On this episode of Office Hours, host Spencer Rascoff talks with Steven Wolfe Pereira about Encantos, a platform designed to help kids learn 21st century skills through storytelling.
Pereira got his start as an entrepreneur when he was young, selling used comic books in New York, where he grew up.
His mother, an immigrant from the Dominican Republic, and his father, born and raised in the Bronx, were both teachers who believed heavily in the importance of education.
"One of the key things that you're taught is that the thing that no one can ever take away from you is education," said Pereira.
In developing Encantos, Pereira wanted a platform that helped teach kids life and education skills that they don’t often learn in the classroom. The program features classes that teach everything from social awareness and compassion to multilingualism and financial literacy.
"We want to really have a playful learning approach. And it's actually grounded in learning science. But the whole idea of, ‘hey, we want to bring something to the world that would really resonate’," said Pereira.
Beyond a teaching tool, Pereira sees Encantos as a creator platform, where artists of all sorts can offer lesson ideas. Pereira sees it as a way to open the gates for creators of color, in particular, to build a portfolio of work.
“If you are a creator, you have a really hard time getting your stuff out into the world, no matter what type of creator,” Pereira said. “But when it comes to the kids-and-family space, it is almost impossible for you to actually get a book published or to do an animated series, or anything like that.”
Encantos aims to let creators publish their work on the platform and own the intellectual property.
Pereira’s journey to publishing is an unusual one. he studied international relations and economic development, and expected to do development work at the World Bank. But an internship through Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) got him working with Blackstone Group, and gave him a taste of finance.
"I didn't know anything about this world of finance. And it's one of those things where at SEO they teach you, you have to be the first one in and the last person out," said Pereira.
The experience pulled Pereira into the world of technology and media. He has been working in tech ever since.
Disclaimer: Spencer Rascoff is an investor in Encantos.
dot.LA Engagement Intern Joshua Letona contributed to this post.
- Encantos Plans for a More Diverse Future in US EdTech - dot.LA ›
- Edutainment Startup Encantos Raises $5.7 Million - dot.LA ›
- Bilingual Publisher Encantos Raises $2 Million - dot.LA ›
- Encantos' Bilingual Edtech App Will Rely On Educator-Authors - dot.LA ›
“League of Legends” video game developer Riot Games is donating over $2 million to social impact real estate fund SoLa Impact’s I CAN Foundation to help the organization bolster technology education programs for underserved communities in South Los Angeles.
L.A.-based Riot Games’ contribution will help fund the development and operation of SoLa’s new Technology and Entrepreneurship Center in South L.A. The 14,000-square-foot center—which opens later this month at SoLa’s Beehive business campus—will offer coding, animation, graphic design, digital content creation and esports classes to over 1,000 students from the local community every year, free of charge.
“By offering a variety of courses to close the digital divide, we hope to inspire a new generation of underrepresented students to pursue careers in STEM [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields,” Riot Games said in a statement.
Earlier this week, it emerged that Riot Games is investigating esports team owner Andy Dinh, who leads the hugely successful TeamSoloMid, after multiple current and former employees accused him of abusive workplace conduct.
- Gaming Became One of the Hottest Form of Entertainment - dot.LA ›
- Riot Games Acquires Gaming Studio Hypixel - dot.LA ›
- Riot Games Investigating Esports Team Founder Andy Dinh - dot.LA ›
The years-long COVID-19 pandemic did one thing: technologies that were at their infancy pre-pandemic finally had a chance to fully mature, thanks to waves of public and private funding that spurred the pandemic.
One of the most startling shifts came in the use of mRNA vaccines that helped curb the pandemic. The technology was the key to reopening the economy in California, allowing millions of people to go back to work, and, because the vaccine was created using a spike protein found on the virus, booster shots have been able to keep people relatively safe despite the morphing variants.
As the world faces a new threat with the COVID variant, Omicron, public health experts are looking to the science that helped create the first vaccine – the mRNA vaccine along with genomic sequencing – as they anticipate the virus’ path.
While scientists are still trying to understand the variant, which appears to be less dangerous to individuals than the Delta variant, one thing is agreed upon: having a booster helps protect people from COVID. Testing helps from spread. And genomic sequencing enables scientists to quickly identify new threats.
Why are these three developments so important to the future?
mRNA Vaccines and Boosters
The quick work done to develop the booster using mRNA, a vaccine that uses a molecule to create an immune response in the body, was tested during the pandemic and is likely to continue to be a go-to tool for scientists for future vaccines.
“What pandemic is doing is really pushing the application and maturation of these technologies that were already being developed,” said Dr. Shaun Yang, an assistant medical director at the Clinical Microbiology Laboratory at UCLA.
The wealth of data accumulated from millions of people around the world may also help us develop cancer therapeutics or an HIV vaccine sooner than previously thought.
At-Home and At-School Testing
Diagnosing COVID-19 will be key in sustaining a reopened economy post-pandemic.
Rapid tests will be key to bolstering safety efforts in the U.S. as people continue to travel during the holidays, spend time at concerts and movie theaters, and return to in-person schooling.
Since cities have loosened pandemic restrictions, the Biden Administration began banking on rapid COVID-19 tests. The federal government invested a billion dollars into at-home rapid tests, increasing inventory in the U.S. so more people can buy them.
But, according to Dr. Eleazar Eskin, the UCLA chair of the Department of Computational Medicine, accessible testing will also make it easier to stop the virus from spreading in schools. His lab at UCLA developed SwabSeq, a $10 test that can test for multiple respiratory illnesses, not just the coronavirus. Instead of sending students home for a few days while teachers and classmates get tested for the coronavirus, schools can quickly figure out what ailment students have.
Eskin said, pre-pandemic, “what was missing was really a large-scale testing capacity for the virus. So we want to basically put in the system that would both detect new viruses and be able to get results within a couple of weeks.”
Genomic Sequencing and Surveillance
Sophisticated genomic sequencing technology is what allowed scientists across the world to create a vaccine without ever seeing or handling the virus. Chinese scientists sequenced the entire virus, basically writing out the genetic material and construction of COVID-19, and published it online.
Genomic surveillance is also what allowed scientists in South Africa to discover the Omicrom variant so quickly. The faster public health officials can find a variant, the better it can track its mutations, how fast it spreads, and how deadly the virus is. This can inform necessary public health decisions like reinstating social distancing rules.
It will also be key to stopping the next pandemic.
“New pathogens always emerge and never stop...surveillance needs to stay there constantly and that requires funding and legislative support. Knowing that if something happens in the world, you can immediately get information and study it.,” Yang said. “And that really tells you how unsuccessful we were for this pandemic. Because if we had a very good surveillance system, we would have had the opportunity to really put that virus under control.”
- Medical AI Startups Are Booming, But Doctors Are Skeptical - dot.LA ›
- Volunteers launch database for COVID-19 test centers across U.S. ... ›
- How mRNA Vaccines Could Change the Fight Against Cancer - dot.LA ›
- LAUSD Parents Created a Dashboard to Monitor COVID Cases - dot ... ›
- Tech Industry Experts Predict What's Coming in 2022 - dot.LA ›