Tuesday, May 22, 2018
News Roundup

Osceola High junior wins $10,000 business grant

When Osceola High junior Joey Sleppy was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in middle school, he was crushed. He loved physical activities but did not have the energy for them. He put on weight and lost his hearing. "It was hard to stay fit," the 16-year-old recalled. It wasn't until high school, with the help of a weight-lifting coach, that Sleppy got his strength back. And thanks to cochlear implants, his hearing is restored. Today, he has a 4.5 GPA, runs track, swims, does bench presses and plays baseball and lacrosse. And recently he won a $10,000 grant to start his own business.

The award is the first of its kind from the Pinellas Education Foundation's Next Generation Entrepreneurs Program. Sleppy edged out 75 students from 15 Pinellas County high schools to win the yearlong competition that helps students develop business skills.

"He's a driven young man, He's got a passion for what he does," said Terry Boehm, president of the foundation. "What he developed was adaptive exercise equipment for folks with disabilities."

The idea for the equipment took shape during a class assignment involving engineering design software. Sleppy decided to create a tool that would help wounded veterans or those with hand injuries to do pushups.

Called Pushup Assistant, the device relies on airbag compression to hold a person by their forearms, keeping strain off of the wrists.

He bounced problems off his engineering teacher, Gary Shepard. When a foundation official came by to spread the word about the competition, Sleppy was hooked.

"It clicked in Joe's head; he had always thought about devices to help people," Shepard said. "He came in and told me about his idea and it took off from there. … I am amazed. I would have never thought of something like that."

The fact that the device can benefit others was what made it stand out, said Kurt Long, a judge in the competition and the CEO of FairWarning Inc., a Clearwater-based health information security company that sponsored the grant.

To make the final cut, students competing for the grant had to write a business plan and pitch it to a panel of judges, Long said. Projects presented by finalists included edible cupcake liners, a UV light doorknob sanitizer and a mobile device app that can identify poisonous plants and animals.

To win the competition, students have to show their projects can become viable businesses and can make a difference in their customers' lives.

"Joe's project best serves all those ideas," Long said.

However, Sleppy won't be receiving the award in one lump sum, he said.

He'll get payments based on milestones such as registering the business and developing a Web presence, under the guidance of mentors including Long.

Eventually, the money will allow him to develop prototypes, Sleppy said.

"Once I get that, I can create five products and get that to a veterans hospital to test it so different people can try them out and give me suggestions," he said. "With the suggestions … I can redesign it again. Then I can patent the idea and get more investment so I can produce more. I want the product to come out next year."

This is the kind of thinking foundation officials say they want to foster through the competition. They want students to think about career development and, perhaps, alternatives to college.

"One of the failures of education today is it's not providing students with career planning," Boehm said. "There are plenty of reasons to go to college and get a degree. But the idea of going to college and getting just any degree, that is foolish. That is not a fair way to prepare kids for the future."

The competition and the Next Generation Entrepreneurs Program is meant to get students thinking about their careers, Boehm said.

Even though Sleppy is set up to create his own business, he still wants to get a mechanical engineering degree.

"I'm absolutely going to college," he said. "I have faith in that my business will be successful, but education is very important. It's a safety net. I love school, I like being taught and I love learning."

Comments
The Daystarter: The Lightning and Capitals will play for it all in Game 7; Gen. Votel talks Syria; and the rain won’t let up on the bay area

The Daystarter: The Lightning and Capitals will play for it all in Game 7; Gen. Votel talks Syria; and the rain won’t let up on the bay area

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Today’s forecast? If you guessed more rain, congratulations. The forecast calls for scattered showers in the morning and then numerous showers in the afternoon with isolated thunderst...
Updated: 6 minutes ago

How to watch Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Washington Capitals Game 7: Game time, TV, live stream

There will be a Game 7 in Tampa Wednesday because the Capitals "were the more desperate team," because Alex Ovechkin was running over Lightning players all night Monday in Washington and because Caps goalie Braden Holtby played to perfection.Washingt...
Updated: 19 minutes ago
CentCom’s Votel: U.S. will stay in Syria to fight ISIS and keep an eye on Iran

CentCom’s Votel: U.S. will stay in Syria to fight ISIS and keep an eye on Iran

TAMPA — In March, President Donald Trump said he would be pulling U.S. troops out of Syria "very soon." But they’re still there, and will stay there, to defeat what’s left of the so-called Islamic State, says the man in charge of military efforts in ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me:In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing?When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-in-t...
Published: 05/22/18
State You’re In: When fiction becomes fact

State You’re In: When fiction becomes fact

TAMPA — History can easily be distorted. If wrong assumptions are made and repeated often enough, falsehoods have a way of becoming "fact.""It happens," said Andy Huse, a librarian with the University of South Florida Special Collections Department. ...
Published: 05/22/18
Five ideas for cooking with lavender

Five ideas for cooking with lavender

Lavender is almost as pretty to smell as it is to look at, but as far as taste goes, the results aren’t always as appealing. A little like cilantro, lavender can taste soapy to some people, making it a tricky plant to use properly. But, when used the...
Published: 05/22/18
Lightning-Capitals: Washington forces Game 7 with 3-0 victory

Lightning-Capitals: Washington forces Game 7 with 3-0 victory

WASHINGTON — The Lightning let one get away Monday night. And it might cost Tampa Bay a chance at the Stanley Cup.So now there will be a Game 7 to decide the Eastern Conference. Maybe this is how it should be. Maybe this is how it's supposed to...
Updated: 5 hours ago
The weather didn’t get Lightning fans down. Losing Game 6 did.

The weather didn’t get Lightning fans down. Losing Game 6 did.

TAMPA — If the Tampa Bay Lightning can overcome a 2-game deficit to the Washington Capitals and take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference final, then Deborah Schmeltzer can definitely drive across the Howard Frankland Bridge through a driving rainsto...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Lightning journal: Capitals had a shot at Jon Cooper

Lightning journal: Capitals had a shot at Jon Cooper

WASHINGTON — Interesting how things work out in the world of hockey.Back in 2012, the first NHL team to ever interview Jon Cooper for a head coaching job was actually the Washington Capitals. The Caps general manager at the time was George McPh...
Updated: 5 hours ago
History has been kind to Lightning in Game 7s

History has been kind to Lightning in Game 7s

WASHINGTON — There's nothing more delicious in sports than Game 7.Unless your team is playing in it. Then there's nothing more nerve-racking.Most sports fans watch a big game with a nice cold drink. But if your team is playing in a Game 7, the ...
Updated: 6 hours ago