Innovation Lab, Small Business Dev Center Speak at CEO Club

Chad Mairn showing students the cool tech in the iLab!

Innovation Lab manager Chad Mairn, and Kurt Forster of the Florida Small Business Development Center spoke at the March meeting of the Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization on St. Petersburg College Seminole campus on 19 March, 2015.

Mairn spoke to students about the lab’s start as a place to play with technology, and learn by doing. He discussed the technologies that students and library patrons use every day in the lab in LI 201, including 3D printing, digitizing real world objects, the make your own wearable tech kit, and the lab’s many robots. A key point in the day’s talk was the opportunity to play with technology, and having the opportunity to make mistakes. “We worry too much about grades, I think. In here? Come in and fail, I don’t care. If you have an idea you want to try? Do it” said Mairn. After the lecture members of the CEO club on took a tour of the lab and saw the technology in use there.

Students had a unique opportunity to see the lab’s Monolith 3D printer torn down for maintenance, giving them a look up close at the print head’s inner workings. They also got a short demo of the Korg Little Bits kit from Mairn, who plays with local band Fowler’s Bluff during his time off. CEO club members also heard about a unique use for the lab’s podcasting station. Students in English classes have been using it to record classic, public domain novels, which are used by English as a second language students in their studies. Mairn also showed off the Cublets Modular Robotics kit, one of the most popular items in the lab at last year’s opening. Cubelets make robotics, and the basics of programming accessible and fun. Each Cublet contains a module, such as a motor, a sensor, or an instruction. Users stick the cubes together to make a robot that performs a simple task. For instance, a light sensor, a motor and a logic cube can make a robot that moves when it is in the dark. He also talked about how inexpensive hardware like the Arduinos that are the heart of the lab’s 3D printer and the Raspberry Pi are not only driving innovation, but making it accessible.

Upon returning to the meeting, Kurt Forster of the Small Business Development Center took the floor. The SBDC provides free consulting and low cost seminars to entrepreneurs. Seminars include starting a business, tax, finance, marketing and social media. A list is available on the Pinellas county Economic Development website. Forster was at the CEO meeting last Thursday to talk about the essentials behind a successful business.

This was an especially opportune time for Forster to visit the CEO club as students are in the final stages of preparing for the 5th annual elevator pitch and business plan competition. This year, more than $10,000 dollars will be awarded to students allowing them to jump start their business. Act fast! Students that want to enter the contest submit an intent to compete by March 30th, the competition and awards ceremony will be held at the end of next month.