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May 8, 2021

Orlando Science Center partners on device drive to help those in need

An Orlando nonprofit’s push to collect “gently used” electronics for students and schools in need will renew at Otronicon.

It’s an effort to make sure the so-called “digital divide” doesn’t widen as more schools require students to work on electronics equipment at home.

Aeras Foundation’s initial drive at Bishop Moore High School helped the nonprofit connect with about 30 community partners, said Michelle Leeper, Aeras’ head of client relations.

“This problem is not going away. The arsenal needs to be bigger,” she said. “There are schools that have it all and others that do not.”

The company will continue its push this weekend at Orlando Science Center’s technology showcase Otronicon.

The problem is not going away. The arsenal needs to be bigger.

Michelle Leeper, Aeras Technologies

The four-day event kicked off on Friday and highlights technology in Central Florida. Orlando Science Center usually hosts Otronicon in January but precautions because of the coronavirus pandemic pushed it back into February this year.

Aeras’ nonprofit drives drive at Otronicon

The Apple consultancy Aeras started its charitable arm shortly after launching last year amid that pandemic.

Aeras helps businesses upgrade their equipment as needed. When they do, the company suggests that their clients donate equipment to schools and students.

A rush for the equipment when schools opted for home instruction resulted in a shortage that left some without the necessary tools, said Brett Jarnagin, business development.

“We found a lot of institutions did some panic buying,” he said. “That depleted inventory.”

“This is a socioeconomic issue and we want to provide students who are at risk a chance to have their own computer.”

Aeras Technologies CEO David Collins said the nine-employee company decided to tackle the significant issue shortly after its 2019 launch.

But his team’s plan is to expand its efforts beyond Orlando and, eventually, beyond Florida.

“We always had a vision of this being scaleable,” said Collins.

So far, Aeras has collected more than 1,000 laptops.

Visiting events like Otronicon in their STEM bus could help attract partnerships with other major companies, such as Lockheed Martin or Disney.

“These partnerships are everything for us,” Collins said. “They have brand and they have reputation. It’s huge for us to be able to put our name alongside all of the other companies and Orlando Science Center.”

“They are a wonderful community partner,” said Leeper. “It’s a little bit of a Tinder-like approach. We want to be the broker.”


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