Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson, inventor of the Super-Soaker water gun, will provide the keynote address at the full-day 2017 Vision Symposium on Thursday, October 19 at St. Louis Community College –Florissant Valley. To register, go to visionstlouis.com.

On Thursday, October 19, the full-day Vision 2017 symposium will offer opportunities for women and minorities in entrepreneurship and science.        

“We wanted to be able to bring our message into the community instead of having it sit in the Cortex community,” said Cheryl Watkins-Moore, director of Bioscience and Entrepreneurial Inclusion for BioSTL. “We try to meet people where they are and talk about innovation where people are.”

To that end, Vision 2017 organizers are partnering with St. Louis Community College –Florissant Valley, which will host the event. All St. Louis Community College students and staff can attend free of charge; the cost for the general public is $10 for students and $20 for adults. 

“This is a really outstanding opportunity for women, underrepresented populations in STEM, and immigrants to come out and learn more about entrepreneurship across the areas of science, IT and manufacturing,” Watkins-Moore said. “And we’ve got a stellar line-up of speakers.”

The keynote speaker at the symposium, among other well-known innovators, will be Lonnie Johnson. His most famous invention? The Super-Soaker water gun, which went from a simple children’s toy to a $200 million business. Aside from that, He also has worked at NASA and continues to innovate today at his Johnson Research and Development Company.

“We are so excited that he is traveling from Atlanta to St. Louis to be our keynote speaker,” said Watkins-Moore. “We want to show him that St. Louis shows up, so we want to encourage people to come out.”

Other speakers and panelists will include Terry Jones, Maxine Clark, Nicole Adewale, Bijal Desai-Ramirez, Jose Ponce, and Cbabi Bayoc. This group of engineers, innovators, and entrepreneurs will share their skills with attendees, then after lunch the conference will split into IT, manufacturing, and bioscience sessions.

The day will end with what Watkins-Moore calls “networking with a purpose.” Attendees will get the chance to connect with panelists, as well as representatives from the groups which are spearheading the conference: BioSTL, MOSAIC St. Louis, the Center for Emerging Technology, the St. Louis Economic Development Partnership, and Black Entrepreneur Weekend.          

“Our goal at the end of the day is that when people come to this event, they’re not just going to leave and say, ‘Oh, I heard some great programming,’” Watkins-Moore said.

“They’re going to walk away with tools, actionable next steps, and introductions into the ecosystem that they can then move further into building their businesses. You don’t have to be a scientist, you don’t have to be a chemist, you just have to be someone with curiosity and trying to understand, ‘How can I start my business?’”

To register, go to visionstlouis.com.

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