Press Club

It’s been a century since his family first started selling rugs, but Mikael Manoukian is still learning.

To be fair, he actually only got into the family rug business a few years ago and now runs the Manoukian Brothers Oriental Rugs on Columbia Pike with his mom, Dona. But in that short time, Mikael has learned at “Mach speed” about what it takes to sell hand knotted, decades-old rugs.

“I’m getting to be an expert, let’s put it that way,” he chuckles to ARLnow, inside of the storefront at 2330 Columbia Pike the shop has occupied since the fall of 2018. “Something that has a lot of nuance like rugs, it’s not like selling something at the grocery store… you can’t just treat it like a candy bar.”

Earlier this month, on May 15, Mikael and the Manoukian family marked 100 years of being in business with a celebration. There was  music, food, and personal reflections in front of their store on the Pike. There was also an announcement of a Virginia House resolution by Del. Alfonso Lopez commending the business for its longevity.

But the Manoukian family story is more than rugs. It’s a tale that is representative of what America can be about.

“It’s always been about our desire to stick with it, keep going, and do justice to our family,” Mikael says, about why he thinks his family’s rug business has lasted so long. “[They] came here, worked hard, and have been relatively lucky.”

Then, he takes a breath. As if he’s comprehending the enormity of it all.

“One hundred years years. It’s pretty impressive to last that long.”

It was around World War I when the Manoukian family fled from modern day Turkey and Syria due to the Armenian genocide. Like many at the time coming to America, the family arrived via boat at Ellis Island. Among those were three Manoukian brothers, including Mikael’s grandfather Moses.

In 1922, one of those brothers, Manouk — Mikael’s great-uncle — opened a Persian rug shop at Washington Circle in D.C. In 1957, his brothers finally joined him in the business and created Manoukian Brothers Oriental Rugs.

It was around this time when a young Paul Manoukian, Mikael’s father, started getting involved in the family business.

“He was a second-generation American and there was more expectation to carry on tradition,” Mikael explains.

For years, Paul worked alongside his father at the rug shop as well as pursuing a second career: A civil engineer for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transportation Authority.

In the late 1980s, with his uncles getting older and his grandfather passing away, Paul took over the shop completely. Two jobs, including owning a business, while taking care of his family is a lot for any one person and Paul Manoukian did it for nearly three decades.

Mikael, who grew up in the Yorktown neighborhood with his parents, could see the toll it was taking on his dad.

About five years ago, as his father approached his late 80s, it became clear that it was time for the business to move to the next generation.

“We got together as a family and had many, many long discussions about what to do and how to handle the [then] 96-year-old business,” Mikael said.

It was decided that Mikael and his mother, Dona, would take it over and the business would move to Arlington, where a majority of the family lives. Today, Mikael lives in Alcova Heights, only a few miles down the road from the shop’s Columbia Pike location.

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A chart of the number of people experiencing homelessness in Arlington (via Arlington County)

What can we do to help those in our community who are experiencing homelessness is a question Triina Van gets a lot.

Van has been Homeless Services Coordinator at Arlington County’s Department of Human Services for about a year and a half. But she has more than two decades of experience working in the field and thinking about this very question.

It’s a difficult one to answer, she says, because the issue of homelessness is “an incredibly complex one.”

ARLnow spoke with Van about how people can help, common misconceptions about those experiencing homelessness, and where people can turn if they need help.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity. 

What are some of the most common reasons that people in our community experience homelessness? 

I’d attribute that to a lot of different reasons. It’s compounded by issues of lack of affordable housing, rents increasing during lease renewals, and challenges associated with not having incomes that can really sustain the cost of living in our community. It can also certainly be compounded by mental health challenges and family violence. There’s also the much deeper systemic roots… woven into our systems with the historical context of our housing policies and how this country has been stood up.

They all contribute to housing loss, housing instability and homelessness.

You noted two different terms there — housing instability and homelessness — what’s the difference?

Yeah, generally when we speak about housing instability, we’re talking about folks who are at risk of experiencing homelessness. That could mean they are contributing over 30%, 40% of their monthly income to rent. Maybe they’re doubled up, living with other families and households to try to make ends meet.

When I’m speaking about homelessness, I’m really talking about people who are sleeping outside, sleeping in emergency shelters.

I think housing instability is a less visible challenge. Arlington is not alone, it’s a nationwide crisis. When they are challenged with this, people often turn to their networks of support like family, friends, congregations, and other communities of faith for assistance.

Man sleeping on a bench outside Arlington Central Library (file photo)

When people are facing house instability or are experiencing homelessness and need help beyond these networks, where can they turn? 

If someone is experiencing homelessness or if you know someone who’s experiencing homelessness, you can call what we call the “1010 line” — that’s 703-228-1010. That’s our main shelter line and can reach someone 24/7, 365 days a year. It’s operated by the Community Assistance Bureau during normal business hours, but we also know homelessness can happen any time of the day. So, it’s also staffed by one of three shelter providers in Arlington who rotate that coverage throughout the non-business hours, overnight, and weekends.

That’s an immediate first step folks can take.

So, what happens after that first phone call?

Staff will complete an assessment to understand the different circumstances people are facing. They’ll look for creative solutions that can help people stay in their housing or find another option that prevents them from entering the homelessness system.

Sometimes, that could be providing temporary financial assistance or maybe negotiation with a landlord to try to prevent an eviction from happening. It could also be more long-term assistance depending on the personal family’s needs. It could also be helping find a new apartment. And, sometimes, people just need a security deposit or first month’s rent.

If the staff can’t assist directly, they have a deep knowledge of other community resources and can help people connect to other options.

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Up the hill from John F. Kennedy’s grave and behind Arlington House on the western side of Arlington National Cemetery lies the purported inventor of America’s pastime.

The former Union Army General Abner Doubleday is interred in section 1, laid to permanent rest there nearly 130 years ago. He’s one of more than a hundred Union generals that are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. While it’s his accomplishments during the Civil War that led him here, history remembers Doubleday much more for his perceived contributions to the game of baseball.

“I’m a big baseball fan. When I was growing up in the 1960s, the common view among the public was that this guy named Doubleday invented it,” says George Dodge, former Arlington Historical Society president and author of a book about the history of Arlington National Cemetery. “But that’s largely been completely discredited.”

Doubleday, a New York native, had a lifetime full of military experience. He was an officer in the Mexican War, fought in the Seminole War, and actually commended the gunners that fired the Civil War’s first shots at Fort Sumter. During the Civil War, he also saw action at Antietam, Fredericksburg, Bull Run, and Gettysburg.

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It was at Gettysburg where Doubleday was given command of the corps, when another general was killed in action, that helped to secure high ground. This ultimately led to the Union’s victory at the famed battle and likely turned the tide of the war.

“He has to be given some credit for that and I don’t think he does,” says Dodge.

After the war, he worked to help formerly enslaved people transition to a life of freedom, secure patents for San Francisco’s cable car system, and led a religious group devoted to spiritualism. Doubleday died in 1893 in New Jersey.

But before all of that, he apparently — according to legend — invented baseball.

The story goes that, while living in Cooperstown, New York, in 1839, a 20-year-old Doubleday drew a diamond in the dust and declared this was for a new game he called “base ball.” Along with a 1871 request for baseball-like equipment, this was enough proof for some that Doubleday invented baseball.

And, for the better part of the 20th century, this narrative existed — and, to some extent, still to this day.

Over the last several decades, however, historians have proven that Doubleday likely didn’t invent baseball.

The tale of him drawing a diamond in the dust was only first recounted via letter in 1905, more than 60 years after the fact, to the Mills Commission, a group that had been tasked to determine the origins of the great American game of baseball.

The letter was written by a man named Abner Graves who claimed he was there that day, but Graves would have only been 5 years old at the time. Additionally, it was unlikely that Doubleday was even in Cooperstown at the time. He was a cadet at West Point in 1839 and, even if he had returned home to see family, his family had moved to another village.

“They were looking for even the flimsiest of proof that [baseball] originated here in the United States,” says Dodge.

The more likely reason that this myth exists is that Doubleday represented a home run candidate — a respected Union Army general buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Chef David Guas was like many of us when he saw the images coming out of Ukraine — upset and desperate to do something.

“My wife was tired of me yelling at the TV… she says, ‘You should text José [Andrés] to let him know you want to do something,”’ the owner of Bayou Bakery in Courthouse and occasional television personality tells ARLnow. “And a couple of hours later, there was an email saying David was on his way to Poland. There was no turning back.”

Guas spent 15 days last month in Poland working with World Central Kitchen, the nonprofit founded by Andrés, to help feed Ukrainian refugees as they fled their war-torn home. Earlier this week, the Arlington-based chef also donated $21,000 from his Community Spoon initiative to WCK to help continue its mission in Europe.

“It’s going to be used to buy food. Beef, borscht, cabbage, some potatoes…It’s going to continue to just fuel them financially, so they can continue to think big,” Guas says about his donation.

This isn’t the first time that Arlington’s resident celebrity chef has helped during hard times. In the early part of the pandemic, he formed Chefs Feeding Families, which provided free, plant-based meals to underserved Arlington families. Then, he served up meals to the National Guard and local law enforcement protecting the Capitol. Last year, he put together Community Spoon, which was initially founded to help feed Afghan refugees coming into the region.

Then, came Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the heartbreaking images of people fleeing their homeland.

Upon arriving in Poland, Guas was stationed at a WCK facility in the city of Przemyśl which is only about seven miles from the Ukrainian border. There, he cooked and made biscuits, soup, applesauce cake, and meat to serve to volunteers and refugees crossing the border.

“[We were making] a lot of broths, a lot of soups, and a ton of vegetables,” he says. “Beef stocks, pork stocks, chicken stocks, beef cheeks, beef shoulder, and a lot of chicken. Basically, a soup or broth every single day.”

There was also hot chocolate, served both in the morning and at night.

“Everyone needed a little sugar and a little chocolate,” Guas says.

He admits the work was hard and could be monotonous. For more than two weeks, his days were on repeat with him starting at 7 a.m., working 12 to 14 hours, trying to decompress, and going to bed. Then, he would start it all over again.

There were days when he spent hours defrosting hundreds of pounds of beef cheeks, but Guas knew this is where he needed to be.

“I was there because this is who I am… needing to help,” he says.

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It was a reasonable ask. Amanda Dabrowski and Jessie Dertke just wanted to do more outdoor activities and go camping. So, they joined the Boy Scouts. Specifically, Arlington’s Troop 104, the oldest continuously operated troop in the Commonwealth and first established more than a century ago.

For nearly all of those years, though, girls weren’t allowed to join.

But all of that changed in 2019 when the Boy Scouts of America allowed girls ages 11 to 17 years old to enter their ranks for the first time. The organization was renamed Scouts BSA. Additionally, the new members were given the opportunity to rise to the rank of Eagle Scout.

The very first day, February 1, 2019, that girls were allowed to join the Boy Scouts, then-12-year-old Dabrowski did exactly that. And went camping, winter be damned.

“I was so excited. And there was a camp-up that day, so I went out and did it. It was six degrees and freezing cold. But I was really, really psyched,” Dabrowski tells ARLnow, now 15 and living in the Ashton Heights neighborhood.

Dabrowski, as well as Dertke have gone on to become Eagle Scouts, making them among the first girls in Arlington to not only be part of what was once called the Boy Scouts but achieve the organization’s highest rank.

“I’m super proud,” Dabrowski says. “It makes me really happy and [becoming an Eagle Scout] doesn’t feel quite real yet… I’m one of the first people within the movement to be part of this.”

Overall, the two Arlingtonians are part of as many as 140,000 girls nationwide who have joined Scouts BSA since early 2019.

Like some who make history, the locals’ initial intentions weren’t necessarily to be first. It was simply to have the same opportunities as their male counterparts. They just wanted to go camping, build fires, and learn how to use a hatchet.

Dabrowski explains that she used to tag along with her twin brother’s troop, doing all of the same activities and completing all the tasks, but wasn’t given the same opportunity for recognition.

“It was really hard to see my brother get the awards and, then, I had done the same things, but wasn’t able to be awarded it because of my gender,” she says.

For 18-year-old Dertke, who’s now a student at Virginia Tech, joining the Scouts was also a way to get outside and go camping. Though, she did have some trepidation about joining.

“I kinda didn’t really want to join at first because I was worried people would say, ‘What are you doing here? You are a girl?’,” she says. “It was actually a great atmosphere and everyone was very supportive. It was a very good decision [to join].”

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(Updated at 3 p.m.) Tom Jensen has seen a lot on the uphill bike trail that ascends intimidatingly past his house in the Arlingwood neighborhood of Arlington.

In the 11 years he’s lived at the house on N. Randolph Street alongside the county-owned trail that connects with Chain Bridge, Jensen has spotted broken bikes, overheated hikers and lost walkers (as well as confused motorists) all climbing the steep hill that he calls “The Wall.”

Often, when travelers finally make it to the top, they are frustrated, tired and possibly cursing.

“I hear a lot of exclamations,” he tells ARLnow, laughing, on a breezy morning at the hilltop, outside of the home he shares with his wife, teenage son, two dogs and a cat.

So, at the beginning of March, Jensen built a flat stone wall — a bench, essentially — at the top of the hill to help people catch their breath and recoup before going on their way.

“We’ve constructed a new stone wall with a wide flat top at comfortable seating height right next to the trail,” he wrote on Nextdoor in mid-March. “It’s ours, but it’s really yours.”

The post has received nearly 1,000 likes and has received numerous comments of gratitude.

“Your kind gift will give solace to the cyclists like me, wondering where their lowest gear has wandered off to,” wrote one person.

“Thank you!” wrote another. “I’ve heard Marylanders refer to your hill as ‘The Committee to Welcome you to Virginia.'”

Jensen, who previously lived in Cherrydale before moving to Arlingwood in the early 2010s, is not entirely clear why such a steep trail exists here.

He believes it may have to do with a long-time-ago installation of a water pipe that county workers paved over. Much of the neighborhood, including Jensen’s cabin and house, is historic and dates back at least nine decades, so the steep trail wasn’t likely constructed anytime recently. He estimates the grade of the hill to be between 6 and 12%, which is quite steep. (U.S. interstate highways are not allowed to be more than 6% grade.)

Jensen, an attorney who specializes in natural resource law, simply saw a need for a bench and decided to take action.

“It’s remarkable how a very small thing can matter,” he said.

Jensen has ordered a sign to let passers-by know that they are welcome to sit on the bench and — to add to the hospitality — is considering installing a free little library as well as a bike repair station.

“[The hill] can break your bike because you have to put some much force into it to overcome the elevation change,” he says. “You get these poor folks sitting there with their bikes upside down, trying to get their chains out from wherever they got jammed.”

On spring and summer weekends, Jensen estimates that he sees “hundreds” of cyclists and “scores” of walkers and hikers using the paved path. Even on a chilly Friday morning for less than an hour, ARLnow saw a cyclist, a jogger, and a walking group of three all traverse the hill.

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You’ve probably seen, spoken to, been directed by, or maybe even gotten a ticket from Arlington County police officer Adam Stone.

Ubiquitous on Arlington’s streets riding his gleaming blue and white motorcycle, Stone is a well-known presence in the community for his work patrolling, manning road closures, following motorcades, or letting kids try out his ride. He’s spoken up for police officers’ mental health while talking about his own challenges. Stone has escorted presidents, protected citizens’ right to protest, and worked dozens of Marine Corps Marathons and July 4ths.

And, after more than 30 years on the force, Stone is retiring.

“Through all the years that I’ve been here, whether it’s good police times, bad police times, everyone in Arlington has always been super, super supportive,” he tells ARLnow, standing in front of his beloved motorcycle, yards away from the Iwo Jima memorial. “Not so much when I’m giving people tickets.”

Stone grew up in Long Island and joined the Arlington County Police Department in 1990, becoming part of the motorcycle unit four years later. And he’s been in the unit ever since, living in the Pentagon City area for the majority of his career.

“I always wanted to do two things in life: be a fighter pilot or be a cop,” he says. “Once I realized how much math was involved in flying, it was definitely police work for me.”

He holds countless memories of years of service. Some are still hard to think about, like the smell of concrete and kerosene after an airplane struck the Pentagon on 9/11. Others make Stone smile, even to this day. He’s met and taken pictures with six U.S. presidents, “still mind-blowing,” he says, and because his job often takes him to heavily guarded areas, he’s had the privilege of visiting places few others have.

“I’ve gotten to use the most secure bathrooms in all of the D.C. area,” he says.

And how are they different from other bathrooms?

“You have to walk through two doors to get there, ” Stone laughs. “And they are clean.”

Being a motorcycle cop also has added risks. He’s been hit three times, but says he’s gotten away with no serious injuries. He admits that he’s actually never told his mom that he rides a motorcycle every day at work. And when he retires in April, Stone says he will be “hanging up the helmet” and will never ride a motorcycle again.

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Officer Brooke Chaco with Chief Andy Penn at her police academy graduation on Dec. 10 (courtesy of ACPD)

December 21, 2015 was the day that led Brooke Chaco to becoming an Arlington County police officer.

It was that day six years ago when her stepfather, New York Police Department detective Joseph Lemm, and five others were killed in action while serving in Afghanistan.

“It changed my whole life,” Chaco tells ARLnow. “It made me appreciate what law enforcement does even more.”

Chaco grew up in a family full of police and military veterans, but the profession didn’t much appeal to her until Lemm came into her life as a stepfather when she was about ten years old.

“I was a brat, for a lack of a better word, and didn’t want to give him the time of day,” she admits.

Lemm was a long-time New York police officer, serving for nearly 15 years, mostly in the Bronx. He was also staff sergeant in the Air National Guard and had been deployed multiple times. His stature may have been intimidating, but his demeanor was anything but.

In fact, his nickname among friends was “Superman,” due in part to sorta looking like the superhero’s alter ego Clark Kent and that Lemm could be all things to everyone he loved.

“He was just this big, gentle giant,” Chaco says. “He had a way with his words that gained people’s trust and got them to talk to him.”

In early 2015, Lemm was deployed again to Afghanistan and was looking forward to speaking with his family on Christmas with the hope he’d be home soon.

Four days before Christmas, however, a suicide bomber on a motorbike carried out an attack on his convoy during a patrol. Lemm was only 45 years old when he was killed and left behind his wife, then-16-year-old Chaco, and her four-year-old brother Ryan.

“I had to help raise [Ryan] after my stepfather passed,” she says. “He’s a very big part of my life and a big reason as to why I’m doing what I’m doing.”

The loss made headlines nationally and especially in the New York City area, where the New York Post wrote about how Brooke, a singer, paid a musical tribute to her fallen-hero dad at a memorial benefit for the family. (Earlier this year, the Post also wrote about a bridge in Westchester County being dedicated to Lemm.)

New York Post article highlighting Brooke Chaco’s tribute to her fallen stepfather

The tragedy helped Chaco find her calling.

She was hired into the ACPD — a force in much need of additional officers — this past April, even prior to graduating from James Madison University. Despite having a family full of officers, she’s the first woman in her family to join the police force. She loves New York and her family, but is looking to forge her own identity in Arlington.

“I didn’t want my peers to look at me any differently or my supervisors to look at me differently because of the sacrifice that my stepfather made,” Chaco says. “I wanted to make my own path.”

Chaco remains an officer in training. She graduated from the academy earlier this year and is now in the midst of field training, where she’s being paired with a more experienced officer. All in all, training to become a full time solo officer can take a little over a year. When that’s completed, and after a few years of patrol work, Chaco hopes to end up in the special victims unit.

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Broadcasting legend Larry King died on Saturday, at the age of 87. Though his status as a television celebrity is well established, less well known is where he rose to fame: here in Arlington.

King moved to Arlington from Miami shortly after his Larry King Show picked up national syndication from the Arlington-based Mutual Broadcasting System in 1978.

King’s show was produced in the Mutual Broadcasting studio at the top floor of the office building at 251 18th Street S., next to the Crystal City Metro station. Back then, the building’s street address was known as 1755 South Jefferson Davis Highway, the Crystal City Underground shopping plaza had recently opened, and the neighborhood was only beginning to emerge as a major commercial center.

“Mutual radio moved to Crystal City when no one was there and nothing was there — there were four buildings and the Crystal underground,” recalls Tammy Haddad, King’s radio producer in the early 1980s and later the founding Executive Producer of his CNN show.

It was from that studio that the late-night Larry King Show was broadcast across the country until it went off the air in 1994. Initially, it aired from midnight to 5:30 a.m., though the hours shifted over the years. The radio show featured an extended interview followed by live listener call-ins, and eventually aired on more than 500 radio stations nationwide.

The quirky program was a hit: King’s following grew so quickly — with millions of listeners staying up into the wee hours — that the open call-in portion of the show would crash the circuits of the entire 703 area code, at least according to King.

When Larry King Live launched in primetime on CNN in 1985, King would drive from the CNN studios in D.C. to Crystal City to host the radio show. Famous for his work ethic, King kept that grueling schedule up for years.

While working out of Crystal City, King lived in the Rosslyn area. For a couple of years he lived in The Virginian apartment building, before moving to the nearby Prospect House condo building, famous for its monumental view of D.C. and the Iwo Jima memorial.

King later briefly moved to McLean before decamping for Los Angeles, according to Patrick Piper, who produced King’s radio show after Haddad. (An Associated Press article from 1991 noted that King was arguing to have one of his divorces heard in Arlington “where he lives and works,” instead of Philadelphia where his estranged wife still maintained a residence.)

Stories from King’s radio days abound.

For one, King was cast as himself in the 1984 comedy classic Ghostbusters.

“The people filming the movie Ghostbusters called and asked me to play myself in the movie,” he wrote in his autobiography. “They shot me, cigarette in hand, behind the mike.”

While the setting depicted in the film was definitely the Crystal City studio, Piper wasn’t sure whether it was actually shot in Arlington or on a soundstage. It did look like one of the secondary studios in the office, he said.

Getting to the studio late at night was not easy for the in-studio guests, Haddad remembers.

“The guests used to have to enter the Crystal underground entrance, which was unmarked, it never said Larry King radio show, it never said Mutual radio… and then they’d have to go to the building and [get] let up,” she said. “So you have to really want to be a guest on Larry King to get there.”

Many celebrities arrived via humble Arlington taxis

“We used to send the guests on Red Top Cabs,” Haddad said. “So we pick up Mel Brooks, Danny Kaye, you know, all these guys.”

One regular on-air guest was then-Congressman Al Gore, who lived five minutes away in the Arlington Ridge neighborhood and would drive himself over to the studio late at night.

“Al Gore and Larry had a special relationship,” Haddad said.

Crystal City might not have been as centrally located as downtown D.C., but King wrote that it helped him stay much more plugged in to national news and media than staying in Miami.

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Startup Monday header

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Fresh off a win at the Small Biz Challenge, Arlington startup Boolean Girl is now headed is to Nationwide’s “Pitch to Win” contest as a finalist.

The company sells classroom kits aimed at getting young women interested in coding as part of an effort to combat the gender disparity in the tech industry.

The Pitch to Win competition is scheduled for Oct. 3 and includes an all-expenses-paid trip to the insurance company’s headquarters in Ohio, where the groups will present their business proposals to a panel of judges. The winning business will be awarded $100,000, with the runner up receiving $20,000 and third place earning $10,000.

Co-founder Ingrid Sanden said the winnings from Pitch to Win would help the company expand into middle-school-age sets.

“Winning the Pitch To Win competition would propel Boolean Girl Tech’s efforts to keep middle school girls engaged and excited about moving from basic coding to complex, real-world projects,” said Sanden. “Typically, there is a dramatic drop off in participation in STEM and computer science classes in middle school, so bridging the gap from elementary to high school and beyond is a crucial step as we close the gender gap in STEM careers.”

Boolean Girl will be competing with six other companies from across the country, from a skateboard grip tape business to a company that makes AI-enabled digital stethoscopes.

Boolean Girl launched in 2014 around the same time Google’s lack of diversity was making headlines. Since then, the company has developed a build-it-yourself box set for $169.99 and a kit that including ten boxes, ten monitors and a variety of accessories for $5,000. The company also offers a coding summer camp in Arlington.

Photo courtesy Boolean Girl

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Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Excella, a Courthouse-based technology firm, has been selected as the lead partner in an effort to put together an app to detect alcohol misuse and risk of relapse.

The app, called Beacon, is designed to help medical professionals assess whether a patient is suffering from alcohol use disorder through a “combination of behavioral economics and advanced technology,” according to a press release. The product is still in development, but the goal is to be more effective than traditional methods of detecting alcohol abuse.

The company will utilize the work of Virginia Tech software development students at its Extension Center in Blacksburg. The company will also partner with Roanoke-based BEAM Diagnostics, Inc. to develop the app.

“The nation’s substance use epidemic presents massive challenges to every facet of our society, and we are committed to helping BEAM make the world better through tech innovation,” said Margaret Archer, Excella’s Director of University Programs. “Beacon is exactly the type of solution that our mentor-and-student development teams love to build, and we are happy to be a part of the solution.”

This isn’t Excella’s first foray into apps for a public good: the company previously developed MySpot, which helps homeless youth find nearby shelters and assistance. The press release also notes that the company has worked with government agencies for years to combat opioid fraud and abuse.

Image via Excella/Facebook

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