The Herald, Sharon, Pa.

November 9, 2012

eCenter’s progress exceeds expectations

By Joe Pinchot
Herald Staff Writer

HERMITAGE — When the eCenter@LindenPointe in Hermitage opened a year ago, Executive Director Yvonne English set some goals.

She said Friday she has surpassed those goals with two tenants recently moved in, two affiliate firms, a handful of possible tenants under review and a series of events that have brought people into the eCenter that might not have come otherwise.

The center, a technology business incubator, also was featured in Pittsburgh TecQ magazine, which praised its innovation.

Grove City College is marking its lease of an incubator for its VentureLab with an event Saturday. Seven student groups have access to the eCenter to develop possible businesses. Three of the teams received grants from the college, including one that wants to develop robots for the inspection of power plants, Furnace Inspection Robot. One of the other teams is working on an idea to use artificial intelligence to substitute in online games when a player has to back out, called Fast Joint Computer Technology, and a third is developing a rickshaw-style sand wheelchair, Sand Chariot.

The nongrant funded teams include, a website for freestyle skiers that attracted 1,200 members in two weeks, and Quest NYC, a venture seeking to develop a web-social media application that helps travelers find the locations where movies and television shows were shot in New York, and allows people to shoot their own scenes and upload them for voting.

In another suite, Anderal Technologies, a partnership of Ron Anderson and Dr. Jon Roth, is developing electronically assisted manufacturing, English said. The company has a contract with a Korean carmaker and has interest from the Navy and the medical industry, English said.

An Arizona technology firm and a Florida medical device company are eyeing the eCenter, she said.

eCenter-affiliated companies, which do not rent space from the center but avail themselves of the mentoring and support services it offers, are: Picture Me Learning, which is developing an application for autistic children to help them prepare for nonroutine events, such as going to the dentist and the grocery store; Travel Play, which applies game technology to the travel industry: and Ripe Cosmetics, which is developing natural, organic and gluten-free makeup.

The eCenter also has hosted a juried art show – some of the artists are leaving their works at the center for a year – and a practice session for public and homeschool students who were participating in a robotics competition; as well as the PA STEM Girls Collaborative Project Leadership Forum, which is looking to attract girls to the fields of science, technology, engineering and math.

In its first year, the center also graduated its first tenant, Jon Stephenson, a June Hickory High School grad who left the eCenter to study at the University of Pittsburgh. An initiative, an elevator pitch competition that was taken over by Pennsylvania State University’s Shenango Campus in Sharon.

Quest NYC won this year’s competition, while Sand Chariot won last year’s.

“You have exceeded my expectations about what this could do,” said Angela Palumbo, member of the Hermitage Community and Economic Development Commission. “This has put us on the map and you are the catalyst behind it.”

Assistant City Manager Gary M. Gulla said he is proud that the center has worked to break the “parochialism” of area colleges, with Penn State, Youngstown State University and Grove City, Thiel, Westminster and Allegheny colleges all represented at center activities.

City Commissioner Rhonda Paglia, a former teacher, said she appreciates that the center is providing a place for students of all levels to use their brain power and creativity.

English, an adjunct professor at Grove City College, said her dealings with students have affected her in ways she could not have imagined.

“I get more than I give with these students and colleges,” she said.