Student Spotlight: Ope Thomas

New app solves your parking problems at UB.

By Zachary Nelson

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Ope Thomas

Ope Thomas had a problem. When he started at UB, he encountered the same frustration time and time again. Ope lamented, “When I moved here, it was hard to find parking… and if I could find parking, I’d get a ticket.” The frustration festered until he decided to build the first prototype of his real time, street parking app. 39 prototypes later, students of UB are presented with Roadi, the Apple certified mobile application with the slogan, “Helping you park when it matters.”

Many readers have probably seen Roadi’s white booth set up in the foyers of the Student Center and the Merrick School of Business. This month marks the app’s formal introduction to the general population. The most exciting part is that UB students can start using this app on their way to school right now. I already have.

Several months ago, I approached the school with Roadi at my side. To be honest, I was somewhat skeptical that parking was going to be available at the promised location. After all, how could the app possibly know this information? As I turned the corner, I was surprised to find a convenient parking spot, just where Roadi had predicted. Just incredible – and perhaps a little spooky too.

Ope describes Roadi as a, “Mobile application that allows you to know when another user is leaving a parking space – where the best streets are to find parking at the time that you are looking.” Readers may be wondering, “How does the app know where to find the best parking?” Accuracy is insured by combining three layers of data into a cohesive whole: field research, user generated information, and large, publicly available, data files.

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Solid blue lines on the map show the best places to find street parking.

This app exists entirely because of the time and energy invested into the project by the CEO. In our interview, Ope described the 40+ hours he invests into Roadi every week while talking a full course load at UB. He is a member of the Entrepreneurship Fellows Program. This program, directed by Dr. David Lingelbach coaches a select cohort of students to create innovative, scalable business in Baltimore and beyond. Ope is thankful to be a part of this program as it provides the necessary support and encouragement which are so essential for aspiring entrepreneurs. He is also thankful to be a student at a university that hosts frequent business pitch competitions and networking opportunities.

If any of our readers are interested in being a part of the Roadi movement, Ope

 invites you to download his free app on the App Store or Google Play. In addition, Ope is always looking for people to get involved in Roadi’s next steps. Any creative ideas and feedback can be directed to his personal email: ope@goroadi.com.
Photos Courtesy of Ope Thomas.

Halloween for the broke at heart

For most Halloween is a beloved holiday of fun and fright, however those plans can be jaded when your wallet has tumbleweeds. The plight of the college student falls upon all of us but that shouldn’t stop the scare and camaraderie of Halloween.

Of course, the easiest and most obvious is your very own home fright fest, certain remakes excluded. With the innovation of Netflix, Hulu and even videos on Youtube, you could have an entire evening of . On the list is the all-time favorite- Thriller (Michael Jackson). Watching the full length video is like adding another movie to your list of films to watch. If you haven’t ever watched the film in length, it’s a 1980s masterpiece including special effects from the same artist who did Freddy Krueger’s make-up in 1984’s “A Nightmare on Elm Street” (which is a must watch!). Here is a list of suggested films, let’s start with the classics:

Prom Night

In this film, the most anticipated night of high school takes a turn when childhood friends start dropping like flies after they receive mysterious phone calls. Prom Night falls in the slasher film category; but its twists and turns make it unpredictable (here is where the remakes excluded applies).

Rosemary’s Baby

Adapted from Ira Levin’s novel, the story follows a couple expecting their first child. Rosemary’s husband, a struggling actor, makes a debt that he cannot pay off.

Psycho

One of the films that started the slasher genre, directed by master of suspense, Alfred Hitchcock. Before Michael, Freddy, or Leather-face, there was Norman Bates (loosely based on real-life serial killer Ed Gein). Norman Bates is the mild-mannered mama’s boy who manages the Bates Motel. and his composure unravel when Marion Crane checks into the motel but doesn’t exactly check out.

House of Wax

After a fire in a museum, the only survivor is a disgruntled employee looking for more than back pay.

Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Beetle Juice, Sleepy Hollow

 You can never go wrong with Tim Burton films ranging from animated classics to more suspenseful thrillers that take a twist on classic literature.

These films are just suggestions to get your list started;  there are tons of films ranging from campy to “must sleep with the light on scary.” If movies get boring after a while, the simplest thing to do with a group of people is Halloween Trivia ranging from history to pop-culture. You could make your own trivia cards from index cards and colorful pens or highlighters. Use the high lighters for different categories and Google as your trivia guide! To get moving you could either turn your house and/or neighborhood into a

 scavenger hunt. Create a list or map with places and/or things to found by each participant. Take a selfie for proof and keep moving. Baltimore is full of places believed to be haunted, gather a round of people to see how many haunted places you can find in one night.
If party games and movies aren’t your thing then of course, you’re never too old for trick or treating!

Sing your heart out

The UB Post goes in search of the best karaoke night in Baltimore

Finding the best karaoke spots in the city

By Andrew McCormick 

Perhaps it’s the courage it takes to get up there. Maybe it’s hearing someone else’s version of your favorite song. And maybe…just maybe it’s a brilliant excuse to have a few drinks and a good time. Whatever the reason, more and more Karaoke nights (and full karaoke bars) seem to pop up around Baltimore every week.

If you’re not already aware, Karaoke consists of bar patrons getting on stage (or at least in front of the crowd) and singing a cover of a song, the lyrics of which are on a screen for them to read. The results range from cringe worthy to surprisingly delightful.

This of course begs the question: Which of these nights is the best? Relax. The UB post has you covered. Check out our list of favorite Karaoke nights near campus (in no particular order) below

The Crown

Where: 1910 North Charles Street

When: Every Tuesday, 9PM

Specials: “Liquid Courage” which consists of a free shot for singing certain songs, or singing at certain times

The Twist: The Crown itself. This venue/bar has two separate rooms, at least one of which is usually hosting an alternative music show. Karaoke not doing it for you? Go right across the hall to catch a show.

The Ottobar

Where: 2549 N. Howard Street

When: Every Wednesday, 10 PM-Close

Specials: $2.50 Natty Boh, $3 Rail Drinks, $4 Select Pints, $5 Fireball

The Twist: Feeling brave? Tell charming host Pat “The Heartbreak Kid” Storck that you’d like to sign up for “Bartender’s Revenge”. If you have the courage, Pat will allow the bartender to pick a song for you to sing, and you won’t know what it is until you step on stage. In exchange you earn yourself a free drink!

Rainbow Music Studio

Where: 2162 Maryland Avenue

When: Daily, 8PM to 3AM

Specials: Small (six person) room for $40 /hour, a large (Ten person) room for $50/ hour

The Twist: This venue differs from the previous two in the sense that it is a full-fledged, dedicated karaoke bar. That’s right, The Rainbow music studio allows you to how up and rent a room for you and your friends with the sole purpose of singing the night away. Perfect for parties, etc.

Grand Central

Where: 1001 N. Charles St.

When: Every Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday!

Specials: Yes, but they vary night to night

The Twist: As a bar that embraces gay culture, Grand Central can provide an opportunity to experience another side of nightlife not necessarily seen as frequently as the others on this list. Also, the frequency of Karaoke nights at Grand Central gives you and your friends more opportunity to schedule around class and work!

Walt’s Inn

Where: 3201 O’Donnell Street

When: 6 PM to 1 AM, seven nights a week

Specials: Varies nightly

The Twist: If you’re willing to make the trek to the southern part of the city, you’ll stumble across yet another fully dedicated Karaoke bar. Walt’s Inn features a very extensive song selection, coupled with state of the art sound equipment. Friday and Saturday nights are led by a enthusiastic host, who will start the show and sing throughout the night!

Sentenced to a second chance

Interview with UB’s very own Rafe Posey on teaching in a correctional facility.

By Olivia Dudley

Everyone deserves a second chance. Everyone deserves an education. This is why one of the University of Baltimore’s very own, Rafe Posey, is teaching at Jessup Correctional Institution (JCI) this semester via UB’s participation in the national “Second Chance” program for incarcerated students. The Second Chance program allows inmates to redeem themselves and turn their lives around for when they are inevitably released from prison. This program not only allows inmates a chance to thrive within the prison walls, but to identify that there is hope for a better future. Here’s what Rafe Posey had to say:


 What made you want to teach in a prison? Did something motivate you to do so?

I’ve always believed that incarceration, or the choices that might have led to it, should not be the whole definition of someone’s history, especially given all the structural flaws in the whole process and system of justice. So from time to time I’ve pondered teaching in that setting, but I hadn’t found an opportunity that made sense. When John Chapin, who runs UB’s writing program, approached me about teaching writing in the “Second Chance” program, I was incredibly excited. And then when I talked to Dr. Cantora and Dr. Miller about what it would be like… That was deeply motivating – I felt like I would be doing something really important, but I also was thrilled to be doing something new with everything I’ve learned in more than a decade of classroom teaching. I am unbelievably grateful for the chance to work with incarcerated students, and for the backing of the University, Dr. Cantora and Dr. Miller, and the Writing Program.

Generally, what is it like teaching in a prison?

So far, it’s awesome. My students are motivated and highly focused, and most of them are already leaders in communities both inside and outside JCI. In some ways [JCI is], not that different from being in a classroom anywhere else – they’re writing or discussing our topics, I’m talking about writing, we’re doing the work together – but then the level of intention these men bring to the work reminds me that it’s different. I mean, of course there are some logistics things about being inside the facility, but… It’s me and my classroom and my students for several hours a week. So in most ways it’s just teaching.

 Do you believe your students at the institution appreciate education more than an average college student? If so, why?

My observation so far is that these men are incredibly intentional about their educations, and seem to take this opportunity very personally and very seriously. They are very purposeful

and driven in their work, and every student has, so far, gone above and beyond my usual WRIT 101 or WRIT 100 classroom expectations in both contributions to classroom discussions and their written work. They are working unbelievably hard, as individuals and as a group, to make this experience a success.

How many students do you have? Do any of them stand out more than others? Are any of them problematic?

These men are the least problematic group of students I’ve ever had. In a traditional classroom there’s always someone who takes on the class clown role, or plays devil’s advocate, or makes a point of pushing back to see how flexible my policies actually are. Now, three weeks into the semester, I have almost thirty students who are all focused and present. They’re not making excuses or turning in work that doesn’t meet the requirements. They work hard. Sometimes they tell jokes, and now and again someone will ask me a difficult question about why I do something a particular way, but then they listen carefully to the answer. Those are all really good things. That means the classroom dynamic is working.

As for standing out…They all do. Each man contributes something unique and valuable to the class, every time we meet. These students are all working hard to have a positive impact on the world, whether that’s the world of JCI or the world outside, or, more often, both. They have an enormous range of interests and backgrounds, but they’re all in this class on purpose. Working with them is making me into a better teacher, and it’s incredibly rewarding.

What changes do you expect to see in this particular set of students at the end of their semester?

Many of them are already very powerful writers. Because they’re adults, and not more traditionally aged freshman students, I think they have a stronger sense of themselves than younger students might. So I guess what I would like to see is first, for the students who aren’t as confident or as comfortable with writing, a development of that confidence and a more effective set of skills. And second, for the students who are already really good writers to get stronger, or be able to write more different kinds of things more comfortably. Mostly, I just expect that my students will do their best work for me, and so far, that expectation has been more than met.

From obsessed to success

Founder of Oculus discusses his journey.

By Olivia Dudley

brendaniribepictureBrendan Iribe and Olivia Dudley at the groundbreaking of the Iribe Center

As college students, we often find ourselves thinking about our future. Although we plan our lives, things don’t always turn out as expected.But we keep striving and believing. If we give up, nothing is going to happen. 

“I wasn’t thinking about the success when I dropped out.” Oculus CEO, Brendan Iribe, told me when I questioned if he ever believed he would be as successful as he was today after dropping out of the University of Maryland, College Park. “Really, we were just excited about making this user interface tech for games…. We fantasized about where it might go one day and it went in a different direction that, I think, we are even more excited about now than we ever were.” Iribe told me this on April 30, 2016; the day of the groundbreaking for his new building at College Park, The Iribe Center. “I wasn’t thinking that I’d ever be back here with this opportunity.” He carried on with a gleam of pride in his eyes.

Think about that: coming back to your university to have a building erected in your name. Your ambitious hobby of dabbling in computer science with a couple of friends became something outstandingly beautiful. “I wouldn’t change any of that, because along the way that path connected these dots that ultimately led to Oculus and starting Oculus … So I wouldn’t change any of it.”

Of course, here at UB we find ourselves leaning towards fields involving things like law, criminal justice, and, of course, business. Oculus started off like all businesses do: as an idea; an idea that, with the right team, grew to become one of the most popular virtual reality gaming systems. I asked Iribe what advice he would offer to students attempting to start their own business: “Find great partners, build a great team, stay as focused as you can, make sure you have the necessary funding to achieve your vision. Also, don’t go create the product with all the features; try to create a simple version first. Get something running quickly, don’t work on a project for five years without shipping anything. Ship fast, get something out, get feedback from people. That will help shape the final product wherever you go. The sooner you can get to market the better.”

Iribe’s emphasis on “focus” when it comes to discussing his line of work prompted me to question if he would consider himself a workaholic. He smiled and explained “If you become really obsessed with what you do, and its work, then some people look at it as you becoming a workaholic. I look at it as just being inspired and excited about my job as a hobby and I get to do what I love, and I get to wake up every day and run and do it and I get to have a hard time falling asleep at night cause I’m still thinking about it…I really look at it as what I love to do.” He later explained his obsession and love with building and creating things which add to creating a hobby out of his work.

As we venture off on our own paths, it is important to remember that our futures do not have to consist of a nine to five job where we work just to get by in our money oriented world. We can have fun careers; we can have jobs that we love. We should bring passion to everything we do, even if it takes us awhile to actually make something of it. When we make mistakes, we learn from them and leave them in the past. Don’t hold yourself back by dwelling on something that cannot be undone.

When you start working on something, focus on it and come up with something that can be presented as soon as it can be. Do something that you love, or can at least grow to love. We should live everyday feeling inspired by something, we should inspire other people. Keep yourself motivated and use every mistake as a reason to do things better.

The best way to get through life is to inspire and be inspired, do something you love so you can wake up every day and run and do it.   

Photo Courtesy of Olivia Dudley

“Unleash the Beach” looking to get off the leash

Last year, Joe Napoli, now a senior Business Entrepreneurship major in the Merrick School of Business, was named a winner in the “Rise to the Challenge” business pitch competition in the “Undergraduate Student – New Business Idea” category. Napoli’s idea was “Unleash the Beach,” a kennel for pet owners vacationing in resort areas like Ocean City and Rehoboth Beach on the Delmarva Peninsula, but are staying in condos that don’t allow pets. However, after Napoli found what he thought would be a good location just outside Ocean City, “Unleash the Beach” is still looking to get off the leash after Napoli went to visit the site and meet the property owner during his vacation at the beach this past summer.

“The property owner had some other business, so he didn’t show up at the scheduled time, so I inspected the property a little closer, and realized it was rather dilapidated on the inside, and I decided that I needed to take a look at another location,” Napoli said. He felt that the building just off U.S. Route 50 was going to need a lot of work to get it up to satisfactory condition, and decided it would be more worthwhile to find another property. Napoli thinks he may have found another possible location not too far away.

“Currently I’m taking a look around Bishopville, looking towards the upper Ocean City area. There are a lot of condos up there, and I feel that those people would really appreciate a good kennel business where they could bring their pets along,” Napoli said. He hasn’t found a suitable location in the Delaware resort area, but plans on opening one kennel in the Ocean City area, and then opening up another kennel either in the north end of Ocean City or near Rehoboth.

The famous saying in buying and selling real estate is “Location, Location, Location.” Napoli says he’s finding that to be very important as he tries to launch his startup.

“Location is everything when you’re setting up a business. Looking at a high-visibility area, as my previous property was around Route 50, I’m thinking that word of mouth and a good startup campaign, once we get started in a nice, visible area, will really bring people in,” Napoli said.

As part of his work on launching “Unleash the Beach,” Napoli has been surveying the Delmarva kennel market. This means looking into how much capacity kennels have for vacationers’ pets, and how much they charge on a nightly basis.

“I’ve been visiting other kennels in the area, and seeing their accommodations and how many pets they can hold,” Napoli said. “I’m thinking about expanding the number up from I proposed during the ‘Rise to the Challenge’ competition.” He’d initially proposed a kennel with space for 25 to 30 pets, but he’s found that many kennels at the Delmarva beaches have capacities of 50 to 60 pets, and are charging pet owners $50 a night. He also plans to offer a webcam service that will allow pet owners to check in on their pets.

For aspiring entrepreneurs who are looking to start new businesses, it’s important to make good use available resources, and taking advantage of available resources. Napoli says it’s critically important to learn your marketplace.

“If there isn’t a market for your business, you’re dead in the water before you get started,” Napoli said, adding that business owners and mentors with SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) have been very willing to provide him with information and advice as he looks to start his own business.

“The kennel owners I’ve talked to and the other entrepreneurs with SCORE have really been helpful with getting my business off the ground,” Napoli said. “They’re very forthcoming with information.” He encourages aspiring student entrepreneurs at UB to just ask for help and use the resources that are available within the university.