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The people’s choice in convenience store poll reflects shifting OKC market January 18, 2020

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OnCue store under construction at Western and Edmond Road

When I saw this story in The Oklahoman that the OKC 7-Eleven franchise had sold to the much larger Irving, Texas-based 7-Eleven Inc., my first thought was that the emergence of OnCue in the OKC market prompted this transaction.

OnCue is the shiny new toy in the convenience store market, and people naturally gravitate to what is new, clean and offers a bigger selection. OnCue is all those things, and it seems to be building new stores in every neighborhood across the metro. There is even one set to open in just a few weeks at the intersection of Western and Edmond Road, right across from the neighborhood we live in.

I won’t embarrass myself by admitting how giddy I was when I first saw the sign more than a year ago that OnCue was going to build at that location. Ask my daughter.

I figure that the sale of the OKC 7-Eleven franchise is similar to newspaper owners who see where the publishing industry is headed and sell their property while it still has value. They get out while they can.

All of that prompted me to run a poll on Twitter, where I asked readers to vote on which was their “go-to” convenience store brand: 7-Eleven, OnCue, QuikTrip or Love’s Travel Stops/other. I figured it would be neck-and-neck between 7-Eleven and OnCue.

Turns out it wasn’t close.

OnCue lapped the field, claiming 58 percent of 189 votes. Compare that to the 19 percent that 7-Eleven received, a smaller share than what QuikTrip got, and it has no stores in the OKC area.

I wasn’t surprised that Love’s Travel Stops trailed the field because most of its stores are convenience stops for highway travelers across the nation. It is our family’s go-to stop when we hit the highway.

Anyway, I was quite surprised by how OnCue ran away with this unscientific poll. For decades, 7-Eleven has been the destination of choice for people who need a late-night six-pack or an early morning cup of Joe on their way to work.

But that’s where today’s market is headed, even if 7-Eleven has remodeled its local stores and is building in new locations. We’ll see if new ownership can impact the trend.

Meanwhile, we noticed there is a sign in an empty lot at the intersection of Western and Danforth, just north of our neighborhood. “Coming soon: 7-Eleven.”

Bring ‘em on.

Art and The Unexpected at Stillwater’s HostBridge Technology January 3, 2020

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Warhol signed print collection in HostBridge Technology’s special events space

In my hometown of Fort Smith, Ark., there’s a downtown art project in which giant murals of contemporary urban art are painted on the sides of historic buildings. It is called The Unexpected.

The Unexpected came to mind when I stumbled across some of the world’s greatest art recently while in Stillwater to interview technology entrepreneur Russ Teubner, founder and CEO of HostBridge Technology. The ground floor of HostBridge’s unassuming downtown Stillwater headquarters is a virtual art gallery, highlighted by five large signed Andy Warhol original screen prints that are part Warhol’s Cowboys and Indians series created in 1986.

It was certainly The Unexpected for me and a highlight of my trip.

Russ Teubner poses with Warhol print of Teddy Roosevelt

Teubner placed the five Warhol paintings in a special events venue he created in what once was a shipping area for his previous company, Teubner and Associates, which was located on the same property. LED lighting highlights each print.

“I was lucky enough to source a number of very unique works of art, original Warhol screen prints that would not only define this space from a color and design standpoint, but tell the history of Oklahoma,” Teubner told me and my colleague, Debbie Cox, from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST), as we first walked through the space.

Across one wall there was Native American legend Geronimo, along with Annie Oakley, Gen. George Armstrong Custer and a painting that depicted the Trail of Tears. A small sign above them read “Warhol.”

Along another wall hung a Warhol painting of Teddy Roosevelt, as well as a portrait of Warhol himself.

“Geronimo died in Oklahoma, Annie Oakley performed in Oklahoma, Custer fought in Oklahoma, the Trail of Tears ended in Oklahoma, and, of course, Teddy Roosevelt signed the state into existence,” Teubner said. “All those images not only remind us of the vibrance of a master artist, but also root us in our history.”

Russ Teubner in the HostBridge Technology art space

Teubner created the special events center as a community meeting space and for regular receptions hosted by his company. He was inspired to create an events center by Oklahoma State University President Burns Hargis, who renovated a downtown Stillwater building to serve as the OSU Art Museum.

The HostBridge Technology events center features a large bar area running down one side, and one of the world’s unique “wine cellars” along the back wall that was once Teubner’s computer server room.

“What do you do with an empty room that has five tons of air conditioning, world class fire suppression and very secure,” he said. “Well, that’s wine storage, right? Obviously. I took my old Dell storage cabinets, reengineered them and lit them up as wine storage cabinets.”

The wine “cellar” is highlighted by art pieces, and in adjoining rooms there are many other pieces of art, such as robots made from everyday objects, an old English telephone booth and a collection of drawings with humorous captions made by a former airline pilot.

We finally got around to our interview, but my day was made by Russ Teubner’s version of The Unexpected.

A salute to our veterans and the Veterans Day Parade November 11, 2019

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The Purple Heart recipients float at the Fort Chaffee Veterans Day parade

My dad was a small town Southern boy from western Arkansas who built a successful career in the U.S. Army across three decades. As I understand the story, it began when he quit high school in the late 1940s and joined the Army.

For that, he earned a tour of duty in Alaska. But he missed a girl from back home in Booneville, Ark., and mustered out when his commitment was up.

He returned to Arkansas, married the girl and had a child – me – within a year. But running the local gas station wasn’t enough to support a family, so he re-upped in the Army.

This tour lasted until he retired from the military in 1976 and included assignments in Korea, Okinawa and 1969 Vietnam along the way.

I provide all that background because I was over in Fort Smith this past weekend to visit my widowed Mom. She told me she wanted to go to the annual Veterans Day parade at Ft. Chaffee that began at noon on Saturday.

The crowd lines the Veterans Day Parade route

I said ‘sure,’ although without any real enthusiasm or expectations. We picked up my niece, Katy, and headed out to Chaffee, most of which is now known as Chaffee Crossing and under development by the city of Fort Smith.

We found a place to park and walked to what turned out to be sort of Parade Central, which was right outside the military barbershop where Elvis received his haircut as he was inducted into the Army. It’s now a pretty fascinating little museum, which we toured.

For me, the interesting thing about the parade, which lasted about an hour, was watching the crowd and how the veterans among us reacted when various elements marched by. Local Junior ROTC troops marched by carrying American flags, and the vets snapped to attention.

My Mom watches the Veterans Day Parade.

Those marching in the parade were quick to say “thank you” to the veterans they recognized along the way who were wearing caps or other insignia that identified them as such.

It was a feel good event for both participants and onlookers, punctuated by a large group of motorcyclists who brought up the rear of the parade, came to a halt and dismounted as we watched. The leader commanded us to turn our attention the America flag behind us and led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Turned out, I enjoyed the parade and the people watching. I was so happy that I got to take my mom to see it, even if she decided that it wasn’t as long as the previous parade she attended two years ago. (“There were so many more antique cars in the last parade,” she told me.)

So, to Master Sergeant Archie A.J. Stafford and all your fellow veterans, I salute you and your incredible sacrifice for this country.

OCAST Health Research Conference puts focus on negotiating regulatory pathway to market October 23, 2019

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Dan Clark, cofounder and president of Linear Health Sciences speaks to the recent OCAST Health Research Conference

Editor’s note: I attended the 32nd  OCAST Health Research conference at the Samis Education Center on the Oklahoma Health Center campus, and heard a presentation on negotiating the regulatory pathway for a life science device company. Here’s my report:

By Jim Stafford

Once a year, the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) gathers scientists from across the state who are currently receiving funding from its health research program in a sort of show-and-tell educational event.

Recently, about 100 OCAST-funded life science researchers assembled at the Samis Family Education Center on the Oklahoma Health Center campus for OCAST’s 32nd Health Research Conference. The event featured a keynote presentation from Dan Clark, president of Oklahoma City-based Linear Health Sciences.

Co-founded by Clark and Oklahoma City physician Ryan Dennis, Linear Health Sciences developed a patented device known as the Orchid Safety Release Valve (SRV), which prevents dislodgement of IV catheters in hospitalized patients. It is estimated that approximately 14 percent of all IV catheters are accidentally dislodged, which requires re-sticking patients and creates higher risks of infection.

“Our device is designed to mitigate that,” Clark said. “The concept is quite simple. If you’ve ever seen someone drive away from a gas station with the hose still in the car, the hose rips away from the terminal, but no gas is spewing from the terminal and no gas is coming out of the car.

“We did the same thing, but we did it for your veins.”

The Orchid Safety Release Valve has drawn interest from both potential hospital users and investors alike.

Linear Health Sciences attracted early seed investment from i2E Inc., a partner with OCAST in what has come to be known as the Oklahoma Innovation Model of supporting entrepreneurs and innovation across the state.

“We see a really big opportunity here,” said Carol Curtis, i2E’s vice president and director of investments. “If we can improve patient outcomes through the device, but also capture a good portion of the market, it’s a win for investors as well as patients, physicians and the health care system.”

Clark’s presentation to his audience of scientists focused on how Linear Health’s founders learned from their experiences as they negotiated the challenging regulatory pathway.

“The context of our device is not difficult to understand, but to put it into practice, all the way from design inputs and strategy to validating those inputs to traceability across all the different elements, that was tough,” he said. “We became students again.”

Linear Health has submitted what is known as a 510(K) application to the Food and Drug Administration, which is a premarket submission to demonstrate that its device is safe and effective. The company is relying on the expertise of contracted outside experts to help it navigate the regulatory challenges of advancing its medical device.

Clark’s advice to his audience of scientists hoping to advance their own concepts centered on utilizing contractors and external resources to manage the regulatory challenges that will confront them and shape their decisions.

“While you are designing your own experiments, your regulatory path is going to dictate what experiments and what understanding of methodologies is required to get there,” he said.

Clark said Linear Health anticipates FDA regulatory clearance of its device early next year, after which the Orchid Release Safety Valve should soon reach early adopters waiting to put it to use.

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Oka’ Water Sustainability Conference explores economic value of H2O October 22, 2019

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From left: Ken Wagner, State Environment Sec.; Speaker of the House Charles McCall; & Brent Kisling, Exec. Director of OK Dept. of Commerce. ⁦

By Jim Stafford

Editor’s note: I recently attended the Oka’ Water Sustainability Conference at the invitation of my friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). Here is what I learned from the conference:

ADA – At the recent 2019 Oka’ Water Sustainability Conference here on the campus of East Central University, the economic value of water bubbled to the surface.

Water is an economic driver for the state of Oklahoma, said Susan Paddack, executive director Oka’, the Water Institute at East Center University, which presented the fourth annual Sustainability Conference.

“We talk about quality and we talk about the quantity, but we don’t often talk about the value of water,” Paddack said. “When you think about water, it is either an economic stimulator or it is a limiter. We cannot grow or prosper as a state or rural communities and water districts if we don’t have a sustainable water future.”

Oka’ is the Chickasaw word for water, and the Oka’ Institute was created in 2016 with support from the Chickasaw Nation, the Ada Jobs Foundation and the City of Ada.

The conference focused on innovators and technologies that are creating new ways to remediate and recycle polluted water, the importance of soil health and ways to protect key water resources such as the Arbuckle-Simpson aquifer and Blue River.

But this year’s conference also tackled the issue of Water as an Economic Driver with a panel discussion that featured a trio of state legislative, environmental and economic development leaders brought their perspectives to the topic.

Katricia Pierson, Ph.D., East Central University president, moderated the panel, which featured Ken Wagner, State Environment Sec.; Speaker of the House Charles McCall; & Brent Kisling, Exec. Director of OK Dept. of Commerce.

“If you don’t recognize water as the most valuable resources we have in this state, you need to reconsider your position,” McCall told the audience. “Water will always be an economic driver in the sate of Oklahoma. We have been very blessed with it and we have to be very careful not to squander it.”

Kisling hails from the northwest Oklahoma community of Burlington, an area of the state where the scarcity of rainfall makes water conservation a critical ongoing issue. As the former economic development director of the city of Enid, he organized a consortium of neighboring communities to tackle water issues through a coordinated water plan.

“We have to all work together, especially in a watershed, to make sure we are maintaining our water resources on the quantity side and on the quality side,” Kisling said. “Now there is a consortium of major water users that communicate each month about what’s going on with water in the northwest part of the state.”

Wagner plays a key role in setting policy that ensures the protection of water resources throughout the state, while meeting the water consumption needs of people and businesses alike.

“We have to balance, how do we protect the resource but help these communities sustain their way of life, from creating jobs to ensuring the recreational capacity, making sure that fish and wildlife can thrive, protecting our scenic rivers, protecting our aquifers,” Wagner said, “knowing all the while that we all need water to sustain life.”

The conference was highlighted by a keynote speech by Bill Anoatubby, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation, who described the Oka’ Institute as “real positive development” to water sustainability in the south central Oklahoma region.

“The Oka’ Institute has a deep understanding that water issues affect us all and that it will take us all working together to develop viable, long-term solutions to water sustainability,” Anoatubby said. “Health and sustainability of our water is vital to everyone’s future and reasons to work together for the benefit of all.”

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Oklahoma’s Saab story: a prophecy fulfilled October 8, 2019

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I hope you saw this story in Monday’s editions of The Oklahoman about the Saab Group, a Swedish Aerospace firm, reportedly passing on Oklahoma as the location to build a new military trainer jet because of workforce concerns.

If you didn’t read it, click this link to catch you up to date: 

The reporting by Oklahoman reporter Dale Denwalt made the words of Oklahoma City businessman Phil Busey seem almost prophetic. The story quoted State Sen. Adam Pugh, who said that the Saab Group decided it would not be able to find enough skilled workers to sustain its workforce at an Oklahoma location.

Saab reportedly wanted to know if it could find people to work at the plant. ‘In the end, they decided they couldn’t, and so they’re taking their business somewhere else,’ state Sen. Adam Pugh told members of Leadership Oklahoma at a recent aerospace forum.

Busey is founder and CEO of a company called Delaware Resource Group (DRG), minority-owned aerospace industry federal defense contractor. DRG employs upwards of 700 people, including software engineers, worldwide who support contracts with the U.S. Department of Defense, as well as major aerospace companies such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

I recently had the opportunity to interview Mr. Busey along with Debbie Cox, my colleague from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST). Our interview was the basis for an OCAST video and a column I wrote on behalf of the agency. You can read it and watch the video interview here. 

We were surprised by the urgency that Busey showed in advocating for an improvement in public education and workforce development across our state.

Phil Busey

“Our challenges really come back to the issues of workforce development,” Busey told us. “Public education is the No. 1 challenging issue we see here in Oklahoma.”

Thousands of aerospace positions in the state remain unfilled because there aren’t enough Oklahomans equipped with STEM skills – science, technology, education and mathematics, Busey said.

That means that we need to build a deeper pool of young Oklahomans equipped with STEM skills that are critical to the sustainability of the state’s aerospace industry.

But it goes beyond workforce development, he said. It’s also about the image of our state that is reflected in legislation like the recent open carry law that allows virtually anyone in Oklahoma to carry a gun without a license or shooter education.

“The challenge is that we are having to rebrand ourselves,” Busey said. “The social legislation issues, the open carry issues and the public education issues all have to be addressed. Because people really don’t understand who we are … We have to talk to them about what our culture is really like, who we are, what kind of values we have, that we are inclusive, that we have all types of development going on with MAPS and the successes we have had downtown.”

The bottom line is that there are currently between 1,500 and 2,000 open positions here in Oklahoma in the high paying aerospace industry. We have to fill that pipeline.

Busey has organized his own working group of community, education and business leaders to brainstorm ways to enhance Oklahoma’s workforce development and improve our image.

“We’re trying to develop pipelines with our universities,” Busey said. “And then be able to talk with people who we need to recruit from outside Oklahoma that it is a good place to live. We all don’t walk around with 45s on our hips. Public education, we have to do something to improve that. It is a deal breaker.”

Plumbing the limits of home repair Sticker Shock September 11, 2019

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The Hi-Tech Plumbing & Leak Detect truck parked in front of my house is a familiar site.

We had Hi-Tech Plumbing & Leak Detect out at our house (again) today to replace our kitchen sink and faucet, as well as repair a leak in the drain beneath the sink.  I almost choked when they told me what the cost would be to do the work.  

But I told them to go ahead, because, well, what else are we going to do?

We’ve had Hi-Tech out many times over the years, in part because of the awful polybutylene piping used on this house when it was built in 1989.  We sprang so many leaks over the years that we finally had all the hot-water run through the attic, bypassing the polybutylene pipes beneath the foundation. 

We used Hi-Tech on that project, of course, and it cost several thousand dollars.  Same thing on a recent hot water heater install.

You might ask why I keep going back to Hi-Tech if they are so expensive.  The reason is that we know that they will do a thorough job with nothing left incomplete.  Not once have we had to call them back out to redo a job.   

But the price we pay is still so embarrassingly high. While I do have confidence in Hi-Tech, I feel as though I’m being ripped off in the process. 

I think it’s called buyer’s remorse.

My question for readers is what has been your experience with plumbers and what are my alternatives for future issues?  

 

 

OK-WISE panel: Internships provide entry into Aerospace industry for young women September 3, 2019

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Panelists in a Women Impacting Aerospace discussion are (from left): Heather McDowell, OCAST, Alexis Higgins, CEO of the Tulsa International Airport; Brenda Rolls, Ph.D., CEO of Frontier Electronic Systems; Sara Shmalo, material and process engineer at Spirit Aerosystems; and Haley Marie Keith, CEO of MITO Material Solutions

 

Editor’s note: I was invited by my friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology to attend the recent OK-WISE conference in Tulsa, where I sat in on a couple of panel discussions.  The topic of internships as a way to gain experience and an entry into the Aerospace industry (and others!) caught my attention.  So, I filed this report.

TULSA – Heather McDowell shared some bleak industry employment numbers as moderator during a panel discussion entitled Women Impacting Aerospace at the recent 2019 OK-WISE conference at the Hyatt Regency Tulsa.

The conference focused on helping women advance their careers in STEM fields such as cybersecurity, manufacturing, technology and economic empowerment.

“We see statistics all the time about STEM industry and how women are under represented in this field,” said McDowell, associate director of Programs at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST).

“Overall, about 25 percent of our workforce are women, but particularly in aerospace only about 10 percent of the workforce are women,” she said. “How can we get more women involved in aerospace?”

The OK-WISE – Women Impacting STEM & Entrepreneurship – conference was produced by the Oklahoma Catalyst Programs that is headquartered at the Tom Love Innovation Hub at the University of Oklahoma. Organizers sought to inspire and encourage an audience of about 300 women aspiring to STEM careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, or entrepreneurship.

So, how did the panel of female aerospace professionals answer McDowell’s questions of bringing more women into the industry?  

Internships can be an important component to bringing more women into aerospace – and any STEM profession — panelists suggested.

And that can begin with high school, students, said Sara Shmalo, material and process engineer at Spirit Aerosystems in Tulsa.

“One of the things that Spirit does is we partner with high schools and started bringing in high school students who have a passion for aviation,” Shmalo said. “They can watch the processes in place, and some of them have come up with great ideas that have saved time, and they are offered jobs out of high school. We train them to work there.”

Seated next to Shmalo on the panel was Brenda Rolls, Ph.D., CEO of Stillwater’s Frontier Electronic Systems, a company that manufactures sophisticated electronic components for advanced military aircraft and for the U.S. space industry. Frontier employs more than 50 engineers among its workforce of about 120 people.

Potential interns are recruited and evaluated for the positions as if they were being hired for full-time Frontier Electronic positions, Rolls said.

“We try to give the interns real hands-on experience of what it would be like to work in an aerospace company like ours,” Rolls said. “We have had a number of female interns, and one of the great things that happens is there have been a number of interns who have stayed with us after they graduated. So, we have three women that have continued with us as full-time employees, and we have a number of men.”

OCAST manages a statewide cost-share Intern Partnership program that places college students in real world work environments like Frontier Electronic Systems across Oklahoma.

“I think Oklahoma is trying really, really hard to improve the hands-on learning opportunities for students at all levels,” Rolls said.

Jim Stafford writes about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

Take me out to the ‘Botball’ game: Robotics competition fuels STEM interests July 15, 2019

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The KISS Institute for Practical Robotics (KIPR) unleashed hundreds of robots in Norman at the recent Global Conference on Educational Robotics.

The event brought 700 school aged software engineers to Oklahoma from around the world.

Students from elementary age to high school competed in an international robotics competition called “Botball,” in which autonomous robots they designed, built and programmed attempted to tackle the task of cleaning up a virtual “city” that had been ravaged by flooding.

I was there at the invitation of my friends at the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology (OCAST) for the opportunity to see some student-built robots in action.

A student team makes last-second adjustments to their robot before the Botball tournament begins.

While students saw Botball as a fun and challenging competition, the KIPR Institute describes it as a “standards-based” STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education program.

“What is awesome about Botball, I have students that are writing code and doing all of this in the third grade,” said Steve Goodgame, executive director of the KIPR Institute. “I had a college student who came in earlier and said he was working with the elementary students and ‘my gosh, that’s what I was doing as a freshman in college and these third graders are doing it.’”

The KIPR Institute hosts STEM events throughout the year and regional Botball competitions from which top teams qualify for the International competition.

The Institute has a mission to improve the public’s understanding of STEM and “develop the skills, character and aspirations of students” while contributing to the enrichment of schools and the community.

Teams from Canada, Mexico, Qatar, Kuwait, China, Poland, Austria, Africa, Taiwan and across the United States came to Norman for this year’s event, which also included an aerial drone competition and international keynote speakers.

Of course, there’s a bottom line to all the Botball fun. And that’s the acquisition of STEM skills that help create a workforce prepared for the career demands of the future.

“We are teaching a bunch of skills they can put in their tool box that they can use when they start innovating new companies, new ideas and new technologies,” Goodgame said. “It’s imperative that we as a state prepare our younger students as they age up and get these skills so we have a talented workforce that understands computer science.”

For Gillian Melendez, a 16-year-old junior-to-be from Xavier College Prep in Coachella Valley, Calif., the International Botball experience provided the opportunity to meet like-minded students from around the world and pursue her interest in software coding.

“I started when I was in 6th grade and I fell in love with it,” Melendez said. “Most girls aren’t into robotics because it’s nerdy, but I fell in love.  I love to code.”

Melendez was one of two girls on the six-person “G-Force” team from Coachilla Valley.

Norman native Braden McDorman is Exhibit A that Botball is an effective strategy for building STEM skills.

Braden McDorman is an entrepreneur who learned coding from his Botball experience

McDorman began competing in Botball in middle school, and today is co-founder and chief technology officer of a robotics software startup called Semio.

“I started Botball in sixth grade at Whittier Middle School and did it all through high school,” McDorman said. “Then I got an internship at KIPR working on software in high school and continued while I was working on my undergraduate degree at OU.”

McDorman’s path took him to the Oklahoma School of Science and Mathematics in high school and then on to a computer science degree at the University of Oklahoma. He also serves as a KIPR instructor for regional Botball competitions in Southern California, and co-founded Los Angeles-based Semio with another Botball alumnus.

“I’m working on a startup all because of Botball, actually,” McDorman said. “It’s a game that teaches everything you need to know to do real science, real programming. It’s the perfect way to prepare for a career in STEM.”

(Full disclosure: I write about Oklahoma innovation and research and development topics on behalf of the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science & Technology (OCAST).

 

 

 

A typo and a Confederacy of Dunces — 2019 July 1, 2019

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We needed to change a single letter in a name. A typo. We wanted to change an “A” to an “O,” correcting the misspelling “Soloman” to “Solomon” on a birth certificate and Social Security card issued to my newborn grandson, Solomon James Stafford.

The bureaucracy conspired against our efforts to make it happen. We had to make five separate trips to state and federal offices to get it corrected.

Let me start at the beginning.

rejectedMy daughter gave birth to a baby on May 29, a boy who was born two months premature. The hospital sent a person around to inquire about the name shortly after he was born. Both my daughter and my wife told her that he was to be Solomon James Stafford and spelled it out.

S-O-L-O-M-O-N.

Somehow, Solomon became Soloman before it was turned into the state for an official birth certificate. That misspelling was picked up by the Social Security Administration, which promptly printed out a new SS card in the wrong name and mailed it to us.

The effort to correct the spelling turned into an odyssey that began with our initial trip to the records department at the Oklahoma Health Department and ended up with four trips to the Social Security office before the “a” could be corrected to an “o.”

Here’s how it happened.

At the state records office, my daughter filled out the form requesting a corrected birth certificate, and we paid our $30 for two copies and then went to the window to obtain the documents.

After a short wait of just a few minutes, the woman behind the glass gave the new birth certificates to my daughter and we were off! As we walked out, I told Sarah that she should check the spelling just to make sure that it was correct on the corrected version.

She opened the folder and then stopped dead in her tracks. I looked. It read “Soloman James Stafford.”

I looked back and no one was at the window yet, so I ran back and told the attendant that the new birth certificate we received had the same misspelling. When my daughter walked up, she was told to go pay the fee once again, then get back in line.

Sarah fought back tears and an urge to scream at someone, went back and paid a new fee for corrected birth certificates, then got back in line, which had grown considerably. Turns out, this time the wait was about 35 minutes, but we ended up with two birth certificates with the correct spelling of Solomon James Stafford.

Then we headed to the Social Security office. Bad news. Sarah was told that a birth certificate is not acceptable to change a name. We needed an official document from the hospital.

So, we drove back to Mercy Hospital and asked for an official document with a doctor’s signature as proof of birth. A nurse gave us a certificate that had the doctor’s signature, the seal of the hospital and included Solomon’s footprints.

Nailed it! Or so we thought. We were rejected for a second time at the Social Security office because the document the hospital gave us was a “souvenir,” as the attendant described it. “That’s not an acceptable federal document,” he told us.

Back to the hospital, where we went straight to the health records office and asked for something – anything – that the Social Security Administration would accept. I was given a couple of printouts that included the doctor’s notes from the birth and an immunization record. The doctor’s signature was electronic and the document did not have a name or hospital seal on it.

But that’s what we received. By now, I had gone out of town on a trip, so my wife took over and went with Sarah back to the Social Security office.

Of course, the documents were rejected again.

This time, Paula went straight to the hospital and requested to talk to an administrator. She told them about our plight and the need for a signature and an official hospital seal with Solomon’s name on it. The hospital had to create such a document and did.

Paula took that back to the Social Security office and it was finally accepted as official. I was still on my trip out of town when my daughter texted me the words “FIFTH TIME IS A CHARM!” I called her back and learned that baby Solomon (allegedly) would soon be receiving a new Social Security card with the correct spelling of his name.

I’ll call this lunacy a Confederacy of Dunces after my favorite book, because the system set us up for failure time after time.  

Baby Solomon, it will be years before you realize the challenges that we faced to correct a random typo of a single letter in your name. But we got it done. You’re welcome.