We recently marked the CoLab’s second anniversary with “Five Minutes of Brilliance”, a collection of short presentations by community members on the theme of Collaboration and Innovation. Twelve inspiring presentations covered topics ranging from business to volunteerism, from bioremediation with mushrooms to robots, and from cultivating cultural richness through art and song to cultivating new seed varieties. Last fall we wrapped up the Small Business Symposium with a similar event, and Five Minutes of Brilliance is shaping up to be a CoLab tradition, with folks already asking about when the next one will be.

The structure of the event is very simple. A time limit of five minutes per presentation keeps the pace lively and allows for a broad range of projects to be represented. Our purpose in hosting Five Minutes of Brilliance is two-fold: One is to showcase some of the people and projects that make our community special, celebrating their accomplishments and inspiring each other. The other is to give our innovators, leaders and entrepreneurs practice presenting their work and ideas in a concise fashion and an opportunity to reach out to the community and gain support, be that in the form of customers, volunteers, partners or collaborators.  

I was delighted to have youth represented in the program this time around. Ella Ashford, of the Port Townsend STEM Club, was our youngest presenter at age 14. Sean Dwyer, a newly minted graduate of Port Townsend High School and member of Students for Sustainability described his Senior Project, which involved an experiment in using mushrooms to clean stormwater runoff.

Austin Henry, who was also a participant in our inaugural Five Minutes of Brilliance event back in October, returned to give an update on the recent adventures of Roboctopi, the high school robotics team that he founded and coaches. He was joined this time by Darrin Newlander, who had been in the audience at the previous event and was inspired to start volunteering with the team. The two described the challenges and rewards of mentoring this year’s team all the way to the international championships.

Back to back presentations covered two different yet complimentary new online community platforms designed to increase collaboration in Jefferson County. Nikki Russell of United Good Neighbors presented on Get Connected, a platform that UGN is rolling out to facilitate connections between volunteers and nonprofits. Martha Trolin shared her vision for Skillmation, a website that is currently under construction that will facilitate skill sharing and mentoring.

These are only a few of the highlights from the evening. It is a true privilege to be able to facilitate bringing so much brilliance and inspiration together. Please check out the work of all of our presenters, listed below, and stay tuned for the next Five Minutes of Brilliance at The CoLab!


Peter Quinn of EDC Team Jefferson on the new Business Resource Center

Danny Milholland of Thunderbull Productions on their season of community events

Nikki Russell of UGN on Get Connected

Martha Trolin of Skillmation on a new skill-sharing and mentoring website

Jeannie McMacken of Art X - The Center for Art Exploration on the opening of a new art school in Port Townsend

Laurie McKenzie of Organic Seed Alliance on germplasm trials

Sean Dwyer of Students for Sustainability on experimenting with mushrooms for stormwater management

Laura Tucker of Jefferson County Public Health on reducing waste

Ella Ashford of Port Townsend STEM Club on plans for a Makerspace

Austin Henry and Darrin Newlander of Roboctopi on their journey to the international championships

Mike Ferguson on the Port Townsend Village Building Convergence

Judith Kate Friedman of Songwriting Works Educational Foundation on restoring health and community through inter-generational songwriting

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