2023 News

Reflecting on the Inspiring Collaboration of IGNITE and USF Upward Bound through the Rising TIDE Program

As the summer sun blazed across the Tampa Bay area, the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame (FIHF) and USF Upward Bound Program (UBP) proudly joined together to ignite the spark of innovation for the UBP Math and Science students. The IGNITE program, with its mission to inspire the next generation of inventors, partnered with UBP, a TRIO college-access initiative, in a remarkable collaboration that came to life through the FIHF Rising TIDE (Transformers, Innovators, Disruptors & Entrepreneurs) innovation education program.  

Throughout the two-week program, Rising TIDE participants experienced an immersive journey of exploration and discovery as they worked through the process of taking an idea from concept to commercialization. Guided by passionate mentors and speakers, including Glenn Whichard, an Affiliate Professor at the University of South Florida Muma College of Business and USF I-Corps Instructor, Larshá Johnson, an Associate Electronic Engineer at Northrup Grumman Advanced Systems and the Founder and CEO of Bits4Bots™️, and Ora Tanner, CEO at Black Unicorn Education, these high school students from Hillsborough County high schools dove deep into the art and science of innovation and invention while exploring a wide range of disciplines.  

Rising TIDE culminated in a Shark Tank-style pitch competition, where the young innovators presented their groundbreaking solutions to a panel of judges. Each group worked as a team to showcase remarkable ingenuity, addressing pressing issues that resonate with today’s world. Innovations ranged from urban pollination enhancements to groundbreaking traumatic brain injury care, efficient red tide cleanup, and cyberbullying prevention. One group showcased their ingenious creation – a football helmet equipped with sensors to measure the force of impact on players. The helmet comes complete with a cutting-edge app that connects directly to on-field trainers, enabling prompt medical assistance for injured players. 

Among the memorable highlights of the final pitch event, one moment stood out in particular — when Dr. Sylvia Wilson-Thomas, Interim Vice President for Research & Innovation at USF spoke to the students about their transformative journey, underscoring the collective commitment to fostering inclusive innovation and cultivating a generation of fearless thinkers. 

Reflecting on the student’s journeys of innovation, Madeline Stoddard, M.Ed., IGNITE Program Education and Outreach Coordinator and Rising TIDE lead instructor, said, “Looking over the brilliant innovations that the amazing Upward Bound students developed in a few short weeks, I cannot even begin to imagine what they will invent in a lifetime. From creating prototypes that involve the latest AI technologies, to learning more about Schwann Cells and Traumatic Brain Injury solutions, I have no doubt that the future is in good hands. I told the FloraWall group to call me when they are ready to install some vertical planters and paint my house a helpful pollinating scent! Watching them bring solutions from spark to launch instilled my hope for the next generation of changemakers to positively revolutionize all spaces around them — near and far.” 

As this year’s group of rising transformers, innovators, disruptors, and entrepreneurs sets forth on their journey, the Florida Inventors Hall of Fame eagerly looks forward to next year and the incredible opportunity to partner with the USF Upward Bound leaders and teachers, especially Raymond Cabrera, Dr. Lawanna Curry and Carrie Blaustein who have provided invaluable guidance and support throughout the journey. 

FIHF would also like to thank Florida High Tech Corridor’s Paul A. Sohl, Scoutlier by Aecern’s Brandy Jackson, Beth Price, and Luk Hendrik Lavery-VanParijs. Their support played a crucial role in making Rising TIDE a resounding success. 

Together with FIHF, they have ignited a fiery blaze of invention, illuminating a path towards a future where fearless inventors lead the charge, transforming lives, and shaping a better world for all.