Tech focus on schools

By Daniel Pearson

GREENVILLE, N.C. – A technology firm that relocated to Greenville from Syracuse, N.Y., hopes to persuade local schools to work with its nonprofit arm in offering tech research tools to students to give them a career edge.

iDeations founder Matt Carbone says he is involved in early-stage negotiations with administrative officials at local Greenville schools to use devices his company developed that allow disabled and paralyzed people to browse the Internet, among other applications.

“What we would be providing is a platform to do research,” Carbone says  of the nonprofit Center for Really Neat Research, which is funded by iDeations, his communications and design firm.

“We’re showing them possibilities for using existing technology for things like controlling a remote-control car with their facial muscles or sitting in a bungie chair and navigating through a virtual world. It’s up to their imagination to see what they can come up with.”

In Syracuse, the nonprofit center sponsored research camps for children where they could gain first-hand knowledge and experience with new types of technology and applications.

Carbone wants to set up similar programs at Greenville schools for students in second grade through high school, but it has been difficult to find enough money to fund the center’s efforts because of the sluggish U.S. and North Carolina economies.

“We’re just not big enough right now for people to know who we are,” Carbone says. “And we don’t have too much exposure.”

The center recently introduced itself to North Carolina’s technology players at the North Carolina Electronics & Information Technology Association Forum 2002: “Securing the Future,” where he demonstrated before the crowd what center does with a PowerPoint presentation.

Unfortunately, he says, the North Carolina tech community has not responded.

“Basically we’ve had a few people send us links to other groups that could help us get funding,” Carbone says.

The center uses electronic equipment purchased at local retail stores to build devices that allow the human body to operate as an “interface” system, or what the organization’s officials have deemed a “Totally Neat Gadget,” and it costs less than $100 to build,

The tool is operated with software, designed by the center, known as “NeatTools,” which is available for free on the Internet.

NeatTools is designed to allow users with little knowledge about computer programming or information technology to easily program a device.

Carbone says the purpose is not to get iDeations products into schools, but to introduce students to new ways of thinking about using existing products and devices to manipulate technology that surrounds them to suit their daily needs, and the needs of groups with which they are associated.

“It opens up new ideas for experimentation,” Carbone says. “For instance, we’re stuck in this thinking that computers only work with a keyboard and a mouse. We’re really dealing with a flat, two-dimensional world here. Computers essentially are used to access information. Getting that information is easy. How we tell a system what to do with it is what we want to focus on.”

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