Monthly Archives: April 2017

Four RIT Venture Creations companies advance to finals of Rochester Venture Challenge

Large screen showing triangular WAVIO device with young man in black t-shirt at right explaining what is on the screen.

Four clients of the Venture Creations Business Incubator at Rochester Institute of Technology have advanced to the final round of the 2017 Rochester Venture Challenge business competition. The four companies will compete against each other and a fifth Rochester, N.Y.-based company—one of which will receive $25,000 in cash when the winner is announced during the Celebration of Entrepreneurship Luncheon on April 27 at Hyatt Regency Hotel Rochester. Cash and prizes will also be presented to the runners-up. The competition is hosted by High Tech Rochester.

Empire Medicinals, founded by RIT alumnus Qiaosong George Zheng ’15 (mechanical engineering technology), Chris Carter, Scott Valpey and Dr. Xinmin Zheng, is a biotech manufacturer looking to advance health and well-being by modernizing traditional herbal medicines through the cultivation, extraction and packaging of USDA organic, natural medicinal supplements. Their first product, Lingzhi Essence, is a dietary supplement made from Ganoderma Lucidum mushrooms, which reportedly addresses issues varying from immune system modulation to relieving fatigue.

Hz Innovations, founded by Greyson Watkins and co-founded by Nick Lamb ’16 (electrical engineering) and Zach Baltzer ’16 (microelectronic engineering), is the maker of Wavio, a sound recognition system that is connected to a home Wi-Fi system. When a doorbell rings, smoke alarm chimes, water faucet drips or dog barks, for example, the unit notifies the homeowner via smartphone, smart watch, tablet or laptop, and identifies the sound. According to developers, virtually any sound deemed important to the homeowner can be recorded and “memorized” by the system during installation.

Hz Innovations also won the 2015 Next Big Idea competition hosted by RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf and sponsored by ZVRS.

MicroEra Power, founded by Eleanor Rusling and James Grieve, is developing efficient stationary generator systems to provide businesses with reliable back-up power and cost-effective on-site power generation. The system replaces a diesel back-up generator with a hybrid power system operating on inexpensive natural gas or propane.

ThermApparel, founded by Bradley Dunn ’15 (industrial design), Kurtis Kracke ’15 (industrial design) and Crystal Mendoza Paulin ’13 (biomedical engineering), is a lower cost, discreet, flexible garment that assists patients with multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, cerebral palsy or other conditions by regulating body temperature in hot weather.

The finalists were selected from a pool of 35 companies.

Another Venture creations clientImpact Earth, a zero-waste solutions company providing individuals, businesses and event planners with personalized training on sustainable practices, advanced to the semi-finals of the competition but was eliminated from the finals.

“RIT’s Venture Creations business incubator congratulates these companies on their advancement to the Rochester Venture Challenge finals, which is a testament to the hard work and dedication of these entrepreneurs, their employees and our incubator coaches,” said Richard Notargiacomo, incubator director. “While we certainly look forward to seeing how our companies perform during the competition, we are even more excited about what the future holds for these innovative companies and the entrepreneurs who are leading the way.”

Venture Creations was created in 2003 to establish an environment in which new and technologically innovative businesses could develop from the research conducted or sponsored by RIT, translating academic research into commercially viable high technology. The incubator was designed to provide services to incubating companies, facilitating the design, development, construction and operation of these companies for the purpose of advancing the educational and research missions of the university through the enhancement of faculty, student and staff involvement in high technology. It was also created to promote economic development and competitiveness in Monroe County and New York State by encouraging and facilitating the transfer of technology resources to the marketplace. Thirty-three companies have graduated from the incubator and together have created 466 jobs.

The Rochester Venture Challenge is a collaborative effort among community organizations High Tech Rochester, Digital Rochester, The Entrepreneurs Network, Excell Partners, Nazareth College School of Management, RIT and University of Rochester.

Panara Forever Stamp dedicated

Six people on stage unveil an over-sized version of the Panara Stamp.

Educator Robert Panara, the first deaf faculty member of RIT’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf, was honored today by the U.S. Postal Service with a Forever Stamp.

The 16th stamp in the Distinguished Americans series features Panara, an influential professor and pioneer in the field of deaf studies and one of the founders of the National Theatre of the Deaf. The dedication took place April 11 in Panara Theatre, which was named after him.

The stamp features a photograph of Panara signing the word “respect” taken by RIT/NTID photographer Mark Benjamin and was designed by USPS art director Ethel Kessler.

“I’m very proud to see my dad honored and deaf culture recognized in this way, and I want to thank the personnel at the U.S. Postal Service Stamp Development Office for all their work in the design process,” said Panara’s son, John, also a faculty member at RIT/NTID.

During his teaching career, Robert Panara inspired generations of students, and his powerful use of American Sign Language to convey Shakespeare and other works of literature made him much beloved and respected by students and colleagues alike.

Panara was born hearing in Bronx, N.Y. At age 10, he contracted spinal meningitis, which left him profoundly deaf. He attended mainstream public schools and often relied on classmates to take notes for him or mouth words so he could lipread.

He graduated from DeWitt Clinton High School in New York City, learned sign language at the American School for the Deaf in Hartford, Conn., and then earned a bachelor’s degree at Gallaudet College (now University) in 1940, where he wrote several papers that established him as a leader in the field of deaf education.

In 1965, he was invited by U.S. Secretary of Education John Gardner to serve on a national advisory board for the establishment of NTID. He began his career at NTID in 1967 and became its first deaf professor. He also established the English department at NTID. He founded the NTID Drama Club and was a founding member of the National Theatre of the Deaf, and has been honored by the World Federation of the Deaf for his contributions to education and culture.

Panara died in 2014 at the age of 94.

“Bob Panara’s contributions to the field of deaf studies, theater and education are indeed worthy of celebrating,” said Gerry Buckley, NTID president and RIT vice president and dean. “RIT/NTID and the entire deaf community is justifiably proud that Bob is being honored in such a meaningful way.”

Those who were unable to attend or view the event, may visit www.facebook.com/USPS where a captioned version of the ceremony is archived.