “alignment of workforce needs between the residents and employers” in the area, according to the press release announcing the partnership.

The Ramsey County Workforce Investment Board’s Alignment and Integration Committees will coordinate the activities of the participating organizations, including Goodwill-Easter Seals, which provides GED tutoring, job-specific skills training and job placement services to individuals who have been chronically unemployed, recently incarcerated, afflicted by homelessness, or who struggle with alcohol or chemical dependency.

Going forward, Corridors 2 Careers aims to connect at least 400 Green Line residents with job search assistance, and place at least 80 percent of those participants in entry-level jobs or job training programs. The goal is a “location-efficient economic development strategy” that encourages local employers to be more receptive to diverse residents’ cultural needs, refer rejected applicants to workforce development agencies, and create new, industry-specific employer clusters along the transit-dense Green Line.

With Goodwill-Easter Seals and the Ramsey County organizations acting as pillars for the initiative, local employers will be able to directly tap C2C for willing, well-trained workers, connecting unemployed residents who urgently need work and employers that require specific skill sets.

One Day on Earth gathers Twin Cities stories

Got big plans for April 26? Lu Lippold, the local producer for One Day on Earth’s “One Day in the Twin Cities,” has a suggestion: Grab whatever video recording device you can—cameraphones included—and record the audio-visual pulse of your neighborhood.

On the final Saturday of April, the Twin Cities and 10 other U.S. metros will host the fourth installment of One Day on Earth’s celebration of film, culture, and all-around placemaking. Founded by Los Angeles-based film producers Kyle Ruddick and Brandon Litman, One Day on Earth (ODOE) has a “goal of creating a unique worldwide media event where thousands of participants would simultaneously film over a 24-hour period,” according to its website.

The first event took place on October 10, 2010 (10-10-10); 11-11-11 and 12-12-12 followed. ODOE skipped 2013, but its organizers weren’t about to wait until 2101 for their next shot. Instead, they selected a spring Saturday—both to accommodate amateur filmmakers with 9-to-5 jobs, and to give participants in the Northern Hemisphere longer daylight hours to work with—for a bigger, bolder, slightly revamped version of the event.

For the first time, participants get 10 questions to inspire their creativity and guide their storytelling, from “What is the best thing happening in your city today?” to “Who is your city not serving?” The goal is to create a multi-frame snapshot of “cities in progress,” one that doesn’t simply answer the who-what-where of the places it covers.

As One Day in the Twin Cities’ point person, Lippold supervises local filmmakers and pitched the project to dozens of partner organizations, including the Science Museum of Minnesota and Springboard for the Arts to visual media companies like Cinequipt and Vimeo. (The McKnight Foundation and the Central Corridor Funders Collaborative are the largest local sponsors.)

The upside? “[The event] is a great way to shine a light on all the hard work that our nonprofit community does,” says Lippold.

Lippold also works with a handful of local ambassadors, some of whom enjoy national acclaim. These include noted cinematographer Jeff Stonehouse, veteran documentarian Matt Ehling, and community-focused filmmaker D.A. Bullock. They’ll be contributing their talents—and stature—to One Day in the Twin Cities’ promotion and execution.

One Day in the Twin Cities could be seen well beyond Minneapolis and Saint Paul. Along with their counterparts from other participating cities, local filmmakers may see their work incorporated into a condensed, three-part series that Litman and Lichtbau will market to PBS affiliates around the country. No word on whether TPT will air the special, but TPT Rewire has agreed to publicize the event in the coming weeks.

The real stars of One Day in the Twin Cities, though, are its filmmakers. Even if you’ve never filmed anything in your life, says Lippold, you can contribute meaningful work. Thanks to an interactive map feature on ODOE’s main site, the work will visible to anyone who visits.

“If I were just starting out in video, I would see this as a huge opportunity,” says Lippold. Since all contributions are credited by name and location, each participant “instantly becomes a documentary filmmaker,” she adds.

Source: Lu Lippold
Writer: Brian Martucci


Latuff Brothers Body Shop: Any color you want so long as itís green

When you think of environmentally friendly businesses, you probably don't think of auto body repair shops. But a chat with Pete Latuff, president of the family-run Latuff Brothers auto body shop in St. Paul is enough to dispel your stereotypes of the industry. In the past five years, the company has introduced a number of environmental innovations--and it's saving them money.

"We saw the trend of going toward green," says Latuff, "and we thought it would be a good way to go."

The business began by introducing a low-emission paint system. "Our licensing is all based on emissions, so there's a cost factor there," explains Latuff. The new paint reduces emissions by 58 percent. It also cuts drying time by 30 percent, resulting in a significant reduction in energy use. Not long after, Latuff went to a paperless office, introducing further savings.

What began as a trend- and cash-savvy business strategy has taken hold as a principle, according to Latuff. "As we get more and more down this road we start thinking about it more and more, too," he says. "We've moved away from plastic bottles now, too, and put in a water cooler with paper cups. We're always thinking about different ways to reduce our trash and try to recycle everything we can."

This kind of self-examination "has made us a more efficient business," Latuff says, while reducing the environmental footprint of the operations. Good for business, and good for the planet--that goes some distance toward taking the sting out of your next fender bender.

Source: Pete Latuff, Latuff Brothers
Writer: Joe Hart

5 Summit - University Articles | Page:
Signup for Email Alerts