iMAGINE Upstate brainstorms for upcoming event

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The mind is a powerful tool, and iMAGINE Upstate gathered about 50 members of the community together Wednesday to put their minds to work in a brainstorming session.

Ryan Heafy, executive director of iMAGINE Upstate, asked attendees to think of solutions to raising community awareness and recruiting volunteers for the weeklong event March 28-April 4.

About 25,000 people are expected to attend the event, Heafy said, and the team is looking to recruit about 400 volunteers.

The goal of iMAGINE Upstate is to develop more STEM-related programs in the Upstate to increase workforce development. The event will conclude with a downtown festival.

At the brainstorming session, participants broke into groups and bounced ideas around on ways to get people to participate in the event.

“iMAGINE Upstate is very excited with the turnout that we had tonight. We felt we were really able to get the community involved to help get us moving in the right direction towards planning an amazing event,” Heafy said.

He hopes the event helps “bring kids downtown to a non-alcoholic, awesome festival where cool stuff’s happening” to inspire them to be part of the Upstate workforce.

George Hristov, a high school student and co-director of iT2Pi, said he got involved with iMAGINE Upstate to help “provide a lot of kids and people our age with opportunities and even with the knowledge” of opportunities in STEM fields.

His fellow co-director, Bakk Blando, said, “The opportunity hasn’t always been apparent with a lot of schools.”

Heafy said, “We want this festival to bring people together to bridge the gap between industry, academic institutions, students and communities.”

The festival will feature drones, virtual and augmented reality and other technologies, he said, and quick, interactive demonstrations where participants will get a “takeaway.”

“This is looking to be an absolutely awesome event, and with your support we’re going to kill it.” Heafy told the crowd. “And we’re going to put the Upstate on the map in a way that we’ve never done before.”

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