No. 383: On politics, robotics, the five-and-dime and the power of dreaming big

The doctor is in: Throughout his brilliant career, East Meadow-born Julius Erving brought an unprecedented artistry to the slam dunk. The immortal "Dr. J" turns 69 today.


The end is nigh: But that’s a good thing, dear readers, as we wrap up another busy workweek and ease into another well-earned weekend. Welcome to Friday!

Wu are you again? It’s Feb. 22 out there, and if you had Empress Wu Zetian abdicating her throne on (or about) this date in 705 A.D. – thereby restoring China’s on-again, off-again Tang dynasty – that’s pretty amazing. We’re crediting 100 wu shu coins to your account.

Today is also World Thinking Day, promoted each Feb. 22 by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts to encourage activities that make Earth a better place. So, think about it.

How times have changed: Founded by abolitionists, equal-rights champions and “Free Soil Democrats” from New York and Massachusetts, the Republican Party held its first national convention in Pittsburgh on Feb. 22, 1856.

Unrelated: The Prohibition Party, a teetotaler political party diametrically opposed to the sale or consumption of alcohol, held its first national convention on this date in 1872. For the record, the oldest “third party” in the nation parties on – its 2016 presidential candidate, Thompson Township (Pa.) Tax Assessor James Hedges, earned 5,617 national votes (a statistical 0 percent, but still).

Walking the line: The Lynn Shoe Strike of 1860 which would grow to include 20,000 U.S. shoemakers and be remembered as the nation’s largest pre-Civil War organized work stoppage – kicked off on this date in a small factory town northeast of Boston.

Worth the wait: Entrepreneur Frank Woolworth opened his first five-and-dime department store in Utica on Feb. 22, 1879. It failed immediately.

But Woolworth did better when he moved to Amish country.

Lady rider: Turning to sports, it was 50 years ago today – Feb. 22, 1969 – when jockey Barbara Jo Rubin became the first female rider to win a race against men at a nationally recognized U.S. racetrack (West Virginia’s Charles Town Race Track).

And do you still believe? The “Miracle on Ice” was 39 years ago today.

No, you can’t have another day off: But happy birthday anyway, George Washington (1732-1799).

Other Feb. 22 birthdays include French astronomer Pierre Janssen (1824-1907), who kinda, sorta discovered helium; British military officer Robert Baden-Powell (1857-1941), who founded the modern Scouting movement; legendary television announcer Don Pardo (1918-2014); and Canadian-American mobile-wireless communications pioneer Alfred Gross (1918-2000), who invented the walkie-talkie.

Slam dunk: And take a bow, Dr. J – East Meadow’s own Julius Erving turns 69 today.

“JD & The Straight Shot” notwithstanding, New York is the undisputed mecca of basketball. But who’s the greatest to emerge from Greater New York? Is it Erving? Classic Coney Island point guard Stephon Marbury? Brooklyn’s Billy “Kangaroo Kid” Cunningham? And what about Cousy, King, Mullin – and the immortal Kareem Abdul-Jabbar?

Take your shot at, and hoist up a story tip or calendar suggestion, too. Nothing but net.


A few words from our sponsor: With more than 60 attorneys, superior knowledge of the law, polished business acumen and proven credentials, Ruskin Moscou Faltischek has earned a reputation for excellence and success. The strength of our firm’s resources greatly enhances what we can accomplish for clients; to not only solve problems, but to create opportunities. This ongoing achievement makes RMF an acknowledged leader among our peers and the preferred choice among business leaders.



Snappy to it: A Stony Brook University research professor will steer National Science Foundation funds into a forward-looking educational effort combining robotics and various STEM disciplines.

Anurag Purwar, an associate mechanical engineering research professor in SBU’s College of Engineering and Applied Sciences, has received a $225,000 SBIR/STTR grant from the NSF to develop the robotics-education platform SnappyXO, which challenges students to build robots and to develop their own robotics kits, incorporating different levels of hardware based on each student’s sophistication level.

Purwar, founder and CEO of Stony Brook-based startup Mechanismic Inc., is the primary inventor of SnappyXO, which encourages out-of-the-box problem-solving while reinforcing the science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles students will need to succeed in the 21st century workforce.



Another round of applause, please, for the entrepreneurs, inventors and organizations sharing the spotlight at our fourth-annual Innovator of the Year Awards, coming March 26 to the Crest Hollow Country Club in Woodbury.

Join us at our A-list breakfast networker as we raise our OJs to Intelligent Product Solution CEO Mitch Maiman, our 2019 Master of Innovation, and a brilliant cross-section of regional inventors, entrepreneurs and difference-makers, including:

  • Chris Kane, creator of West Islip-based foodie-friendly loyalty app MunchMoney, which retooled its tech (and Long Island-focused strategy) and wound up launching nationally
  • Steven Bofill, Brian Bofill and Brian Shimmerlik, the big brains behind Bethpage-based Vengo Labs and its next-generation personal-products vending machines
  • The SnappyXO Design Innovation and Robotics Camp, a joint effort of the Plainview-based Composite Prototyping Center, Dix Hills-based Mechanismic Inc. and the Stony Brook University-based Manufacturing & Technology Resource Consortium
  • Stony Brook-based iCell Gene Therapeutics, which works closely with China-based researchers on the development of “chimeric antigen receptor-engineered drug therapeutics” – including potential cancer treatments
  • James Hayward, president and CEO of Stony Brook-based Applied DNA Sciences, which is spreading its DNA-based authentication and supply chain security solutions around the world

More information on our amazing awardees next week. More info on sponsorships, registration and all that jazz right now.



Really ‘Big’ show: Now playing at the Cradle of Aviation Museum’s supersized Dome Theater, the STEM-focused documentary “Dream Big” celebrates the triumph of human ingenuity.

Degrees of separation: SUNY Old Westbury is introducing three new graduate-degree programs, including the college’s first completely online degree program.

Oh, Henry: Another fiscal year, another record haul for all-world Melville healthcare products distributor Henry Schein.



Healthy thinking at Hofstra, environmental “justice” in Mineola and appetizing opportunities from the Long Island Capital Alliance.



Innovate LI’s inbox overrunneth with inspirational ideas from all North American corners. This week’s brightest out-of-town innovations:

 From Florida: St. Augustine-based Dr. Seltzer’s revitalizes its “proven” Hangover Helper formula with pure hemp extract.

From Massachusetts: Boxborough-based Dover Motion earns a 2019 PRISM Award for its full-motion diagnostic instruments, which help life sciences get around.

From Canada, eh? Toronto- and Vancouver-based NexTech AR Solutions comes at you with “3D advertising solutions” for Facebook.



+ Thomas Haberlack has joined Uniondale-based Sahn Ward Coschignano as counsel, concentrating his practice in the areas of estate planning and administration, trusts and elder law. He will continue to serve as principal of his own firm, Law Office of Thomas C. Haberlack PC in Garden City.

+ Andrea Elder-Howell has been appointed to the board of directors of Mentor New York in Hauppauge. She is managing director and vice president-legal at PSEG Long Island.

+ Steven Slovak has been promoted to vice president and chief technology officer at Westbury-based Research Frontiers. He previously served as vice president of technology.

+ Eileen Cohen has been elected chairwoman of the board of the National Grid Foundation in Hicksville. She served as managing director of JP Morgan Asset Management in Manhattan until her recent retirement.

+ Vincent Frezzo has been chosen as president-elect of the Long Island Board of Realtors, Hamptons Chapter. He is an agent at Douglas Elliman Real Estate in Bridgehampton.

+ Joanna Vorachek Austin has been promoted to publisher at Syosset-based Long Island Press. She had previously served as associate publisher.

+ Arthur Laitman has been appointed to the board of directors for The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America. He is managing partner of Garden City-based Rosenberg, Fortuna & Laitman.

+ Syed Arafath has been named Huntington Hospital’s first-ever dedicated oncology pharmacist. The doctor recently completed his residency at New York Presbyterian Hospital.



What about Bob: It was an unmitigated disaster – but Microsoft’s short-lived 1995 user interface was also a surprisingly accurate glimpse of the future.

What about Bot: Oracle warns Android users – beware the dreaded DrainerBot.

What about Bach: Pioneering composer, you knew – but it turns out Johann Sebastian was also a business genius.

Gentle reminder: Please continue supporting the amazing firms that support Innovate LI, including Ruskin Moscou Faltsichek, where top experts in dozens of practice areas know what’s what.