Articles by

Glissette Santana

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    Photo courtesy of Miami Dade College. Video by Glissette Santana: The Idea Center at Miami Dade College incubates entrepreneurs of all ages from Knight Foundation on Vimeo. Marlise Urscheler, 23, considered herself a typical Miami Dade College student before she set foot in The Idea Center at Miami Dade College: She was working while studying for her associate’s degree in graphic design, and had not thought about becoming an entrepreneur or pursuing a tech-oriented career. The Idea Center helped her realize that she was interested in coding. At the same time, a class that taught those basic computer science skills, CS50x, was being developed by LaunchCode, a nonprofit supported by Knight Foundation that specializes in helping create opportunities for developers through job training and placement. Urscheler joined CS50x’s first cohort in South Florida, and now helps teach the class, while also doing freelance web development. “It really gave me those skills that I needed to succeed in something that I enjoyed doing,” Urscheler said. LaunchCode’s South Florida headquarters is housed within The Idea Center, an entrepreneurial hub sponsored by Knight Foundation, along with the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship (NFTE), which focuses on teaching kids with low-income backgrounds how to start a business. While NFTE hosts workshops and camps for high school and college-age students, LaunchCode is helping adults – aspiring technologists, information technology workers and developers – cultivate the skills needed in a real-world technology job market. Both organizations focus on improving the community around them by expanding access to opportunity, making The Idea Center an incubator for entrepreneurial and technology talent of all ages. 
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    Glissette Santana, center, and members and instructors of the student newsroom. Photo by Delano Massey.  I recently participated in the Student Projects for the National Association of Black Journalists/National Association of Hispanic Journalists Joint Convention and Career Fair in Washington, D.C. In a conference call the Wednesday before I flew to D.C., for the first time, the Student Projects mentors sternly told my fellow participants and me that our lives were about to change. At the time, I was sitting in a lobby on the second floor of the Langford Hotel in Miami, having stepped out of a happy hour for a departing colleague. My life wasn’t going to change anytime soon, I thought. But the next week, when I finally started working in the newsroom created for students to cover the convention, I learned several things I’m taking with me into my last semester at the University of Houston.
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    Photos by Glissette Santana. When Willie Avendano and Nelson Milian showed up to the headquarters of their company, 01, in Wynwood on a recent Tuesday, the place had no Wi-Fi. A service outage in the area caused them to rethink their game plan. moIn less than a half-hour, they would have 25 kids knocking on their door for their second day of Wynwood Maker Camp, where kids ages 8 to 14 learn how to program computers and use technologies like virtual reality and 3-D design. Avendano and Milian worked around the morning’s hiccup, teaching the campers cryptography, how to write and solve codes (or “secret messages,” as Milian referred to it) using tools of the previous generation: pen and paper. “It’s kinda like ‘Lord of the Flies’ in here,” Avendano said. Campers try to decipher code after learning cryptography at Wynwood Maker Camp. The two-week camp, held five times over the summer, comes with a one-month membership to Moonlighter, a makerspace a block away from 01, a prototyping studio focused on creating educational products in technology and gaming, where the campers take field trips. There, campers learn firsthand how 3-D printing works and see a laser cutter in action.
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    Miami and Charlotte skylines by Michael Bolden and James Willamor on Flickr. The Charlotte (North Carolina) Chamber of Commerce brought its annual Inter City Visit to the Knight community of Miami June 22 to 25, hoping to build off the entrepreneurial and startup energy of the Magic City. The tour, an annual event by the Charlotte Chamber that has been going on for more than 50 years, takes public officials and business leaders from Charlotte, another Knight community, to different cities around the U.S. to get a closer look at that city’s programs and initiatives, according to the chamber’s website. In recent years, the group has traveled to Nashville, Minneapolis and Houston. Matt Haggman, left, watches as Leandro Finol discusses Miami's startup community at The Idea Center. Photo by Glissette Santana.  A panel about investing in entrepreneurship, moderated by Knight Foundation Miami Program Director Matt Haggman, was on the agenda for members of the chamber. Leandro Finol, executive director of The Idea Center at Miami Dade College, Susan Amat, founder of Venture Hive, Leigh-Ann Buchanan, executive director of Venture Café, and Brian Brackeen, founder and CEO of face-recognition software and analysis company Kairos, led the hourlong conversation. During the visit, the group explored Miami landmarks such as the Port of Miami and Wynwood Walls. At each location, the visitors participated in panels about Miami’s economic  or philanthrophic success. During last Thursday’s discussion, Haggman said that greater talent retention and attraction is key to building expanded opportunity across communities and building a greater sense of possibility.
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    Above: Michaela Murdock, 14, and Alecx Murdock, 18, get advice on their business, The Hairy Travel, from Code Fever co-founder Derick Pearson. Photo by Glissette Santana. On their first day of summer camp, Zekai Hamilton, 11, and Eric Nanhay, 9, learned how to make memes and GIFs. This wasn’t an attempt to boost their social media followers, though. Zekai and Eric were building the marketing strategy for their business, Soccer Basketball Corporation, a game they created as part of a project during Code Fever’s Technology Summer Bootcamp. Gideon Kahase, 12, explains the wire frame for his business idea, an all-in-one gum that changes flavors, à la Willy Wonka. Photo by Glissette Santana. The six-week camp, held twice a week at the African-American Research Library in Fort Lauderdale, started June 13 and aims to teach minority children coding, as well as business strategies such as crowdfunding and marketing. Children ages 9 to 18 are participating in the free camp. Code Fever, a coding and startup school supported by Knight Foundation, focuses on teaching high-potential students technology and entrepreneurship skills essential to success later in life. The company also sponsors adult programs, which includes a 16-week intensive boot camp that teaches similar skills. Co-founder Derick Pearson said this is essential to Code Fever’s mission and the success of their camp. “You don’t want them to be pigeonholed,” Pearson said. “You want them to have any and every opportunity provided to them … teaching them business skills, teaching them the opportunity to monetize those skills, create revenue and a better life for themselves.”
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    Three teams made Roomba like vacuum cleaners, complete with 3-D printed wheels and laser-cut bodies. Photo by Glissette Santana on Flickr. Virtual reality headsets, 3-D printed hammers and robotic vacuums lined the showcase table at Make 1’s student showcase Thursday night at The Idea Center at Miami Dade College in downtown Miami. Make1, a 16-week product design and prototyping program run by The Idea Center, culminated in a student showcase featuring projects from 16 Make1 students. Knight Foundation supports The Idea Center. “This class is about prototyping, learning how to make things,” Make1 program lead Alex Uribe said in his opening remarks. “If you think about it, hardware is kind of having this renaissance right now and it’s coming back. We’re trying to bring that to students in the community.” Rodolfo Saccoman, CEO and co-founder of Admobilize, a company that analyzes face, gesture and vehicle recognition technology, gave the keynote speech. Photo by Glissette Santana. Alain Leon, a Make1 student, said his girlfriend encouraged him to apply for the class. “I learned how much I can drive myself when I’m working on things that are really cool and you believe you can achieve them,” Leon said. “Here you have a group that you can achieve them with.”  
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    Three cities in 24 hours were on DJ Patil’s itinerary this past weekend; two of them were Knight communities. Patil, chief data scientist in the Office of Science and Technology Policy for the White House, flew to St. Louis, Charlotte, North Carolina, and Miami in honor of National Day of Civic Hacking. These three cities were recommended by Code for America because they had experienced brigades (Code for America’s way of referring to local chapters) and because they could hold quality events, said Christopher Whitaker, brigade program manager for Code for America. The fourth annual event, organized nationally by Code for America and locally by Code for Miami, brought together developers, hackers, local residents and government staffers to help local communities better interact with government. Knight Foundation supported events in Charlotte and Miami. Miami’s event, one of over 100 held across the U.S., was hosted Saturday by Code for Miami, a volunteer civic hacking group, at The Idea Center at Miami Dade College. “If there’s one place that we’re seeing data takeover and change the landscape of the entire world, it’s happening at the local layer,” Patil said to participants Saturday night in Miami, his final stop before heading back to D.C. Civic hacking is the act of quickly improving the processes and systems of local governments with new tools and approaches, according to the Code for America website.
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    Above photo by Glissette Santana. Natacha St. Louis decided to leave her job working for a small city in South Florida after attending last year’s Miami GovJam, a two-day session for government and local workers to come together and find solutions to real-world problems. With its emphasis on service design, a methodology used to improve interactions between customers and companies, GovJam opened a “whole new world” for St. Louis. GovJam embraces creative ideas and the idea of collaboration between co-workers, something that she believed was missing when she returned to her job.   Now, St. Louis works for Broward County as a small business development specialist where, she believes, creative thinking, determination and teamwork are enabling her to make a difference in the workplace. That’s exactly why GovJam exists, said Ezequiel Williams, chief insights officer for Contexto, a company that consults businesses on how to revitalize their products through social science and host of Miami GovJam last week.
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    Photos by Glissette Santana. When Michael Montero received his first paycheck, he used the money to buy a desktop computer. He tinkered with it. Took it apart. Put it back together. His mom would get mad at him for hogging the phone line to dial up the internet. “I always had a passion for computers,” Montero said. “It was love at first sight.” The 26-year-old didn’t have the financial means to pursue coding, so when a friend told him about the Future Leaders of Technology scholarship, he applied. His lifelong dream became a reality when he was chosen as one of two recipients for the $10,000 scholarship, sponsored by Knight Foundation at Wyncode Academy, which covers tuition for a nine-week intensive coding boot camp, moving him a step closer to a new career. Wyncode “saw my passion for coding,” Montero said. “When you take something that’s an idea in your head and develop it into something that other people can use and give you feedback on, it’s priceless.”
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    Photos by Glissette Santana. It’s a Wednesday night in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District, and the concrete walls of a former warehouse are thumping to the sound of hip-hop beats. People line the hall, waiting for admission. But this isn’t the latest trendy nightclub. It’s the loft-style headquarters of Live Ninja, a video software startup, and the crowd isn’t part of a rope line. They are Miami’s up-and-coming tech and creative entrepreneurs, ready for networking with a side of waffles— tonight topped with bacon, chocolate and whipped cream. Almost two years after the first Waffle Wednesday, a breakfast social that serves networking alongside gourmet waffles, LiveNinja is expanding the gatherings to the after-work crowd with Waffles After Work, a nod to those who can’t make the morning event, which occurs almost every week. Waffles After Work takes place the last Wednesday of every month, and like Waffle Wednesday, is sponsored by Knight Foundation as part of its strategy of investing in Miami’s emerging entrepreneurs and innovators to help build community.