12-year-old girl, a Tampa Technology Innovator poised to take the tech world by storm!

Having recently partnered with The STEMIE Coalition, I had the opportunity to attend the NICEE (National Invention Convention & Entrepreneurship Expo) in June at the United States Patent & Trademark Office.

What a tremendous event! Kids from all over the U.S. coming to compete and share their invention. The STEMIE Coalition combines STEM-centric programs with Invention and Entrepreneurship. The curriculum is offered to schools and afterschool programs for free and culminate in Local, Regional, State and National competitions.

Kids ranged from Kindergarten – Middle School. There were over 250 Inventions and over 300 children in attendance. A 3-day convention and I must say the kids absolutely amazed me! Professional and well prepared. 

Young Inventors had to journal the process from start to finish. Create a prototype, test the results and record the data. Prepare a Presentation Board for the Exhibit and record a Video – not just any video – their Pitch! These Junior Inventors had to Pitch their idea/invention/business not only on video but to the judges. Incredible to see 6, 8, 9, 12 or 14-year olds with such dedication and to have accomplished so much. Whether they won or not at Nationals they were all winners. 

This brings me to my home town, Tampa and the Greater Tampa Bay Area. Annalisa is currently a 12-year-old sixth grade student at Family of Christ School in Tampa and a member of the National Junior Honor Society.  Young Annalisa was selected to compete at NICEE two years in a row!  She is garnering attention for her inventions, and even more incredible she has invented multiple products that are in the assistive technology space.

Annalisa’s interest in helping children with special needs overcome unique challenges began early in her inventor career. Her first invention was in fourth grade, while attending an all-girl technology camp, where she developed a prototype for a teddy bear to help parents monitor potential indicators for SIDS. Since then she has gone on to become a finalist for the USF Young Innovator Competition in back-to-back years, 2016 and 2017. In 2016, her prototype for a shirt that aids visually impaired people using tiny vibration motors mounted in the sleeves and guided by GPS and an Arduino LilyPad earned her First Runner Up in the competition that had over 900 entrants. 

Annalisa was a top finalist out of 600 participants for the 2017 USF Young Innovator Competition with her prototype for a smartphone app that helps children with autism spectrum disorder better communicate their feelings and emotions by utilizing art and pictures that children individually create. The children can then upload their artwork that help them express their feelings and emotions. Writing prompts are also included to help develop and support social/emotional language skills. More importantly, this information can be shared with teachers, family, and friends to improve the quality of their social interactions. Annalisa’s idea for the app was inspired by an autistic child she met while volunteering in baseball recreational league for children with special needs. Annalisa brought home another win by placing 3rd at NICEE. 

There seems to be no stopping Annalisa. The day after NICEE, she was heading to Space Camp. Annalisa is also a junior member of the National Association of Rocketry (NAR) and has been working on earning badges for reaching rocket-building and -launching milestones. A future in technology seems to be in the stars for Annalisa.

I am active in the Tech Community, a member of the Tampa Bay Wave, Working Women of Tampa Bay and a champion for the Women in Tech Movement. Right now, women only represent 30% of the industry. To increase these numbers, we need to be proactive in bringing these career options to schools.

That is where Bright Young Minds Coalition will make a difference now and a social impact in the future. I spent the past 3 years hyper-focused on Financial Education and Entrepreneurship. I then realized that is only part of the equation. We must pair Financial and Entrepreneurship Education with developing well paid career skills. Career and Life Skills that will be in demand and provide the ability to earn a living wage. You can learn how to budget but if your income keeps you at the poverty level – a budget is not the answer. We need to be teaching kids (and adults) what jobs will be eliminated because of automation. We need to focus on what jobs, skills and careers will be in high demand. 

Please join Bright Young Minds Coalition in bringing these programs to schools and afterschool programs throughout the state of Florida. Join us in our mission to provide life skill training and career focused education to all children regardless of race, religion, ethnicity, or economic status.

Our mission would not be possible without support from the community. We are looking for Program Partners, Corporate Sponsors, Donations and Volunteers. We need to rapidly get the word out as the new school year approaches. We are planning Professional Development Workshops for local teachers and educators. 

Success for me will be had when dropout rates are reduced and financial illiteracy is no longer an epidemic. BYMC wants to create generations of children who will graduate with confidence, capabilities, a life plan and the ability to execute and achieve goals.  

To learn more about bringing programs to your classroom or school or to get involved in supporting our initiatives.

Contact:  Tracy Zuluaga   info@brightyoungmindscoalition.org   Cell: 305-753-5755