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Deborah Gianoulis
Jax Daily Record Wednesday, Aug. 6, 201412:00 PM EST

Education component of One Spark continues to grow

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

When One Spark 2015 opens on April 7, the festival will have a new sponsor along with another area of focus available for exhibitors: innovation in education.

The Schultz Center for Teaching & Leadership in 2015 will sponsor the $30,000 for top prizes in the crowd-voted and juried competitions in the new education category.

Deborah Gianoulis, president and CEO of the center, said the category and the organization’s financial commitment grew out of the education community’s experience with the first two years of the event.

“We love One Spark and the opportunity it brings us to re-imagine the learning process,” she said.

The relationship between the center and the festival began in 2013 when Gianoulis, her staff and board members scouted the event purely as spectators.

“We saw that the education projects were scattered throughout the festival,” she said.

When One Spark returned for its second year, the center facilitated “EdSpark,” a designated showcase area for education-related exhibitors.

Grouping all the creators in the education category on the second floor of Wells Fargo center increased the category’s visibility at the festival and allowed families and school field trip groups the opportunity to focus on education.

“We took a space and created an experience,” said Gianoulis.

In addition to being well-attended, EdSpark earned high marks when the prizes were awarded.

In the crowdfunding category, three of the top 25 awards were earned by education creators, said Gianoulis.

“We created the category last year. We formalized it this year,” Gianoulis said.

One Spark cofounder Elton Rivas and Executive Director Joe Sampson introduced at a news conference other changes in store next year.

“One Spark’s growth has been truly remarkable,” said Sampson. “Creators inspired One Spark and they are still the epicenter of every decision we make.”

The changes for 2015 are based on feedback from creators who participated in One Spark this year collected through online surveys and a forum in July.

Sampson said one of the biggest improvements will be allowing exhibitors to offer incentives to people who vote for projects, a concept he called “reward-based.”

Rivas said rewards could be anything from a T-shirt to the opportunity to be among the first to purchase a new product or service.

Sampson said another change visitors will notice in 2015 is a “complete rebuild” of the festival’s information technology infrastructure from the way creators register and check in to how votes can be cast and contributions can be made by visitors.

One Spark also is launching an improved website and plans to increase its server capacity in 2015, he said.

On the entertainment side, Brumos Automotive will be the title sponsor for One Spark After Dark each night during the festival. Frank Cuteri, general manager of Brumos Motorcars Mercedes-Benz, said sponsoring the venue for the entire festival will be an opportunity to showcase the newest models from Mercedes, Porsche and Lexus.

Asked after the news conference if Brumos’ sponsorship might grow eventually to include a new automobile in the festival prize package, Cuteri wouldn’t rule out the possibility.

“Could be,” he said. “It depends on how big this thing gets.”

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