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BuildStrong Education launches, supporting a foundation for education in the Front Range

Oakwood Homes has built its Foundation for Educational Excellence into BuildStrong Education. The newly launched foundation renews its focus on creating high-quality schools and improving the relationship between communities and schools to build bonds that make neighborhoods safer and stronger.

The Foundation for Educational Excellence was launched by Oakwood Homes Founder Pat Hamill in 1997. The Denver-based residential developer, has helped fund and plan numerous schools in communities it’s developed. It has invested more than $4 million into educational programs in Green Valley Ranch, Montbello and the broader Front Range. The initiatives have included professional development, student recognition, new school development and the creation of collaborative public/private partnerships. 

“Pat Hamill’s dedication to building strong schools has created tremendous educational opportunities for our children in far Northeast Denver,” explains Denver Mayor Michael Hancock. “If we want great communities, the schools will lead the way, and Oakwood Homes’ BuildStrong Education is setting the stage for these schools to soar.”

The new organization has a focus on northeast Denver, where it says only 34 percent attend high performing schools, which it calls the lowest rate in the city’s school districts. That’s despite it housing two of Denver’s highest performing schools.

The organization also will support the recently launched Colorado Homebuilding Academy. That organization is aimed at training students and others to find gainful employment in construction industries. In Colorado there are currently more construction jobs than workers. 

SecureSet Academy closes $4M Series A financing round

SecureSet Academy, which offers cybersecurity training in a bootcamp-style setting, announced that it raised $4 million in a Series A round of funding led by the Colorado Impact Fund (CIF). The funding will allow the academy, currently encompassing campuses in Denver and Colorado Springs, to expand its offerings into new markets.

"Partnering with Colorado Impact Fund and raising this Series A round is a huge step for us," says Bret Fund, founder of SecureSet Academy. "We have validated our curriculum and instructional model, which more effectively creates job-ready cybersecurity professionals for an industry with a severe shortfall of talent. This new round of financing and partnership allow us to take our validated model and expand it to new geographic locations. We're excited and ready to grow." 

SecureSet offered its first classes last year. It's one of a growing number of companies and organizations in the state that are aimed at cybersecurity. In 2016, Gov. John Hickenlooper announced a new National Cybersecurity Center in Colorado Springs and the University of Denver launched a new, one-year cybersecurity masters program.

"There is a dramatic supply-demand gap in this industry. Organizations who need cybersecurity professionals have found that certifications aren't enough," says Ryan Kirkpatrick, a CIF partner. "Our diligence suggests that SecureSet Academy's high-intensity education, world-class curriculum and experienced team will position the company to scale quickly while providing benefit to students, government and industry."

The funds will allow SecureSet Academy to scale its educational offerings. It says there is a critical need for cybersecurity expertise across the country. Thus far, the academy says it has placed 100 percent of its students in a security job within two months. The average starting salary in the industry is $84,000.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Grad students help design a more walkable Montbello

WalkDenver, in its latest partnership with CU Denver graduate students, is tackling walkability issues in northeast Denver’s Montbello neighborhood. 

Bordered by major streets including 56th Avenue, Peoria Street, Chambers Road and I-70 the neighborhood struggles with ensuring its pedestrians, including the children who make up about 40 percent of residents in the area, have access to safe walking routes.

WalkDenver reports that more than 90 percent of students at McGlone Academy and Maxwell Elementary -- part of its 10 school Safe Routes to School Travel Plan project -- live within a mile of their respective campuses and don’t have school buses, meaning that children in the area walk, bike or are driven to school. In making the assessments, the CU Denver students performed on-site audits, researched demographic data interviewed local residents and used the WALKscope tool.

The CU Denver students and their assistant professor, Ken Schroeppel, presented their findings to community members. They found a number of ways to help make Montbello a safer place for pedestrians. They recommended upgrading sidewalks to current wider standards throughout the neighborhood and identified a lack of safe crossings on the wide roads throughout the neighborhood. Other factors that reduce walkability in the neighborhood include poorly maintained sidewalks, high speed limits and a dearth of shade trees. The students recommended improving sidewalks, crossings and bicycle lanes close to schools, parks, recreation centers and libraries.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

 

Arts in Society grant program launching in Denver

The Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, Hemera Foundation and RedLine Contemporary Art Center have launched a new Arts in Society grant program. Bonfils-Stanton and Hemera are supporting the grants, which will range between $10,000 and $50,000. RedLine is administering the program, which will support social practice projects.

"Social practice or socially engaged art is where the artist integrates communities and topics or issues that are informed or relevant to those communities within the artwork in a collaborative way," says Louise Martorano, RedLine executive director. As such it will support projects that work across multiple sectors. "An artist could collaborate with a nonprofit service provider that focused on healthcare or homelessness," Martorano says.

"There are many national examples of this type of work like with Theaster Gates and the Dorchester Projects in Chicago, Rick Lowe and Project Row Houses [in Houston], Creative Time [in New Orleans] and their production of Waiting for Godot," says Martorano. A local example comes from RedLine's resource artist Tracy Tomko asked artists to envision, in art, solutions for emotional and psychological challenges through her "Institute for Non-Bizarre Treatment" project. The gallery also will host another example of the type of projects the grants could support in Baltimore artist Graham Coreil-Allen's New Public Sites walking tours project on Aug. 10 and 11. The tours showcase overlooked public spaces.

The site for the new grant program will go live Aug. 10 and the portal for applications will be available Aug. 15. Artists must submit a letter of intent by Sept. 26 to be considered for a grant. RedLine will host information sessions about the new program on Sept. 1 and Sept. 11. To attend, email Martorano at louise.martorano@redlineart.org.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.


Denver proposes dedicated fund for affordable housing

On July 13, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock and Councilwoman Robin Kniech introduced the details of the city's plan to create funding to support affordable housing.

Pending approval by Denver City Council, the funding will be generated by way of development fees and property taxes. Over the next 10 years, the new funding stream could generate $150 million, allowing for the construction of 6,000 new homes for low- to moderate-income families in the city and catalyze thousands of jobs in the process.

"There is no more important a priority in Denver right now than affordable housing," Mayor Hancock said. "In my state of the city speech yesterday, I spoke about the thousands of people who lack the simple advantages so many of us take for granted, like a place to call home. Home ownership gives families a foundation to build equity, build wealth and build a life. This is a fair, balanced and modest approach to address one of the most pressing problems facing Denver today."

The proposal from the mayor's office are expected to cost residential property owners $1 a month and commercial property owners $145 annually for every $1 million worth of commercial valuation. It also would establish a one-time development fee on new construction projects collected when a project receives its building permit. Residential construction fees for single-family homes will carry a 60 cent per square foot fee and multi-family homes will carry a $1.50 per square foot fee. Industrial projects will pay a 40 cents per square foot fee and retail, hotel and other commercial development will pay a $1.70 per square foot fee.

"By pairing a small portion of the property tax revenue that Denver voters approved almost four years ago with what would be one of the lowest one-time fees on new residential and commercial development in the nation, our broader community will be coming together with a sector of the economy generating some of the demand to create a bold solution for affordable housing in Denver," Kniech contended.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Posner Poverty Hack comes back for second year

Launched in 2015, the Posner Poverty Hack, a 2.5 day-hackathon aimed at fighting global poverty issues, brings teams together to address issues of poverty. This year's event will focus on creating solutions for three of the Posner Center's organizations: the Africa Agenda, Starfish and The Women's Bakery.

"The challenges are informed by the expressed needs of these communities and we're actively working alongside these communities to support the development of meaningful solutions," explains Posner Center Director Meg Sagaria-Barritt. "We're looking for people with skills in tech, education, database development, entrepreneurship and much more," she says.

The Africa Agenda is challenged with a new digital strategy and news service to change the way people understand, talk about, and interact with Africa. The organization wants to engage African communities and the inform the public with African news and information. Starfish is focused on empowering young women in Guatemala to lead transformational change. It wants to develop a platform to monitor and evaluate their holistic educational and empowerment program. The Women's Bakery (TWB) operates in East Africa where it provides opportunities for women based on a nutritious bakery business model, training, and long-term development opportunities. It wants to develop a mobile application to support local bread sales, enhance safety for sellers and increase accountability and professionalism.

The hackathon will be held at Denver's Posner Center July 10-12. The event will culminate in a happy hour on July 12 when winners of the hackathon will be named.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
 

Aten Design Group sponsoring free events on Drupal, information architecture

Denver's Aten Design Group knows the importance of information architecture and understanding content management systems (CMSs). As such the company is hosting one of the World Information Architecture (IA) Day meetings on Feb. 20 and sponsoring a free Drupal 8 workshop on March 11.

The first event, the World IA seminar is being held at Aten's offices at 3507 Ringsby Ct., unit #111, in Denver. The Drupal 8 event is being hosted at Galvanize LoDo at 1644 Platte St. in Denver.

It's the first time Denver's hosted a World IA event and is one of more than 50 events taking place across the world on Feb. 20. The event is focused on the practice and education of information architecture. This year's focus is 'Information Everywhere, Architects Everywhere.' During the seminar, being held between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m., industry experts will discuss the shape and future of IA and how people all over the world are using it.

Following that on March 11, the company is sponsoring a free micro-conference 8:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Galvanize to help Drupal users learn more about the latest Drupal, Drupal 8. The widely used, highly customizable CMS system. The morning sessions will focus on major differences between Drupal 7 and Drupal 8 and the afternoon sessions will practice putting some of the new tools into use..

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.


RAFT focuses on unique learning experiences with Broncos, new pilot

RAFT (Resource Area for Teaching) Colorado is gaining traction. It recently partnered with the Denver Broncos to create interesting STEM challenges for children, moved to Steele St. and is piloting new programs aimed at creating maker spaces.

"The Tackle STEM program is a partnership between the Denver Broncos and Arrow Electronics with a goal of promoting STEM learning for kids," explains RAFT Colorado Executive Director Stephanie Welsh. The partnership with the Denver Broncos and Arrow engages students with a popular team in Colorado as well as through experiential learning rather than learning via book or lecture.

"They have sponsored three activity kits for us:  the Broncos Blaster, Flick a Field Goal, and Broncos Biomechanics," Welsh says. "We launched these activities at Share Fair Nation held at University of Denver in September, where hundreds of kids had the opportunity to create and play and learn from them, and we now are stocking the kits in our resource center."

The organization also is launching a Mobile Make pilot program in the Spring. Though details on the program are being refined, Welsh says it will take RAFT's resources to students and teachers around Colorado. "The content will focus on making -- we will help libraries and schools learn how easy and inexpensive it can be to set up and run maker spaces and how to maximize the learning that happens within them, by setting up temporary maker spaces for community members to enjoy and then by providing training for teachers and librarians," she explains.

It's an expansion of RAFT Colorado's core, which makes use of donated materials to help advance education for kids. The materials can be purchased by schools or teachers for their own in-class projects. "These donations are the most helpful for us because, in addition to the higher volume, we receive large quantities of the same item, which is helpful for teachers who need enough materials for all of their students, and for us when we are assembling hundreds of money- and time-saving educational activity kits," Welsh explains.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.


PaintCare launches statewide paint recycling program

Too many people have leftover paint after repainting their home or apartment. This stuff usually sits around until it can't be used anymore or ends up in the dump -- which is not good since paints can leach toxic materials into the ground. But last year Gov. John Hickenlooper signed legislation into law requiring paint recycling. Now, through the free paint recycling program, PaintCare, Coloradans are able to recycle the paint hiding behind the stairs, in the basement or in the garage -- for free!

PaintCare was set up by paint manufacturers as a way to mitigate paint waste. The organization says that more than half of the materials handled by household hazardous waste facilities is paint.


There are already nearly 50 paint drop-off locations in the Denver area, and the organization already has more than 100 locations throughout Colorado. Many of these are at hardware and paint stores

"We are thrilled to see the excitement and energy from Colorado retailers to become paint drop-off sites," says Paul Fresina, PaintCare's director of communications. "Before the program was implemented, many people didn't have any easy way to get rid of their unwanted paint, but now Coloradans have the option to simply drop off paint at a PaintCare retail partner near them for recycling."

The legislation signed by Hickenlooper doesn't require a fee for recycling. However, Coloradans are already paying to recycle paint when they purchase it. That's because the legislation imposed a small fee on the purchase of paint. For instance, a five-gallon bucket of paint carries a $1.60 fee to handle recycling.

Once the paint is collected PaintCare processes it into a number of things. Some is remixed into recycled-content paint, used as fuel or made into other products or. In some case, when paint is unrecyclable, PaintCare dries it out and disposes of it. Visit www.paintcare.org to learn more.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.


OrderUp is Uber for your burrito

There are times when you want to order in and don't want something from a restaurant that delivers -- or maybe Micky D's. (Hey, it happens, not judging.) That's where services like OrderUp Denver come in. It's like an Uber app for your food. The company recently re-branded from Mile High Menus to OrderUp, a national brand with an app that allows people to order everything from a Big Mac to a Jamba Juice for delivery.
 

Brothers Mike and Dan Rolland launched earlier versions of the food delivery service at Indiana University (B-Town Menus) and in Boulder as Hungry Buffs. In the Denver area, they now have agreements with about 150 restaurants in the Denver area. Regardless of order size for the majority of the restaurants in the program the delivery fee is $4.99. Some -- mostly those who offer delivery services themselves -- have lower rates.

The app features a delivery tracker so restaurants and customers can see where the food is in transit. It also lets people coordinate orders via text or email, so it's not just one person going around trying to figure out what everyone wants in the office at lunch or at a party.

By re-branding under the OrderUp umbrella, the company is able to establish more continuity and name recognition, helping to establish the business under a nationally recognized brand while remaining local. As such they're joining the ranks of ordering services like GrubHub, Foodler and others.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.


The Imaginarium at Denver Public Schools launches the Design for Equity Challenge

On June 10 the Imaginarium at Denver Public Schools is launching a new competition to come up with solutions that meet the needs of Denver's students, the Design for Equity Challenge. The two-day event will kick off at 6:30 p.m. at High Tech Elementary School in Denver.

This challenge brings the public, non-profits, private and entrepreneurs together to focus on blended learning and educational technology. In all, up to $80,000 will help a total of four teams fund their winning projects -- with each winning team able to capture up to $20,000 to make their vision a reality.


The Imaginarium is inviting the public to come to the event and pitch ideas to help make Denver Public Schools better. It's also inviting the public to attend the event to vote on which projects to support and enjoy food, music and activities.

This is the second challenge the Imaginarium has launched in 2015. Earlier this year it held a $50,000 competition focused on personalized learning, according to organizer Sarabeth Berk. "The winning team focused on changing electronic worksheets to make them more interesting," she says.

This round of the challenge will focus on more blended learning solutions, with Janus Capital Group leading the funding for the program. "This time it's focused on educational technology since Janus is inserted in blended learning and technology."

The Imaginarium also has plans to launch more challenges. "Our goal is to do about three a year. We're trying to instill these challenges as a regular event," Berk explains. "Different funders are sponsoring different challenges and depending on the theme the amount of money available may shift. But we expect a significant amount of dollars each time."

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.


WALKscope helps Denver address walkability weaknesses

WalkDenver introduced WALKscope, a new online app that allows people -- anywhere in Denver and some surrounding areas -- to quickly identify and add to a database of pedestrian issues. Already the organization is harnessing the app's power to create reports on pedestrian issues near schools, to make them safer who students who walk, bike or skate to school.

"It's an interactive map that anybody can use to crowd-source data about the pedestrian infrastructure in their own neighborhood," explains Jill Locantore, WalkDenver's Policy and Program Director. "They just add a pin to the map, add some information: Is there a sidewalk? How wide is it? Is it in good condition?"

Users can also upload information about intersections, crosswalks whether drivers are obeying stop signs and other safety concerns.

"It's so that we can start building up the evidence base of pedestrian infrastructure and where do we see the real needs and start focussing attention so the city can make better more informed decisions about how it chooses to spend its limited transportation dollars," Locantore says. "We're sharing the information with the principals of the schools, Denver Public Works, CDOT and other entities that are interested in using this information to make the case for some very targeted improvements."

WalkDenver partnered with Denver's PlaceMatters to create the app, according to Locantore. "It was kind of a perfect marriage," she says. "We got a grant from the organization Mile High Connects in 2013. WalkDenver and PlaceMatters together to develop the application."

The app launched in February at the Partners for Smart Growth conference and attendees were asked to, well, walk a mile in their shoes so to speak, identifying pedestrian issues and adding them to the map.

"Since then, we've been encouraging people to use it as a tool but also we're very focused on walk audits," Locantore says. The audits are more in-depth walkability reviews of neighborhoods and areas around schools, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and those with high pedestrian accidents.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Ready, set, vegetable! Find your local farmers' markets online

You can always go and get your fruits, and vegetables from the grocery stores, but they come from parts unknown and suffer from a lack of diversity -- and it's expensive.

It's June, it's time to be outside. Over in Palisade, peaches are ripening, and like wildflowers, farmers' markets are once again popping up. Overall, there are nearly 30 farmers' markets in the metro region with a lucky 13 close to Denver's heart.

Finding them and figuring out where and when they open and close can be frustrating, but Derek Rojers of Extra Space Storage recently created a Google map with all that information, making it easier to see how close people at to their local farmer's markets.

"I made this map as a way to help local businesses and people, who are the main support for our business here at Extra Space Storage," he says. "It is a community effort that we are hoping will help to grow the local community, help people, and keep money in Denver."

Rojers says he scoured the Internet to learn about local farmers' markets and got some added input from people who emailed him. "People cannot add their markets to the map, but they are more than welcome to email me and I will add them," he says.

Oh, and did we mention all the free samples farmers and local food manufacturers like salsa and sauce and jam makers give out? In a word, yum.

Check the map out and find your local farmers' market below. 


Map provided by your local Extra Space Storage

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Ticket Cricket offers an alternative to parking tickets

It seems Denver thrives on issuing parking tickets and infractions, after all when you’ve forgotten to pay off previous parking tickets -- after all, it’s not called the Oklahoma City Boot or the Big Apple Boot, it's the Denver Boot. But at least one local startup, Ticket Cricket, is trying to change that with a new app and perhaps a nicer way to avoid getting a ticket.

"What’s the purpose of the parking ticket?” asks Ticket Cricket Co-Founder and CEO Taylor Linnell. “If you get a ticket on your windshield two things happen: One, you have no idea you have a ticket, obviously you would have tried to pay your meter; or two, you got a ticket and now you’ve got no incentive to move your car. If the whole goal of parking tickets is to increase parking turnover, then actually issuing a parking ticket does the reverse of that."

“We want to give coverage to people when life gets away from them or the need goes a little longer than you thought, life’s just so busy and chaotic," Linnell adds. “It helps everyone involved. Why not find them a solution focussed on cooperation?" That’s where the Ticket Cricket app is trying to make headway in Denver and other cities.

The premise behind the app is the ability to extend the time a user can stay in a spot after the meter expires without receiving a ticket -- but still paying a fine -- for the time they need to get back to their vehicle and move it. For instance, a user could get 5 more minutes for $5 or 10 minutes for $10 -- still less than a $25 ticket but enough to make them want to move their vehicle before getting a full-fledged ticket. Linnell originally set up some ideal times and target prices but says the system needs to be flexible to allow different cities to implement it at the rates they deem appropriate.

The app works by communicating with parking patrollers and chirpers (users). When a user parks their vehicle they can log in, geotagging their vehicle. When a parking patroller nears a car owned by a chirper close to or after the time the chirper's time at the spot is up, the patroller is alerted and can push a request to the chirper to extend that time for a fee. The chirper can choose to pay to extend their time at the spot for a short time or get the ticket.

Taylor says he has an upcoming meeting with Denver Mayor Michael Hancock about the app and is in talks with other cities about implementing the Ticket Cricket system, but so far it hasn't been deployed. That said, the ad-supported app is already available for download at the iOS store.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.

Cameras rolling for One Day in Denver on April 26

What do you want to say about Denver? What do you want people to know about Denver and what’s great or not so great here? That’s the focus of One Day in Denver, the local version of One Day on Earth's latest project, encouraging people to go out and film their cities and focus on the issues they think are important.

The project, which is taking place in 11 U.S. cities from New York to Los Angeles, will ultimately result in a three-part television series that will air on CPT 12 PBS locally, explains Kristin Nolan, the local producer for project. Nolan also produces the Starz Denver Film Festival and other projects in the city.

Nolan anticipates that roughly 200 films will be submitted locally. Some of them will be raw footage while others will be edited. Ultimately, they’ll become part of the larger project. "They'll be culled through and pieces to help highlight storylines will be pulled out and really speak to the overarching themes behind the event, which are: Where are we now? What do we appreciate? Why do we live in cities? What are some of the issues that we face living in cities? What are some resolutions to those issues that we’re looking at? All of those items will be highlighted in that series across the three parts."

"All of the participants, filmmakers, organizations, individuals are creating pages within our website and it's very much a social website, an interactive geotagged website where everyone can say:, 'Hey, here's who I am, here's what I do. Here's how you can engage with my work and here's what I’m bringing to the table for One Day in Denver." The site also features an interactive map with links to the other participating cities.



It's been a changing experience for Nolan. "I've sensed Denver in a way that I never have before and learned so very much about organizations and the passions and individuals," she says. "Other people can have that experience as they move through the map."

Videos must be filmed on April 26 and submitted by May 26. "If someone wants to do an edited piece I’d recommend one to four minutes," Nolan says. "Something dynamic that's digestible." Those uploading raw footage can upload more than one piece, but each is limited to 500 megabytes.

You can register to participate in the project here. Nolan is hosting an event April 17 at SPACE Gallery at 400 Santa Fe Dr. from 5:30-7:30 p.m. to discuss the project and answer questions.

Contact Confluence Denver Innovation & Jobs News Editor Chris Meehan with tips and leads for future stories at chris@confluence-denver.com.
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