Texas NICUSA’s Community Efforts Sparkle Year-round – Rain or Shine

Communitas Awards Company: Texas NICUSA
Title: “Texas NICUSA Gives Back”
Location: Austin, Texas
Category: 1. Leadership in Community Service

Texas.govGiving back to the community is something many companies do, but how many businesses serve their local citizens every week? And how many have been doing that for more than four years?

The Lone Star State has at least one business with such a strong devotion to giving back, Texas NICUSA. The private company operates Texas.gov, the state’s official website. Beyond overseeing the site, Texas NICUSA’s 100+ professionals take a more active role in the Austin area, helping all sorts of organizations from Austin Children’s Shelter to Meals on Wheels and Capital Area Food Bank of Texas.

To find out more about how the company fosters a culture of service and how it decides which organizations to help, we chatted with Lisa Carrell, senior marketing associate with Texas NICUSA.


This Week’s Latest Tech Gadgets – Sept. 8, 2014

By Gregg Ellman

Tech reviews of the iStabilizer Monopod and Shutter Remote Bundle, Moshi Digits gloves, Syncable-Duo cable and iLuv TimeShaker Micro.

iStabilizer Monopod & Shutter Remote Bundle

The iStabilizer Monopod and Shutter Remote Bundle are the perfect solution to make selfie photos much more appealing because it lets you include your subjects and more of the environment around you.

iStabilizer remote

The iStabilizer (one foot long when collapsed, 1/2 lb.) attaches to a camera at one end and extends more than 3 feet, giving your camera far more reach for that coveted selfie. It’s compatible with most every smart phone and other action cameras including iPhones, Androids, Blackberrys and GoPros.

But the key to the system is the hand-held wireless Shutter Remote (1.38 x 3.56 x 0.38-inches and weighing only an ounce).

The remote connects to your device with Bluetooth and fires with your camera app or “any other app that uses the volume button to trigger the shutter,” according to the company.

I fired it up with an iPhone 5s problem-free. Since it relies on Bluetooth, the remote can be about 35 feet from the camera if you’re using another device to keep it in place.

The remote also works with Apple computers (Macbook, iMac, Mac Mini) for snapping photos, music selections, volume and even to talk to Siri.

Cost: $59.95 for the bundle, includes the remote and monopod

Details: www.iStabilizer.com


Innovation & Creativity: The Heart of Pacific Technology Solutions’ Ingenuity

Pacific Technology SolutionsAMCP is constantly getting calls and emails from people volunteering to be judges. Everybody wants to see what the great innovators and creators are doing. In recent years, it has especially been exciting to see the progression of digital development and interactivity. For years, we have enjoyed the groundbreaking work of Pacific Technology Solutions (PTS). Based in Irvine, California, PTS is a pioneer in developing learning technology for the automotive industry.

It wasn’t that long ago that automotive training was revolutionized through the use of video. A mechanic at a local dealership could just pop the tape in the VCR and learn how to fix something. Today, Pacific Technology Solutions is developing web-based applications for eBusiness and eLearning software that can be experienced anywhere on a personal digital assistant.  And by the way, their training courseware and business systems are designed to incorporate in to and extend previous investments in IT and operational infrastructure. While the judges may not know what any of this is, they do know that the current training methods are far more graphic and easier to understand than the old ones.

In addition to being honored as one of the most prolific winners in MarCom Awards history, PTS’ software applications and training courses have been used by global, Tier 1 OEMs such as Hyundai, Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Audi and Volkswagen.

To learn more about Pacific Technology Solutions, we asked one of PTS’ principals and owners, Tony Rotundo, how his company is always prepared for technological advances and what’s ahead.


Behind the Scenes of PR Firm Copernio’s 55 Years of Success

CopernioWith rapidly changing technology, public relations and marketing firms have to constantly evolve to achieve effective results for their clients. Adapting is the only way a company can ensure future success.

Serving a variety of business from start-ups to Fortune 100 companies, Copernio, a full-service public relations firm, has found a way to continue to creatively and effectively tell their clients’ stories through traditional and digital media.

In the company’s 55-year history, its team has launched many critical technologies including carbon composites, the first commercial satellites, the DVD standard, the first consumer MP3 player and many more.

To find out how the company has remained an industry leader throughout the years, we picked the brain of Copernio president Susan van Barneveld, APR.


This Week’s Latest Tech Gadgets – Aug. 19, 2014

By Gregg Ellman

Tech reviews of the Vaavud wind meter, Audiovox Mobile TV device and Rapoo wireless keyboards.

Vaavud Wind Meter

Vaavud Wind MeterWhen I saw an email inviting me to test the Vaavud wind meter, I thought it was just another one of those gimmick smartphone accessories.

But I decided to give this one a try since I’m a smartphone junkie and my wife thinks I’m a weather junkie. This could bring all my worlds together.

Much to my delight, the Vaavud works as advertised to “turn your smartphone into a high-tech meteorological tool.”

The cup-anemometer tool attaches to your headphone port (Android and iOS), and along with the Vaavud app, you instantly know the wind speed.

Of course the day I tested it there was no wind so I took it along for a ride in my neighborhood holding my iPhone 5s out the car window with the Vaavud attached.

It worked like a charm, reading the speed as I went faster or slower. The wind speed can be displayed in choices of m/s, knots, mph, km/h, bft.

The gadget is described as being designed like a wind measuring tool, the cup-anemometer. It has two-cup functionality instead of the standard three, enabling it to be pocket sized.

The app has user interactions with other Vaavud wind meter users globally to share your wind speed and find out what it is in other locations – the fun is endless!

Cost: $49.95 in choices of green, red or white

Details: Vaavud.com


This Week’s Latest Tech Gadgets – July 28, 2014

By Gregg Ellman

Reviews of the Oregon Scientic Weather@Home, Voyager Edge Bluetooth and the Henge Docks Vertical Docking Station for Macs.

Oregon Scientific Weather@Home – Model BAR218HG

Weather-HomeThe Oregon Scientific Weather@Home (model BAR218HG) is one of those gadgets, which you don’t think you need until you need it.

With the weather station you no longer have to troll your TV stations, websites or apps to get weather reports. Instead you can become your own household’s weather-forecaster with the Bluetooth-enabled weather station you keep inside, paired with a temperature and humidity sensor you keep outside.

The sensor is powered by a single AA battery (not included) to take readings and send it to the weather station wirelessly. Then with Bluetooth you can read the results on your smartphone with the device’s free app (Android and iOS), up to 55 yards away.

Temperatures are also taken inside along with daily hi/lows, humidity and forecasts.

I compared the weather station vs my local news weatherman and they were both right on with predictions of temperatures more than 100 with a slight chance of an afternoon storm. While it doesn’t take much of a prediction with that forecast, they were both accurate as the week went on.

The Weather@Home is powered by 3 AA batteries (not included) and has other alerts for storm warnings, wind, frost, fog, the percentage of moon phase and an auto setting clock.

Cost: $53.64

Details: www.OregonScientific.com/us


This Week’s Latest Tech Gadgets – July 23, 2014

By Gregg Ellman

Reviews of Samsung Galaxy Tab S, iHome iDL46 Charging Clock Radio and Patchnride tire repair kit.

Samsung Galaxy Tab S

Samsung-Galaxy-Tab-S-1When a brand new Samsung Galaxy Tab S arrives on the doorstep, I’d imagine most people would tear it open like the Christmas present you have been salivating over. In my case, it took me almost 2 weeks to open it but it only took about 2 seconds to find two great features.

Over the next few days I found many more, and in case you are wondering, the first two features were a back button and the ability to turn off all your running apps at once.

And before I get to anymore, I’ll come clean with full disclosure: I’m an Apple user. I have been for some time with computers, iPods, iPhones and iPads.

Typically when I use a non-Apple product I wonder why it doesn’t have some of the features I’m used to.

In this case I went back to my iPad wondering why it doesn’t have some of the features the Galaxy Tab S has, but I’m thinking these companies fight enough in courtrooms these days over who stole each other’s technology.


Educate & Motivate: The Story Behind the Save Salt River Bay Website Created By Eclipse Marketing Services

Communitas Awards Company: Eclipse Marketing Services
Title: “Save Salt River Bay Website”
Location: Morristown, New Jersey
Category: 3.1 Pro Bono

Eclipse-Marketing-ServicesAfter experiencing the natural phenomenon of a “Bio Bay” in St. Croix and learning of a plan that would permanently affect the area, Eclipse Marketing Services president Margaret Boller and her team launched the website SaveSaltRiverBay.com to help inform the public about the current plans regarding the future of Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve and also motivate people to take action.

We caught up with Eclipse creative director Barbara Johnston to learn more about the creative process behind the educational website and why Eclipse decided to donate their time and expertise to the cause.

Tell me about Eclipse Marketing Services and how your firm helps its clients.

Eclipse Marketing Services, Inc., is a certified woman-owned business that believes in the power of imagination and education…and what this incredible combination can do for its clients! With over 40 creative and marketing awards in the last 5 years alone for results-driven marketing initiatives in the general and Hispanic markets, our passion and creativity is reflected in our company creed: “Innovate. Educate. Motivate. It’s in our DNA.” The Save Salt River Bay (SSRB) website is a testament to this credo.

Share the story behind the beginning of the Save Salt River Bay website. How did Eclipse hear about the situation, and why did Eclipse decide to get involved? 

During one of our company president’s many visits to St. Croix, Margaret Boller took a nighttime kayak tour of Salt River Bay’s “Bio Bay” and experienced this rare bioluminescent phenomenon first-hand. [Bio Bays are comprised of many microorganisms that glow in the dark, creating a magnificent and fascinating experience.]

She learned about the proposed Marine Research and Education Center (MREC) project being developed by a consortium of universities, the National Park Service and others, which, if built on the current designated site, could adversely affect this Bio Bay. A big area of concern was the lack of public awareness and involvement in the decisions affecting this wonderful national park. There was a small group of residents who were trying to appeal to the MREC partners to review other viable alternative sites which could still accomplish the marine research, stimulate the economy of the island, and preserve the park and all of its treasures…but their voices were going unheard.

Save Salt River Bay by Eclipse Marketing Services

There are many areas of concern with this development – the project is slated to be built on Salt River Bay National Historical and Ecological Preserve – a park full of history (the only documented landing of Christopher Columbus and the skirmish between his men and native tribes); archeological treasures and burial grounds dating between AD 660 -1015; home to over 25 endangered species; the largest existing mangrove forest in the Caribbean; a unique ecosystem and fish nursery; and rich with natural beauty to be protected and preserved for this and future generations to enjoy.

Despite being public land, the right for people to access this area will be severely restricted for security reasons, impacting everyone’s ability to enjoy their public park, kayak in the bays, and hike in the vicinity. Eclipse Marketing lent its design and web capabilities to the cause to raise awareness. We fully support the premise of research and study. However, we question the location of the site—especially with other, more suitable, locations situated nearby.

Walk me through the design process for the website.

We wanted the user experience to be thorough, engaging, and educational, allowing navigation to the areas they were most interested in learning about – the historical, ecological, and/or biological impact of the proposed construction – without overwhelming them with data. We used interactive involvement to stimulate the experience and learning, and to motivate them to take action, whether it was through automated online petitions to their government representatives or social networking.

What were the most challenging aspects of the project?

Sheer volume of content was probably the biggest challenge. Along with the desire to check, and re-check, everything we included. Information integrity was crucial. Because this work was done pro bono, staff time was at a premium; our concern was to get the word out and make a difference before it was too late.

How many people worked on the project and how long did it take?

For some people, particularly Margaret, Kaitlin Carita (the designer), Katie MacDevette (the project manager), and Adam Sayer (the web designer), the involvement was substantial over the course of a year. Other individuals assisted at times doing research, sourcing images, design and logo concepts, and/or proofing.

Is there anything you want people to know about the project – either from a design aspect or an environmental one?

Saving Salt River Bay is an ongoing battle. Our efforts continue to raise awareness, stimulate dialog, and present information that allows people to reach their own well-informed conclusions—and to take action. If we can’t change the MREC partners’ or influential stakeholders’ opinions to move the location of their facility, unfortunately there will be irrevocable damage to this historical, biological and natural landmark and treasure. Read more at www.SaveSaltRiverBay.com

What’s ahead for Save Salt River Bay?

Ideally, many more years of magical luminescence! And dialog between all the parties who care about the island, its unique resources, its history, and its wildlife. We would like to see the development of an optimum solution that addresses everyone’s needs.


Have you donated your services to a nonprofit or do you know someone that has? The Communitas Awards, which recognizes exceptional businesses, organizations and individuals for excellence in community service and corporate social responsibility, is now accepting nominations.