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Project Mercury Overview

Project Mercury is an initiative started by Blue Orb, parent company of orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard, and the Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce. It is funded by a multi-year grant from National Science Foundation and designed to help persons with special needs and wounded veterans become entrepreneurs.

The goal of Project Mercury is to eradicate many of the opportunity barriers experienced by persons with disabilities by plugging them into a network of seasoned professionals who can guide and mentor as they bring their idea to fruition through a custom-made curriculum.

Persons with disabilities tend to be underrepresented in the workforce despite the fact they are often incredible problem solvers. However, in our experience, persons with special needs have ideas for products that can help both disabled and abled-bodied consumers. It’s time to bring these great ideas to market.

Look for Project Mercury applications in January 2012.

Overview:

We have named this endeavor Project Mercury after Mercury, the Roman God of overcoming barriers.

  • The first goal of Project Mercury is to develop a curriculum to teach persons with disabilities to participate more fully in the process of being and becoming an entrepreneur. Service-disabled veterans fall within the scope of this project. Blue Orb, together with other organizations, will provide training, orientation, and an orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard as needed at no cost to the participating special needs individual.
  • The second goal is to provide a research environment in which hypotheses on the cognitive and interpersonal communications of entrepreneurship on persons with disabilities will be tested.

Structure:

Blue Orb has assembled a group of prestigious local and national organizations for Project Mercury whose goal will be to provide collaborative support for the project.

Some organizations already engaged and their roles:

  • The National Science Foundation has awarded Blue Orb a grant spanning three years to help disabled persons become entrepreneurs. This will help to fund the training and research portion of the project.
  • The Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce will help participants grow their business by incorporating them into a thriving network of  organizations specifically designed for the needs of persons with disabilities and facillitate the establishment of relationships in the community.
  • The Orlando VA Medical Center will provide participants and promote the program internally and externally to help grow project interest and give the program a viable structure.
  • Graduate students from Rollins College will help develop and research Project Mercury, with particular focus on entrepreneurship.
  • Edyth Bush Charitable Foundation and Veteran Corps have donated 50 units collectively that will be used for the program and permanent usage for the recipient.  This initial donation has helped to get the program started.

Again, thank you so much for your interest as we develop this exciting new program. Please spread the word to your friends and family.For a little more on Blue Orb and Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce’s partnership with National Science Foundation, please read the press release.

Also, don’t forget to “Like” our Page on Facebook and “Follow” us on Twitter.

Project Mercury FAQ

As many of you know, Blue Orb, parent company of orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard, in partner with Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce, was awarded a National Science Foundation Small Business Research grant designated to help persons with special needs become entrepreneurs. There has been a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for this program, and with that, come questions about eligibility requirements and program parameters. Here is a quick program overview and answers to frequently asked questions.

Quick Overview

  • The first goal of Project Mercury is to develop a curriculum to teach persons with disabilities to participate more fully in the process of being and becoming an entrepreneur. Service-disabled veterans fall within the scope of this project. Blue Orb, together with other organizations, will provide training, orientation, and an orbiTouch Keyless Keyboard as needed at no cost to the participating special needs individual.
  • The second goal is to provide a research environment in which hypotheses on the cognitive and interpersonal communications of entrepreneurship on persons with disabilities will be tested.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you have to be an American citizen? 

Yes

Do you have to be over 18? 

Yes

Are all disability types included? 

Yes, all disability types identified by Americans with Disabilities Act are welcome to apply.

Do service-disabled veterans qualify? 

Absolutely. We invite all service-disabled veterans qualified by the Department of Veterans Affairs to apply.

Where is program going to be held?

The majority of the program will be online. Participants in the local area will have the option to utilize Orlando VA Medical Center and Blue Orb’s Headquarters in Maitland, Florida, until the program can be scaled.

What does the curriculum look like? 

Each participant will receive a custom syllabus created according to their strengths, interests, and needs. Besides providing information in an online classroom setting, the program is designed to plug disabled entrepreneurs into a network. Each participant will be assigned to a mentor who will guide them and introduce them to other mentors and contacts. One such group will be the Rollins College Venture Program, a group consisting of 44 available mentors.

When is the program going to start? 

The applicant review process has already commenced, but the mentorship portion of this program is scheduled to begin first quarter of 2012.

What is the length of the program?

The research grant is based over a three year timespan, but the mentorship aspect will be ongoing as the participant requires.

Is this program solely educational, or is financial help offered as well?

The goal of this program is educational, but there is some financial compensation as well. Each applicant will receive assistive technology, such as orbiTouch, iPad, or iPod Touch, as determined by the program coordinators to aid them in their entrepreneurial ventures, as well as a small cash sum for expenses.

Will online tools be available in closed captioning?

We are currently working on including closed captioning to optimize user experience for participants who are deaf or hard of hearing.

How do I apply?

We are currently designing an application. In the meantime, all interested persons can email elizabeth@orbiTouch.com for more information.

Blue Orb awarded National Science Foundation Grant

Multi-year award will help provide online entrepreneurial opportunities to persons with disabilities.

MAITLAND, FLORIDA–Blue Orb, Inc., parent company of the assistive technology keyboard orbiTouch, was awarded a three year Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation in partnership with Central Florida Disability Chamber of Commerce. This grant focuses on providing persons with disabilities an opportunity to independently develop their own ideas as entrepreneurs. Service-disabled veterans also fall into the scope of this project.

The goal of the most recent NSF grant is to develop an online environment that allows persons with disabilities to participate more fully in the process of becoming and being an entrepreneur.

In addition to providing individuals with disabilities a tool set to improve and enhance entrepreneurship among them, the proposed collaborative environment will be a very powerful research tool to test hypotheses about the cognitive, affective, and inter-personal constructs and mechanisms involved in entrepreneurship and among persons with disabilities.

This is the second grant awarded to Blue Orb. In 2008, Blue Orb received a grant dedicated to studying communication constructs of children with autism and developing a program using assistive technology to compliment lesson plans and help children with autism achieve higher in school. This initiative, called Project Blue Skies, proved successful in helping autistic children communicate their thoughts more clearly, leading to better student-teacher understanding and higher grades.

Director of Social Media Elizabeth Rissman commented, “This endeavor will promote learning and independence among persons with special needs who want to start their own businesses. Individuals with disabilities are highly underrepresented in the national workforce, and programs like these will hopefully alleviate some of the challenges they regularly encounter.”

Blue Orb invites people with special needs to participate in this exciting program. If you or a friend or family member could benefit from this initiative, please contact elizabeth@orbiTouch.com