USF St. Petersburg students demonstrate how to create electricity from chlorophyll at last year's St. Petersburg Science Festival.

St. Petersburg Science Festival returning to USF St. Petersburg

The Third Annual St. Petersburg Science Festival, the largest community celebration of science in the Southeast, returns to USF St. Petersburg on Saturday, Oct. 19 with more than 100 hands-on exhibits along Bayboro Harbor.

Once again this year, USF St. Petersburg science students and faculty will present exhibits and research, including a hydrogen-fueled model car, chlorophyll solar cells and creating bio-diesel from waste oil.

The festival, held in conjunction with MarineQuest, drew more than 10,000 people last year. This year’s event includes an exclusive sneak peek for more than 1,000 school children on Friday, Oct. 18.

Saturday’s festival begins at 10 a.m. with an explosive science experiment on stage at Poynter Park at 10 a.m., led by USF St. Petersburg Regional Chancellor Sophia Wisniewska, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and USF College of Marine Science Dean Jacqueline Dixon.

Along with a full day of science shows and music, the festival will feature activities ranging from crazy chemistry experiments to fighting robots. Visitors can board a research vessel, build a fire, run an underwater remotely operated vehicle, peer into a microscope at aquatic animals and archaeological artifacts, escape fishing nets, test an artificial limb, create art from science and launch a rocket.

USFSP’s exhibits will be coordinated by Madhu Pandey, Ph.D., visiting assistant professor of chemistry, and will include student research on manatees, molecular modeling and crime scene analysis.

Food and beverages will be available for purchase from USF St. Petersburg restaurants including The Reef, World of Wings, The Tavern at Bayboro and the Campus Grind. Food trucks will line 3rd Street South at Poynter Park. View campus maps.

The festival was created to encourage youth to develop a passion for science and engineering. It is a collaboration of more than 60 university departments, government agencies and private organizations, many of which are part of the St. Petersburg Ocean Team, a consortium of research groups employing more than 1,600 marine scientists in St. Petersburg.

Major sponsors include USF St. Petersburg, the City of St. Petersburg, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Secrets of the Sea Marine Exploration Center and Aquarium, the U.S. Geological Survey, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the USF College of Marine Science, the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, Helios Education Foundation, Duke Energy, Eckerd College, Draper Laboratory, Rays Baseball Foundation,, and Science Festival Alliance. Media partners include Bay News 9, CBS Radio, Tampa Bay Times, WEDU, and WMNF 88.5 FM.

For more information go to, email Science Festival Co-Chair Howard Rutherford or call him at (727) 803-9799, ext. 202.

USF St. Petersburg to host election forum for mayoral candidates

USF St. Petersburg will host a primary election forum for St. Petersburg mayoral candidates on Thursday, Aug. 15 at 6 p.m. in the City Council Chamber at City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N.

Frank Biafora, Ph.D

Frank Biafora, Ph.D

The forum will be moderated by Frank Biafora, Ph.D., Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, and will be broadcast live on the city’s government access channel, StPeteTV, and streamed live at Dr. Biafora moderated a primary election forum Wednesday night for St. Petersburg City Council candidates.

The public is welcome to attend. Seating in Council Chamber is first come, first served.

The candidates for mayor are Bill Foster, Rick Kriseman, Kathleen Ford, Anthony Cates and Paul Joseph Congemi.

Candidates will answer pre-screened questions submitted by USFSP government students, the university community and the public.

USFSP will host another round of forums for the Mayoral and City Council candidates before the general election.

Neighborhood News Bureau

Neighborhood News Bureau Provides Real-Life Experience For Journalists

Many of my fellow classmates, including myself, are intimidated by one required course in the Journalism and Media Studies program – Neighborhood News Bureau.  After completing the course, some journalism students feel the same about NNB, and some students have a new outlook on the class.

Neighborhood News Bureau is a class dedicated to beat reporting.  The beat students cover at NNB is the Midtown area of St. Petersburg.  Midtown is a 5.5 square-mile area between Fourth Street South and 34th Street South and Second Avenue North to 30th Avenue South.  The demographic of this area is mostly African-American, with most residents living at or below the poverty level.

Map - Midtown St. Petersburg

Map – Midtown St. Petersburg

Located off the main USFSP campus, students report and write from the Neighborhood News Bureau at the James B. Sanderlin Family Service Center located at 2335 22nd Ave. S.

“Working as a reporter in Midtown was a good experience.  It helped me become familiar with an area of St. Pete I probably wouldn’t have ventured into on my own,” senior Meaghan Habuda said.

This is one of the main purposes of NNB – to get students out of their comfort zone.

Students can fall into a pattern of writing stories about topics that interest them, interview people that look like them, and report about communities that they live in or are familiar with.  In the professional world, these circumstances are hardly the reality for a journalist or reporter.

Students have to get out and “walk their beat,” meet and interview Midtown residents, identify sources, and delve into public records for stories about people, issues, and trends relevant to the area.

Personally, I had a fear of approaching members of the community – I felt that they wouldn’t be receptive to me.  I quickly found that I was wrong.  Every person I interviewed was courteous and open, willing to answer any question I had for them.  All of the people I had the chance to speak to were excited that their voice was heard and impressed that NNB was dedicated to the Midtown area.

Stories will be pitched to The Weekly Challenger, the Neighborhood Times and the Crow’s Nest.  Stories will also appear on the NNB website,

The Midtown neighborhood received local news coverage earlier this year when the Midtown Sweetbay closed its doors.  I decided to cover this story, and an interview with St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster was necessary.  Politicians can be intimidating, and interviewing one was terrifying to me.  Just like before, I found that I had nothing to be afraid of, and it took NNB for me to realize this.  My story turned out great, and it was published in The Weekly Challenger.  I was finally a published journalist!

“It was one of the best hands-on experiences I’ve had in the entire program,” senior and journalism major Larry Pugliese said.  “We had to go out in the community and meet the people we were writing about, which made our writing better…it just made it real.”

Neighborhood News Bureau provides real-life experience for journalists, and the tools that are learned are vital to the journalist reporting professionally in the real world.

Sting Ray

Mayor Foster Hosts STING RAY participants at City Hall

ST. PETERSBURG, FL (May 21, 2012) – Mayor Bill Foster last week played host at City Hall for nine members of the USF St. Petersburg STING RAY program, which helps students with cognitive or intellectual disabilities gain independence, find employment and establish positive social and work relationships.

Five of the nine students, all of whom are 18 to 22 years old, are new to the program. The mayor showed them around City Hall and posed for a photo in City Council chambers (From left to right: Mayor Foster, David Tran, Trent Tucker, Isabel McKinney, Pinellas curriculum coordinator Annie Johnson, Chrystal Mendoza, Michael Farnum, Evan Lyle, Laresa Battee, Kailey Castine, and community coordinator Rob Knabel).

The new students were involved in a two-week, extended orientation program to prepare them for the fall semester. The program is part Project 10: Transition Education Network, the statewide project at USFSP that addresses transition needs of students with disabilities.

STING RAY (Students Transitioning into the Next Generation, Recognizing Alternatives for Youth) is collaboration among USF St. Petersburg, the Florida Department of Education and Pinellas County Schools. The program encourages the students to develop their own schedule of working, volunteering, studying and extracurricular activities. They audit courses at USF St. Petersburg, participate in activities with degree-seeking students and travel independently to the jobs they will seek based on their interests.

“Our ultimate goal is to enhance communication, independent living and employment readiness skills in order to find competitive, gainful employment,’’ said Christian Haas, mentor coordinator for Project 10. “In order to achieve this, we surround the students with degree seeking, age similar mentors, place them in on and off campus internships, allow them to audit a college course, and engage in community based instruction.”

Last semester, the program had over 25 mentors for six students, and six students had part-time employment.