5 Innovators to Watch in Rhode Island

During the pandemic, homes have become multifunctional spaces: with people working and children studying from home, traditional living spaces have been transformed into offices, classrooms and quarantine quarters. Both Andrew Naperotic and his wife were trying to work from home while their three young children were homeschooled.

“The house was just chaos,” said Naperotic, originally from Australia. “Discipline is gone.”

He was inspired to try to find a solution. His Bristol-based company, ADDASPACE, recycles abandoned shipping containers and turns them into living units. Containers can become stand-alone home offices, guest rooms, sheds, man caves, home gyms, or yoga studios. Read the Q&A here.

Maggie Bachenberg is the founder of Pointz, a new micromobility GPS app that safely navigates bikes and scooters through cities.Maggie Bachenberg

2. Cyclists and scooters rejoice: Pointz helps you navigate cities safely

Maggie Bachenberg got into cycling on a cross-country bike trip during her gap year after high school.

“During the trip, I noticed how difficult it was to choose my routes, especially when I was going through big cities,” she told the Globe. “Once I got to college, I knew I wanted to do something entrepreneurial, but related to cycling.”

Bachenberg has created Pointz, a new micromobility GPS app that safely navigates cities on bikes and scooters. She now holds the position of general manager of the company.

“The idea for Pointz, as it is now, evolved from learning the challenges of over 200 cyclists and scooter riders in addition to the riding experience of my co-founder Trisha Ballakur and myself- even,” she said. Read the Q&A here.

A Rhode Island student learns to use virtual reality, code and tell stories using technology at Winners Circle VR after-school clubs. XR Academy

3. Teach RI kids how to tell stories using virtual reality and code

Juan Rodriguez lost his brother to gun violence in 2014. Now a local teacher at Hope High School in Providence, he is committed to finding after-school and summer activities for local children. In 2019, he launched XR Winner’s Circlean organization that offers after-school and in-school programs, starting in grade five, that teach students how to use virtual reality and other technological tools to tell stories. Read the Q&A here.

Eliza Sternlicht, left, and Jack Schaeffer are the co-founders of MediCircle, a startup that is revolutionizing the equity of cancer care. Ashley Oelrich

4. A start-up brings unused cancer drugs to patients who need them

Of the 1.8 million Americans diagnosed with cancer each year, more than 60% report that cost is a barrier to care. And nearly half of those patients are forced to take drastic measures — like spending less on food and clothes — to be able to afford their treatments. Eliza Sternlicht and Jack Schaeffer, the co-founders of MediCircle, seek to revolutionize equity in health care by minimizing waste. The startup connects unopened drugs to patients in need. Read the Q&A here.

Haven Box, founded by Brandie Leach, is a newly created nonprofit organization in Rhode Island that provides much-needed comfort after survivors of sexual violence have been screened in hospital. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

5. Haven Box offers comfort after victims of sexual violence leave hospital

In 2021, nearly 90 sexual assault examinations were performed at Rhode Island hospitals. After these examinations, which can be intrusive and last for hours, victims are often discharged from a hospital in work clothes or a hospital gown because their clothes have been recovered as evidence. So Brandie Leach, social worker and advocate for victims of domestic and sexual violence, started paradise boxa new Rhode Island-based nonprofit that provides “comfort boxes” to survivors before they are discharged from the hospital. Read the Q&A here.

The Boston Globe’s weekly Ocean State Innovators column features a Q&A with Rhode Island innovators who are building new businesses and nonprofits, conducting groundbreaking research and reshaping the state’s economy. Send tips and suggestions to journalist Alexa Gagosz at [email protected].

Alexa Gagosz can be contacted at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @alexagagosz and on Instagram @AlexaGagosz.

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