Meet the Team That Will Revolutionize STEM Mentoring in the Triangle

From left to right: Kelsie Martinez, Brett Brenton, Hannah Strom, Christine Abernathy.

From left to right: Kelsie Martinez, Brett Brenton, Hannah Strom, Christine Abernathy.

Remember that moment in The Avengers when the team assembles and finally starts working together? US2020 RTP is kind of like that, but without the initial conflict between Iron Man and Captain America. The Project Manager, Brett Brenton, and three AmeriCorps VISTAs have started working at “The Frontier,” a fitting name for a building that sometimes feels like the Wild West (we joke about needing to wear cowboy hats to work). Benefits: the Fidelity Food Truck Rodeo happens right outside our office every Friday.

Our fearless leader Brett Brenton comes to us after two years of being the Assistant Principal at Baileywick Road Elementary School. When Brett’s not making connections with every stakeholder in The Triangle, he plays awesome Spotify playlists for the office and surprises us with his knowledge of what the word “chirped” means.

Kelsie Martinez is the Knowledge Management and Technology Systems AmeriCorps VISTA. This means that at meetings, she’s taking notes like a fiend. When any of us has a question, we yell “Kelsie!!” and she almost always knows the answer.

Kelsie has an MA in Anthropology from Binghamton University, SUNY, and recently relocated to the Triangle. Subsequently, the rest of us spend a lot of time telling her all of the places she needs to eat and buy good beer.

Christine Abernathy is the Events Planning Team AmeriCorps VISTA. When you go to an event and there’s awesome food there, you can give her a hug.

Christine graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 2012 with a BA in Political Science. Christine started a week after the rest of the VISTAs, so she will forever be the baby and have youngest child syndrome.

Hannah Strom is the Communications and Storytelling AmeriCorps VISTA. This is a fancy way of saying that Hannah gets to spend a lot of time on Twitter and call it work.

Hannah’s pet project at the office is maintaining a giant list of “Brett’s Buzzwords” to track how many times he uses corporate jargon. The word “onboarding” currently has the most hash marks, followed closely by “one-off.”

Stay tuned for the Adventures of US2020 RTP as we bring high quality STEM mentorship to underrepresented students in The Triangle.

RTP Staff Brings It Back From the Big Apple


anna jacob nycI just started here at the Foundation two months ago and it has rushed by. The RTP is doing truly great work, and I get to be a part of it all. Part of that work is sharing that story with the Triangle, North Carolina and the world. My colleague, Anna Rhyne, and I recently traveled to New York City to better understand what makes it such a destination in order to stimulate our creativity, while also generating ideas of things we could implement in RTP as components of our forthcoming Park Center Master Plan! The entry below shares our experiences in New York and our main take-aways from the trip. Enjoy!

New York: The Real Windy City

Our trip to New York was most stimulating – Anna and I kept saying “What a whirlwind!” to one another. We explored the many third spaces (not home, not work, but somewhere else) that took us on through many of destinations, designs, and stories in not even three full days of being there.

Anna and I were surprised at how late everyone stayed out in New York. It was around 8:00 at night as we were photoreached Bryant Park, our first destination, and many people were still catching up with friends at café tables in the promenade, some were charging their iPhones at the charging station as they had their nightly espresso, and others were spreading out their blankets as they were getting ready for a concert to come on in the main lawn. Everyone looked like they had just left work. Why haven’t these people gone home? But the reason is Bryant Park is a destination. The planners of Bryant Park made this a destination where people would rather scratch the after-work routine to come out and play. It would take some time for me to adjust to working a long day and then whisking away to a café as the night approached.

We slept in the smallest rooms (that they called pods), but it was perfect because we never stayed in our rooms – it was just a landing spot as we sped between our different destinations. The experience of New York was the destination, not the hotel where we laid our heads. We had a rooftop bar and restaurant at our hotel that had a view of the Empire State Building, and on a Tuesday night there was a forty-five minute wait to get to just the bar – not even the restaurant! The cement columns and twinkle lights made this place feel so secure and cozy even on top of a twenty story building. Event this was a destination that drew people out of their homes on a Tuesday night. It was a great example of what we want to create at Park Center as a whole: a destination that will be so attractive that it would compel people to break their routines and leave their homes to come check out what is going on in RTP’s third space.

photo 1There is so much collaboration and competition on that little island that it drives design to new heights – literally. We toured Google’s New York offices across from Chelsea Market and their layout was constantly changing. Our tour guide was a friend of a friend from UNC and she had been working in San Francisco for the past month, so she had been out of the office for a while. The three of us saw many new spaces that inundated the senses with possibility. A lego bar? A new multi-level section of the building that was themed after the four seasons? Scooters for when you’re running late to a meeting? New amenities – like cafes – were constantly being constructed and then collapsed to make way for the next idea. It was so stimulating to be in the eye of Hurricane Google. This tour was good inspiration to be adaptable in the new space that we are about to fully occupy and open to the public.

Later in Madison Square Park we not only got to witness some public art but got to witness people witnessing public art. These were normal blokes – not the stereotypical artsy types – examining the piece and pointing out various aspects of it to one another. It was evidence that innovative design can stop people in their tracks and start a conversation. Again, a good reminder to have as we move forward with our plans to facilitate meaningful interaction and collaboration.

photo 2Each of these third spaces had to compete to get their story out because there were so many. They had to develop a succinct way to tell the story without saying too much. One place that did that was Eataly – they created an open air Italian market in the heart of the Flat Iron district. A bit out of place, so they had to connect the dots here. As you walked through the market buzzing with energy, each item’s display had a sign that told a little about the family in Italy who produced it. Another way to transform a simple transaction into a meaningful interaction through the art of telling the narrative.

New Work was my favorite coworking space because it was so hospitable and open. Sarah, coworking space management goddess, was not afraid to show us how the sausage was made in their space. The space was so compelling because of the amount of transparency and trust that they created in the place. We asked about issues between tenants and management. She told us that before anything develops into a full-on category 5 storm, she is able to approach involved parties and eliminate the problem before it is a problem due to the community-based narrative that they have implemented from the beginning. The founder of New Work has created a primer for opening a coworking space and has published it online.

photo 3The most compelling story to me was that of the High Line because, like we are doing, they took an outdated structure that was slated for demolition and reimagined all that it could be. The Friends of the High Line have not only created a stimulating third space that provides recreation and rejuvenation in a jostling city, but they have been shouting their story from the rooftops along the way. They literally made a park on top of an old rail road track! Who does that? They compel people to get swept up in their mission by inviting them into a story that is much larger than themselves.


photo 4To cap it all off, Hurricane Arthur grounded us on our way back and we would not have been able to leave for 28 hours later, so Anna and I picked up our bags went over to Avis and drove through the night back to the land of the pine. As I said earlier on, definitely was a whirlwind of seeing how destination, design, and story can lift you off the ground and make an experience soar to new heights!

The Triangle Comes Together For A Day of Service


September 11th is National Day of Service around the country, established in 2009 by Congress. This is a day that Americans come together to participate in different service projects and charitable activities across the country.

Here in the Triangle there will be some great events going on to help the surrounding the community. One that we here at the Research Triangle Foundation are very excited about, and directly supporting is Sort-A-Rama.

Sort-A-Rama is a large-scale food sorting event that will be held in The Jim Graham Building, at the N.C. State Fairgrounds (1025 Blue Ridge Rd., Raleigh, NC 27607). The event takes place from 8 am until noon September 11th and brings together hundreds of employees from local companies to help sort food which has been purchased through fundraising for families throughout the community. The majority of Research Triangle Foundation staff will be participating in the event along with others from triangle companies.

For more information, please contact Linda Fisher, Special Events & Food Drive Manager,
Food Bank of Central and Eastern North Carolina: or 919.865.3053

NetApp Puts the Corporate Spotlight on Community


NetApp, a computer storage and data management company located in the Research Triangle Park, has always been very supportive and involved in community efforts.

This month, however, we were amazed by their generosity.  We have been running our annual “Back 2 School Drive,” a book/school supply drive to raise materials for students in need in both Wake and Durham counties.  The fundraiser works with companies throughout the park to collect school supplies for at-risk kids.   And while we are often impressed by the generosity and incredible giving nature of RTP companies, this month, NetApp took the cake (or, the pie…) with six palettes worth of school supply donations.

NetApp’s twist on our annual drive included a “Pies for Pencils” fundraiser, where volunteers agree to be “pied” up on stage in 15 minute intervals in exchange for donating $/pie towards school supplies. (Note, these are just shaving cream pies, no real pies were harmed during the event.) This year also as an added incentive, employees could pay extra for $20/pie to pie senior leaders. All of the money raised from the pies went towards the donations for the” Back 2 School Drive.” This year just under $6,000 was raised to help kids. Next they worked with local retailers to get supplies during tax-free weekend and put together over 270 backpacks filled with supplies for local students in need.

Though this isn’t the first year NetApp went through these efforts, it still is amazing to see how a company and its employees can come together in such a huge way for the community.

Just imagine if all the companies in RTP came together in an effort like this; picture all of the wonderful things we could do.

If you or your company is ever interested in being more involved in community events like this, please reach out to us and contact Director of RTP Programs, Lisa Jemison,

Note: While the “Back 2 School Drive” has officially ended but you can still donate materials/donations through our Amazon page here:

Follow-up: All in all, 600 stocked backpacks (150 more than last year!) were created by RTP companies with an estimated value of approximately $15,000. School supply donations came in from our Community Outreach @RTP Committee Members and their companies, including:

Fidelity Investments

In addition to the stuffed backpacks, an additional 100 lbs. of school supplies were donated to Communities in Schools of Durham and Wake Counties for inner city middle and high school classrooms.



Have you heard? The Research Triangle Park is building, growing, and changing – and we need your input. I’ll be updating this blog throughout the 2-day summit with highlights, comments, and feedback. Stay tuned…

8:00am – RTP CEOs
Twenty executives from RTP’s 7,000 acres joined us to discuss the future of the Park. Briefly, this is what I heard:

  • RTP isn’t stale. We still have a major international brand that people recognize and want to imitate; however, we need to keep pushing the envelope.
  • RDU International Airport is a huge asset we have. How can RTP help to bridge the connectivity gap? Is it a shuttle, rail, or Zipcars? Getting to the area is easy, but RTP should find ways, now, to make it easier to get to and from the airport that’s mere miles away.
  • Many companies are already reconfiguring their spaces to compliment the changing desires of today’s workers. Workspace that encourages collaboration is key. Attendees stressed that there be multiple spaces throughout RTP that encourage this, whether it be on, or off, campus.
  • We need to be loud about our achievements. There are many, and we’ve got to continue to tell our stories. The innovations that happen here have to be touted not just regionally, but globally.
  • Community building must start now. The CEOs said that the RTF has been doing a much better job of this, and that we need to continue building upon this success.

10:00am-11:30am – Gov & Econ Dev Officials
Leaders from our government and economic development organizations joined us to discuss the future of the Park.

  • Wendy Jacobs: How will we engage youth within this vision? Starting with middle and high school students. Is this internships, apprentice ships, how can we engage our youth?
  • Bob: If ARCHIE is developed and we had all these great programs, what if we had an ARCHIE fellows program? Could start with camps, or maybe as someone gets ready to move from  high school or college they could become an ARCHIE fellow and locate here at RTP. They come and they live here at the park and take classes virtually. Their responsibility is to share back to their home county. Share the thoughts and ideas and provide linkage to RTP. I think whatever that may be: the idea to connect young innovative thinkers is great.
  • Steve Row – When you talk about innovators and entrepreneurs you’re talking about something similar to Durham, but this could be a centralized location. They don’t have as much mentorship or capital here as they would in the bay area.
  • Bob – Where they go after getting up and running is the hard part.
  • Steve – There’s been a lot of debate about where entrepreneurs come from, and there are many global people right her ein the park. .how do we make ourselves open to that.
  • Bob – People in China are providing space for free. We’re not going to do that, and we don’t need to. We should be able to have space at the lowest, or zero cost, to bring the innovators here to get them  up and running and help them spin out – regionally, statewide.
  • Steve – Theory that most competitive regions are global. Thank you for trying to create this.
  • Ellen Reckhow – I love the vision. How tied is this to transit? Millenials don’t like to drive as much as their parents do. How do we initiate this? I love that you’re talking about layering in 1,000’s of additional jobs, but the roads might not support them.
  • Bob – There are political challenges and we know this. Everyone is saying they want to see a regional transit system move forward. If our park companies want this, we have to make it happen. The first (redevelopment) site was chosen because it’s right by a transit station but once they get to the park we have to make sure there’s a system for people to get around. We have to look at every mode of transportation possible to move people around. We could be a great laboratory or test site for all kinds of transportation, and we need to push it. We know that it’s going to be a while before we get it out here. Our Park company CEOs gave us ideas this morning of how we could build this starting now; how do we link to areas outside of the red line of RTP?
  • Kevin Dick – While we don’t need to replicate what they’ve done, we do need to compete with them in some way or fashion. The climate and infrastructure in order to create that you’ve mentioned, but do you have any specific initiatives that you think will get this region more on a plane with some of our competitors?
  • Bob: Focus on what makes your place special. The Park needs to do that. We’re still figuring out what that is for us. The architects and designers told us that we need focus on the entire park, and ways how you can bring in services to the whole park. Don’t try to recreate something too dense and urban that you overlook what you are – a park. We have to create special places. The specifics still have to tie in to collaboration, accessibility and affordability.
  • Phail Wynn – One of the key ingredients will be having a sufficient amount of venture capital. What are your thoughts about how we can track this?
  • Bob: We’ve been talking about this, and I think we keep making progress. At Stanford and Boston they said one thing you can do is creating an open space to build and provide for free for the VCs to open a shop. I think we’re going to have to try any and everything. We’ve also got to try to create our own.
  • Phail Wynn–  If we incubate the right big ideas, that may in fact entice them to visit and see what’s taking place. We need to focus on the programmatic aspect of a global convergence center.
  • Bob – You create a space to let these ideas and innovations flourish. Something we heard from the CEOs is that there are a lot more regional stories that we’ve got to tell. We have to keep supporting this.
  • Deborah – You spoke about this being a park for all of NC. You’ve got this park and this pace but what are you doing on the weekend?
  • Bob – You would have people living here on the weekends.
  • Deborah – but what about people that don’t?
  • Bob – Part of it is having something special to see, but we’re learning about the investments we’re going to have to make in programming. AU has done a great job of programming that space, and it’s why you want to go there and engage. Our business model needs to factor in speaker series, family events, we need to bring visual and physical arts into the park to make this connection to the humanities. The showcasing of tech could be in or outside of buildings, that would get you excited about the prospects of the future.
  • Deborah – And the kind of park spaces.
  • Jean Davis – I’ve been thinking about the global connections to the park, and we’ve got a large focus on small business and maintaining our existing businesses. What are the projects that NC or the universities have a strength in? I think a thought out set, or portfolio, of clusters or ideas would be very helpful.
  • Derek Chen – Went to an innovation park in Turin, Italy. Have reconfigured car factories. Can we talk about culture? RTP Has a culture/Durham  has a culture. Are we taking aspects from around? Or are we highlighting our own?
  • Bob: That’s why we ask. Culture grows organically. I think we need to listen and be responsive to the public needs. For the next 48 hours we’re going to have 100s of people listening and talking. Those pieces will begin to shape what the culture is.
  • Mayor Bell – A lot of this is all about the money, but we talk about trying to find space for innovators. But we should do this for the VCs. If you’re looking for the money, let them be a part of it all.
  • Barbara Entwisle – We think that there is a great need for people to literally come together for a time. Part of what we need is teams that bring together groups of people to address challenges together. It took us a while to even get a common vocabulary. This takes time, and you have to address these issues, and build from sometimes odd foundations.
  • Randy Hitchings – I love your vision for the Research Triangle Park as a way of creating pathways to prosperity.  I think there’s many ways for us to grow together. We’d love to have and engage with you more in the months and years ahead. Project ARCHIE: we have a great opportunity to visually show these pathways to prosperity within ARCHIE.
  • Ellen – A secret weapon on Silicon Valley is that Stanford uses it as a learning lab for those companies. Have the universities thought about ways to regularly connect their students to work on projects with companies within the Park?
  • Jim See-doe: We do have programs where w try to make inroads with companies in the area and beyond. There are also several courses that are mostly in the business school where students in the courses link up with startup companies and help them develop. Those programs exist and I think we’ll continue to see more of those over time.
  • Mayor Bell – I just hope we keep NCCU and other universities within the area.
  • Bob – Our goal is to look at where we build relationships with public and private institutions. We look forward to building relationships with Central, and much of their research is compelling to companies here. What we want to create is a greater connectivity to all educational outlets. What would you put in ARCHIE to help you do what you do?
  • Mark – Less about what you put in, and more about the fact that you have the assets to deploy to convene. Collaboration only occurs when theirs adequate capacity for it to occur. That space simply becomes a spot where you bring various players together, make something, happen, move on and repeat. The real thing that makes the synergy happen is because of the collaboration of a variety of different things.
  • Morrisville -Having an innovation center that would enable venture capitalist to come in have space and get ideas from ‘treps and innovators. We often look at this as a way to create jobs, but we don’t look at it as how can these same groups can solve problems for the government. Recently I’ve seen an increase in open data initiatives. The challenges I how do you aggregate all of that into one central place within our state.



Boy Scouts Beautify RTP Wildlife Boxes


It is no secret that Research Triangle Park puts a strong emphasis on environmental sustainability. Many people, however, are unaware of the physical efforts that the park puts forth for this.  Did you know that within RTP there are over 40 bluebird boxes, multiple wood duck boxes, bat boxes, and even purple martin houses? Well, there are, and they recently got a facelift.

Thanks to a local Boy Scout chapter, RTP’s wildlife boxes, notably the Wood Duck boxes got some much needed TLC.  The boxes which were installed in 2005 have undergone some wear and tear over the years, normal breakdown which you can associate with North Carolina weather conditions. In efforts to make sure that we have the most welcoming of wildlife boxes, in conjunction with the Boy Scouts we repaired, adjusted, and beautified multiple boxes in the lower portion of the park. Aesthetics were not the only concern though; predation can be a threat to both bluebirds and wood ducks. To help protect the boxes from intruders we installed baffles and hole protectors, which prevent unwanted visitors from joining for dinner.


The project served as an Eagle Scout project for a local boy scout and was a great opportunity to collaborate with the community and benefit wildlife all at once. A group of scouts and chaperones completed the project over a Saturday afternoon and were done in a few hours. Thanks to their effort these boxes will be able to stand up to the elements for at least another 8 years.  If you find yourself walking around the RTP trail system, make sure to admire these wonderful boxes, and hopefully the creatures that call them home.


Food Truck Rodeo: Bike To Work Month Edition


May’s food truck rodeo has a special perk for those who cycle to lunch. As part of Bike to Work Month, cyclers that are spotted cruising  into the rodeo on two wheels will get special prizes, courtesy of  SmartCommute@rtp!

The following trucks are lined up to serve you goodness:

Pie Pushers
Twitter: @PiePushers

Only Burger
Twitter: @OnlyBurger

Chirba Chirba
Twitter: @ChribaChirba

Chick N Que
Twitter: @Chick_N_Que

the Parlour
Twitter: @parlourdurham

Sweet Traditions by LeAne
Twitter: @traditionssweet

Fahsyrah’s Lemonade
Twitter: @fahsyrahlemon

In the spirit of Bike to Work Month, throw on your spandex and don your helmet rather than riding in a car. If you must drive, please carpool! We’ll see you there!

Never been to a RTP Food Truck Rodeo? Check out this video from our April event!

The RTP Food Truck Rodeo is brought to you by the Research Triangle Foundation and is sponsored by RTP Company, Fidelity Investments.

Spring Into April’s Food Truck Rodeo


The sun is shining and the birds are chirping, and hopefully your allergies aren’t acting up because it’s time for the April’s Food Truck Rodeo! Join us on what we hope will be a beautiful day for some of your favorite trucks from across the Triangle at RTP HQ!

The Deets:

When: Thursday, April 18th, 11:30am – 1:30pm
Where: RTP HQ, 12 Davis Drive
Who: You, your friends, and beautiful weather, and these trucks:

Pie Pushers
Twitter: @PiePushers

Only Burger
Twitter: @OnlyBurger

Chirba Chirba Dumplings
Twitter: @ChirbaChirba

The Parlour
Twitter: @parlourdurham

Monuts Dounuts
Twitter: @monutsdonuts

Greek Gussys
Twitter: @GreekGussys

Fahsyrah’s Lemonade

Please remember that parking is limited here at RTP HQ and we encourage you to carpool, ride a bike, or jog over to the rodeo!

The RTP Food Truck Rodeo is brought to you by the Research Triangle Foundation and sponsored by RTP company Fidelity.

We’ve Got What You’re Craving: The March RTP Food Truck Rodeo


It seems like just yesterday that we had our last mini food truck rodeo, but there’s another one just around the corner!  Emerging from winter hibernation is an old favorite, The Parlour (I’m a fan of the salted butter caramel), and they will be joined by Pie PushersChirba Chirba, Only Burger, The Humble Pig, and Sweet Stacey Cakes.

RTP Food Truck Rodeo

Here are the details you’re craving.

When: Thursday, March 7th, 11:30am to 1:30pm
Where: RTP Headquarters, 12 Davis Dr.
Who: YOU + the following trucks

Parking is limited so consider carpooling, biking, walking, or other creative form of transportation. 

The RTP Food Truck Rodeo is brought to you by the Research Triangle Foundation and sponsored by Fidelity.

Nothing Says Love Like Food from a Truck


RTP Food Truck Rodeo

Don’t have plans for Valentine’s Day yet?  Well, join us for our next RTP food truck rodeo:

Thursday, February 14th, 11:30am – 1:30pm, at RTP Headquarters, 12 Davis Drive, brought to you by Research Triangle Park and sponsored by Fidelity Investments.

Whatever your deal, we’ve got your angle covered:

Make it a Date
What a great way to enjoy a lunch time date with that special someone in your life.  We’ll have tables both inside and out.  If the weather’s nice, bring a blanket and have a romantic picnic, food truck style.

Find a Date
Still looking for that special someone? What a great opportunity to find yourself a date for the evening. Make use of the time you spend waiting in line and chat, flirt, and mingle!

Be Bitter
Angry at the world for creating a holiday to rub your singledom in your face?  What better way to soothe your rage than with the delicious comfort foods our trucks have to offer?  And you don’t even have to share.

Take a Picture with a Cow
(You weren’t expecting that one, were you?) Visit the RTP Headquarters lobby and meet the newest member of our team, Bessie, the Binary Bovine.  Take a picture with her.  Scan her QR code.  Instagram the two of you together (and tag it #BinaryBessie).

Just Eat
No problem.  Here’s the list of the trucks that will be joining us:

As always, parking is limited, so get creative with your transportation. Carpool, rollerblade or skip on down to the RTP HQ!