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Groundswell hosts artwork from MMAA/Galtier School collaboration

During a two-week residency, a group of 33 students from St. Paul’s Galtier Community School collaborated with the Minnesota Museum of American Art (MMAA) on a multifaceted art project called CuratorKids. The 4th and 5th grade students’ artworks will be exhibited at Groundswell, a nearby coffee shop, from Dec. 16 through Jan. 19. In the spring of 2014, the childrens' artwork will also be exhibited by MMAA.    

MMAA developed CuratorKids to address “the shortage of art education in our public schools by offering a program that brings art and practicing artists directly to the kids,” MMAA  materials state.

Through the program, students examined a handful of artworks from the museum’s collection, according to Heidi Swanson,  technology integration specialist at Galtier. Students then wrote poems about the museum pieces. The following week, students responded to the artwork in a different way -- by making mixed-media collages. In their collages, Swanson says, "They made artistic choices relating to color, objects, and emotion.”   

Diana Johnson, a consultant to the program, says the museum pieces became “source material" for the students. “These kids really were responding emotionally and aesthetically" to the museum works, she says, which they "turned into their own work."

After the residency wrapped up, the students recorded podcasts of their poems and videos of their collages. Their poems can be listened to online here.  

Johnson hopes the project helps the students gain confidence in artmaking, as well as in academic subjects. The school hasn’t had an art program for a number of years. But CuratorKids shows students that “they can do things they didn’t know they could," she says. "If they stick with it, they can surprise themselves and see that the world around them cares and is interested in them."   

As if in response to that sentiment, a group of school volunteers pitched in $300 to frame the collages for the coffee shop exhibit, according to Swanson. At Groundswell, the students’ recordings will be accessible online via QR codes that can be scanned by smartphones.  

Swanson hopes the residency inspires students’ ongoing creativity. Through programs like CuratorKids, she says, "We hope to build a bridge to our community and create opportunities for our students to share their successes beyond the school walls." 


Source: Heidi Swanson, technology integration specialist, Galtier Community School
Writer: Anna Pratt 















New mobile app development school strives to push local tech scene

Smart Factory, a new school for mobile app development located in Minneapolis’s Uptown neighborhood, is on a mission to deepen the tech talent pool in Minnesota. 

Jeff Lin of Bust Out Solutions, and Mike Bollinger of TechdotMN and Livefront, who are friends and colleagues, founded Smart Factory, which held its inaugural classes in October.   

The need for Smart Factory rose out of rapid changes in the web and mobile industry, Lin says. “Formal academic training can’t keep up” with the changes, he says, adding that some developers find it difficult to stay on the cutting-edge while working a full-time job. 

The tech scene is “already being pushed forward by market forces and people’s desires and interests. We hope to help that cause by training people directly,” he says.

Smart Factory's program is aimed at experienced designers and engineers who want to expand their skills, especially those related to web and mobile app technology. Companies can also send employees to the school to gain software development skills, as opposed to having to outsource those skills.     

Six-week classes, led by leaders in the field, cover Mobile UI Design, Ruby on Rails, Web Production, iOS Development, and Android Development. Students follow along with the lessons on their laptops. 

Class sizes are no more than 16 people, to ensure everyone gets plenty of individual attention, Lin says. Two mentor-teachers lead the classes, as well. “In programming and design courses, there’s a lot of hands-on activity, so it’s always good to have one-on-one time with teachers,” he says. 

Additionally, students are expected to spend another 10 to 15 hours on their studies outside of the classroom, according to Smart Factory materials.  

Lin hopes the school fosters collaboration within the local tech community. “We want to educate people about what we’re passionate about," he says. "It’s less of a competition and more of a collaboration. Collaborative competition is good too."

Although schools like Smart Factory are popping up around the country, few exist in the Twin Cities. With the opening of Smart Factory, Lin expects other schools to will launch within the next couple of years. 

Source: Jeff Lin, co-founder, Smart Factory
Writer: Anna Pratt 






New microgrants program aims to "Make It Happen"

A new microgrants initiative will spur ideas within the Jewish community, locally and internationally. 

The Minneapolis Jewish Federation is a community partner to the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Philanthropic Network, which is leading the program called, Make It Happen

Debbie Stillman, director of community partnerships and engagement at the federation, says the initiative has already stirred “lots of buzz in the community.” Often, people have good ideas, but not the means to “step into the game and to say, ‘I want to try this out,’” she says. 

That’s what the program is all about: “This isn’t aimed at organizations or meant to augment somebody’s operating budget. It’s meant for individuals to enter the game with an idea that they think is worthwhile,” she says, adding that young leaders can get involved in the decision-making process, as well. 

Projects might relate to cultural, educational, spiritual, or social aspects of Jewish life. For example, pop-up trucks, musical mash-ups, Shabbat dinners, and service projects are just a handful of the possibilities, according to program materials. “Selected projects will identify creative means of engaging, serving, and leading local Jewish communities,” a prepared statement reads.  

Schusterman will award $1,000 and $5,000 microgrants to 50 projects, which it will select on a rolling basis between now and December. At the same time, the Minneapolis Jewish Federation will separately dole out additional microgrants through the spring.   

Around 10 to 15 projects will be granted locally, depending on the scope of individual projects, Stillman says. 

Projects will be uploaded onto the website, which will double as a kind of idea share. “There are a lot of pluses to the platform as well as the microgrants themselves,” she says. "Organizations can look in their own communities and across the globe and if they see an interesting idea, they can execute it. They can see how it might work or how they can change it."  

  
Source: Debbie Stillman, director of community partnerships and engagement, Minneapolis Jewish Federation
Writer: Anna Pratt 







"Creative Care" exhibition and events underscore art's healing power

The Twin Cities is home to a diverse arts and healing community – perhaps the largest nationwide, according to Jack Becker, who leads Forecast Public Art, a nonprofit public art consulting agency based in Saint Paul.

The Twin Cities, Becker adds, is “an arts-rich community, and we’re huge for healthcare and technologies devoted to medicine and bioscience and research into healing. These realms come together in a variety of ways.” 

Those intersections are the subject of an exhibit Forecast put together in collaboration with Hennepin County’s Multicultural Arts Committee. Titled "Creative Care: Art + Healing in the Twin Cities," the exhibition is at the Hennepin County Government Center’s gallery in downtown Minneapolis through Jan. 29.

The exhibition pulls together visuals from nine arts-healing organizations in the area. In addition, an opening celebration today, and related forums and performances, are in the works for the coming weeks. 

The exhibiton is “about the idea that art can have healing benefits,” Becker says, a notion that often goes unacknowledged in daily life.
 
As a part of the kickoff for "Creative Care," which begins at 11 a.m., representatives from the exhibiting organizations will be on hand. Some groups, including Illusion Theater, Hopewell Community Choir, and Wilder Band will also perform at the event while county commissioner Peter McLaughlin will make an appearance and T. Mychael Rambo will serve as its emcee. 

The show represents all different approaches to art and healing, from Hennepin County Medical Center’s Inspire Arts program to the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum’s Healing Arts Therapies.  

As such, the displays are just as diverse as the participants. People can meander through a labyrinth on the floor -- a meditative intentional walk on a path that leads to peaceful calm in the center-- or view snapshots, paintings, installations, and more.  

For those who are sick or depressed or are facing other challenges, art can “focus the mind for a period of time on something other than the problem, the ailment, the pain,” Becker says, and art does so in a holistic way. He adds that art can come in the form of a relaxing piece of music or a public memorial in a war-torn community, as just a couple of examples.  

Forecast also published a related directory that includes 40 local art-healing programs in order to “raise awareness and increase access to these programs,” he says. 

Source: Jack Becker, executive director, Forecast Public Art 
Writer: Anna Pratt 








TreeHouse "innovation center" opens in Loring Park

TreeHouse Health, an “innovation center” with an emphasis on healthcare IT and care coordination, opened its doors on Oct. 17. 

The idea behind the for-profit “innovation center,” based in Minneapolis's Loring Park neighborhood, is to help emerging, and larger more established healthcare companies, grow and solve industry issues, the TreeHouse website states. 

TreeHouse is in a position to do so, thanks to its six partners with extensive expertise in healthcare and investment. 

Jeffrey (J.D.) Blank, the company’s managing director, says TreeHouse can offer networking opportunities, office space, cash for startups, and other resources. Blank’s dad is Dr. John Blank, TreeHouse’s chairman of the board, who is also the president of Dalmore Investments, an angel fund in Minneapolis. “We offer access to customers, make introductions, allow them to leverage the relationships of our partners,” says J.D. Blank.      

Collaboration is key, he says. "We view an 'innovation center' as an ecosystem, an environment that supports entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs, the innovators within a larger organization.” 

“We’re hoping to get small and large companies from every sector of healthcare,” all of which bring different views to solve healthcare issues, he says. “The industry is so broad and complicated that we think having every angle represented, creating a 360-degree ecosystem will help parties navigate the challenges.” 

Creating that ecosystem means “getting the right companies with the right mindset, that are willing to collaborate and contribute to the ecosystem at large,” he adds. 

As such, TreeHouse intends to cultivate a network of service providers and business professionals that can offer support to companies. TreeHouse intends to bring companies into the fold for six months to two years. “We think companies will see the value in it,” he says. 

Already, TreeHouse has signed on RiverSystems LLC, a startup that developed HomeStream, “a tool comprised of easy-to-use, computer-assisted capabilities designed to improve the quality of life for seniors and aging baby boomers,” a prepared statement reads. 
 

Source: Jeffrey (J.D.) Blank, managing director, TreeHouse Health 
Writer: Anna Pratt 






Minnesota Blogger Conference gains momentum

Even though bloggers are constantly connecting with readers and each other, it can still feel like a lonely task to send thoughts out into the world and wonder if anyone is reading them.
 
That's one of the reasons that the Minnesota Blogger Conference, started four years ago, is gaining prominence among the state's busy bloggers. Held on October 12th this year, the conference is a new venue, at Concordia University, and co-founder Arik Hanson says that the change in location should help to draw more interest from students.
 
Also, this year's lineup is particularly solid, Hanson adds. "It's a very diverse range of individuals, and we're excited about it," he says. "It's such a great chance for us to all learn from each other."
 
In addition to schmoozing with other bloggers, attendees will able to learn about optimizing content for mobile devices, using WordPress, tapping into Google Analytics tools, and making the most of Tumblr.
 
An ending keynote on the future of blogging will veer away from the technology of blogging and into the cultural and social implications of this unique form of writing. Weber Shandwick digital strategist Greg Swan will join MinnPost media writer David Brauer, TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Oden, and Fluence Media principal Blois Olson to chat about what blogging could look like in the years ahead.
 
The conference, in general, is a nod toward the broad blogger community in the Twin Cities, and it's no surprise that it's a growing scene here. Technology and culture are both rich local sources of innovation and creativity, and blogging is at the intersection of those two distinctive arenas.
 
"This is one of those grassroots conferences that let you geek out for a day," Hanson says. "People won't look at you sideways when you talk about plug-ins."
 
Source: Arik Hanson, Minnesota Blogger Conference
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Minnesota Cup announces 2013 winner

Crossing the finish line in the heated Minnesota Cup entrepreneurial competition is Preceptis Medical, a device manufacturer that's developing surgical tools for pediatric patients.
 
The company bested almost 1,100 competitors to nab the $40,000 grand prize, as well as $25,000 as the Life Science/Health IT division winner.
 
What got the judges' attention for Preceptis was the company's focus on the development of surgical innovations that would allow ear tube procedures to be performed with reduced pain and surgical time for children. Any parent who's watched a child suffer through multiple ear infections is likely to laud the kind of relief that Preceptis promises. Ear tube surgery is the most common pediatric surgery in the United States.
 
Now in clinical evaluation, the ear tube device and procedure have been tested on 60 patients, and Preceptis CEO Steve Anderson notes that it reduces trauma and risk, and offers greater efficiency for the surgeon.
 
"This year has been exhilarating," says Minnesota Cup co-founder Scott Litman. "We've had the best collection of presentations in our history, including the one from this year's winner, Preceptis Medical."
 
He added that 2014 will be the competition's 10th anniversary, and the competition's leadership is already brainstorming ways to grow the contest and involve more Minnesotans. Litman says, "We will discover and help more entrepreneurs to build better business plans and achieve long-lasting success. And of course, our ultimate goal is to cement the Minnesota Cup as a permanent part of the business landscape."
 
Source: Scott Litman, Minnesota Cup
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

MHTA unveils new innovation series

Minnesota will have yet another technology and business resource on Sept. 18th, when the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA) and Minneapolis-based awareness firm Innovosource partner to provide a new monthly innovation series.
 
Dubbed "A Break for Breakthroughs," the series takes the form of free webinars for MHTA members, with the first event covering the latest breakthroughs in flexible electronics, from films and displays to touch sensor integration.

To kick off the series, the first webinar will be shown both online and at CoCo Minneapolis in the Minneapolis Grain Exchange. Speakers have just been announced, and Innovosource's founder will moderate.
 
According to Andrew Wittenborg, MHTA's director of outreach, upcoming sessions will cover emerging areas that affect Minnesota's technology landscape most directly. For example, wearable devices and robotics are booming here, so they'll get coverage, as will nanotech, biotech, and stem cells.  Advancements in image processing and analysis are also slated to be discussed.
 
"We are particularly excited by this new partnership because it represents a key aspect of MHTA's mission to fuel Minnesota's prosperity through innovation and technology," Wittenborg notes.
 
He adds that the mission of the series is to help business leaders, R&D teams, investors, entrepreneurs, and others to learn more about emerging technologies and to build stronger relationships among the top players locally. "We will provide a greater level of awareness beyond the widely accessible information already available," says Wittenborg.
 
MHTA will also provide programming for Innovosource's Pardon the Disruption program, which connects high technology companies and investors to research universities and laboratories.
 
Source: Andrew Wittenborg, MHTA
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

University of Minnesota launches record number of startups for 2013

The University of Minnesota is proving to be particularly adept at turning research into commercial efforts, and this year, it will set a record for the number of startup companies it's launched.
 
In the university's 2013 fiscal year, 14 startup companies were given a boost into the marketplace through efforts by the Office for Technology Commercialization (OTC). That's up from 12 last year, and it's likely that the momentum will continue into the next fiscal year. Already, five startups are on track to launch in the first few months of 2014 and another 19 technologies are in various stages of startup activity.
 
"Our continued success as a research institution depends upon our ability to transfer knowledge created at the university into the real world, where it can have a  direct impact on our society," notes Brian Herman, the University of Minnesota's Vice President for Research. He adds that the team at the OTC is doing an especially impressive job given the challenging economic climate of the past few years.
 
The OTC has been aided by the formation of a Venture Center, first opened in 2006. Since then, 52 startup companies have been created, and nearly 80 percent of those are still active. That success rate is notable, Herman points out, since a study done by Harvard Business School showed that 75 percent of all startups fail.
 
Also worth noting is the breadth of startups coming out of the university. In 2013, the range of products included a plastic bead that cuts off the blood supply to tumors, a smartphone-based breathalyzer, a handheld probe that can measure tension in soft tissues during orthopedic surgery, and a genetic test that assesses certain risks in dogs.
 
So, investors take note: when looking for the next big startup, it might be time to go back to school.
 
Source: Brian Herman, University of Minnesota
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Online work platform Field Nation expands into Europe

With continued expansion, Field Nation may have to consider changing its name someday to Field World. The Minneapolis-based firm, which provides an online work platform that connects businesses and independent contractors, is growing fast, leading to a recent expansion into Europe.
 
"There has been such demand from customers to use our platform in other areas than the U.S. and Canada," says CEO Mynul Khan. "We've been asked to expand into Latin America, parts of Asia, and Western Europe, so really, we just chose a starting point for more international services, but we expect to keep expanding geographically."
 
Launched in 2008, Field Nation employs 45 but has a contractor database of about 40,000. Although the company did aggressive recruitment in its early years, the momentum is now so strong that hundreds of new companies and contractors sign up every day through word of mouth, Khan says.
 
The company offers a marketplace where professionals can meet, but also provides a management system with distinctive features and tools that allow customers to create work orders, arrange payment, and keep track of documentation.
 
In addition to broadening its planetary footprint, Field Nation is also growing vertically, Khan says, by adding more skillsets into the mix. Currently, the company tends to lean toward IT services, but Khan believes that Field Nation's platform and work management automation can extend to any industry that hires independent contractors, including construction, creative work, and telecom.
 
"Every day is exciting here," he says. "We're always thinking about the next big thing and making new milestones."
 
Source: Mynul Khan, Field Nation
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

HighJump Software picks Danish firm for acquisition

Minneapolis-based HighJump Software employees may want to take an accelerated course in Danish so they can visit the company's newest offices.
 
The supply chain management software provider recently announced that it acquired Evenex, a provider of business-to-business integration solutions. Located in Denmark, Evenex allows customers to exchange business documents through managed cloud services. HighJump Software, with its emphasis on efficient supply chain capabilities, will give the Danish firm greater market reach.
 
In other words, as they'd say in Denmark, it's a "gode tilbud" (good deal) for both companies.
 
HighJump Software CEO Russell Fleischer notes that the acquisition is important for expanding the company's reach in Europe, and hints that the Evenex deal could be the kickoff for more acquisitions in the future.
 
"It's an important first step towards broadening our geographic coverage in Europe," he says. "We look forward to driving organic growth as well as continued to look for logical merger and acquisition opportunities."
 
The deal will give the Danish firm access to capital that will help foster growth.
 
The acquisition comes during a strong year for HighJump, which has been busy enhancing its products for SMB customers, attracting large clients with refined software offerings, and cementing new partnerships.
 
Fleischer notes that all of these moves are enabling customers to have technologies that work for their specific business needs and processes. With the year only half over, it's likely that HighJump will keep its expansion and development going strong for 2013.
 
Source: Russell Fleischer, HighJump Software
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Coworking space CoCo to open Uptown location

Major coworking and collaborative space CoCo recently announced plans to open a third location in Uptown, joining the organization's popular Lowertown St. Paul and downtown Minneapolis spaces.
 
Slated to open this fall at the intersection of West Lake St. and Lagoon Ave., the new location will be in the heart of Uptown and just yards from the Greenway bike route. Plans include a 15,000-square-foot space that will be rich with features and amenities, according to CoCo co-founder Don Ball.
 
Most notably, the space will offer a tap room with craft beers, a movie theater for presentations, a billiard room, and a walkout patio. For those who want to balance work with play, the space will feature two large conference rooms and several private "call booths."
 
Similar to the organization's location in the Grain Exchange, the new space will offer a large commons area where members can do presentations for up to 100 people, build product prototypes, or network with new ideas. Another open space, dubbed "The Garage," is a 3,500-square-foot area designed for groups that want to do deep work in strategic planning, Ball notes.
 
There will also be an abundance of coworking seats, as well as "campsites" where members can claim a dedicated desk for individuals or for small groups.

The move is likely to create more growth and buzz for CoCo, which scored a major win this year when it teamed up with Google (see The Line's coverage here) for an ongoing partnership and event series. 

"Membership has been exploding, especially since we launched our partnership earlier this year with Google," says Ball. "So we knew we'd have to expand, not only to create more space, but also to give members more options for where they can drop in and work. Uptown is a great location not only because of its demographics skew younger, but its proximity to so many great neighborhoods, the Greenway, and highways."
 
Source: Don Ball, CoCo
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Tekne Awards offer new categories for this year's round

Minnesota technology leaders, start your engines.
 
The high-profile Tekne Awards just opened for entries, and five new categories have been added: STEM education and digital learning, healthcare delivery, impact on industry, agricultural technology, and safety and security.
 
Innovative entrepreneurs, organizations, nonprofits, and government agencies will all compete in the award program, now in its 14th year, presented by the Minnesota High Tech Association (MHTA).
 
The state remains at the forefront of cutting-edge technological growth, the MHTA noted, and the robust and growing competition highlights the kind of innovation that's homegrown here, from cleantech to robotics.
 
Last year, winners included Nova-Tech Engineering, Ecolab, Global Traffic Technologies, Maverick Software Consulting, and Sophia Learning. The City of Minneapolis also received an award, for technology excellence in a non-profit organization, getting a nod for an emergency operations training facility that blends digital data and streaming video.
 
This year, the five fresh categories showcase new directions in the state's approach to innovation. STEM education, a hot topic these days, gets its own category for programs that engage K-12 students in applied learning opportunities. Healthcare delivery will award innovation in the area of medical devices, diagnostics, data management, and other areas that improve patient care.
 
"We are watching significant growth in the areas of mobility as well as safety and security and want to make sure the Tekne Awards reflect that," says Andrew Wittenborg, Director of Outreach for MHTA. "At the same time,  we want to recognize and support the collaborative efforts that lead to Minnesota breakthroughs."
 
In addition to its new categories, the awards will feature well-established, competition-rich categories like software, startup, advanced manufacturing, and mobile technologies.
 
Applications for this year's awards will be open until July 15th, and there's no application fee, nor do applicants have to be MHTA members. Finalists will be announced in September, with an award celebration held in November.
 
Source: Andrew Wittenborg, Director of Outreach, Minnesota High Tech Association
Writer: Elizabeth Millard

Visit Saint Paul tweaks wedding site for same sex marriages

Right after Minnesota became the 12th state to legalize same sex marriage, St. Paul updated its popular wedding website to reflect the change.
 
Online resource IDoSaintPaul.com, put together by the city's convention and visitors bureau, Visit Saint Paul, gives engaged couples information on getting married in the city, including an events calendar, restaurant and hotel listings, and suggestions for activities and recreation.
 
The site now includes photographs of same sex couples, as well as a profile of Reid Bordson and Paul Nolle, who plan to be the first gay couple to tie the knot at Como Park Conservatory. Also on the site is a new page about the Freedom to Marry Act, noting that "it is important for same sex couples to know they are welcomed in Saint Paul for their big day and that they, their family and friends will receive the same top level of service from our hospitality community that all wedding couples receive on their big day."
 
Visit Saint Paul spokesperson Adam Johnson notes that it was easy to make quick changes to the site, including tweaks to an online form for wedding planning. Since then, vendors have approached the bureau to offer specials for same sex weddings, and Johnson anticipates that the site will get even more interest in the near future.
 
"The Freedom to Marry Act opened up a whole new pool of people who want to get married, and we want them to know that Saint Paul would be a great place for that," Johnson says.
 
Source: Adam Johnson, Visit Saint Paul
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
 

Office of Higher Ed debuts a Minnesota college planner app

High school students and others looking at postsecondary education will have a powerful new app, thanks to the state's Office of Higher Education (OHE).
 
The agency recently unveiled the Minnesota College Planner, a mobile application that can be downloaded for free. The tool provides students with resources for exploring college options and managing tasks associated with applying to college. OHE will be rolling out a new website soon to promote the app, and is already sending a lively video introduction to students.
 
Students can start planning as early as 8th grade, with reminders set for events like ACT testing and FAFSA form completion. Colleges and universities are sorted according to size, location, price, and majors. App users can browse profiles, set up campus visits, and stay updated on changes like tuition increases or new majors.
 
The app also lets students address financial aid issues as they search for schools, simplifying a process that has traditionally been "more challenging than a few quick swipes on a phone," says OHE Director Larry Pogemiller.
 
"The mobile site has been designed for students, giving them the ability to have some control and help with their own college planning," he says. "For example, the planner [tools] guide them as to what classes they should be taking in high school to meet the entrance guidelines for their dream career, which can help keep their goals realistic and focused."
 
He adds that the app was developed as a way to help more Minnesota students prepare for college in an increasingly technological society.
 
Source: Larry Pogemiller, Office of Higher Education
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
197 Coordination/Collaboration Articles | Page: | Show All
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