2019 Summer Recap!
Dear Friends and Family,
Happy Summer! We have reached the half-year point! Throughout these past few months, we have had an array of opportunities grow from our work. Below you will find an overview of the accomplishments and upcoming events. Please continue to support us in our pursuit for a more resilient Puerto Rico and expand our successful models to other parts of the world.
Psychology & Judo
Dr. David Matsumoto is a long-time friend and a renowned expert in the field of microexpressions, gesture, nonverbal behavior, culture and emotion. He is a Professor of Psychology at San Francisco State University and is the founder and Director of the Culture and Emotion Research Laboratory (CERL) at San Francisco State. David holds a 7th degree black belt, as well as class “A” Coaching and Referee Licenses. He has won countless awards, including the US Olympic Committee’s Coach of the Year Award in 2003 and served as the head coach of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Judo Team.
How does this relate to Project Coqui? During David’s 30-years as a Professor at San Francisco State University, he has established a comprehensive library of his research work areas and offered to donate it to an entity in Puerto Rico. During my recent trip to the island, I identified Dr. Gerardo Perfecto, a Clinical Psychologist, Professor, and Dean of Student Affairs at the University of Puerto Rico, at the Carolina Campus as the right recipient. The Carolina Campus has a Forensic Psychology and Criminal Justice Programs that can benefit from this donation. Additionally, David has agreed to collect used Judogis, (traditional Judo uniforms) to donate to children from low-income families in PR. Project Coqui will transfer the uniforms to the two Summer Camps that we have adopted in Penuelas and Humacao and will fund Instructor support, as part of after-school programs.
The Calix Institute donated five hot-spots with Sprint service to our team. We distributed them to the digital labs that we have supported; Barrio La Moca in Penuelas; Colegio San Conrado and Los Hijos de Belgica in Ponce; and two to a Digital Lab run by a community leader in downtown Rio Piedras.
Faith and Opportunity Federal Program
The Federal Program Managers in coordination with the Puerto Rico Science Technology and Research Trust have adopted five cities in Puerto Rico: Ponce, Humacao, Utuado, Aguada and Toa Baja. The next step is a Faith workshop to be held in Puerto Rico in September.
Our friend Dr. Linton Wells is sponsoring a Star-Tides event in September and one scenario supports Puerto Rico. Attached please find an Executive Summary. Here is the link to sign-up.
San Diego State University
During my technology innovation days in the government I had the pleasure to work with academia. One of those forward-leaning organizations were SDSU and the Viz Lab run by Dr. Eric Frost. I was recently in touch with Dr. Frost and staff and we discussed potential ways to collaborate to help Project Coqui have a bigger impact in Puerto Rico.
My wife Nilsa, daughter Daksha, and friends Dr. Yosem Companys from the AI Fund and Ernesto Cruz from the PR Science Technology and Research Trust (the “Trust”) traveled to San Diego to join me and meet with Dr. Frost and John Audia. We were introduced to David Pacifico, Larry Hess from www.hesssystems.com and they shared several maker-space projects that could benefit PR and helped us prepare a response to a rural bandwidth grant. Project Coqui has placed a lot of emphasis on workforce development, specifically digital careers, to include, but not limited to: coding, cyber, data collection, visualization, data analysis, AI/ML, crowdsourcing, resiliency and we seek to enable the “Trust” to accelerate deliverables. Dr. Frost agreed to lend students from their Homeland Security Program to collaborate with the Trust in projects of common interest. Also, SDSU agreed to share Global Weather data.
Workforce Development: AI/ML + Cyber Training
During the month of June, Melvin hosted a Venture Fund from Silicon Valley and a large defense contractor from DC in a one-week Artificial Intelligence / Machine Learning fact-finding mission in PR. Both organizations have high-interest in conducting AI/ML training in PR.
The goal of the Silicon Valley organization is to establish a six-month AI/ML premier training certificate program in Puerto Rico, supported by an Income Sharing Agreement (ISA) that allows the student to pay back for their education expenses, and results in the placement of graduates in high-paying jobs, mostly in Silicon Valley. The large defense contractor wants the training to be free of cost to the students and suggested introducing to the training their market place platform that helps users augment, automate, and accelerate their data collection, analysis, and synthesis capabilities. The knowledge platform learns by being taught distinct skills. Once it has those skills, in the form of modules, it solves problems just like users do: by figuring out which data sources it needs to consult and which analytics to apply to get to its goal. As part of a project-based training, the students could use the platform to solve a problem for a client and this activity would generate the income necessary to pay for the training. 40 students have been identified for the initial pilot project.
Specific Problem Set in Puerto Rico
The velocity and complexity of change has resulted in an explosive growth of data in many fields, making data science one of the most in-demand professional careers of the decade. However, only a handful of minority-serving institutions in the US have a course, much less a formal program or certification track in data science. The University of Puerto Rico is in a hiring freeze and wants to create an interdisciplinary data science program using local resources through training and hackathons in collaboration with top research institutions and industry leaders. The approach is also to enable the local communities to take control through education and leapfrog to a new future. In today’s knowledge-intense competition environment, we seek to address the need to “Optimize Human Cognitive Performance” by accelerating data-to-decision with training and tradecraft.
The University of Puerto Rico Río Piedras (UPRRP) is a top biomedical research institution and one of the top producers of Hispanic PhDs in Science and Engineering in the US, yet it lags in computational science. While the UPRRP has an undergraduate computer science department, students who wish to study computational science in graduate school must do graduate studies in applied mathematics and take undergraduate programming courses or learn to code on their own. Yet, due to the increase in data in the natural sciences, there is a demand for scientists who can create a hypothesis and then applying data analysis to extremely large data sets (often referred to as Big Data) to derive knowledge. For this task, faculty and students must learn how to manipulate and extract data from databases, as well as apply statistics and/or machine learning and infer knowledge from the results. They also need to work and communicate with people of different backgrounds, because of the interdisciplinary nature of the tasks. These skills are attributed to a data scientist. Unfortunately, the financial crisis in Puerto Rico has forced the university to be in a hiring freeze, making it impossible to hire newly trained data scientists.
Businesses that establish a company in PR are taxed at only 4%. Act 20 document. No US IRS Tax.
Personnel that moves to PR and makes it a bonafide residence of 183 days annually, their personal tax is also 4%. Act 22 document. No US IRS Tax.
Too many benefits to mention, but Opportunity Zone and HUBZone (the whole island) should be of interest.
$90B+ in CDBG-DR funds. http://www.cdbg-dr.pr.gov/en/
PR’s main markets are Pharma, 35% of GDP; and Medical Devices, 25% of GDP.
Considering the above background, Puerto Ricans want three things to get out of the present situation. First, they want respect. By this, they mean that they want business opportunities in Puerto Rico instead of the current model where all US companies win and approximately 90% of the profits leave the island. Puerto Rico suffered a “brain drain” after Hurricane Maria and many of those that departed would love to return for the right opportunities. Second, banks are not lending, making small businesses struggle to expand and innovate. Businesses want to partner with US Companies and in some cases, would like to be the prime contractor. Third, they welcome access to SMEs that can help them develop long-term aggressive roadmaps to leapfrog from the present to a new future.
Not-for-Profit: Children’s Voice International
Project Coqui desires to have a positive impact by partnering with organizations with common interests that seek to make the world a better place. During a recent meeting with my friend Joe Saunders, we agreed to collaborate through his NFP www.childrens-voice.org. Since we deeply care about the children, let’s jump to the next activity.
Not-for-Profit: Ventura Natura
This year Project Coqui requested donations to support children from low-income families attend a Summer Camp in Humacao, PR, sponsored by the Not-for-Profit Ventura Natura. Two-weeks ago I visited the Summer Camp and found the facilities to be absolutely gorgeous and the staff running a professional operation. Summer Camp is the best place to spend time away from school, where children get to learn and explore through different camp themes each week. I learned that children cry on Fridays because they want to attend the weekend as well. Some children want to even skip or reschedule medical appointments, to avoid missing the fun.
The facilities provide the children with a safe, stimulating, and nurturing environment where they feel encouraged to grow and thrive throughout the summer. During their time at camp, they will learn about new age technology, sports, arts, science, nature, camping, theater, music and dance. I coordinated with Paco Valcarcel, the President of the World Boxing Organization, to bring a Champion to the Summer Camp. Paco visited with two Champions; Jeyvier Cintron and Yomar Alamo, and former World Champion Ivan Calderon. They spoke about their personal challenges and provided an inspiring story to overcome fears and assume greater responsibilities to achieve their potential. Below please enjoy photos of the Summer Camp and thank you very much to those who donated. Remember, we will still continue to take additional donations at: www.childrens-voice.org to support after-school Judo training during the rest of the year.