innovation trail

9:22 am
Tue October 16, 2012

Summer school for science teachers

A new courtyard sporting a pond, stream, rocks and rotting logs will serve as a living lab for students at PS197 in Buffalo.
Daniel Robison WBFO

Educators across the country agree schools need more students to excel in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). Yet hooking students on these subjects remains a challenge, especially for generally low performing schools with few resources.

But this year, administrators in Buffalo Public Schools (BPS) tried to tackle the problem in a new way – by sending some of its teachers to summer school.

“I haven’t been in a lab in 43 years,” says Susan Wade, a BPS science teacher.

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10:48 am
Fri October 5, 2012

A century later, Park School stays true to its roots

Park School enrolled its first class in 1912 at a location near Bird and Delaware Ave. The school moved to Snyder in the 1930's.
Courtesy photo Park School

One hundred years ago, a group of parents in Buffalo gathered to form a new school that would adopt the ideals of a progressive educational reformer and teach students in new ways.  A century later, the Park School still educates its pupils much the same way.

In 1912, Buffalo was one of the largest cities in the country with a bustling economy and booming population.

Also one hundred years ago, a group of parents in Buffalo gathered to form a new school that would adopt the ideals of a progressive educational reformer and teach students in new ways.

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10:24 am
Fri September 21, 2012

Preventing high school dropouts – in kindergarten?

Ready Freddy is a new kindergarten-based program that tries to instill a love of school among students, which education officials hope translates into increased attendance.
Daniel Robison WBFO

This story is part of the Innovation Trail's partnership with FRONTLINE's Dropout Nation. You can read the other reports here.

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1:44 pm
Fri September 7, 2012

WNY startups target $25 million in sales to China

A $682,000 grant from the U.S. Commerce Department and others will aim to create $25 million in sales for western New York medical startups.
Daniel Robison WBFO

Western New York is home to more than 200 growing startup companies catering to specific medical and life science needs.

While these small businesses offer unique products and services, they don’t always have a market for their goods or the personnel to aggressively seek out buyers.

A new initiative will try to give at least 40 of these companies the extra sales muscle to move $25 million worth of local products in the next three years.

'Hand in glove'

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Around the Nation
1:03 am
Sun September 2, 2012

Buffalo Cleans Up From Dirty Industrial Past

City leaders are attempting to increase public access to Buffalo's waterways, long blocked by aging industrial ruins and polluted land.
Daniel Robison for NPR

Originally published on Sat September 1, 2012 6:37 pm

Along the shore of Lake Erie, the rusting relics of Buffalo, N.Y.'s industrial days have long blocked access to the water and posed risks to residents. Now, after decades of inaction, the city is finally clearing a path for the public to return to the waterfront.

Buffalo's approach has been dubbed "lighter, faster, cheaper." Tom Dee has led this effort as president of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corp., a special state agency in charge of city waterfront property. He says years were wasted chasing grand redevelopment projects, but now the strategy is more homegrown.

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9:19 am
Thu August 30, 2012

Controversy still simmers over SUNY Buffalo Shale Institute

Weeks after its founding, the Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) released a study that hydrofracking opponents called flawed and biased toward the natural gas industry. Above, a hydrofracked well and drilling pad in Pennsylvania.
Matt Richmond WSKG

Shortly after opening its doors at this spring, the Shale Resources and Society Institute (SRSI) ignited a controversy that persists several months later.

The newly-founded SUNY Buffalo institute issued a study which found a decline in accidents and environmental damage caused by hydrofracking – a drilling technique using high volumes of water, sand and chemicals to extract natural gas from shale far below the Earth’s surface.

Opponents call the study flawed and biased in favor of the oil and gas industry.

The dispute attracted national attention, especially in the higher education community

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2:01 pm
Fri August 24, 2012

Innovation Trail to feature “Dropout Nation”

Empty school hallway
WBFO News file photo

According to statistics, every nine seconds in the U.S. a student drops out of school.  It leads to lifelong difficulties. 

WBFO & AM 970 will be airing a special five-part series produced by The Innovation Trail about education and the dropout crisis. 

Listen for those special reports beginning the week of September 17.   

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4:41 pm
Tue August 14, 2012

An urban waterway's comeback

Over the next three years, a clamshell will scrape the bottom of the Buffalo River, scooping out contaminants from the city's industrial days.
Daniel Robison WBFO

In the late 1960’s, the Buffalo River was so polluted it caught fire.

“But it didn’t really get much national attention because that was just the way things were back in the day,” says Jill Jedlicka, executive director of Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper, an environmental advocacy group.

“People expected polluted rivers. It was just the cost of doing business at the time.”

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11:41 am
Wed August 8, 2012

Local startup succeeds in research, struggles in business

The Buffalo BioBlower laboratory is a din of noise. Currently, the company is attempting to find commercial applications for its air sterilizing technology.
Daniel Robison WBFO

Humans have always been vulnerable to airborne illnesses – especially given the developments in chemical and biological warfare. That vulnerability led two professors in upstate to pioneer a solution for sterilizing air.

But success in business has so far proven elusive.

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10:52 am
Fri August 3, 2012

CoworkBuffalo crafts community with office space

Sitting above a coffee shop, CoworkBuffalo maintains a twice-daily brewing ritual that satisfies the caffeine needs of its members.
Daniel Robison WBFO

Working from home can be lonely or full of distractions.  And taking a laptop or tablet to the coffee shop has drawbacks, too. Ever try finding an electrical outlet amongst all the tables and chairs?

Now, CoworkBuffalo is offering a solution by inviting telecommuters to gather together in one office space.

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2:40 pm
Thu July 26, 2012

Scientists uncover hidden history of polar bears

Scientists now believe polar bears have existed for over four million years, having endured many periods of climate change before.
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Public domain

It all started with a fossil.

“We have this polar bear jawbone from the Svalbard archipelago in the North Atlantic,” says Charlotte Lindqvist, a professor at SUNY Buffalo and lead author of a landmark new study into the history of polar bears.

An ancient species

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11:54 am
Tue July 24, 2012

Buffalo's roster of incubators grows by one

Z80 Labs, Buffalo's first "Internet-focused" incubator, is named as an homage to the 1970's microprocessor. The chip helped form the foundation of the Z80 founders' early tech work.
G.G. Italy via Flickr

Buffalo’s latest business incubator is on the hunt for small tech companies who are long on ideas, but perhaps short on cash, office space and personnel. 

Calling itself Buffalo’s first Internet-focused incubator, Z80 Labs launched Monday with a well-orchestrated launch party featuring the region’s tech elite, as well as Forbes CEO Mike Perlis, and prominent venture capitalist Fred Wilson.

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2:14 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

SUNY Buffalo launches $120 million push to replace rare earths

Before the end of the year, SUNY Buffalo will know if a $120 million grant from the Department of Energy can be used to build the new Center of Excellence in Materials Informatics. The lobbying effort is led by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY).
Daniel Robison WBFO

With China largely cornering the market for rare earth metals, domestic researchers are trying to create synthetic replacements.

SUNY Buffalo (UB) wants to corner that effort – and is asking the federal government for $120 million to help.

"A four letter word"

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8:49 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

Voyage studying plastic waste in Great Lakes sets sail

A ship of scientists and students will study plastic waste in Lakes Huron, Superior and Erie this summer. The voyage will be led by Sherri Mason [above], a SUNY Fredonia professor.
Daniel Robison WBFO

Until now, scientists could only guess at the amount of plastic waste in the Great Lakes.

This week, a team of researchers sets sail to conduct the first-ever survey of plastic pollution in the world’s largest fresh water system.

“You really have to start with, ‘Is this even an issue in the Great Lakes?  [With] 35 million people living around the Great Lakes, all the plastic you see blowing around, common sense is that it’s out there,” says Sherri “Sam” Mason, professor within SUNY Fredonia’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry.

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1:23 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Sensor startup senses golden opportunity

The Sensordone's "face" tracks facets of its environment, including light and gas levels, color, humidity and more.
Courtesy photo Sensorcon

Are we on the verge of a “sensor revolution?”

Sensorcon hopes so. The Buffalo-based tech startup envisions a world where the average person is empowered with a small device that reads temperature, carbon monoxide levels, dew point and more.

"A sixth sense"

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12:37 pm
Fri July 6, 2012

Cow manure helps keep the lights on

The largest on-farm biogas facility in New York summer processes 425 tons of animal and food waste a day.
publicenergy Creative Commons

New York State is home to more than 600,000 dairy cows, which generate millions of pounds of manure.

Now, a new energy project in rural Wyoming County aims to be a model for using cow waste and by-products from food processing to generate electricity.

“Perfect recycling project”

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9:44 am
Mon July 2, 2012

In 'Sponge Candy Crescent,' Addicts Hoard 'Heaven'

To get their summertime fix, sponge candy lovers on the shore of Lake Erie have to plan in advance.
Melisa Goh NPR

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 11:09 am

The eastern shore of Lake Erie is known as the "Sponge Candy Crescent." During the region's long winter months, this crunchy, chocolatey candy is a mainstay — especially for large gatherings and holidays. But come hot weather, you can't get the temperamental treat.

Ko-Ed Candies sells a lot of chocolate Easter bunnies, candy bars and other sweets, but co-owner Sandy Whitt says her customers mostly crave sponge candy.

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11:35 am
Thu June 28, 2012

Niagara Falls offers to pay student debt of new residents

Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster (right) hopes to attract young residents to his struggling city by paying $7,000 of 20 graduates' debt load.
New York Council for the Humanities via Flickr

Niagara Falls, New York is testing a novel approach to attract new residents. City leaders are offering to pay the student debt of 20 recent graduates in exchange for two years of residency.

According to a recent New York Times study, 94 percent of recent graduates have student debt, adding up to more than a $1 trillion nationwide.

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9:29 am
Wed June 27, 2012

Report: NY biotech sector needs help from Albany

New York is losing biotech companies and jobs to other states, says Roswell Park official James Mohler.
Daniel Robison WBFO

Although New York's legislative session wrapped up last week, angling for new public policy hasn't ceased.

Tuesday, the Business Council of New York State (BCNYS) tried to regain traction for its agenda by re-releasing a report from May.

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5:40 pm
Mon June 25, 2012

Reading Rainbow launches new iPad app

Reading Rainbow, the now-defunct PBS show, is going high tech.
clevercupcakes via Flickr

Reading Rainbow is back - but not on TV.

Host LeVar Burton has revived the popular franchise, which ran for 26 years on PBS, as an app for tablets.

The medium may be different, but the mission is the same: promoting children's literature.

"Television is a one-way medium," Burton says. "You are presenting your finished product to an audience and they absorb it.

"The great thing about an app is that it is designed to be an interactive experience."

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8:00 pm
Thu June 14, 2012

How much economic impact will Wallenda generate?

Nik Wallenda's 1,800-foot, seven ton wire has been strung across Niagara Falls. His wirewalk Friday night has local officials bullish on future tourism efforts.
Daniel Robison WBFO

Niagara Falls, N.Y. sees Nik Wallenda’s Friday night wirewalk as its best chance in decades to revive tourism and spark economic development.

But measuring Wallenda’s long-term impact may be tough - assuming there’s an impact at all.

“Part of our mystique”

The Daredevil Museum in Niagara Falls, N.Y. is a shrine to those who have tried to conquer the natural wonder.

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5:00 am
Thu June 7, 2012

Refugees in Buffalo use literacy to start anew

Abdi Hussein sits in a cramped classroom full of old metal chairs that clank and scrape the faded tile floor.

Here he learns English idioms like “Don’t judge a book by its cover.”

It’s a long way from Somalia, where Hussein struggled to find food and lived in constant fear of being dragged into the country’s ongoing civil war.

“There’s horrible things,” Hussein says. “People kill each other. That’s why we get help to get in here. People call us the refugee.”

Hussein lives in a growing Somali community in Buffalo - where inexpensive housing has proven fertile ground for ethnic neighborhoods made up largely of refugees.

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9:42 am
Fri May 25, 2012

New $300 million medical building opens downtown

The 10-story Gates Vascular Institute/Clinical and Translational Research Center opened Thursday in Buffalo.
Daniel Robison WBFO

The newest addition to Buffalo’s skyline has opened its doors.

The 10-story, $300 million Gates Vascular Institute/Clinical and Translational Research Center houses a state-of-the-art surgery center, research labs and a business incubator.

“This is a magnet for the region,” says Jim Kaskie, CEO of Kaleida Health. “If you’ve got issues with your heart, your brain, your arteries or veins, you want to be here.”

Kaleida Health collaborated with the University at Buffalo on the project.

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10:23 am
Wed May 23, 2012

Startup companies seek exposure, funding at investor conference

QuadPharma CEO Stephen Panaro presents at the 2012 Venture Forum. His company asked investors for $1 million.

A week ago, Buffalo hosted a pack of investors from out of town for an event known as the Venture Forum. Dozens of promising local start-up companies aimed to make the best impression on these investors to secure funding and leapfrog their competition.

Reporter Daniel Robison followed one of those small businesses through the process and filed this report.


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12:01 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Eclectic atmosphere buds around Wallenda walk

Nik Wallenda is joined on stage at the Seneca Niagara Casino by Bello Nock, a "comic daredevil."
Daniel Robison WBFO

Tightrope walker Nik Wallenda concludes his public practices Tuesday in Niagara Falls, N.Y.

Over the last week, Wallenda has invited spectators to watch him prepare for his June 15 wirewalk over Horseshoe Falls.

But almost a month before the main event, Wallenda's presence is already inspiring an eclectic atmosphere in this hard scrabble city of 50,000.

"Great for the city"

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9:50 am
Mon May 21, 2012

Nik Wallenda acts as tourism magnet for Niagara Falls

Nik Wallenda practices on high wire in Niagara Falls, NY
WBFO News photos by Daniel Robison

Thousands of spectators have flocked to Niagara Falls in recent days to watch wirewalker Nik Wallenda. 

As WBFO & AM-970's Daniel Robison reports, he's practicing in public to draw tourists and help the local economy. 

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1:00 pm
Thu May 17, 2012

IDA reform bill stuck in neutral

Standing in front of a liquor store that received tax breaks to move a few miles down the road, Assemblyman Sean Ryan (D-Buffalo) calls for IDA reform.
Daniel Robison WBFO

In recent years, donut shopscar dealerships and doctor’s offices have received tax breaks from industrial development agencies in western New York.

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10:14 am
Wed May 16, 2012

IBM supercomputers speeding up MS research

Supercomputers at SUNY Buffalo use similar analytic strategies as IBM's Watson, the machine that won $1 million on Jeopardy.
Greyhawk68 via Flickr

Research into multiple sclerosis has accelerated rapidly in the last few years - and doctors in Buffalo are at the forefront.

Information about how MS progresses in patients has long been out there, but it wasn’t being synthesized or analyzed effectively.

Now, SUNY Buffalo is using a new supercomputer from IBM that can help researchers make connections between environmental and hereditary factors and how MS affects its victims.

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5:59 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

SUNY toots own horn during "showcase"

SUNY put its best foot forward Tuesday in an effort to show how tax dollars are spent at its 64 campuses.
Daniel Robison WBFO

SUNY has stepped up its self-promotional efforts.

In an attempt to paint the university system in a better light - and perhaps to justify its $10.8 billion budget in tight economic times - SUNY staged a regional “showcase” in Buffalo Tuesday. It was one of ten similar events thrown over the past year.

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5:22 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

University at Buffalo unveils DNA-shaped "Solar Strand"

Officials unveiled the solar array on a wintry day. A bird's eye view of the UB's "Solar Strand" reveals its resemblance to DNA.
Daniel Robison WBFO

New solar panels at the University at Buffalo double as an art installation. 

The $7.5 million project, funded by the New York Power Authority (NYPA) and SUNY, will power student apartments while sprucing up the landscape.

When viewed from the sky, the strand of solar panels resembles DNA - a tip of the hat to UB's strengths in research and science.

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