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Bonacio Construction Begins Transformation of the Historic Neumann Center
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Renovations at the St. John Neumann Residence, nestled behind tall trees at 233 Lake Ave. in Saratoga Springs, are well underway; transforming what once was a retirement home for priests, into an independent senior living community.
Sonny Bonacio, president of Bonacio Construction Inc., has been the force behind luxury condos, apartments, commercial offices and retail stores. Now, he’s bringing that same Bonacio touch to what he’s naming The Grove at Neumann – a 55+ active adult living community that’s set to open in late summer of 2015.
“Right now, they’re clearing a lot of the property outside of the building where one of the parking areas will be,” said Leah Palmer, marketing representative for Bonacio Construction, Inc. “They were also doing cleaning up some demo work inside, but that’s pretty much done. It’s set to be open for occupancy and for people to move in probably in August or September of next year.”
There will be 76 units available for rent at The Grove at Neumann; comprised of one bedroom, one bedroom with den, two bedrooms and two bedrooms with den.
“We just finalized floor plans and pricing,” said Palmer. “So our plan is to reach out to those on our waiting list which, right now, we have over 80 people on our waiting list. We’re going to reach out to them and get them that information. We’re going to let the people who have reached out to us have first dibs, basically, at the different options.”
The Grove at Neumann is within walking distance to downtown Saratoga Springs, shopping and dining; but with over a dozen amenities, residents may not even want to leave. Amenities include: swimming pool; gym; fitness classroom; movie theater; billiards and game room; spa; hair and nail salon; transportation services; concierge services; office with computers and printers; dining room with grab and go café; great room in the old chapel; library; outdoor barbecue space; community gardens; and covered garages.
Palmer said Bonacio Construction, Inc. is working hard to preserve the integrity and history of the former St. John Neumann Residence throughout the transformation.
“There’s a lot of historical beauty that comes with it,” said Palmer. “For example the chapel inside, it won’t be used as a chapel by any means, is certainly still going to have that historical feel and we want to go off of the beauty that’s already there.”
While there’s already close to 80 people on The Grove at Neumann’s waitlist, Palmer says it’s not too late to sign up for those interested in securing a unit.
“I would say I get between three to five people a day that reach out to me, whether it’s inquiring, asking to get on the waitlist,” said Palmer. “We’ve had a really great response so far.”
Marcus Jackson among Four Local Vets Who Received Refurbished Cars on Veterans Day
ALBANY – H&V Collision Center, one of the largest independently owned collision repair facilities in the Capital Region, hosted a Veterans Day luncheon on Tuesday, Nov. 11, to give four deserving veterans and their families cars as part of the 2014 Keys to Progress.
The event, the seventh in a series hosted by H&V, comes after months of deliberation. The veterans and families were hand-selected based on their involvement with the military, their exemplary efforts to improve their families’ lives and their need for a reliable automobile.
“In our industry, people get in accidents and sometimes they’re severe and what happens is these cars are totally lost, irreparable. You can’t fix them anymore,” said Rich Tanchyk, assistant vice president at H&V Collision. “So what we do is we take these cars that are dead, because that’s what they are – they go to the junkyard, they cut them up, they don’t live anymore; and we recycle them, we bring them back to life. The cars look like they’re smiling because they almost know what their job is now.”
H&V Collision partnered with Goldstein Auto Group, Progressive Insurance, Enterprise, and other local partners to make these generous donations happen. Enterprise will be providing insurance coverage for all four vehicles. The cars also came equipped with car seats. Title and registration costs, along with tags, were generously paid for as well.
Marine Corp veteran, Marcus Jackson of Ballston Spa, was among the four recipients who were awarded refurbished vehicles. Jackson was raised with 11 siblings by his grandmother and he joined the military in search of a better life. Now, Jackson cares for his 6-year-old daughter, Anessa, and 3-year-old son Ely while searching for a full-time position in which he is able to apply his experience from the Marines.
There was no containing the excitement felt in the air as all four cars were unveiled. Jackson received a Ford sedan and his children were quick to hop in and check out their new ride.
“We love it,” said Anessa. “It’s great!”
Hearing that response and seeing his children’s reaction to the new family car was Marcus’ favorite part.
“I love it,” said Marcus. “That’s what it’s all about for me.”
Marcus says the car will help out his family tremendously, especially with day-to-day trips like school, doctor’s visits, and grocery store trips which add up.
“She [Anessa] needs shots for school, so I have to take her to the pediatrician,” said Marcus. “Right now it’s a four-mile walk to the bus stop from where we live.”
Fellow recipients include Dan Cooper from Cherry Valley, Tom Kudlack from Watervliet, and Patrick Boyle of Queensbury.
The Fair Trade Store Supports Thousands of Farmers and Artisans around the World
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Saratoga Marketplace, located at 454 Broadway, has welcomed a new addition to its retail space – Mango Tree Imports. The fair trade store opened its doors in Saratoga Springs two weeks ago, offering unique items to the community. All products in the store are handmade from the developing world.
“There’s an array of color and products that are all natural, handmade from the developing world and all fairly traded,” said Kim Andersen, Mango Tree co-owner. “It’s also a global-cultural experience between the international music, the products and the map so people can see where everything is from.”
Mango Tree Imports is the brainchild of Chris and Kim Andersen, who started the store in 2006 in Ballston Spa. Educators by trade, Chris and Kim moved to Paraguay in 1998 to teach English at the American School of Asunción.
“We were surrounded by the red earth and rural lifestyle, mango trees all over the country,” said Kim. “When we moved to New York we wanted to find a way to stay in touch with the country and to keep our ties with some of the people we had met and the art that we fell in love with.”
One of the first products the Andersen’s imported was Paraguayan silver filigree. The unique art of filigree was first introduced to Latin America by Spanish conquistadors. The artist transforms a nugget of silver into a small rectangle by melting and cooling it. The rectangle is then fed into a rustic press thousands of times until a fine silver thread, hundreds of times the original length, emerges. The jeweler then begins the delicate procedure of doubling and twisting individual threads into ornate, finely-rendered designs. Paraguayan silver filigree jewelry can be found at the store.
Bandhani silk scarves can also be found on display at Mango Tree. Although the beautiful scarves from Western India look embroidered, the patterns and puckers result completely from meticulous tie-dying. The technique is known as Bandhani. First, an intricate design is printed in non-permanent ink onto the fabric. Women then follow the design as they tie dozens of tiny knots and carefully dip the fabric in colored dyes to achieve the results you see.
Since opening the store, Mango Tree Imports now offers products from 65 countries. From jewelry and scarves, to wall hangings and home décor, every product is unique; but most importantly, fairly traded.
“Fair trade is a way of doing business with the developing world,” said Kim. “We like to let people know that it’s not charity, it is capitalism, and it’s a true business model. The purpose behind it is poverty alleviation in the developing world. Fair trade, at the surface, there are a few main principles that we focus on. One is fair wages to producers, like farmers or artisans; no child labor; care for the environment; democratic workplaces. Fair trade is about working with the farmers and artisans to ensure they’re making a living wage and have safe working conditions. “
Mango Tree Imports is the only locally-owned store in the Capital Region that is 100 percent committed to fair trade and was instrumental in Ballston Spa becoming New York’s first fair trade town. Kim says she hopes to bring fair trade awareness to Mango Tree’s new home in Saratoga Springs.
“The decision to be in Saratoga was a multi-faceted decision,” said Kim. “We realized it was time to move our two language schools, which are Capital Region Language Center and Empire State English, to Saratoga. We miss the synergy between the schools and the store. Being in Saratoga, being on Broadway will hopefully lead to more customers and the more customers we have, the better it is for the developing world, so there’s that effect as well. The third reason…it seemed like it was the time for a location shift.”
While Mango Tree Imports has only been a resident of Saratoga Springs for about two weeks, Kim said she’s enjoying Saratoga Marketplace so far and loves meeting the store’s neighbors.
Goals for Mango Tree include increasing its customer base, looking for partnerships in the area, and hosting events like fair trade chocolate and wine tastings, and share the importance of fair trade.
“We’re all very, very connected whether or not we realize it on a daily basis,” said Kim. “The actions on a daily basis that we take as consumers in the U.S. or in Saratoga County, they have an impact on the person on the other end of the product. I think the more we can be aware that we’re all connected, the more our choices will be influenced.”
Mango Tree Imports is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
To learn more about fair trade, visit www.fairtradecampaigns.org.
Participants Agree SWS Experience was Powerful, Educational
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Registration is now open for the third annual StartUp Weekend-Saratoga, hosted by In Focus Brands. The collaborative and intense 54-hour event will be held November 14-16 at the Fragomeni Insurance Building, located at 3257 Route 9, in Saratoga Springs.
The weekend brings people with different skillsets together to formulate and to present successful ventures to launch. Manufacturing, IT, medical, finance, media and software are some of the industries that are expected to be represented.
“We are very excited to be running our third StartUp Weekend, especially since we will be part of Global StartUp Week which includes an international video competition for our participating teams,” said Robert Manasier, lead organizer and facilitator.
Now in its third event, organizers are hoping SWS will draw even more participants to increase the networking pool. While the goal of the event is to create successful entrepreneurs, many past participants shared that regardless of the outcome the event provides a powerful and educational experience.
Past participant and Long Island native, Chris Horn, was involved in SWS in January of 2013. He says the experience brought him exactly what he was looking for.
“I thought it would be a good way to meet people and turn the people that I meet into opportunities so that I could move [to Saratoga,]” said Horn. “One of the judges was the vice president of product development for the company I now work for. I work with him on developing software for e-commerce.”
During SWS, Horn was involved with a team that developed Caroline Calls – a phone reminder service for the elderly. The service would make daily calls to those signed up for it, with appointment reminders, medication reminders, social calendar events, etc. “Caroline” was the persona or the human face for the business – think of “Flo” from Progressive Insurance.
“The way the idea evolved was we began looking at services for the aging. There are a lot of baby boomers that are going to be aging out,” said Horn. “The idea was you as a concerned family member can sign them up for this service and have a personalized, friendly lady to call you up and remind you to do stuff. It’s better than an impersonal device that doesn’t include social interaction.”
Horn said the group learned a lot from its experience at StartUp Weekend Saratoga and the most valuable part of the event was the tremendous amount of knowledge and insight gained at the end of the process.
“The value of the weekend is that it teaches you how to look with a critical eye at business ideas and evaluate them,” said Horn. “The practice is running through that critical look at business ideas. It’s a fun process. You also work on presentation skills. At the end of the day, it’s a competition. You have to have the proper analysis that demonstrates and properly argues why your business should be the one someone puts their hard-earned dollars into.”
Cory Leveen participated in StartUp Weekend Saratoga in the spring of 2013 while he was a student at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy. The business he developed at SWS, Munch Match, helped amateur chefs host dinner parties and network with those looking for services. Leveen said he got great feedback from the SWS judging panel and became an entrepreneur later on.
“I created a company with a friend of mine after the event was over and I worked on it for about a year while I was still in school,” said Leveen. “Then I changed careers and I’m now a freelance web developer in New York City.”
While Leveen isn’t on the entrepreneurial path anymore, he says the SWS provides a priceless experience.
“The event itself is so rewarding,” said Leveen. “You meet such smart, motivated people and you hear so many interesting ideas. It’s really fantastic. I found it to be great on so many levels and the people involved were awesome.”
This StartUp Weekend will have a new element – viral video creation. All teams will be uploading videos to be part of the Global StartUp Competition, a possible regional competition for the winners. In Focus Brands is also exploring in experts from around the globe to coach via Skype.
“It’s exciting to see a group of unassociated individuals team up to formulate a plan with the common goal of launching a business,” said David Fragomeni, event organizer and coach. “The video aspect to the event adds another layer of access to possible funding and interest for our participants this year.”
To register, visit http://saratoga.up.co/events/4714
Solar Field Will Provide 12 Percent of College’s Annual Electrical Usage
GREENFIELD CENTER – Skidmore College’s two-megawatt solar array on Denton Road in Greenfield Center is now complete. The private school held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to celebrate the completion Tuesday, Oct. 7.
The system is comprised of 6,950 modules with panels post mounted less than six feet off the ground. The eight-acre solar field will provide 12 percent of Skidmore’s annual electrical usage from clean, renewable power. It is among the largest solar arrays in New York State, according to Skidmore.
Skidmore College President, Philip A. Glotzbach, says this project is an element of the college’s ongoing investment in sustainable energy.
“There’s a broad range of such initiatives -- geothermal cooling on campus, solar power and hydropower; all of which the college is pursuing,” said Glotzbach. “One of the themes of our mission statement is to educate the students to be informed, responsible citizens. Through our own commitment to sustainability, the college is modeling such responsible behavior and is in itself operating as a responsible citizen of Saratoga Springs.”
The solar electric project is part of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s NY-Sun Initiative to offer state assistance for solar ventures, which is dramatically increasing solar energy and moving the solar industry in New York State toward sustainability and self-sufficiency.
In 2013, Skidmore was awarded a $2.35 million grant from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) and worked with a developer, Dynamic Solar, to get the solar farm up and running.
Skidmore’s solar project is “New York’s solar success story,” according to Janet Joseph, Vice President for Technology and Strategic Planning at NYSERDA.
“It’s been more than a decade since NYSERDA first started supporting solar energy,” said Joseph. “Since then, we have come a long, long way. In fact, last month Governor Cuomo announced we will partner with solar developers across New York State to install over 200 megawatts of solar power. That’s nearly 70 percent more than what was installed a year ago.”
Joseph said today’s young adults are coming of age in an era with a heightened environmental awareness; one where extreme climate events are incurring with greater frequency. That observation poses true for Skidmore senior Margaret Pfeffer, who says this solar project is a step in the right direction toward an environmentally sustainable future for energy.
“I know that many of us [students] dream of a more sustainable Skidmore and this project is not just a step, but a leap towards fulfilling that dream,” said Pfeffer. “Climate change is such a complex problem and there’s no single solution that will erase the damage we as humans have done. That’s why all of our efforts at Skidmore are so important.”
Tumi Oguntala to Appear on Popular TLC Show Friday Night
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Viewers fell in love with Clifton Park native, Tumi Oguntala, during her time on season 15 of The Biggest Loser on NBC. Now, Oguntala will enter our living rooms once again as she searches for the perfect wedding dress on TLC’s hit show, Say Yes to the Dress, tonight Oct. 10 at 9/8c.
Oguntala made Biggest Loser history with her 54.86 percent weight loss, or 175 pounds – the highest percentage for an at-home contestant. Oguntala and her fiancé, Jim, postponed their wedding so she could be on the show and she said it was an easy decision to make.
“My fiancé Jim always said he wished he met me when we were both younger so we could have more time together,” said Oguntala. “Now we have it.”
Friday’s episode of Say Yes to the Dress documents Oguntala’s search for the perfect dress at Kleinfeld Bridal in New York City with her best friend of more than 30 years, Penny Hartfield, by her side.
“Picking a wedding dress for me was always going to be bittersweet because my mom died when I was 14,” said Oguntala. “I was worried I wouldn’t be able to feel the joy of the occasion, so I knew going to the Disneyland of dress shops would cure that.”
A visit from Jillian Michaels would do the trick, too! In an exclusive clip of the episode, Michaels surprises Oguntala at her bridal appointment and their reunion is a tearjerker.
“In all my 20 years working at Kleinfeld’s, I never witnessed something so emotional,” says bridal consultant, Debbie Asprea in the clip.
Emotional, yes; but the surprise was also unforgettable for Oguntala.
“It was a magical experience,” said Oguntala. “Jillian knew I would miss my mom and she stood up for me. I’ll never forget that.”
Oguntala says her fall wedding will be held in Saratoga Springs, with the ceremony taking place at The National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs and reception at the Canfield Casino.
As for honeymoon plans and when or if they’ll start a family, Oguntala says everyone will just have to stay tuned.
Season 12 of Say Yes to the Dress premiers Friday, Oct. 10 at 9/8c on TLC.
Saratoga County’s First Female District Attorney
BALLSTON SPA – Saratoga County has its first female District Attorney in Karen Heggen after she was sworn in Friday, Sept. 19.
Heggen, serving as acting district attorney, began her duties less than a day after longtime D.A. Jim Murphy stepped down. Murphy is running unopposed for county judge.
“To have worked for so long in the office and to have had some role in putting together the amazing team…it’s exciting and its humbling to take the reins and lead everybody forward,” said Heggen.
Heggen, a 51-year-old Malta native, will spend the next three months serving as acting D.A. and is running unopposed for election in November. She has spent the last 22 years as an assistant district attorney in the Saratoga County D.A.’s office.
Heggen was first appointed to the district attorney’s office in July of 1993 by former District Attorney David A. Wait. Murphy appointed her Chief Trial Assistant Attorney in January of 1998, when he was sworn in to office as district attorney. Heggen was then appointed to First Assistant District Attorney in March of 2010.
Heggen’s father, Arne E. Heggen, was a local attorney and served for many years as the Saratoga County Attorney and was active in the bar association.
“I grew up watching my dad do many different things as a lawyer and I thought it was a great profession,” said Heggen. “I sort of followed him in his footsteps and I got a chance to practice with him when I finished law school.”
Heggen graduated from Ballston Spa High School, Middlebury College, and Vermont Law School. She’s been a lifelong resident of Saratoga County and says as the acting district attorney, she wants to maintain the values of the community.
“What I’m looking to do is to continue the strong traditions that we’ve had going on here,” said Heggen. “We’re an office, I believe, that every day seeks justice and that’s a balance of many different things. Ultimately what we want to do is keep our community safe and a place where people want to continue to live.”
To accomplish that, Heggen says the office needs to be involved not just in the prosecution of cases, but also preventative programs, educational programs, non-profit organizations, advocacy groups, and programs with alternative proceedings such as drug treatment court.
Outside of the office and the courtroom, Heggen has been and is involved in a number of community organizations such as Saratoga Bridges, the Charlton School for Girls, The Ballston Spa Educational Foundation, Saratoga County Youth Court, and Cornell Cooperative Extension of Saratoga County. She has also been active at St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Ballston Spa.
“I actually live in the same neighborhood I grew up in,” said Heggen. “I like where I live, I like being a part of that community. It’s been an amazing experience these last few weeks with the range of people that I’ve heard from with well wishes on my new position. Whether they were teachers, people who knew my parents, friends of mine from school as well as my siblings, it’s a great place to live and a great place to be. I’m excited to be the person who’s going to bring this office forward and continue to do the good works we’ve been doing.”
Father and Son Duo Spent Summer Relieving Pain, Repairing Smiles
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Oral health care falls far from the top of the list of common daily concerns for most developing nations. Basic daily tasks take much higher priority. With few options for those needing oral care, a father and son from Saratoga Springs recently made a volunteer trip to Peronia, Guatemala to promote oral hygiene through the Open Wide Foundation at Spear Education.
Dr. Marc A. Johnson of Smiles for Life Dental Care and his son Parker, a senior at Saratoga Central Catholic High School, spent one week in the village of Peronia, a town of roughly 100,000 people in the outskirts of Guatemala City. Dr. Johnson donated his time, expertise and skills to the community, performing a variety of procedures from filings to extractions, cleanings, and root canals, with Parker by his side.
“The foundation, with corporate sponsorship and volunteers, has started to build these dental clinics in places of great need with no option for dental care,” said Dr. Johnson. “They’re in some of the most destitute areas of Guatemala. On a weekly basis, you can sign up and fly down and do dentistry for one week.”
Parker hopes to attend dental school after graduating next spring and says assisting his dad whenever he can has affirmed his desire to work in the oral health care industry and given him valuable, hands-on clinical experience.
“Obviously my dad’s a dentist, so that’s been a good amount of influence,” said Parker. “But working alongside him, I’ve had a good amount of fun, especially in Guatemala. You could see the people light up when they saw their new smiles and even though it was hard to communicate because of the language barrier, you could tell they appreciated what you were doing and it was great to be a part of that.”
The Open Wide Foundation, a non-profit organization, has made it a mission to “make a significant, measurable and lasting change in the state of oral health in impoverished communities worldwide.” Peronia, Guatemala is the first of six clinics the Open Wide Foundation has planned to build in Guatemala’s most impoverished regions through private and corporate donations.
Peronia’s people have an average annual income of less than $800 a year. Their homes are comprised primarily of tin panels supported by tree limbs buried in the ground and concentrated along a mountain hillside. A downwind cliff near the edge of town is where trash is dumped into a river ravine below. The people of Peronia survive in abject poverty. Two more Open Wide Foundation clinics are scheduled to open in similar areas of Guatemala this year.
Nearly every week, one to four dentists from the United States volunteer in the clinic. A couple of local dental graduates also train in the clinic, gaining knowledge and insight from visiting doctors. Dr. Johnson says the clinic, thanks to outside funding, was able to provide everything they needed to perform primary care work.
“One of the things they do as a rite of passage to adulthood is they put gold foil veneers or crown-type things, like frames or windows, around the outside of the tooth,” said Dr. Johnson. “Unfortunately, when you eat a lot of sugar, they rot out inside and one woman was going to lose both of her front teeth. I removed the gold windows and rebuilt her tooth, did a root canal on the other one and she was so appreciative because she thought she was going to lose them.”
The Johnsons were able to treat close to 40 patients during their volunteer trip and often performed multiple procedures on each one. Parker says the experience was more than he could have asked for and would like to continue assisting his dad before he graduates.
“I’m going to college soon, so that’s going to factor in,” said Parker. “We might have more volunteer trips on the agenda if time permits.”
This isn’t the first dental mission trip for the Johnsons; they’ve donated their time and expertise to other voluntary efforts in the Dominican Republic and closer to home in Troy, New York for the Missions of Mercy Dental Care clinic. Dr. Johnson and Parker will also be assisting with oral health evaluation screenings for student athletes participating in the New York State Special Olympics.
“I tag along with my dad a good amount of the time,” said Parker. We’ve been to Missions of Mercy, then we went to Guatemala and now we’re going to the Special Olympics.”
The Johnsons are also planning a mouth guard clinic for students involved in winter sports.
For more information on the Open Wide Foundation or to make a donation, visit www.openwidefoundation.org.
Owners of Wheatfields Restaurants Expand Their Portfolio
SARATOGA SPRINGS – Nestled in The Springs, a mixed-use development in Saratoga, BWP Local Grille has opened its doors, serving craft beers, boutique wines by the glass and hand-tossed specialty pizzas.
The 3,800-square-foot restaurant is equipped with a full-service bar and three-season outdoor patio with fire pits. BWP is open for lunch, dinner and carry-out service.
“We want this to be a neighborhood contemporary bar and grill,” said Tim Holmes, co-owner. “We want to be the neighborhood hangout, a place where people can feel comfortable coming three to four times a week and also getting take-out. It’s fun, it’s upbeat, it’s casual.”
This is the third restaurant in the upstate New York market for co-owners Tim and Colleen Holmes. Prior to their work in New York, Tim and Colleen were involved with restaurants in Chicago, Boston and Las Vegas.
The couple runs Wheatfields Restaurant and Bar on Broadway in Saratoga Springs, which opened in 2004 and has celebrated 11 racing seasons. In 2009, they opened Wheatfields Bistro and Wine Bar at The Crossings in Clifton Park. The restaurant will celebrate its fifth anniversary in November.
“Those two are doing well,” said Tim. “Even though they have the Wheatfields name, they’re specific to their location; and [BWP] is a completely different concept altogether, but part of our family. Certainly we’re looking forward to offering our market clientele the ability to go from one to the other and get a loyalty program and things like that, so we’re excited.”
With over 25 beers, 13 of which are on tap, and a variety of all-natural specialty burgers, specialty pizzas and hearty salads, customers have a wide range of options on the menu. Tim says one of their goals was to incorporate local products on the menu; including beer from Saratoga Brewery, Brown’s Brewery rom Troy, Lake Placid Craft Brewing Company, Cooperstown, and Schmaltz Brewery in Clifton Park.
“We have seven products represented from New York in the craft beer section,” said Tim. “We also feature four New York wines by the glass as well, along with some New York spirits that are now being distilled. We wanted craft and artisan products that are made close to home.”
Dessert items on the menu are also locally made from J&S Watkins Desserts in Clifton Park. Even the artwork was conceptualized by a local artist named Dan Roll. Local millworker Ralph Grasso assisted in the design and construction process as well.
Visit BWP at The Springs, a development by Bonacio Construction, at 74 Weibel Ave. near Northway Exit 15. The restaurant will begin serving lunch every day of the week starting Monday, Oct. 7. Call 518-763-BWP5 for carryout.
“The dining industry is always evolving,” said Tim. “We’ve developed BWP to be a very welcoming, clean and comfortable look. We also wanted to be very accessible. Come as you are, come as often as you’d like.”
“Scottie” Helps All Students with Science, Math, ELA, Literacy
BALLSTON SPA – As students in Wood Road Elementary in Ballston Spa returned to school, they were greeted by teachers, staff members and a special addition to the classroom – two NAO humanoid robots. The robots, one “boy” named Scottie and one “girl” who has yet to be named, have become popular classroom assistants.
“When you first see the robot, you’re immediately drawn in. He’s attentive to the room and his eyes light up and you’ll see him look around the room,” said Dave Blanchard, Principal at Wood Road Elementary. “People who have been around the robot get excited about being in the presence of him, so it’s neat.”
The robots, each 23 inches tall, have enhanced audio and visual capabilities. Equipped with camera and microphone sensors, Scottie is able to recognize a large quantity of objects, include face detection and recognition. He is also able to speak up to nine languages, perform sound detection, localization and automatic speech recognition. Scottie has active joints, so he’s able to sit and walk and can even pick himself up if he falls.
The friendly robots are also programmed to interact and educate kids with autism; and with a large population of autistic students at Wood Road, Principal Blanchard says Scottie has been a tremendous asset in the classroom.
“Autism is a social communication disorder,” said Blanchard. “The robot is non-threatening so it’s not like the teacher giving a lesson and the autistic child is having trouble attending because of a number of reasons. The autistic child might be more turned on to the non-threatening presence of the robot. We’ve seen students already communicating with the robot in a way that’s different than with their teacher.”
Wood Road Elementary in the Ballston Spa Central School District is the first school in upstate New York and one of two schools in New York State to have an NAO robot. Both of Wood Road’s robots were purchased for a combined $30,000 through multiple grants, building funds and special education funding.
“He’s another member of our class at this point and all the kids want to be around him,” said Laura Henault, a special education teacher. “Scottie has positive reinforcement built into him, so when a question is answered correctly he’ll clap and say ‘good job.’ Or if an answer is incorrect he’ll be positive and reassuring and say ‘nice try’ or ‘you’ll get it next time!’ The kids respond well to either the positive or constructive feedback.”
The NAO humanoid robots will also be incorporated into general education curriculum and the school’s gifted and talented program. This multi-faceted initiative will eventually cross subject matter and curricula in schools across the district. While the district is less than one month into the school year, school administrators say the full capabilities of both robots haven’t been reached.
“There are so many moving parts within this,” said Jim Lovett, BSCSD Coordinator of Instructional Technology. “We haven’t even really delved into the upper-level programming – the C++, Java, the stuff the kids in FIRST robotics at the high school are doing -- we haven’t even touched that yet. In a project management timeline, that’s years out. We’re really in phase one of potentially six or seven phases with the robots.”
The district is currently working on developing apps and programming software to incorporate more lessons and activities and is taking life with the robots day by day. So far, both NAO humanoid robots seem to be fitting in seamlessly.
"It fits so into the district's philosophy of the four C's that we use -- critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and creativity," said Lovett. "It's literally limitless where they're going to fit into the district's puzzle and overall philosophy of efficiency and effectiveness through instructional technology."