Apple Launches New IPhones

It is official, the iPhone 8, 8 PLUS, and X are on their way to a store near you. Apple has recently announced the release dates for its newest and most coveted iPhones. The iphone 8, 8 plus, and X are slated to be “a huge step forward in iPhone history” according to Apple CEO Tim Cook.

While the 8 and 8 PLUS have been long awaited the real star, the biggest and baddest iPhone, is the much-hyped iPhone X. Fully equipped with a full-screen display, new all-glass design, and Face ID, it is expected to be the king of the smartphones.

It has a Super Retina Display and measures 5.8 inches with a resolution of 2,436 x 1,125 pixels. Brightness and color accuracy problems that plagued iphone users in the past have been rectified. Apple has added Dolby Vision and HDR10 support to provide crystal clear video playback.

The phone is designed to be intuitive and user friendly. To unlock the home screen without a home button Apple developed Face ID, a facial recognition system that learns the shape and contours of your face in real time. The screen illuminates with one look and will even work in the dark.

Many iPhone users are concerned about the software, worrying that their future phones won’t be able to recognize them if they decide to change their appearance. But Apple has claimed that Face ID will not be confused by hairstyles, hats, or even facial hair.

There is no doubt that Apple likes to push the limits and reinvent technology in new and innovative ways, but with the rise of technology and the power that accompanies it comes great responsibility. Facial recognition is not a new concept. Samsung and Microsoft both offer it as a feature on their phones. However the launch of the iPhone X will likely catapult the software into the mainstream media, shining a light on it like never before.

Face ID has been praised for it’s convenience but has raised red flags in other areas. Other than consumers worrying about being recognized, there is the matter that a third party, namely law enforcement or thieves, will be able to unlock a user’s phone through force just by pointing the screen at their face. And even more worrisome is the question of whether or not Face ID will be able to give Apple and it’s partners an easy way to catalog their users. Creating a massive database without the touch of a single button.

Technology has created a breach in privacy and a real fear of information leaks and information manipulation. The fear is that the face id software will be used for surveillance and marketing. As of right now Apple has been able to soothe the public’s concerns  noting that Face ID is entirely self-contained within the phone. The facial image, created with a special camera on the phone, is stored only on the iPhone and never shipped back to Apple. Which means that while consumers’ photos and other content are regularly transferred to Apple’s iCloud storage service, this won’t be the case with their facial recognition data.

The privacy features built into Face ID are intended to limit the misuse of the software but with the increased popularity that the iphone will bring there is no way to be sure that other companies will not exploit it. Only time will tell.

Apple has announced that the iphone X will be available for pre-order on October 27. The iPhone 8 and 8 PLUS will be released on September 15.

 

Hyperactive Hurricane Season

NASA (GOES) Satellite Image

The 2017 hurricane season is the most active since 2005. Seven hurricanes, including Harvey, Irma and Maria have ripped through areas such as Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, devastating a countless number of people and leaving behind many questions regarding the relationship between global warming and hurricanes.

“While there is no clear evidence of an increased number of hurricanes in a warmer world, there is evidence that the hurricanes are becoming more intense,” Jennifer Collins, Associate Professor in the School of Geosciences at USF, said, “studies have also noted that in a warmer environment, we should see more storms which undergo rapid intensification. We have seen such rapid intensification with Hurricane Wilma, Rita, Katrina, Patricia, Harvey to name a few.”

Alexis Black, Environmental Specialist with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and recent USF graduate shares a similar thought regarding the relationship between the two.

“[C]limate change, in context of the 2017 hurricane season, has created conditions conducive to increasing storm intensity since atmospheric and oceanic temperatures are warmer than in the past. Hurricanes feed of warm weather to form, and climate change is allowing hurricanes to form and migrate through the Atlantic and our region with increased intensity,” Black said.

Research from NASA’s Earth Observatory also acknowledged the connection between rising temperatures and hurricane strength, stating that a more humid environment creates a possibility for the development of stronger hurricanes while also saying that global temperature increase will decrease the overall number of storms that form. Fewer storms with higher intensities have the potential to cause immeasurable amounts of damage to tropical coastlines.

Regarding the current hurricane season, which comes to an official end on November 30, there have been several storms ranked Category 4 or stronger. Two of these storms classified as Category 5. This uncommon occurrence is not the only record that was updated this season.

“It is certainly uncommon – this is only the 6th time it has ever happened. This is also the first year that has seen two Atlantic storms make landfall in the continental United States as a Category 4 (Harvey, Irma) in the known record dating back to 1851,” Collins said, ” it is the first hyperactive season since 2010.”

Unfortunately, this hurricane season has not yet officially ended.

“We are only just past the peak of the season and still in the peak hurricane season … so there is still plenty of opportunity for another Category 5 to occur this season,” Collins said, “we need the right ingredients to be present in the Atlantic, such as warm sea surface temperatures, low vertical wind shear and high humidity.  These conditions are present quite frequently in some places of the Atlantic.”

It is widely known that the current president and his administration are not in favor of the Paris Agreement to fight climate change and have even threatened to back out of the agreement if the carbon emissions pact is not altered, per CNN White House Producer, Kevin Liptak.

“I think it is a huge deterrent to making progress on fighting climate change. The United States is one of the greatest producers of greenhouse gases in the world, and thus would substantially impact the globe’s progress to fight climate change if it diminishes its emissions. This is an international effort and requires participation from all to make a substantial impact in this fight. The current administration is putting the country in a situation where we will not be able to combat climate change independently or rely on other countries to combat climate change as an unit if it withdraws from this agreement,” Black said.

Due to steady increase in global temperature, looking ahead to future hurricane seasons is important.

“It is reasonable to believe that the 2018 hurricane season could be just the same or worse than the current hurricane season, due to the likelihood of atmospheric and oceanic temperatures remaining at or increasing from what they are now. But, in the end, no one can truly say what will happen when 2018 comes around since weather is unpredictable,” Black said.

USF students rally in support of DACA

TAMPA – Dozens of students showed up at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Plaza Thursday in support of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program, commonly known as DACA.

Jose Flores (left), Stephanie Garza (center) and Michelle Joseph (right) hold signs made for the DACA rally at USF while attendees talk in the background.

In 2012, former President Barack Obama issued an executive order that prevented deportation of children under the age of 16 who immigrated to the United States illegally. While DACA is not a permanent solution for those who are eligible to apply, it gives them more time to work or receive an education in the United States. According to Pew Research Center, an estimated 790,000 unauthorized immigrants have been protected under DACA.

Last week, President Donald Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, announced that the administration will end the program in six months. As of now, no new DACA applications will be considered.

Trump’s presidential campaign focused on decreasing the number of immigrants to the United States, along with deporting those who are not here legally. Almost immediately after being sworn in, Trump began to follow through on his promise to be tough on undocumented immigrants.

Since the DACA announcement, congressional Democrats have been scrambling to make a deal in order to protect DACA immigrants from deportation.

Sign made for the DACA rally at USF.

Many DACA recipients are now in college, and they fear that they may be deported before being able to finish their education. Stephanie Garza, one of the organizers for the on campus DACA rally, explains why Session’s announcement is personal for some USF students.

“We know that here at USF, the estimate is between 70-100 DACA students are part of the USF community,” said Garza.

Several organizations helped plan and support the event, including College Democrats, Mi Familia Vota, For Our Future and UndocUnited. Students like Jose Flores who participated in the event wanted to show the Trump administration that college campuses support DACA students.

For Our Future was one of the many organizations that supported the DACA rally at USF.

“We wanted to show that the community will organize and protect their own, and you know, just basically show that USF opposes the decision,” said Flores. “We hope that if other people follow in our footsteps, or, you know, we all come together, if other universities have their rallies too, together we’ll, you know, amplify our voices and we’ll be heard.”

The issue of immigration hits close to home with many people who attended the event.

“Personally, I know a lot of people who are immigrants, documented, undocumented, and you know, I see how their lives could change if something was passed, and how their lives are different than other people’s because sometimes they don’t have the same opportunities as those people,” said Michelle Joseph, who is with the organization Mi Familia Vota. “So, we’re here to support the passing of the DREAM Act, and that would mean that people would get to live normal lives kind of thing, not worry about whether they’re going to be kicked out of the country kind of thing.”

Different people spoke during the event, some of whom will be directly affected by the elimination of DACA.

“My favorite part was that some people felt empowered enough to go up and speak, even though they were not listed to speak, you know, they were motivated enough to come out and say a few words,” said Flores. “Each person that comes up and speaks up only adds to the slew of voices that are coming up, that are speaking out against this kind of you know, behavior, actions from the administration.”

Students were not afraid to show their disdain for President Trump with their rally signs.

DACA recipients will be in limbo until Congress decides if it is going to instate a new program to help young unauthorized immigrants. Some are trying to renew their DACA before the Oct 5. deadline set by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Applying for a renewal, however, does not ensure that they will be able to stay in the United States for the remainder of their DACA eligibility if Congress fails to create a new program.

For many, this is frustrating and alarming.

“If you’re not upset, if you’re not enraged, then you’re not paying attention,” said Flores.

A look behind the scenes of the ASRC committee

Mixed in with every student’s list of fees and tuition that get paid with mild griping is “Flat Fee A&S Tampa.” The Activity and Service (A&S) fee – which equates to more than $17.8 million this year — falls under Student Government’s jurisdiction. The funs are allocated to student organizations and offices on campus.

The A&S fee is paid by students each semester. The fee includes a flat fee of $7 per semester and $12.08 per credit hour each semester. If a student takes 15 credit hours in a semester, they pay $188.20 in A&S fees.

The A&S Recommendation Committee (ASRC) is fully equipped with 12 voting members. This includes six voting senators and two alternate members if one of the six isn’t able to attend a meeting.

Collectively, this committee goes over budget requests to fund parts of campus such as new equipment for Campus Recreation, furniture in the Marshall Student Center (MSC) and events for student organizations.

“The goal of ASRC would be to receive budget requests from things that are asking for A&S funding, to determine how they provide activities and services to students and to fund them for those activities and services,” Sen. Aladdin Hiba, who is starting his fourth term on the committee, said. “With the overall goal of making things better for our USF students, adding activities, adding services.”

The ASRC committee met Friday to vote on a chair – who is responsible for calling all further meetings – and a vice chair.

During the remainder of the fall semester, committee members go over practice budget requests in order to learn the rules and the process. Additionally, members are assigned to different departments and student organizations on campus that request funding to serve as a liaison between that group and the committee.

The larger budget requests, such as the MSC and Campus Recreation, are due in December for the committee to start reviewing when winter break ends.

“We want them to have them to us early on, at least relatively,” Hiba said. “Well before this deadline happens, we’ll be meeting with the departments. We’ll have people communicating with the departments to see ‘this is what the department wants,’ ‘these are things the department thinks maybe could be cut,’ ‘these are the directions the department wants to go in.’ We get a gist of that.”

The 2017-18 budget allocated $11.9 million toward these larger departments for activities and renovations that the committee felt would be beneficial to the student body. This is compared to the $10.8 million that went toward these departments in last year’s budget.

According to Sen. Saeed Sinan, who is also starting his fourth term on the ASRC committee, departments are coming up with more new initiatives to request funding for and it’s part of the committee’s job to determine which of those are worth funding.

“We don’t want to overspend and overallocate things,” he said. “Basically, we look to see if the impact was the best for the student body. Should we decrease that? Should we reallocate funds to a different entity or a different program within the department?”

Hiba said one of the hardest parts of dealing with the budgets is having the conversations about what areas or programs need to be cut.

“If we’re spending say $50,000 on something that 200 people go to,” he said. “Well, $50,000 is enough to fund 50 student organizations for a year. We have to make these judgments, these decisions. This is too expensive, it’s not impacting enough people.”

In comparison to the deadline for departments, student organizations have to submit budget requests by Jan. 26 for consideration by the committee. In last year’s budget, student organizations as a whole received $1.1 million compared to $1 million the year prior.

“There’s around 300 to 400 to 500 student orgs that submit budget requests, and then the chair assigns a set amount of orgs per ASRC member,” Sinan said. “Then we meet with them based on the standards we decide in the fall semester. Then we go on to review each budget request separately.”

The committee allows student organizations to request funding for up to eight events per year and allocate $4 a head for food and event-related material such as tablecloths and decorations. This process was developed this past year. Prior organizations could get funded $2 a head per event and would have to request additional funding for other materials.

In an attempt to make the per-head funding system more accurate, SG purchased a card swipe system that can be rented out to student organizations. This allows for those in attendance to swipe their student ID to mark attendance and gives the organization as well as ASRC a better idea of how many students are attending events.

While most student organizations submit requests on their own, the ASRC committee has created counsels that group similar organizations – that each have a representative on the counsel – together to allow for better funding. Rather than funding each individual organization requesting money from ASRC, those that would fall into a counsel would request money from the counsel – that requested money from ASRC.

“We have a few dozen who use money completely differently from the way most organizations use it,” Hiba said. “Sports clubs are an excellent example because they don’t have events, they don’t need food, they don’t need money for the types of things we usually spend on organizations.

“What we’ve done is we’ve established the Sports Club Counsel whose entire funding paradigm is geared toward sports clubs. So, they can’t fund food and they can’t fund events in the standard sense. Instead what they fund for is primarily for team equipment that would belong to the team and for travel.”

According to Sinan, if a counsel does fund something that the ASRC committee normally would fund – such as an event – it can’t be funded differently than ASRC would. If the Engineering Counsel were to fund an event, it would still be required to fund $4 per head the way ASRC would.

A member of the committee is assigned to each organization to help work as a liaison between the organization and ASRC. What member of the committee represents what student organization is as random as it can be. Along with that right, ASRC provides a number of other rights to organizations.

“We give student organizations certain rights throughout the process,” Hiba said. “We give them the right to meet with an ASRC member, we give them the right to have their budget heard if they submit it on time, and we give them the right to appeal it to a different person if the person they met with the first time didn’t do a good job of representing them to ASRC.”

Committee members are expected to disclose any organizations they may have a bias toward or against to promote fairness. According to Sinan, all student organizations are viewed the same and go through the same process to help ensure fairness when allocating funds.

“The philosophy of ASRC is basically ‘We do not fund to better the organization or department’ because we are the custodians of the A&S fee,” Sinan said. “So, we are here to serve the students and better their experience here at USF because they paid it so we are trying to empower them.”

Advanced technology takes education research into the future

USF professor Sanghoon Park partnered with the USF Advanced Visualization Center to 3-D print cubes to interact with an educational app for his research. Photo by Abby Rinaldi

At first glance, USF assistant professor of instructional technology Sanghoon Park’s five 3-D printed cubes with their angular designs on each side and vivid, contrasting colors may seem simple. But pair them with a tablet app, and these cubes take a new form.

Each cube is dedicated to a different renewable energy resource: solar, wind, hydropower, geothermal and biomass. Each side corresponds to a different type of content: text, images, videos and 3-D models. Open the app, take a cube and point one side of it at the tablet and the app opens different types of content for the user to explore. Guiding users through the content is an animated bee.

The app and cubes are the work of Park and the USF Advanced Visualization Center (AVC). The full project, called ARPA, is a combination of augmented reality (AR) and a pedagogical agent (PA). The bee is the pedagogical agent.

As advanced technologies emerge, academics and researchers attempt to integrate them into the field of education, Park said. One such tool is AR, which he feels surpasses multimedia teaching tools such as informational websites. AR, he said, offers new ways of exploring educational content that couldn’t be done before, such as exploring a blood cell, or in his case, exploring renewable energy resources.

“They can actually make impossible things possible,” he said.

However, Park felt the tools on the market for AR were missing something.

“The limitation was that none of them actually considered using the pedagogical agent in augmented reality environments, which was to me problematic because AR, augmented reality, by definition is an enhanced digital component on top of the real physical object,” he said.

Park’s research focused on putting the learner into the educational environment through AR, but with the addition of the pedagogical agent to guide users through the layers of content, the responsibility of deciphering the 3-D models and other aspects of the content does not fall solely on the learner.

“We help them,” Park said. “We provide more information and guidance or supporting information to learners so when they look at the 3-D model and augmented reality 3-D models and the pedagogical agent, they can actually understand what the 3-D model is about, which will help them to make a connection with the 3-D model and the learned knowledge and skills that they acquired from the classroom already.”

The cubes respond to an app where a pedagogical agent, in this case an animated bee, guides the user through the content. Photo courtesy of Sanghoon Park

To bring his idea of an educational AR experience to life, Park sought help from the AVC. Park said they went through many trials trying to get the cubes to work with the app and to select which AR tools to use. The cubes needed simpler designs with more angles printed in higher contrasting colors so the app could read them better. The AVC also guided Park through the development of the app, which was done in the Unity engine.

Howard Kaplan, senior technologist and visualization specialist for the AVC, said that while there were challenges, the resulting investigation is what research is all about.

“You get to answer technology questions for development of future applications like this, as well as, again, your direct question of does it improve student learning,” Kaplan said.

Kaplan said the integration of technology into academic research in any and all subject areas can enhance it, especially in fields where the technology isn’t normally present. On the other hand, he warns researchers that using advanced technology just for the sake of using it won’t get them far.

“It’s not only just I want to develop an app, it’s how do I develop an app that will allow me to change the app, to make it grow according to how my research grows and my research findings,” Kaplan said. “So there’s a whole back-end development process that has to be accounted for in terms of how I do that.”

Park plans to take ARPA into the classroom to research its effects on student learning at Turner/Bartels K-8 School in Hillsborough County, where his son attends. He plans to continue improving the cubes and expanding the content that they can deliver by adding downloadable content for the cubes. He said ARPA doesn’t have to be used only to teach science concepts but can be adapted to mathematics and language learning as well. This, however, is far in the future.

“We have to achieve those things one by one, step-by-step,” he said.

As Park sees it, there is a promising future for advanced and emerging technologies in education and education research, but it will be important to keep the students and teachers in mind during this process.

Advanced technologies in education research aren’t just for enhancing the student experience, as Park discovered last summer when he served as a visiting scholar at Chonnam National University in South Korea. While there, he was involved with research on creating a virtual environment for teachers to train in. Pre-service teachers interacted with virtual students, each with distinct personalities, in a variety of situations as practice for classroom management.

“(Advanced technologies) are changing the landscape of the education in the classroom and online as well,” Park said. “However, we have to always think about the learners at the center and how we are going to support teachers as well. So those are the two important factors that will ensure the successful integration of emerging technology in education.”

The USF Advanced Visualization Center offers technical expertise to students, faculty and staff at USF so they can use advanced technologies in their research and projects. The center also features a lecture hall, pictured above. Photo by Abby Rinaldi

Sexual violence happening on college campuses

By Megan Holzwarth

September 24, 2017

Going to college should be a fun time in people’s lives. It’s so exciting to finally be on your own and to meet new people while going out to parties, sporting events, clubs and late night study sessions. One thing that people shouldn’t have to worry about when going to school is sexual violence. Unfortunately however, this is something college students should definitely be aware of when they are on campus.

According to Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN), which is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization, women who are 18 to 24 years of age are at a high risk for sexual violence. RAINN’s “Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” said, “Among undergraduate students, 23.1 percent of females and 5.4 percent of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”

From RAINN’s Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics. Infographic

Sexual violence takes place more on college campuses than any other forms of crime that happen on those campuses. Students who are victims of sexual violence often do not come forward to report the crime to law enforcement. RAINN’s “Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” said, “Only 20 percent of female student victims, age 18 to 24, report to law enforcement. Only 32 percent of nonstudent females the same age do make a report.” RAINN also states that, “about one in six college-aged female survivors received assistance from a victim services agency.”

From RAINN’s “Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” Infographic

From RAINN’s Campus Sexual Violence: Statistics” Infographic

Another thing that students should be aware of is the fact that there are periods of increased risk of sexual violence throughout the year. According to RAINN, “More than 50% of college sexual assaults occur in either August, September, October, or November. Students are at an increased risk during the first few months of their first and second semesters in college.” Students should also keep in mind that law enforcement on campus are there to help protect students and have been trained to respond to this matter.

Below are some statistics from RAINN’s article: Campus Law Enforcement Has a Significant Role in Addressing and Responding to College Sexual Assault

  • 86 percent of sworn campus law enforcement officials have legal authority to make an arrest outside of the campus grounds.
  • 86 percent of sworn campus law enforcement agencies have a staff member responsible for rape prevention programming.
  • 70 percent of campus law enforcement agencies have memorandums of understanding (MOUs) with local law enforcement.
  • 72 percent of campus law enforcement agencies have a staff member responsible for survivor response and assistance.
  • Among four year academic institutions with 2,500 students or more, 75 percent employ armed officers, a 10 percent increase in the last decade.

College campuses are taking this issue seriously with the help of law enforcement on the campuses. The law enforcement on these school campuses are there to make sure that every student is safe.

Another method that college campuses use to keep their students safe is Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972, a federal law that prohibits sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal funding, which is used at the majority of schools in the country. There is a website dedicated to Title IX and spreading awareness of sexual violence called “Know Your IX”, which was founded in 2013 by survivors of sexual violence. The article “Know Your IX” from the website of the same name says, “under Title IX, schools are legally required to respond and remedy hostile educational environments and failure to do so is a violation that means a school could risk losing its federal funding.”

From “Know Your IX”

For students who are victims of sexual violence and are considering reporting about the crime this is what the schools must do under Title IX. According to “Know Your IX”, “schools must notify victims of their right to report to police and facilitate that process if desired by the victim. Victims also have the right not to report to the police. Regardless of a victim’s choice to report to the police, a victim may use a school’s grievance procedure to address sexual harassment or sexual violence or merely seek accommodations. When reasonable, schools must accommodate a victim on campus to remedy a hostile environment on a school’s campus.” Colleges that do not obey and help the victim may be in violation of Title IX.

Sexual violence is not something to be taken lightly and certainly not something that can be tossed under a rug. Issues of this nature are very serious and must be addressed and handled with respect to both the victims and accusers.

https://www.knowyourix.org/college-resources/title-ix/

https://www.rainn.org/statistics/campus-sexual-violence

Storm Debris Collection Underway for Tampa Residents

Tampa – Two weeks after Hurricane Irma swept through Tampa Bay, residents are still waiting for storm debris to be picked up.

Tampa residents were quick to clean up the aftermath of Irma. Branches and palm fronds were piled up on the curb. Fallen trees were cut into manageable pieces and piled on the side of the road for pickup.

The company contracted by the City of Tampa to assist with storm debris collection, Ceres Environment, had planned to rent about 30 trucks to add to the five they currently have in use in Tampa. However, those trucks are now headed for South Florida instead.

“The subcontractor received a higher-price offer from another entity in South Florida and did not provide the trucks to Ceres for use in Tampa,” Stanley Bloodworth, the company’s project manager for Tampa, said in an email to the Tampa Bay Times. “Ceres is actively seeking additional resources from other subcontractors to fulfill the needs of the city of Tampa.”

The demand for trucks is higher than the supply, and the suppliers are going to whoever is paying the most. Tampa is paying $9.77 per cubic yard to get rid of 300,000 cubic yards of storm debris and South Florida is offering more.

Greg Meyer, a resident in the Palmetto Beach community of Tampa, had a large tree fall on his property and spent four hours cutting it up and moving it to the curb. A week and a half later and the debris is still sitting on his front lawn.

“I know they’re trying their hardest, but I’d like to let my kids play out front again soon,” Meyer said. “It’s just too risky letting them play near a four and half foot pile of debris.”

While the city is reviewing contracts to make sure contractors haven’t violated the law, parks and recreation and sanitation workers are now collecting storm debris. Because of this, parks will take longer to clean up.

Ceres is still working to collect storm debris with the trucks they have in use now, and residents can expect the collection process to take continue well into October.

While residential and commercial garbage collection resumed fairly quickly, recycle and yard waste collection will not resume until Monday, Sept. 25. The city’s Solid Waste Enhanced Environmental Program (S.W.E.E.P.) is suspended until further notice.

Even though regular yard waste collection resumes this week, the excess debris which cannot be bagged will be collected under the storm debris removal program. This program asks residents to follow specific guidelines for putting their debris out for collection.

Residents are being asked to separate their debris by material type: white goods, construction material, vegetative debris and electronics. Vegetative storm debris should not be bagged or placed in containers. Storm debris contractors will be using special machinery to collect debris piles. For these to be collected, they must be placed on the curb.

Citywide storm debris collection service will be taking place seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. through Oct. 27.

Those who would like to get rid of debris sooner can take it to one of Hillsborough County’s three yard waste collection sites. These sites are open Monday through Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

  • Falkenburg Road – 346 N. Falkenburg Road, Tampa 33619
  • Northwest County – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton 33534

To discard nonvegetative waste or debris, residents may drop off at any of the following Community Collection Centers listed below.

  • Alderman’s Ford Solid Waste Facility – 9402 County Road 39, Plant City, FL 33567
  • Hillsborough Heights Solid Waste Facility – 6209 County Road 579, Seffner, FL 33584
  • Northwest County Solid Waste Facility – 8001 W. Linebaugh Ave., Tampa 33625
  • South County Solid Waste Facility – 13000 U.S. Highway 41, Gibsonton, FL 33534

McKay Bay Disposal Facility is also accepting storm debris, located at 112 South 34th St., Tampa 33605.

The facilities listed above require a photo ID to dispose of waste, and McKay Bay requires proof of a city utility customer account as well.

Plant City’s Best Bartender 2017

This year, for the first time, FOCUS Magazine’s Plant City Edition included a Reader’s Choice Award for “Best Bartender” in Plant City. 

While Reader’s Choice Awards have existed for “Best Server,” “Best Soup” and “Best BBQ,” as well as many others, this year there was a new addition to the competition and Chris Stovall, 37, became the first recipient of the “Best Bartender” award. 

Stovall was born in California, but has lived in Plant City, Florida since he was seven months old, graduating from Plant City High School in 1999. He began serving at Ruby Tuesdays at the age of 18 and soon after was promoted to bartender. 

“We had a horrible bartender and I kept making jokes that I could do it better than him,” Stovall said. “One day I came to work and he said ‘Remember how you said [you could do a better job]? Well you’re bartending.’ So, I was kind of thrown to wolves. I didn’t go to school for it.” 

Stovall always wanted to work for the people, initially planning a career in radio. As a bartender, however, he found that he was able to connect with people “face-to-face” on a regular basis and thrived on the feelings that came with making other people smile. 

“I can pretty much connect with anybody,” Stovall said. “When people go out to any kind of bar they go for the atmosphere. They go for someone to talk to. Sometimes it’s a good talk. Sometimes it’s a bad talk. Sometimes it’s very hitting people on a personal level and helping them out with something you didn’t know you were going to and sometimes it’s football and taking a knee.” 

Stovall has worked in many bars across the state of Florida and he currently works as a bartender and manager at 1916 Irish Pub in Plant City and at Duke’s Brewhouse in Lakeland. His coworkers describe him as hardworking and funny. 

“I think he was chosen [best bartender] because he is not only well-known, but also well liked,” said Stovall’s longtime friend and current coworker, Chelsea Noriega. “He’s good at what he does, whatever he does.” 

Stovall’s coworkers also say that it’s easy to get into a good rhythm when working with him. 

“Normally we have a good flow,” coworker Devon Blackburn said. “Once customers start coming in we get in a good rhythm working together. He is attentive to your needs and always remembers, even if it takes a minute.” 

Noriega discussed how she can see that Stovall cares for people and how she hoped people realize how much Stovall cares about his customers as individuals. 

“He has the biggest heart,” Noriega said. “He’s definitely nosy, but he is really caring. He is kind of an open book.” 

On top of his work, Stovall is also a father of two. He says that his kids are one of his biggest hobbies. When he isn’t working, he enjoys spending time with his children, Jaxon, 5, and Sophia, 5. 

“As much as work is work, work is also my hobby,” Stovall said. “I work so that I can do cool things with my kids. It used to be so I could have a cool pair of shoes. Now I want my kids to have the cool pair of shoes, so it’s a little different.” 

Stovall’s coworkers see the dedication he gives his children as well. 

“I think people should know how good of a dad he is,” Blackburn said. “Dad’s don’t tend to get a lot of credit, and especially in his crazy situation, I think he gets written off a lot. From everything I see and hear, he is a great father and people should know that.” 

Stovall’s caring and desire to make people happy are major factors that led to him becoming the reader’s choice for “Best Bartender” in Plant City. Stovall says that his favorite thing about his job is the people. 

“I mean it’s the only reason that it’s fun,” Stovall said. “Sometimes it’s making fun, sometimes it’s having fun. There’s always something to talk about. I like making conversation. I have a magnetic personality and I can make people who don’t normally talk talk and feel comfortable.” 

Stovall said when he found out he won he felt surprised and that it threw him off. He said it made him feel like the time he spent in his town meant something. 

“Everything I’ve done was not lost,” Stovall said. “I haven’t sat here and sewed my roots and got to know everybody in this town and, you know how some people feel like they did something for nothing? I feel like there was a cause. There was a purpose. Nothing like recognition to make you want to do something better.”

USF communications during Irma cause mixed reactions

As Hurricane Irma threatened the state of Florida, there was a feeling of unease for some USF students and Tampa residents.

Tampa homeowners and businesses boarded up their windows and stood by while the storm made landfall in the Keys as a Category 4.

In the days before landfall, students on the USF class Facebook pages expressed concern and speculated about classes being canceled. USF Dean of Students Danielle McDonald first communicated to students the possible effects of the hurricane on Sept. 5, writing that decisions about campus closures would not be made until later in the week.

The following day, McDonald told students campus would be closed for the rest of the week and through the weekend. As days passed and Irma’s path shifted, more communications were provided. Florida Gov. Rick Scott mandated that state offices and schools close Sept. 8-11. USF canceled classes Sept. 7-13.

Dean of Students Danielle McDonald sent out a series of emails as Hurricane Irma approached to inform students of safety procedures and campus closures. Photo courtesy of the Office of the Dean of Students

Throughout this time, USF Tampa decided not to evacuate students living on campus.

“We are not in a flood zone and are further away from the coastal areas,” McDonald said in an email to students. ” … I hope to reassure you that the campus and our surrounding neighborhoods, where most of you live, is considered safer than other areas.”

In the time leading up to the storm, USF communicated with students to educate them on precautions to take and ways to prepare. McDonald included tips for hurricane preparation in an email to students. USF also has a page dedicated to emergency preparation.

Infographic by Kylie Buklad

However, as Irma approached, some students living on campus became nervous for their safety despite reassurance from the university.

Taira Zavala, a senior at USF, chose to go with her family to Texas to wait out the storm.

This is Zavala’s first year living in off-campus housing. She waited until Saturday night to finally evacuate. The days leading up to the storm took quite a toll on her, she said.

“I was incredibly stressed the week before the hurricane,” Zavala said. “I could not help but think that I should evacuate … My anxiety was just so terrible and I knew if I stayed it would only get worse. The storm was not as bad as I anticipated, but for my mental state it was the right move.”

Zavala questioned the timeline of campus communications and cancellations at USF.

“I definitely feel that they could have made the decisions in a timelier manner,” Zavala said. “I know many students that evacuated so I think it would have been the right move to close down the school for the remainder of that week.”

Zavala was not the only student to leave USF ahead of Hurricane Irma. Dillon Sunderland, a junior at USF, decided to evacuate the Wednesday before the hurricane hit Florida.

“This was the first time I have experienced a major threat on campus,” Sunderland said. “I felt unsafe in my [off campus] apartment because of the lack of storm windows, and the fact that I’m on the first floor, so flooding was a concern.”

Sunderland has been living in campus housing for over a year. He may have felt unsafe in his USF affiliated apartment, but Sunderland said he thinks that USF handled the emergency well.

“They closed school early enough to allow people to evacuate,” Sunderland said.

USF System President Judy Genshaft released a video about the impact of Irma on USF. She spoke of the efforts of USF faculty housing and feeding students that stayed on campus for the storm. She said almost 800 people were housed in the Sun Dome, which is a special needs shelter for Hillsborough County, during Irma. Genshaft said she was proud that USF could keep so many people housed and fed during the storm.