Apple teases the future of augmented reality apps

For years, augmented reality has been the stuff of science fiction.

When Tom Cruise flung virtual case files around the room in “Minority Report” and Robert Downey Jr. prototyped his “Iron Man” suit using 3D holograms, you knew those films meant future.

Now, Apple wants to take a step toward making those concepts a reality.

Back in June, the company teased ARKit — a set of tools that enable developers to create augmented reality apps.

Related: Apple announces a new speaker, iMac Pro and iOS 11

Although we’re not getting dropped in Tony Stark’s workshop overnight, augmented reality apps are coming to the iPhone and iPad. And Apple seems confident that AR will be the next big thing.

In fact, Greg Joswiak, Apple’s VP of Marketing, calls it a “gigantic deal.”

“This is this dream of things you wanted to do as far as mixing the digital world into the real world,” he told CNN Tech. “It has so many applications — from shopping and entertainment to things we haven’t even thought about — but it’s been unattainable.”

In Apple’s implementation, augmented reality requires you to hold up your phone or tablet to see virtual objects implanted into the real world. For example, the new IKEA Place app — which will become available with the launch of iOS 11 — allows you to select furniture from its website and place it virtually within a room. So you can try before you buy.

While the virtual furniture doesn’t look entirely realistic, it’s close. The app measures the room you’re in and then places the furniture within it based on the item’s real dimensions. That way you can see how a couch or a chair might fit. The company says sizing is about 98% accurate.

But the concept isn’t entirely new. The Pokémon Go phenomenon last summer had people all across the country tossing virtual Poké Balls into city streets.

For AR to work on an iPhone or iPad, an app needs to find a plane — a floor, a table, some sort of surface for a virtual object to sit on. It then detects the light in the room. Virtual objects can reflect that light and cast a shadow, just like a real object would.

Most importantly, an AR application needs to constantly recalculate all of these things, so that when you move your phone, the object stays in place. If you’ve ever tried to use a Snapchat filter, only to have it flicker and jump around, you know this isn’t easy.

CNN Tech received an early look at some apps that’ll soon incorporate AR. While IKEA Place seems genuinely useful, others miss the mark.

The Giphy World app from GIF search engine Giphy felt a bit gimmicky. The app lets you overlay animated GIFs onto the people and places around you. You can then share that augmented tour with your friends.

But it was also easy to see how AR could find a natural place in gaming. “Arise” by Climax Studios places its world in front of you, allowing you to walk around or move your phone to adjust the perspective — rather than relying on buttons or a joystick to move characters.

Apple is being coy about new devices — such as the rumored glasses it’s reportedly been working on for years — that could also incorporate AR in the future.

For now, Joswiak said “rather than require specialized hardware and … [buying] something new … all you need is an iPhone or an iPad.”

The average American dad is getting older, study finds

Today’s American dad is slightly older — roughly 3½ years — than his counterpart from four decades ago, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Human Reproduction. The average age of a father of a newborn in the United States increased from 27.4 years old to 30.9 years old between 1972 and 2015, found Stanford University School of Medicine researchers led by Dr. Michael Eisenberg.

Men who want to become fathers might want to think about the implications of their choices, Eisenberg suggests.

“There is data that a man’s fertility declines with age,” Eisenberg, an assistant professor of urology, wrote in an email. “As such, it may make sense to not wait too long as it may be more difficult to conceive. In addition, there are some potential risks to children.”

More dads over 40

Eisenberg and his colleagues analyzed 168,867,480 births — all the live births reported in the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Vital Statistics System from 1972 to 2015.

The system records births and deaths reported by all 50 states and includes parents’ self-reported ages, education levels, races and ethnicities.

“Most data on rising parental ages in the US has been restricted to mothers,” Eisenberg wrote, which makes sense because birth certificate data are generally collected from mothers. “We wanted to examine trends in paternal demographics based on the data available on birth certificates since the 1970s.”

Over the study period, the portion of newborns’ fathers who are 40 or older doubled from 4.1% to 8.9%. Meanwhile, the proportion of dads who were 50 or older rose from half a percent to nearly one in every 100.

The youngest dad for the period studied was just 11 years old, while the oldest was 88.

Asian-American dads — in particular, men of Japanese and Vietnamese descent — were the oldest fathers, the study found. Their ages ranged upward of 36 years old, on average. More years of education also correlated with fatherhood happening at an older age during the 44-year study period. Typically, fathers with college degrees are just over 33 years old.

“Take home points” noted by Eisenberg included the fact that paternal age in the United States has risen “across all race/ethnicities, educational attainment levels, and regions of the country.” That said, some regional differences existed. Northeastern and Western states showed the highest paternal ages on average, the study found.

“A surprise to me was that more than 10% of birth certificates in the US lack paternal data,” Eisenberg said, although the reasons for that aren’t clear.

Though mothers tend to be younger than fathers, “the difference between paternal and maternal age has decreased over time,” Eisenberg noted. This suggests that both mothers and fathers of newborns are older today, but the average age of mothers is increasing slightly faster than that of fathers.

“These demographic trends reflect our society so if men are delaying fatherhood there are likely many implications such as smaller family sizes,” he wrote. “Another possible implication is a higher risk of certain diseases which are more prevalent among older fathers.”

One 2012 study estimated that the male germline — the genes a father will pass on to his children — develops two mutations every year; with an advancing average paternal age, inherited mutations in the general population will also rise, noted Eisenberg and his co-authors. Numerous reports have linked older fatherhood with an increased risk of autism, psychiatric illness, neurologic disease such as neurofibromatosis, pediatric cancer and chromosomal abnormalities in children.

“As such, these trends may suggest that we should be seeing more of these occur in children over time,” he said.

However, there are positives when older men become fathers, Eisenberg noted. Generally, they are more likely to be stable, with better jobs and more resources, and perhaps most important, they are more likely to live with their children and help with child-rearing.

No need to worry — yet

Magdalena Janecka, postdoctoral fellow at the Seaver Autism Center at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York, referred to the new study as “huge” in an email and said it offers “interesting insights into reproductive trends among different ethnicities and across the states.” Janecka, who was not involved in the research, published her own study of older dads this year and found that the sons of older dads had, on average, better educational and career prospects.

Overall, the new study’s findings “are in line with the trends observed in other Western countries,” Janecka wrote in an email, citing data from the United Kingdom indicating that average paternal age has risen from 30.6 years in 1991 to 33.2 in 2015.

However, the authors’ explanation for this upward trend in the ages of fathers, “including increased use of contraception, increased entry of women into the labor force, and longer life expectancy, may not represent an exhaustive list of possible causes for older parental age,” Janecka added.

“Such increase is not just a recent phenomenon,” she explained. One historical study found that the average paternal age in 18th- and 19th-century Sweden was 34.37 years, she wrote. “Similarly, in the UK, women’s age at motherhood in 1938 was only a year lower than in 2013,” with a dip occurring between those years, she said.

Speculating about underlying causes for the older ages of dads is difficult, she added, given that the new study does not include information about whether these older average ages resulted from delaying fatherhood or extending it.

When it comes to this upward trend in the age of fathers, Janecka does not believe worry is necessary — at least not yet.

As she sees it, a number of negative outcomes have been reported — including disorders like achondroplasia, a form of dwarfism, and autism — but there are possible positive results, including higher IQ for the baby, which may occur when men become fathers at older ages, she wrote. “We still do not know to what extent those associations are due to the effects of age itself and to what extent due to age-independent traits of men who decide to delay fatherhood.”

The role of maternal age with respect to these disorders is also unclear.

“One clear message” still emerges from the studies to date, Janecka said: “Contribution of paternal age to those disorders/traits is overall negligible and should not influence individuals’ decisions about the timing of parenthood.”

Escape rooms: Why people flock to these ‘tourist traps’

Escape rooms are having a moment. They’re the No. 1 local activity for a number of cities around the world on TripAdvisor, and they’ve been featured on reality shows such as “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.” But don’t worry if you’ve never heard of them; this is your explainer.

Escape rooms are simply mental puzzles played out in the real world’s 3-D glory.

Each word-, number- or logic-based challenge in a given escape room, once solved, opens a literal or figurative drawer or door to reveal another important clue. Each solve gets players closer to beating the overall game. In some cities, you escape zombies, while in others, you break out of jail.

If this reminds you of a video game, it’s because some say the genesis of the rooms were Japanese gamers who created IRL (in real life) versions of their favorite virtual spaces.

Others argue that they originated with the (super) smart set; MIT’s Mystery Hunt has been around since the early 1980s. The MIT games involve more than just puzzle smarts, and include genuine scientific skills like wet-lab testing, DNA examination and thorough scientific knowledge. But they do have a lot in common with escape rooms.

Those who excel at crossword puzzles and number games tend to love escape rooms, since it brings their skills to bear as part of solving a larger puzzle. But unlike doing an acrostic or Sudoku, or even a labyrinth or maze, escape rooms aren’t a solo solve-it experience.

“They’re a super-fun thing to with a group of people; they’re not something to do on your own,” says Cat Bohannon, a Seattle-based science writer who has tried several rooms. “Preferably you have at least three to four people, though some are set up to be a couples thing. But it’s better for a double-date situation.”

Many escape rooms are organized so that you can bring a group of people and have the room to yourselves, while others might match you up with random strangers to solve the puzzle.

Since time in the escape room ranges from an hour to 90 minutes, strangers can actually be an interesting dynamic.

“You never really know what someone’s secret nerd-dom is. Maybe they’re really good with word problems or finding patterns or brute force solutions when other people are looking for complex answers,” says Bohannon.

Finding out what everyone’s good at is part of the fun, whether you know them or not.

That said, escape rooms are never a guaranteed win. Especially if you’ve never done one before, your group can easily fail the challenge in the allotted time given. Your mission to save the world from aliens or knock down the Berlin Wall could flop, and it’s these “real” stakes that may be what keeps people coming back for more.

Strike Exitus in Sydney, Australia

Jacqui Angus, the brand manager for Funlab, the company behind eight escape rooms throughout Australia, says her best advice is to newbie puzzlers is: “Bring your cleverest mates.”

Strike’s rooms run the gamut when it comes to themes which include “a space station, a casino heist situation, a haunted house experience and a computer meltdown drama,” says Angus.

She says that choosing which motif suits the group is part of the fun, especially for new players. Each room is ranked by difficulty and “anything could be a clue to move you forward,” she says.

Sydney-based nurse Giulia Moretti visited the “Forensic” game which featured a set of rooms. “The first one was a police station setting, the second was a bunch of old evidence including bones and a skull, and the third was the scene of the most recent crime. It was super creepy,” says Moretti, who adds that she and her friends didn’t solve that room but still loved the game.

Strike Exitus, 22 The Promenade, Sydney NSW 2000, +61 1300 787 453

BreakOut Escape Game in Singapore

Palo Alto-based Lauren Joyce discovered escape rooms during her studies abroad in Singapore.

A friend organized the night in the “Magician’s Revenge” at BreakOut. Even though none of the people in the group had participated in an escape room before, the ambitious grad students chose one of the tougher challenges. (BreakOut has six rooms: Three are easier and three are more complex.)

“Here we were, a group of pretty competitive people, many whose jobs require solving complex problems—yet we couldn’t crack the codes. We had nothing on the regular escape room fans/groupies who know more about the types of patterns and clues to look out for,” says Joyce. Despite the fact that her group didn’t crack the case, she said it was a fun, dynamic night out and she wanted to try another room elsewhere to practice “being a cryptologist for the night.”

BreakOut, 31 Kreta Ayer Road, Singapore 088998, +65 6226 2688

Make a Break in Berlin

When Sydneysider Giulia Moretti visited Berlin with her boyfriend Richard Neo, they heard about an escape room that featured a famous local landmark.

“The mission was to get to the other side of the Berlin Wall (they actually had a fake wall put up in the room) and to send a radio message to tear the wall down,” says Moretti.

There were other escape rooms to visit in Berlin, but they specifically though visiting one with a local theme would make a great site-specific memory of their trip. “There’s always a sense of accomplishment when you crack some sort of code or get through a door,” says Moretti, which keeps her going back for more escape room fun when she travels.

Make a Break, Müggelstraße 8, 10247 Berlin, +49 30 31171383

Ninja Escape in Seattle

Seattle’s Ninja Escape is, according to John Harlacher, game designer and co-owner of the company, a “gang” of six games, all with one storyline. “It’s a connected universe,” says Harlacher, who got his start creating haunted houses and theater sets in New York City.

University of Washington grad Kayur Patel, who has completed about a dozen different escape rooms, says he loves the challenging puzzling aspects of these games. But he also really appreciates the great production design that go into some of them, citing Ninja Escape as an example.

Harlacher says he’s inspired by getting the feel of a 1980s video game into real life. “We have visual effects as well as sound effects—if you open something, there’s a happy sound, or if you do something wrong, there’s a bad sound.”

Patel has gone to escape rooms for a bachelor party and with cousins during a family reunion.

“It’s a good non-food/non-drinking/non-museum activity that we can do. It does work as a bonding event, and it’s also time-bounded. It’s only an hour, and after an hour you’re done,” says Patel.

Ninja Escape, 3800 Aurora Ave N #270, Seattle, 98103, +1 (206) 257-4907

OMEscape in San Jose, California

OMEscape is a franchise location of a Chinese escape game company, but the local owners made changes to the story lines to fit the local market.

Their most popular games include the all-ages-friendly Kingdom of Cats in which the kitties are in charge and the humans are the outsiders who have to compete with the smarty-cats to get back home.

Pandemic Zero features multiple rooms, including sewer tunnels and science labs. And Sorcerer’s Sanctum, one of the toughest games, features advanced technology.

With five different rooms all rated by difficulty level, the company really tries to cater to all different types of groups who might want to try solving a room. “The goal is to have fun with friends, not necessarily to ‘win’,” Sarah Zhang, the manager of OMEscape says.

She also reminds us of the most important aspect of escape-room success: “Don’t give up!”

OMEscape, 625 Wool Creek Dr E, San Jose, 95112, +1 (408) 622-0505

Maryland taxpayers advised to beware of new phishing scheme that impersonates IRS and FBI

— Comptroller Peter Franchot is warning taxpayers to avoid a new phishing scheme that impersonates the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the FBI as part of a ransomware scam to take computer data hostage.

The IRS says the scam email uses the emblems of both the IRS and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It tries to entice users to select a “here” link to download a fake FBI questionnaire. Instead, the link downloads a certain type of malware called ransomware that prevents users from accessing data stored on their device unless they pay money to the scammers.

“If you receive an email like this, don’t reply, download or respond in anyway. These tax scammers are after your hard earned money and personal financial information,” Comptroller Peter Franchot said. “My agency stands ready to help any Maryland taxpayer who gets an email like this and we remain vigilant in our united goal to protect citizens from these con artists.”

The IRS, state tax agencies and tax industries— working in partnership as the Security Summit— are conducting an awareness campaign called Don’t Take the Bait that includes warning tax professionals about the various types of phishing scams, including ransomware.

•Victims should not pay a ransom. Paying it further encourages the criminals, and frequently the scammers won’t provide the decryption key even after a ransom is paid.

•Victims should immediately report any ransomware attempt or attack to the FBI at the Internet Crime Complaint Center, www.IC3.gov. Forward any IRS-themed scams to phishing@irs.gov.

The Comptroller’s Office and the IRS do not use email, text messages or social media to discuss personal tax issues, such as those involving bills or refunds. If you are a tax professional and registered e-Services user who disclosed any credential information, contact the IRS e-Services Help Desk to reset your

e-Services password.

The Comptroller’s Office also advises taxpayers not to reply to phone calls or emails asking for confidential information, most especially Social Security numbers, birth dates, salary information or home addresses.

To report a problem, Maryland taxpayers may call 1-800-MD-TAXES or send an email to: mdcomptroller@comp.state.md.us.

Stranded hurricane survivors use Zello app to get help

“Elderly couple trapped on roof at this address.”

“We’re three volunteers looking for anyone with boats that we can jump on and help, over.”

These are just two of the messages that came through the walkie-talkie app Zello in one minute on Monday.

In communities ravaged by Harvey, floodwaters have left people stranded on rooftops, relying on rescue from volunteers and first responders. Smartphones are their lifelines.

On Zello, the volunteer organization Cajun Navy — founded in 2005 following Hurricane Katrina — is mobilizing rescuers through a channel called “Texas search and rescue.”

The push-to-talk app lets users send voice messages to different channels that can be heard from anyone listening to the channel. Stranded victims are uploading messages asking for help, while volunteers are talking to them directly, letting them know when help is on the way.

People can also talk to each other in private chats.

Listen for a few minutes and you can understand how dire the situation is for families trapped in their homes.

The relatively unknown communication app is one tech tool groups of volunteers are using to find people in need of rescue. Neighbors, out-of-state volunteers, and even reporters are rescuing stranded residents in Houston and other areas of Texas to assist overburdened first responders.

Many people are also using social media to ask for assistance, including Twitter and Facebook. While rescuers use this data to help find folks who need help, groups have also developed a grassroots data effort to collect information about victims and to let people know when they’re safe.

The Cajun Navy has created an interactive map called “Hurricane Harvey Rescue.” Those in need of help fill out a Google form and indicate their location. The map populates with the names and locations of people who need rescuing and notes who has been rescued.

Team Rubicon, a nonprofit that brings veterans and first responders to disaster zones, is also using the map to chart out where volunteers are most needed.

The organization, created in response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti, has a network of over 50,000 volunteers. About 20 volunteers will be on the ground in Texas by the end of the day on Monday.

Team Rubicon’s robust data collection and analysis is a sophisticated way of maintaining communications and organizing people’s information in times of crises.

David Burke, the vice president of programs and field operations at Team Rubicon, said his organization is compiling data from social networks and the crowdsourced map. The team then cross-references public data with the Social Vulnerability Index, a government resource that uses education, income, rental rates, access to healthcare, and other factors to determine the resiliency of an area.

“This morning when we got up, we were looking at about 600 requests for rescue in the area — and right now we just crossed over 1,400,” Burke said.

During rescues, teams use mobile devices to collect data and share it with local jurisdictions.

FEMA has established guidelines for collecting information about people affected by natural disasters, and some of that data is still collected on paper. Team Rubicon uses mobile forms to automatically upload the data to Excel spreadsheets. It can share this data with law enforcement and policymakers to quickly determine where assistance is most required.

A completely tech-oriented operation means data is uploaded automatically; it’s a time saver and more reliable than paper which can become damaged or misplaced.

“Mobile collection is, or can be, immediately uploaded to the cloud and begins to paint the picture necessary to apply resources where they can be most effective,” he said.

On Monday, the group got a call from the Texas Department of Emergency Management to help with the damage assessment information collection for the Victoria, Texas area.

That data will be used to help determine allocation of federal aid.

“We are trying to share that information early, so people aren’t out trying to recollect and reassemble the picture two to three months from now in Houston,” Burke said.

Motorcycle Ride Raises Money for Little Boy’s Medical Treatments

Some motorcycles took to the open roads to raise money for a boy in Wayne County.

The Hamlin Hawgs held their 10th annual Andy Boandl Memorial Poker Run near Honesdale on Sunday.

This year, money will go toward helping with Levi Longo’s medical expenses.

Levi was born last year, three months premature and only weighed one pound.

He has undergone multiple surgeries and has been living his life in and out of hospitals.

The Hawgs have been riding for years, but this year, one rider has a close connection to the boy.

“I’m honored. We all have been a participant, but who realizes it comes back into your family? You don’t expect that, so it’s been overwhelming,” said Judy Longo, Levi’s great aunt.

The ride kicked off at Baers Sports Center and wrapped up at the Waymart Hotel where people enjoyed live entertainment, food, and raffles.

UNCF Raises $300,000 Toward Higher Education

— $300,000 was raised at the recent UNCF “A Mind Is . . .” Hamptons Summer Benefit benefiting deserving New York area students. More than 400 guests attended the Aug. 5-6 benefit weekend events, which were held at the private residences of Nancy Silberkleit, co-CEO of Archie Comics, and Lyn and E.T. Williams Jr., Frank Baker, co-founder and managing partner of Siris Capital Group, LLC and Dr. Ronald A. Johnson, president of Clark Atlanta University, were honored with the Keepers of the Flame award for being champions of diversity and education.

Joe Madison, SiriusXM Urban View radio talk show host, was master of ceremonies. Jane Carter, Errol Taylor, Desiree Watson, William Pickens III, Jean Shafiroff and Paula Taylor were co-chairs for the events on Saturday and Sunday. Dr. Michael Lomax, UNCF president and CEO, delivered remarks on UNCF’s impact in the state of New York and the importance of community support.

“Where else can you come together to send kids to college, but in such elegant surroundings in the midst of a Hamptons summer,” said Lomax. “With the support of the community, whom we call our army of advocates, UNCF has invested almost $2 million in college scholarships for New York students, millions of dollars in cash support and technical assistance for our 37 member HBCUs and the almost 1,300 New York students who attend them.”

In its 72-year history, UNCF has raised more than $4.5 billion to support minority students’ quest for better futures. Events such as these are made possible by the admirable support of community and corporate partners such as this year’s “A Mind Is . . .” Hamptons Summer Benefit platinum sponsors, Siris Capital Group, LLC and Synchronoss Technologies, Inc. Additional sponsors were Loida Lewis; the Reginald F. Lewis Foundation; Sidley Austin LLP; Greenberg Traurig LLP; RBC Capital Markets; Wellness Interactive; Adam and Stacy Coyle; Christina Lewis Halpern; Moët Hennessy USA; Notorious Pink Rosé; Jean, Martin, Jacqueline and Elizabeth Shafiroff; Sankofa Global Project; Errol and Paula Taylor; Zelnick Media Capital; Stifel; and Jeff and Caren Hendren.

Media partners were SiriusXM, World Bride Magazine, The Independent and Dee & Co. and MLM Presents.

Guests in attendance included such notables as Don Lemon, Earl Graves, Flo Anthony, Elsie McCabe Thompson and Dale Mason Cochran.

The electrifying weekend included a VIP brunch, silent auction, entertainment by Kym Hampton and Flow and a student testimonial from UNCF Gates Millennium Scholar, Rahim Mahmoud (Rutgers University, 2018) and Clark Atlanta Alumnus of the Class of 2007, Kevin Brown, CEO of Legacy Thinking Labs and founder of Debt Free College Academy.

NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) Announces Winner of DC-Baltimore Metro BizCamp Held This Summer

— From June through August, in 10 cities across the United States, including DC-Baltimore Metro, NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) hosted BizCamps® to students, ages 13 to 18, from under-resourced communities. Students created a business idea and then worked to complete a business plan, all the while activating their entrepreneurial mindset.  At the end of camp, young entrepreneurs presented their business plans to a panel of judges in a competition to win seed capital.

The DC-Baltimore Metro BizCamp winner is Ashon Bennett, 14, a student at National Business Academy, won for his business plan for Future LLC, the opportunity to enhance the human body’s repair and healing factor by sending signals throughout the nervous system and providing state-of-the-art healing. The DC-Baltimore BizCamp was held at Bowie State University in Bowie, Maryland. DC Public Schools and Prince George’s County Public School were the DC-Baltimore community partners. Additional local support for the BizCamp was provided by Bowie State University.

Young people learned how to develop their entrepreneurial mindset, the way entrepreneurs recognize opportunities, implement plans, build teams and overcome obstacles. Students were challenged to create ambitious yet practical plans and encouraged to use their entrepreneurial mindset to dream big and know they can accomplish anything. BizCamp activities included the NFTE curriculum covering topics such as return on investment, supply and demand, opportunity recognition and marketing.  Guest speakers included business professionals who brought the outside world to the BizCamp setting, and field trips included meetings with entrepreneurs at their workplace.

“Summer learning loss can be a serious issue for students in the communities NFTE serves,” said Shawn Osborne, NFTE’s President and CEO.  “With the help of the Citi Foundation we are proud to help address that trend by activating the entrepreneurial mindset in young people through BizCamp.  No matter what path students choose, the mindset will help them create opportunities for themselves, persist through challenges and be successful in the 21st Century innovation economy.”

NFTE BizCamps were held in the Bay Area, Chicago, DC-Baltimore Metro, Los Angeles, New England, New York, Newark, North Texas, South Florida and St. Louis. Lead support for all camps was provided by the Citi Foundation and in many programs Citi employees also participated as volunteers. In addition to DC-Baltimore Metro, other winners of the BizCamps include:

·Bay Area BizCamp: Jaime Mendoza, 17, and Randy Garcia, 16, from Kennedy High School for their business plan for Zooom, a company that will help other businesses grow by teaching digital marketing techniques that will modernize businesses and help them reach more customers. The Bay Area BizCamp was held at Mechanics Bank in Point Richmond, California. Mechanics Bank was the San Francisco Bay Area community partner. Jamie and Randy will compete in New York City on October 12th at the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.   

·Chicago BizCamp: Alexander Franco, 17, a student at Clemente High School, won for his business plan for Power Pouch, which incorporates flexible and inductive charging technology within a pocket to allow users to have their phone sufficiently charged throughout the day. The Chicago BizCamp was held at mHUB in Chicago, Illinois. Chicago World Business and mHUB were the Chicago community partners.

·Los Angeles BizCamp: Taryn Slater, 15, a student at Oakwood Secondary School, won for her business plan for Sweet Time, a baking subscription service that includes pre-measured ingredients, a recipe, and ice breaker note cards that give families questions and conversation ideas that encourage them to bond while they’re baking. The Los Angeles BizCamp was held at Junior Achievement in Los Angeles, California. Junior Achievement was also the Los Angeles community partner.

·New England BizCamp: Amanda Arcieri, 14, a student at Milton High School, won for her business plan for Snugmug, an insert that goes into a car or chair cup holder and expands it to fit a larger cup or mug inside it. The New England BizCamp was held at Suffolk University in Boston, Massachusetts. Boys and Girls Club of Dorchester and Suffolk University were the New England community partners, with additional local support for the BizCamp also provided by Suffolk University. Amanda will compete in New York City on October 12th at the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.

·New York Metro BizCamp: Melisa Ureña, 17, a student at The Columbia Secondary School for Math, Science, and Engineering, won for her business plan for Mel’s Food Green Stand, which offers a large variety of quality food at an affordable rate. The New York Metro BizCamp was held at NYU Steinhardt’s edtech incubator, StartEd, in New York City.

·Newark BizCamp: Enyshia Downey, 16, a student at Science Park High School, won for her business plan for Instrumentalists Inspired, which encourages the spreading of music to the Newark community. Filled with outstanding talent and potential, Instrumentalists Inspired offers affordable equipment, services, and events to uplift aspiring artists in the Newark area. The Newark BizCamp was held at Rutgers University in Newark, New Jersey. Additional local support for the BizCamp was provided by Rutgers University and MCJ Amelior Foundation.

·North Texas BizCamp: Amari DeFrance, 14, a student at Seagoville High School, won for her business plan for Amari’s City of Scrub, a residential cleaning service that cleans homes with eco-friendly cleaning products. The North Texas BizCamp was held at P-Tech High School at Seagoville in Dallas, Texas. Additional local support for the BizCamp was provided by AT&T. Amari will compete in New York City on October 12th at the National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge.     

·South Florida BizCamp: Tashai Smalls, 17, student at Law Enforcement Officers Memorial High School; Shawn Vilain, 17, student at Booker T. Washington Senior High; and Machelle Wynn, 18, student at Law Enforcement Officers Memorial High School, won for their business plan for Lather Skin, which seeks to improve skin care for teens and make them feel better about insecurities they have with their skin. The South Florida BizCamp was held at Empowered Youth at Trinity Cathedral in Miami, Florida. The Children’s Trust and Miami-Dade County Public Schools were the South Florida community partners.

·St. Louis BizCamp: Carlise Minor, 15, a student at Jennings High School, won for her business plan for Better Kids Better Adult, which gives victims of bullying an alternative option to suicide with a crafted customized program. The St. Louis BizCamp was held at Normandy High School in St. Louis, Missouri. Boys & Girls Club was the St. Louis community partner.

About Citi Foundation Pathways to Progress NFTE BizCamps across the country are supported by the Citi Foundation as part of its Pathways to Progress global expansion to prepare urban youth for today’s competitive job market. Thousands of students participate in this initiative led by the Citi Foundation designed to help young people become career-ready through first jobs, internships and leadership and entrepreneurship training.

About NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship)

NFTE (Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship) is an international nonprofit that activates the entrepreneurial mindset in young people and builds their knowledge about business startup. Students acquire the entrepreneurial mindset (e.g., innovation, self-reliance, comfort with risk), alongside business, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math), and presentation skills—equipping them to drive their best futures in the 21st Century. NFTE focuses its work on under-resourced communities, with programs in 22 locations in 9 countries. For more information, please visit nfte.com, like NFTE on Facebook at Facebook.com/NFTE, and follow NFTE on Twitter at @NFTE.

Beyond the Rhetoric

It has been a good span of fair weather in the Gulf Coast of the United States. However, that lull has ended. After 12 years, a major hurricane has landed on the shore lines. Hurricane Harvey has swept through the southeast coast of Texas including metropolitan Houston. It appears that a continuation of the storm will rebuild off shore and then move on into Louisiana. Prudently, the Governor of Louisiana has declared an emergency and it was quickly approved by President Trump. In contrast to Katrina, local, state, and federal government seem to have their act together.

When this is over, the rebuilding will begin. Billions of dollars will be involved in the process. Contractors from all over the nation and perhaps some international firms will be coming in to compete for the myriad of contracts. Every home with water damage will have to be “gutted” and retrofitted with new wirings, drywall, roofing, plumbing, etc. Warehouses, department stores, schools, etc. will need the same makeovers. From our lessons from Katrina we must be organized, vigilant and unrelenting in making sure our businesses will receive their share of opportunity.

There will be excellent opportunities for apprentice programs to train people who are unemployed to enter the workplace. Both Texas and Louisiana are right to work states so therefore we don’t have to worry about racist construction unions trying to apply their Project Labor Agreements. They are going to try but no one in Texas and Louisiana is going to give them the time of day. My phone is ringing off the hook already. People wanting to know what the process is. That is to be determined and from our experiences with Katrina we are going to do this with precision. Let’s hope!

It would be helpful to reflect on the Katrina process. First, the local officials of Louisiana were in disbelief about the magnitude of Katrina. It was doing a “bee line” straight to New Orleans and the local officials would not sound the alarm. There was no evacuation order given in time for the city to mobilize. There were hundreds of school buses that could be used to form an organized evacuation heading north to higher land. Unfortunately, the order was not given and the storm hit the city with full flurry. What were they thinking!

History has shown that New Orleans is in a very vulnerable place when it comes to flooding. History shows that political leaders will protect the commerce of the French Quarter of the city at any costs. Back in the 1930’s when there was a great flood flowing down the Mississippi River and heading to New Orleans the government decided to use dynamite to blow up a levy and redirect the flooding waters through Plaquemines Parish to save the New Orleans French Quarter. During Katrina, when the levy broke and diverted the deluge into the 9th Ward, many believed it was a similar process and mindset. That is still being debated.

Fortunately, we will not have that type of decision to make this time. During the Katrina clean up Black voices and concerns were not heard. In the beginning, the Army Corps of Engineers started slinging major contracts without a fair bidding process. They were handing them out to some of the largest companies in the world like they were dealing them out at a card table. When Congresswoman Barbara Lee, representing the Congressional Black Caucus, demanded to see a minority participation report the Corps sent a report that showed plenty of minority participation. I studied this and concluded it was a sham. They grab some Alaska Native Corporations to front on some of the major contracts. All they were doing was fronting for the major construction companies who were passing out the subcontracting to their “friends”.

We protested loudly. Soon, President George W. Bush received two sincere letters. One was from Congressman Al Wynn and the other was from Congressman Ed Towns. They both pleaded for the President to work with the National Black Chamber of Commerce to ensure adequate diversity in the rebuilding. During that time President Bush would have bi-monthly meetings with business associations -large and small. The NBCC got invited to one and I was given a “say” as to the status of my constituency. I was very frank and yet mannerly. The President who was waiting for this said, “Harry, tell your contractors to go back to those same doors that would not open and try again. If they don’t open this time get back with Karl Rove immediately. Wait three weeks and then do it.”

We started sending out our contractors and, low and behold, the world changed. We started getting contracts like crazy. FEMA would keep an updated report for Black participation and send it to me weekly. I could verify the numbers with the actual Black contractors. It was real! HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson let out $1.5 billion in contracts within a year. In all, Black contractors received over $3.2 billion in three years. This was the NBCC’s finest hour!

I am confident that we are going to have similar success this time. My Board of Directors is planning a new program. Stay tuned!

Mr. Alford is the Co-Founder, President, and CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce®. Website: www.nationalbcc.org Email: halford@nationalbcc.org

Here’s how you can help the victims of Hurricane Harvey

Rescuers continue to pull people from rising floodwaters. The traumatized and weary evacuees often have nothing but the soaked clothes on their backs. Aid groups are scrambling to provide shelter, emergency services and hope.

There are several ways you can help.

Donate money: By clicking on the button below, you can donate to charities vetted by CNN’s Impact Your World. These organizations are helping in Harvey’s immediate aftermath, and they will continue working through the long term.

If you are in Texas, there are additional ways you can contribute:

Donate blood: The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center desperately needs more than 2,000 units of blood. The biggest need is for O positive and O negative. A list of locations to donate blood can be found here.

Donate food and clothing: Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner is asking people to donate clothing, medical supplies, baby items, and food to nearby shelters. Feeding Texas is coordinating with local food banks to distribute food and cleaning supplies. The organization is asking people to drop off non-perishable food, bleach, and paper towels. The Texas Diaper bank is seeking diaper donations. You can mail them to 5415 Bandera Road, Suite 504, San Antonio, Texas 78238 or drop them off at the same address.

Help with clean up: Austin Disaster Relief Network is asking for toiletries, inflatable mattresses, undergarments, and cleaning tools. They can be dropped off at the Hope Family Thrift Store in Austin. Volunteers can also sign up for cleaning efforts there.