Inside Education: Dr. Scott Shrake (Teacher 1 of 4)

Welcome to our Inside Education Series!

Inside Education is a four-part series where we have students (present & past) talk about teachers that made a profound impact in their lives.


Dr. Scott Shrake
Dr. Scott Shrake (right) of Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona with our writer, Shardul Golwalkar (left)


Dr. Shrake was my professor in an elective course called Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS for short) at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona. Dr. Shrake became the EPICS director in 2012 and immediately invigorated the program with his young, vibrant personality and attention to detail to experiential engineering and getting things done. Most of my college professors were old-fashioned, had some industry experience, and were generally accustomed to their set ways. They’d lecture about a theory and then test us on memorization of facts for the test and then rinse and repeat until the end of the term. Scott was not like any of them – he encouraged feedback and experiential engineering at every turn.

Now let me explain the format a bit to give you some context. The class worked on a community service projects for the year. At the beginning of the year (around August/September), students would get a project list and Dr. Shrake would tell the students to rank their top three choices for what project they wanted to work on for the class. Projects ranged widely from local civil engineering work on a park to international work in Bangladesh around clean water. What made EPICS different was that it was real world, real-impact, and, most important, real people coming together to solve problems. In all my other classes, I’d learn about this theory, these physics laws, and then take a test about it and forget it. EPICS allowed me to put everything I was learning and apply it to a real-world problem with real people. It allowed me to prototype, validate, and iterate on products as a college student. It taught me how to present in front of a large audience. It gave me a platform to gain skills on presentation and application that no other class offered. I can definitively say I learned more in the EPICS program than I did in any of my other classes at ASU.

What Made Teacher Different

Dr. Shrake was different than every teacher I’ve ever had. He got to know students personally and would often spend time after class time helping students with their projects. In his first year of being a director, I don’t think he got much sleep, because he would spend evening hours with students going over presentations, giving advice on pitching, reviewing grant & business proposals, and demonstrating the importance of networking.

Project Examples

I spent about three years in the program where I worked on about five different projects. I co-founded three of them and the other two were projects I contributed to. My favorite was called 33 Buckets, a project around implementing a clean water distribution model in rural Bangladesh.  33 Buckets just launched a new Indiegogo funding campaign for their new project in the Dominican Republic!

Donate to the 33 Buckets project here:


After about a year, I had the pleasure of getting to know Dr. Shrake personally. I quickly found out that we both mutually love basketball, so we would play often and eventually I started playing with other faculty. It’s amazing how many opportunities I was given just by the goodness of Scott’s heart. I got to know the Dean of ASU Engineering personally along with the Dean of K-12 Education in Engineering at ASU through Dr. Shrake. Shrake taught me how to pitch ideas and convince others to join a team. He taught me life-long skills about networking, helping & enabling others, and life that I could never have learned in my other college classes or in life.

Why We Need More Teachers Like Dr. Scott Shrake

Experiential engineering. It’s a term that I love and should apply to all facets of life. We need more teachers like Dr. Shrake, because we need teachers that embrace experiential learning, and understand the benefits of teaching through action. Experiential learning enables students to understand that failure is not final, and allows them to do something that they love rather than passing up on opportunities for fear of failure. Experiential learning makes students get out of their comfort zone and embrace the unknown to find some success amongst the rubble. Experiential learning should be taught to all students world-wide.

How We Can Help Teachers Like Dr. Scott Shrake

Teach teachers to embrace ideas and have students try and iterate on prototypes rather than simply teaching theory. Want students to learn computer science? Have them build their own website from scratch, talk thru their ideas, and nurture engineering. Engineering, and life, is all about trying new things and seeing what works and what doesn’t. It’s about teaching yourself how to learn and hoping that others learn how to learn in the process.

Read more about Dr. Scott Shrake here:

Read more about the EPICS program here:

Meet the writer at PDXSWEDU by registering for PDXSWEDU here:

Our Code of conduct: Be kind to one another

Like the Startup community as a whole, the Portland Startup Weekend team and community is made up of a mixture of professionals and volunteers working on every aspect of the mission – including mentorship, teaching and connecting people.

Diversity is one of our huge strengths, but it can also lead to communication issues and unhappiness. To that end, we have a few ground rules that we ask people to adhere to. This code applies equally to all those participating in our events (organizers, mentors, judges, sponsors, facilitators and attendees).

This isn’t an exhaustive list of things that you can’t do. Rather, take it in the spirit in which it’s intended – a guide to make it easier to enrich all of us and the technical communities in which we participate.

This code of conduct applies to all events managed by the Portland Startup Weekend team (pre and post Startup Weekend events included). In addition, violations of this code outside these spaces may affect a person’s ability to participate within them.

If you believe someone is violating the code of conduct, we ask that you report it by emailing or directly, by engaging with the organizers.

Be friendly and patient.

Be welcoming. We strive to be a community that welcomes and supports people of all backgrounds and identities. This includes, but is not limited to members of any race, ethnicity, culture, national origin, colour, immigration status, social and economic class, educational level, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, age, size, family status, political belief, religion, and mental and physical ability.

Be considerate. Your work will be used by other people, and you in turn will depend on the work of others. Any decision you take will affect colleagues and you should take those consequences into account when making decisions. Remember that we’re a world-wide community, so you might not be communicating in someone else’s primary language.

Be respectful. Not all of us will agree all the time, but disagreement is no excuse for poor behavior and poor manners. We might all experience some frustration now and then, but we cannot allow that frustration to turn into a personal attack. It’s important to remember that a community where people feel uncomfortable or threatened is not a productive one. Members of the Startup Weekend community should be respectful when dealing with other members as well as with people outside the Startup Weekend community.

Be careful in the words that you choose. We are a community of professionals, and we conduct ourselves professionally. Be kind to others. Do not insult or put down other participants. Harassment and other exclusionary behavior aren’t acceptable. This includes, but is not limited to:

  • Violent threats or language directed against another person.
  • Discriminatory jokes and language.
  • Posting sexually explicit or violent material.
  • Posting (or threatening to post) other people’s personally identifying information (“doxing”).
  • Personal insults, especially those using racist or sexist terms.
  • Unwelcome sexual attention.
  • Advocating for, or encouraging, any of the above behavior.
  • Repeated harassment of others. In general, if someone asks you to stop, then stop.

When we disagree, try to understand why. Disagreements, both social and technical, happen all the time and Startup Weekend is no exception. It is important that we resolve disagreements and differing views constructively. Remember that we’re different. The strength of SW comes from its varied community, people from a wide range of backgrounds. Different people have different perspectives on issues. Being unable to understand why someone holds a viewpoint doesn’t mean that they’re wrong. Don’t forget that it is human to err and blaming each other doesn’t get us anywhere, rather offer to help resolving issues and to help learn from mistakes.

Original text courtesy of the Speak Up! project.

Jaguar Land Rover Technology Incubator as Portland Startup Weekends Platinum Sponsor

jrl tech

Portland Startup Weekend would like to announce our Platinum event sponsor, Jaguar Land Rover Technology Incubator (JLR Incubator)!

The amazing generosity of JLR Incubator has made this year’s Portland startup weekend a success. Without them, the task of putting together this event would be so much harder.

“Our mission is to encourage, promote and support new software-based technologies that are being developed by U.S. technology start-ups.”

Through their 6-month incubator program, companies will receive assistance with technical engineering and operational support from established professionals in the field. The on-staff site in right here in Portland works with the startups to help them grow to their full potential.

On top of getting connected to mentors, companies selected for the incubator program will also receive capital investments, 6-months rent free at their facilities, legal support and networking on top of other benefits.

Thank you so much Jaguar Land Rover Technology Incubator for your amazing support! Portland Startup Weekend could not do this without you!

To learn more about Jaguar Land Rover Technology Incubator, please visit their website and follow them on Twitter @JLRIncubator.

Coming Full Circle with Startup Weekend Portland: Global Startup Battle Edition

On November 13, I will be facilitating for the fifth time this year for Portland Startup Weekend, joining dozens in the greatest startup competition on earth: Global Startup Battle.

Each of my previous facilitations have been special in their own right:

My general style is to embarrass this poor woman.
My general style is to embarrass this poor woman.

This next event may surpass them all – Portland is and always will be my hometown. I was born in Oregon City and went to school in the Beaverton School District, graduating from Southridge High School. (I’d rather not say when because, well, I’m old.)

Leading up to the event, I’ve been thinking a lot about this concept of “home”, especially as I’ve recently claimed a new one after moving to Seattle.

(Among many of my new responsibilities is crushing lip sync contests during Seattle Startup Week.)

Pittsburgh: Where I Found Myself (and just a few months before 30 – whoo!)

Before moving in August, I lived in Pittsburgh for three amazing years. I had just married my brilliant (and crazy-tolerant) wife, and other than striving to be the best husband possible, I had no idea what to do with my life … until I discovered Startup Weekend.

From that intense, eye-opening 54-hour experience, I launched my own ed-tech community, which was admitted into an incubator, received seed investment, and even found customers. I continued to volunteer and organize for SWPGH six times, launching its first education edition in February of this year.

A blizzard was going down outside. We don’t care in Pittsburgh.

Above all, I made friends who simply “got it” – people who came from the Startup Weekend world as well, and knew how to “give back” in the Brad Feld sense. When we weren’t organizing in the Pittsburgh community, we’d go on an Eat ‘n Park run or watching Silicon Valley on HBO On-Demand. It was grand.

Friends. Also, Startup Weekend volunteers. Coincidence?
Friends. Also, Startup Weekend volunteers. Coincidence?

I truly considered Pittsburgh my home until two opportunities opened up for me and lured me back to the West Coast: briefly serving as east coast regional manager for UP Global before its acquisition by Techstars, and now joining the mission to transform education, technology, and entrepreneurship with Galvanize.

We're really into "the pineapple way" at Galvanize.
We’re really into “the pineapple way” at Galvanize.

Seattle: How I Quickly Thawed the “Seattle Freeze”

The move from Pittsburgh was … precipitous. I didn’t have the best chance to express my love and gratitude to everyone that did so much for me in Pittsburgh over the years (though I tried to cover as many bases again here). When I moved to Seattle, I was warned of the “Seattle Freeze” and heard it would take time for me to make friends.

That has not been the case … because of Startup Weekend. The first people I contacted were my former co-workers, who then introduced me to the local Seattle community leaders. Instantly, I felt like I found my family here, connected by a shared passion and experience to build community through entrepreneurship.

Never go mountaineering with Marc Nager. Trust me on this one.
Never go mountaineering with Marc Nager. Trust me on this one.

Recently, I was invited out to the Techstars Community Leader Retreat to get to know Portland’s Dina Moy and dozens of other organizers from the US and Canada. I came away with the trip with two impressions:

  1. I am completely down with the Techstars vision and rationale for why it acquired UP Global. Techstars may be the largest for-profit accelerator in the world, but it was originally founded on the mission to lower the barriers of entrepreneurship to the world.
    Supporting initiatives like Startup Weekend, Startup Next, Startup Digest, and Startup Week won’t really be profitable in the short run (why mess with a good thing), but in the grand design, these programs will cultivate both better startups worthy of support and stronger, focused communities that can support them.
    That’s the vision that Techstars and UP Global shared, and that’s why I’m willing to stay on as a community leader and global facilitator. The terms of engagement do not really change from a non-profit status (in fact, they never actually did when you discover the legal difference between donation and sponsorship). Why should our support of the community change because of it?
  2. We may come from different cities, but we’re all Startup Weekend nation. Every community leader had a story to share, and the rest of us listened. Whether it was a startup story or a Startup Weekend anecdote, we “got” each other. (The altitude may have been a factor.)

If You Can’t Find Your Community, Create It (and Startup Weekend can help)

Me (right) with my sister back in our old home in Beaverton, OR.
Me (right) with my sister back in our old home in Beaverton, OR.

I look back on the last three years of being a Startup Weekender and can’t believe how far I’ve come from my previous status as a graduate school drop out. I didn’t make a lot of money, win any major awards, or acquire any common materialistic milestones like a new car or house.

I did, without question, make a lot of friends, and unlike the ones I made before, these friends stay in touch and support me however they can without asking anything in return, and vice versa. I also traveled a lot to places I never thought I’d ever go to until I was “summoned” by people I never met before.

I have a problem with respecting other people's private space.
I have a problem with respecting other people’s private space.

Every time I go facilitate, I ask to crash on a couch or even on the floor just for the opportunity to bond with another community leader. Anytime a community leader asks to visit me, I prepare a spare room for them, no strings attached.

I’ve found my family, and we’re actually not that difficult to find.

Just look for the ones that “get it.”


Lee Ngo is a Seattle-based community leader and global facilitator for Techstars formerly based in Pittsburgh. He currently works as an evangelist for Galvanize.

The Creative Roundtable – Design Together

creative roundtable- logo

We’re happy to announce The Creative Roundtable as a new Startup Weekend sponsor.

The Creative Roundtable is a community organization dedicated to the support and guidance of creative entrepreneurs. We believe that by facilitating discussions between individuals of diverse skill sets we are fostering success and opening the mind to even further possibilities.

The founders; Jena Nesbitt and Jehn Glynn have a background of over 14 years experience of branding and business strategy and are truly passionate about helping the community and the success of others. They also happen to be Portland Startup Weekend Alumni’s, so you will be in like-minded company!



Act-On Sponsors Portland Startup Weekend

act on

Portland Startup Weekend is pleased to announce Act-On as one of our event sponsors!

Act-On’s mission is to power small marketing teams with big ambitions through their platform, which was built to help with engage buyers with their customers products or services. Their technology gives customers the ability personalize their marketing, adding the value of marketing automation, without the hassle of larger enterprise systems.

Act-on was founded in 2008 to help change the way people were approaching buying decisions and have since grown to have over 3000 companies using Act-On to help drive their business.

Thank you Act-On for your support in this year’s Portland Startup Weekend! To learn more about what they do, please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @ActOnSoftware.

Silicon Valley Bank Sponsors Portland Startup Weekend


We are pleased to announce Silicon Valley Bank (SVB) as one of this years gold event sponsors!

SVB began with an inspired idea among a group of friends playing poker 30 years ago, and has since developed into a successful global financial service company with an entrepreneurial mind. They have helped their customers build ideas through SVB’s targeted financial services and expertise.

Named by Forbes as one of America’s best banks in 2015 and as one of America’s best-managed companies in 2014, we are so excited to have SVB at Portland Startup weekend to share their knowledge with our participants.

Thank you Silicon Valley bank for your support in this years event! To learn more about SVB, please visit their website and follow them on Twitter @SVB_Financial.

Thank you to our catering partners!

Portland Startup Weekend would like to thank Spork Catering, Khao San Thai Street Food, 24th and Meatballs and Ate-Oh-Ate as our catering partners.

These companies provide the fuel that is necessary to create, innovate and grow the startup ideas over the weekend.

Thank you for providing food for our participants during the 2015 Portland Startup Weekend!


New Relic Sponsors Portland Startup Weekend

new relic

Portland Startup Weekend is proud to announce one of this years event sponsors, New Relic!

New Relic is a software analytic company that helps condense their customer’s data to help them make better business decisions. With their comprehensive SaaS-based solutions, they are able to consolidate the monitoring data and see real customer interactions. New Relic then provides their customers with the information necessary to improve their business.

New Relic believes that knowing your customer better will make for improved business and that in order to do this, businesses need to see what their customers are doing with their software.

Thank you New Relic for the support in this year’s Portland Startup Weekend! Please visit their website or follow them on Twitter @newrelic to learn more!

Code Guild Sponsors Portland Startup Weekend

code guild 2

Portland Startup Weekend is pleased to announce Code Guild as one of our returning sponsors for this years event!

A Portland based company, Code Guild offers immersive training programs to their students to provide them with the tools they need to be successful developers. Code Guilds classes teach Python, SQL and the basics of CSS, HTML and JavaScript. With small class sizes offered, students receive individualized attention, allowing for a better education on the programs offered.

We greatly appreciate the support of Code Guild! To learn more about them, please follow them on twitter @PDXCodeGuild or visit their website

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