Why Startup Weekend Pittsburgh is Supporting 412 Food Rescue: By The Numbers

As one of the proud community leaders of Startup Weekend Pittsburgh, I believe that our events bring out the best in our community. We’re the ones who teach others to stand at the edge and leap head-on into the unknown. We encourage people to listen to our city’s problems, create solutions, and iterate them if they don’t work out.

We’re the ones who create a community that’s “No Talk. All Action.” 

However, I think we sometimes get a little caught up in the glory of the startup world and forget about the pressing needs that are surround us at all times. Pittsburgh’s certainly a city on the rise, but it’s a city with a lot of work to do as well.


Perhaps most pressing of all is the problem of hunger. That’s why, with the support of The Brazen Kitchen and The Free Store, we’re hosting a benefit called Summer Harvest.

Summer Harvest fb 2

All proceeds go entirely to 412 Food Rescue, a non-profit initiative to reuse unsellable food and convert them into healthy, delicious meals for our community’s hungry. The event will take place at The Livermore in East Liberty on July 25th from 7pm to midnight.

Here are 7 figures that motivate our entrepreneurial efforts to curb this very serious problem (facts and figures mostly extracted from Feeding America):


That’s the percent of people who live in Allegheny County who are “food insecure,” or are unable to feed themselves adequately. That seems small, but here’s another number.


The number of people who are food insecure in Allegheny County. You could almost fill Heinz Stadium three times over with that many people.


Among them…


How many children are food insecure in Allegheny County. That’s greater than the capacity of PNC Park.



How much an average healthy meal costs in our region.


How much it would cost to eradicate hunger in Allegheny County every year.


The price of a ticket to the Summer Harvest. Using 412 Food Rescue’s efficient, ecological approach, each person who attends this will be able to feed a family of suffering from hunger for an entire week.



The number of people it takes to make a difference.

As an entrepreneur and a community organizer, I am convinced of the power of a single individual to make a huge difference in their community. This is not idealism – such impacts happen all the time. After all…

Source. Credit to Pablo Stanley.

To get your tickets to Summer Harvest, follow this link: summerharvestpgh.eventbrite.com. Get them before 7/20 and save 20%!

If you’d also like to sponsor or donate, please contact me at lee.ngo@gmail.com. Thank you for reading!

Lee Ngo is a community leader based in Pittsburgh, PA.

The 7 Most Surreal Moments of Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh

Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh (#SWeduPGH / @SWeduPGH) came and went from February 20th to February 22nd. It was a sold-out emotional roller coaster for its 120+ participants, hailing from as far as Mississippi and ranging as young as nine years old.

I wrote previously that this event was a dream come true, and indeed it was. However, there were moments in this event that made me wonder…

Consider the following moments:

1. Duolingo’s Luis von Ahn basically walked down the street to come talk to us.

Luis von Ahn shares his idea to generate infinite energy from the kinetic activities at gyms. It did not take off. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

I’ve heard Professor von Ahn speak in person and at his now famous TEDxCMU talk numerous times, and I never get tired of the bombs he drops:


Prof. von Ahn also opened up about his struggles as an entrepreneurship – the nightmares of product, the perpetual campaign of “gamification,” and the immense complexity in providing a service for each language.

There’s nothing greater than when a local startup rock star maintains a sense of humility. Thank you, Prof. von Ahn!

2. That moment when Expii’s Po-Shen Loh made the entire crowd gasp in awe.

Po-Shen Loh dazzles the crowd with his brilliance and energy. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

I know it seems silly that I compared myself to Steve Jobs when he first saw Steve Wozniak’s PC and operating system for the first time, but I hope you all understand that feeling now.


When Professor Loh showed us all “The Map” – that seemingly endless web of knowledge that continually expands as people actively contribute to Expii via “colossal collaboration” – the entire room was floored.


Prof. Loh is just one of many in a community of game changers, and the best part: they’re more excited to meet YOU. Expii is currently live and ready for you to contribute.

3. A mother and son competed AGAINST each other (and, somehow, both won)

I did not discover this until well into the competition, but participants Wesley and her son Porter joined different teams: Project Playground and The Wrinkled Brain Project. Throughout, there was nothing but love and respect – sometimes a rare sight at an intense competition like Startup Weekend.

Mother-son bonding via intense weekend-long startup competition.
Mother-son bonding via intense weekend-long startup competition.

Although Mom ended up placing first in the competition, Porter was the real star of the event. This Startup Weekend featured the first “Reaping” ever – a sacrifice of one participant to entertain the other participants and maintain social order.

Something like this. Actually, almost exactly like this.
Something like this. Actually, almost exactly like this.

In this case, one would be selected to showcase Startup Weekend Pittsburgh’s own MegaBits – an MMOPRG monster-fighting mobile app played in the real world released a month ago at the iTunes store.

However, when the moment of selection came, Porter volunteered as tribute. 

Porter’s heroism was fortunately mentored by MegaBits CEO Patrick Perini. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

He managed to vanquish a Koldiak with a Grimlug’s flurry of tornadoes and saved the day. (I don’t know what these words mean.)

Well done, Porter, and Wesley – way to be an awesome parent. Speaking of which:

4. We’re convinced Pittsburgh would crush a Startup Weekend Youth.

As a judging and coaching dynamic duo, Entrepreneuring Youth‘s proud alums Jesse and Joziah Council were the most poised (and well-dressed) gentlemen at the event.

By far the best dressed at Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh, or pretty much at any event.
Far too much style for a Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh, or pretty much at any event. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

Our Youth Choice Panel not only counted their votes faster than the main judges did (that was my bad), they also entertained the audience with their enthusiasm.

Today's students, tomorrow's leaders. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.
Today’s students, tomorrow’s leaders. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

Lastly, who could forget that little girl who validated Penny Discovery’s MVP:

Children always make the best customers for validation. Always. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.
Children always make the best customers for validation. Always. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

The youth have spoken – they want more entrepreneurship!

5. Startup Weekends are not traditionally done in sub-freezing temperatures. (We Pittsburgh folk don’t care.)

A Startup Weekend Pittsburgh hazing ritual for new volunteers. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

One of our platinum sponsors, Problem Solutions, dared our organizing team to borrow the Environmental Charter School‘s sleds and tear up some powder out in Frick Park.

Walt Grata of Problem Solutions feels cold in his manly beard. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.
Fortunately, nobody was hurt in this insane endeavour. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

Some of the team made a snowman out in front. We decided to name it “Gusky” after Norton Gusky, a huge advocate in the Pittsburgh education community and the first person to buy a ticket at our event. Unfortunately, he fell ill and couldn’t attend, so we hope that this snowman was a fitting tribute.

Our team posting with Gusky the Snowman. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

6. Nobody else than Mandela Schumacher-Hodge could have facilitated SWeduPGH. Nobody.

Not only did we get the Global Director of Education Entrepreneurs, but we also got a woman who grew up in Pittsburgh’s East End and whose local legendary father Leroy Hodge fought relentlessly for the kind of future we hoped to represent at our event.

Mandela laying down the rules of SWeduPGH. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

One of our judges, The Fred Rogers Center‘s President Bill Isler approached her after the winners were announced. Apparently, Mandela’s mom and Bill were previously commissioners of the Pittsburgh Dynamo Soccer League, where Mandela cultivated her enduring passion for the sport.

A reunion that transcends generation. Photo courtesy of Mandela Schumacher-Hodge.
A reunion that transcends generation. Photo courtesy of Mandela Schumacher-Hodge.

If you can name someone else who should have been with us that weekend… you don’t really exist, for you are a logical paradox. Welcome back home, Mandela!

7. The epic dance party you all missed (probably because you built a company in 54 hours)

No words necessary. Just a video of Startup Weekend Pittsburgh veteran Steve McCarthy showing off his salsa skills with facilitator Mandela:

(In case you can’t see it – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h7J60ElaTOM)

Convinced yet that there might be a higher power involved? Perhaps, but I’m more inclined to think it begins with this validated fact:

Education is a big deal in Pittsburgh, and entrepreneurship is a great way to stimulate its progress. 

It was too easy to recruit the right organizers and volunteers – I already knew the most passionate, committed, trustworthy, and hardworking people in town.

We’re having no fun. No fun at all. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

We really didn’t have any trouble finding the right judges – we knew we wanted a teenage entrepreneur, three prominent women in educational technology, and a veteran in Pittsburgh school policy and philanthropy. Mission accomplished.

Judges Joziah Council, Aileen Owens, Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Stephanie Butler, and Bill Isler having a great time. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

The greatest challenge with any Startup Weekend is outreach – despite our hard work, we never know until the last minute if people will come out to participate.

Not bad for a first time.
Not bad for a first time. So, when’s the next Startup Weekend in Pittsburgh, anyway?

So, on behalf of everyone, I thank you for experiencing what I had experienced just a few years ago – this event is and always will be for you.

I also ask that you do the following:

(Apply here: startupweekend.org/organizer/application/)

Networking: gamified. Photo courtesy of Ben Matzke Photos.

After all, you’re now part of a big family, and we’re excited to have you.

Pretty surreal, isn’t it? 

Lee Ngo is the Regional Manager of the US East Coast for UP Global and the lead organizer of Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh. Many of the photos in this post were provided generously by Ben Matzke Photos, all rights reserved.

What You Need to Know: Saturday at SWeduPGH


The teams have formed and the heart of Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh is officially underway! If you’re looking for a little more information on the game plan for Saturday and some tips and insights, this post is for you.

As always, if you need anything, find an organizer or volunteer, or tweet at us: https://twitter.com/swedupgh. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #SWeduPGH! And don’t be shy! We’ve all done this before and know what you’re going through.

If you’re getting your team established on social media, be sure to let us know and we’ll spread the word. Also request any team needs on Twitter and we will blast it out through social.

We also sent out codes for Amazon Web Services and your free .co domain, so be sure to check your emails.

Here are the teams so far. We know your name and idea will fluctuate throughout the weekend so let us know of updates!

  1. emrj: online platform to connect students with companies for job shadows
  2. The Wrinkled Brain Project: connect students with scientists to encourage deep thinking in science labs
  3. Imaginate: interactive storytelling to encourage kids to read
  4. Every Penny Counts: kids get rewarded with pennies for answering questions during class
  5. Field Trip: making botany more real-world interactive through teacher-directed initiatives
  6. Root Ed: connecting college mentors with high school students
  7. ClassR: collaboration platform for students in the same class working on projects together
  8. Lunchtime: summer lunches for kids through a non-profit food truck
  9. Pittsburgh Thriving Index: a dynamic real-time dashboard with multidimensional data that reframes education with access points for all
  10. E-lectern: build a better interface for online teaching
  11. The Project Playground: app to give teachers insights on student projects, straight from the kids
  12. Code Trail: helping young kids learn to code through gamification

For Saturday:

ECS will open at 9am! Come grab breakfast in the cafeteria thanks to Square Cafe then get to work.

Hopefully you had a successful brain dump Friday evening so you can hit the ground running on Saturday. Be sure to do lots of research, keep the MVP model in mind and take advantage of the amazing mentors coming in who have volunteered their time. This is when you want to really consider your market and get validation.

Assign roles and tasks to help get everything done. Be agile– know it will be a rollercoaster but that’s ok. And most importantly, have fun!

Mentors will be in from 10am-5pm. For special requests, email: pittsburghedu@startupweekend.org.

Tips: prioritize what your team needs guidance on and spend as much time with those mentors.

  1. List out questions: Time is limited with mentors so make sure you use it wisely.
  2. Be humble and open-minded: Remember, you don’t know what you don’t know.
  3. Be upfront and direct: If you need to pass on a mentor to digest and implement information, let them know.

Education Mentors:
Nina Marie Barbuto– Assemble
Colleen Hannagan– Assistant Principal, North Allegheny School District

Tech Mentors:
Joe Esposito– Development Consultant and Startup Digest PGH
Nikolaus Hruska– VP of Problem Solutions
Sabrina Haskell– Senior Game Designer of Schell Games

Business Mentors:
Adam Kelson– Partner, Saul Ewing LLP
Jesse Council (Youth Mentor)– CEO & Co-Founder, Shy-Way Essentials; National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge Finalist
Nikki Navta– CEO, Zulama
Nicole Muise-Kielkucki– Manager of Social Enterprise Initiatives, Idea Foundry
Dan Seitam– Partner & CxO, C-leveled

After lunch from Mad Mex, we’ll be doing a status report where you’ll update us on your progress and any needs you have. Remember, Startup Weekend is about community and collaboration. Teams helping each other out is highly encouraged!

Mentors will be here until 5 pm, and Saturday evening is when you’ll have to start considering how your pitch will go. Volunteers are here to help if this is new to you! We’ll also be sending around the judging criteria in an email to help guide you.

Win 10 is catering dinner and we’ll have an ice cream social from Dream Cream later in the evening. Things can get intense on Saturday but don’t forget to take an occasional break to clear your head and enjoy all the event has to offer.

Makers Make Money: Just Ask Entrepreneuring Youth

The following is a guest post from Norton Gusky – Educational Technology Broker and education photo documentarian.

Entrepreneuring Youth

The Maker Space is about tinkering, building, creating, designing, but what’s the next step? According to Jerry Cozewith, the Executive Director of Entrepreneuring Youth (EY), a non-profit located in Pittsburgh, Pennsyvania, the next step is taking the creativity and innovation of the Maker Space into the world of student run-businesses.

One of the great success stories for EY is Shawn, a former Manchester Academic Charter School (MACS) student who started out as a shy young man who would not even look at you in the face. Shawn was a middle school student in the iOWN program, an entrepreneurial program coordinated by EY at MACS. Jerry tells the story about first meeting Shawn and his handshake was limp and his voice was almost inaudible. Today Shawn is a high school entrepreneur with his own bakery business. He had an interest in baking. EY gave him the supports and experiences to turn that interest into a passion that was not just about making food, but creating a system to have a business that turned a profit within two years. When you meet Shawn today he shakes your hand with a firm grip and tells you why you should purchase his pastries.

Jerry sees MACS as one of the best examples of how EY grows young people, taking them from where they are and giving them the confidence and chutzpuh to say, “Can you help me?” It’s that ability to realize that you need a mentor, a guide, that really separates the kids in EY from their peers. The talent to ask good questions leads to innovative solutions.

According to the Entrepreneuring Youth website: “We help young people start and operate businesses as a way to guide them toward their own path to success after high school. When young people run businesses of their own creation, they bloom with newfound confidence. They discover talents which were once hidden. They think of themselves as “owners” and “presidents.” Young people who become young entrepreneurs realize the value of creating (rather than waiting) for opportunities.”

According to one of the young entrepreneurs featured in a promotional video, EY gave her a voice. “… I could stand up before all of these people and say things that were on mind.”

Jerry focuses on the concept of “self-efficacy” as the key for success. It’s about empowering youth. It’s not just that kids learn the value of owning a business; it’s more about the growth of young men and women who have the tools and awareness that will make them successful wherever they travel or seek to make their imprint.

Today EY is creating success stories throughout the Pittsburgh region with a focus on the under-privileged, the under-served youth. Jerry shared a story about a recent event EY sponsored at the Oxford Center, a major commercial center in Downtown Pittsburgh. Initially there were only four parents signed up from the Hilltop project where EY partners with the YMCA. Jerry investigated and discovered that the parents did not have transportation and didn’t know how to travel to the Downtown destination. EY then rented a bus and over 75 adults came down from the “mountain” to see the world of Downtown youth commerce. EY empowered the parents to become supporters for their young entrepreneurs.

According to Jerry when you first looked at the display at Oxford Center display of student businesess it appeared to be a typical array of goods, but when you met the young people behind each business, you realized that there was something special happening. You knew that these young people had taken the first steps to success in the adult world. They knew how to communicate, how to sell themselves. They had confidence in themselves.

It’s the reason why we need more events like Startup Weekend EDU. We need to breed that entrepreneurial spirit where young people learn to network and pitch their ideas, to take risks, and learn by their initial mistakes and failures so they discern the value of the iterative process inherent in all “making” activities.

The Mythical Unicorn of Ed.Tech

The following is a guest post from Tim Cook, founder and director of the Saxifrage School.


With so many projects happening, so much money being spent, and so little time, it seems important (for my personal clarity) to take a moment and try to summarize exactly what we are all building towards, or should be. It’s what I’m trying to build, some way or another, over the next 10 years. I want to describe this mythical unicorn in a single sentence. The mythical unicorn is: An opendecentralized platform on which communities of people can create, curate, and browse an expansive map of local learning opportunities and digital resources that, as they learn, form a personal archive of proven skills and experiences. Okay, that’s it. The following is a glossary where I do my favorite thing and parse the sentence.


When I say “open”, I refer as much to the process of building the unicorn as the final product itself. Yes, this platform needs to be open-sourced and fully accessible and built to be shared, but even more urgent is the need to build this collaboratively out in the open. If we are going to build this, we need to collaborate, not duplicate. Too much of the important work happening in this space is siloed or poorly documented. Resources are limited and the goal is huge.


I’m not quite sure how to best build this in a decentralized way, but I’m convinced of its necessity. A decentralized platform is more equitable, does not limit user agency, and is less subject to problematic issues of privacy and control, etc. See the other values of the indieweb for inspiration. I would love to hear ideas and start a discussion on how we map and curate the wealth of the world’s learning resources in a decentralized framework. Maybe the answer is some sort of hybrid in which resource data is held centrally, but available to a federation of regional hubs… These hubs consist of thousands of learners who each have their own private webspace where they are hosting their personal learning archive and sharing out as they see fit… …Like we all have our own digital bookshelves, except they are knowledge maps and they are all connected … !? Maybe? Lots to think about. My thoughts are weak in this area.


Okay, I lied. There are actually two unicorns. That’s right, two mythical creatures. And the second is actually more important: the real communities of people and places that actually use this platform and its resources. These learning communities exist already in our schools and workplaces around specific majors or careers, but they should increasingly form organically around locally important subjects and problems. Projects like City of Learning and others are building frameworks in which a learner’s path is not driven by the limitations of their schools, but by their interests. If we start to use the entire city (or region + internet) as our campus, we can begin to think of learning beyond single institutions. If this happens, we will have an exciting moment to consider what learning communities could look like in “the real world”, outside of the peer-driven, often monocultural communities of our schools. Thoreau says that “we are all schoolmasters and our schoolhouse is the universe.” What do learning communities look like if learning moves in this direction? Meetups on steroids?


Perhaps the hardest part of all of this is to curate all the resources; it’s what a lot of smart people have been talking about as the next Herculean task for us denizens of the internet. We’ve created all this stuff, now let’s sort it all out and map it into a beautiful and usable network of learning resources. Google’s Director of Technology, Craig Silverstein admits the limitations of current technology: “My guess is about 300 years until computers are as good as, say, your local reference library in doing search, but we can make slow and steady progress, and maybe one day we’ll get there.” We need today’s librarians not to work as functional administrators of content, but as creative curators who help define what is best and sort out the complex relationships of resources. They have to do the powerful acts that Google cannot and may never be fully able to do. Just as the dark age monks before them, we desperately need librarians to protect, curate and hold aloft worthwhile knowledge. In the face of the barbarian hoards they were necessary because of the dearth of texts. Today it is the opposite. We need librarians as lighthouses amidst the floods of available information.

expansive map

The aggregate of this work done by librarians, content experts, and regular humans will be an expansive map that organizes all of the best learning resources and their relationships. Really, all of us have already been drafted into this work as curators and librarians. If the map could be made expansive enough, a 4th grader playing with legos who just came home from a field trip at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater could visualize every step along the way to mastery in the field of architecture. And they could start right then. This pre-requisite progress mapping helps to further drive home the importance of core skills like mathematics that, too often, feel disconnected from more direct, work-related pursuits. “Oh, so if I want to be an architect I need to master Trigonometry and Physics…and…” finalfantasy Rendering of Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X The magic of the “skill tree” is best captured and named in some of the most intricate video games. The Sphere Grid in Final Fantasy X provides the player with a way to visualize a series of decisions for their development. Where should you start on the grid? Which direction should you go? If you choose a certain skill set, what areas are you forsaking? This sort of cost-benefit analysis that recognizes the opportunity cost implicit in all education is a powerful act that, while common in games, usually occurs with less intention and less tools in the development of real persons.

local and digital

On this map, there will be two primary types of content: local learning opportunities and digital resources. One exciting outcome of this would be the deconstructing of online courses. Instead of a self-contained silo of learning content, the “MOOC” could be broken apart into separate nodes of content with mapped relationships. The online “course” could become a specific pathway on the expansive map that is supported by an expert and a community of learners. Courses will fade into the background and function as a curatorial (and relational) layer on top of the great resources being created by experts. After all, we’ve always known that resources like Hack Design have always been better than anything on Coursera. The really successful “ed.tech” platform will be the one that recognizes that technology is inherently neutral and that, when it comes to engaging a learner, relationships and learning communities will always trump content distribution and teaching machines. The platform must do this by taking on the important, but very complex job of pulling together both the digital resources and the entire social structure of education: workshops, volunteering, mentors, games, apprenticeships, courses, meetups, etc. etc. etc.


Imagine you are in some magical library of the future browsing poetry books in the stacks. Imagine that, when in those same poetry “stacks”, you could see instantly, what “books” you had read, what poems you liked or wrote about, and a portfolio of your own poems that resulted from your study. The library becomes more than a reservoir of content, but a data and planning center for the development of your mind. Imagine if such a map existed in three (four? fifty?) dimensions and included all subjects, displaying the process of development and connections between nodes. Again, some nodes could be whole texts, while others could be short sections on “This is how you learn X”, or an in-person local workshop. kahn Progress on a Khan Academy Knowledge Map Within this knowledge map, you will have the ability to plan courses of study, follow courses that others have crafted, or just learn everything within a certain content area. Perhaps most excitingly, long-time students will be able to look back at their progress over many years and see a serious portfolio of everything they have ever read, watched, created, and learned. Every assignment, quiz, and essay could be looked at individually, or in aggregate to give students a picture of their personal development thus far. If used to its fullest potential, a student would be able to see the lifelong progression of their talents in a snap-shot and the path they took to get there. They could then curate their personal portfolio and knowledge map and share it with the public as part of their CV or application for schools.


This, of course, brings us to just exactly how the public knows that your map contains proven skills and knowledge. The answer lies in some sort of data-rich external endorsement related to your learning experiences. This data-rich credential has, to date, most capably taken the form of digital badges. These badges can provide the data needed to help learners find their way to their next learning experience, to make their personal portfolio substantive, and to provide the credentials necessary for the public to trust and properly value that portfolio. thoughts? what’s your unicorn?

Reshaping Our World with Ed Tech

The following is a guest post from Mike Hruska, President and CEO of Platinum Sponsor Problem Solutions.

Educational Technology (ed tech) has the largest opportunity to radically reshape our world. Engaging students and employees along the continuum of learning experiences has the ability to impact innovation and economic growth. The most important thing that we can do through ed tech is enable teachers to be great teachers and students to be great students as lifelong learners.  We can do this by connecting people with the right experiences at the right time and with connecting people with the right people at the right time.

Funding is flowing into ed tech like never before.  Massive investments by venture capitalists continue to add to the over $1 Billion of venture capital that has been invested in ed tech up to 2012.  A recent single investment of $103 Million in Lynda.com earlier this month is the largest venture round in ed tech history.  That’s big – and is going to change the world.

We are excited about ed tech and our team at Problem Solutions has been working in learning and educational technology on specifications, standards, products, and new technologies for 15 years.




We have built more open source Ed TechEd tech projects through the Advanced Distributed Learning (ADL) Initiative than any other single program in government.  We have built things like the Experience API and the Learning Registry. We’ve also contributed to open source tools like the Generalized Intelligent Framework for Tutoring. These tools enable people to run further faster with ed tech on multiple fronts.

We have also helped existing and new companies dream and deliver new learning technologies and build award winning products like the recent Brandon Hall Gold award winner Trek.

We are excited about the possibilities that ed tech offers.  We are lucky to build useful and awesome things in this space with great people. These tools and technologies have helped the community to grow and will continue to impact it moving ahead.

Why do we do this?  Because the place where technology and education intersect has the largest ability to impact the world in positive ways.

We are looking forward to Startup Weekend Education so we can begin to grow innovative ed tech companies in Pittsburgh. What are you going to build to change the world?

Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh’s sponsors drive down ticket prices by 70%

Every Startup Weekend event has a theme, and the theme of the very first Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh is “Access.” We believe that everyone should have an equal opportunity to access our event, regardless of class, gender, social background, or disability. An open, inviting experience: that is what the organizing team brings to the Pittsburgh community, and today we have great news.

Screen Shot 2015-01-20 at 7.44.07 PM

Thanks to the overwhelming support from our generous sponsors, we have significantly lowered the cost of attending this event. A huge win for the SWeduPGH team, but most importantly for YOU, the Pittsburgh community!

Ticket prices are as follows:
$30 standard entries: Developer, Designer, Educator & Non-Technical/Business (formerly $99)
$24 for early-bird entries (with promo code EARLYBIRD – ends on Feb. 1st)
$15 for students with valid ID (use the promo code STUDENT)
$5 for Friday pitch attendance ONLY
$5 for Sunday pitch attendance ONLY


SWeduPGH is open to anyone who is curious about education, technology, design, and/or entrepreneurship. The only differences from the standard Startup Weekend Pittsburgh is that educators get to vote first, and at least 25% of attendees must be educators.

Don’t miss out on the first ever SWeduPGH, and get your tickets here today!

New sponsors: Expii, Saul Ewing, The Sprout Fund and TechShop Pittsburgh

Thanks to the support of our sponsors, we have been able to make the SWeduPGH “Access” theme a reality.


Our Signature Sponsor for this event is Expii, led by Co-Founder and CEO Dr. Po-Shen Loh. Expii is a global learning platform that works like a community-built textbook, where instructors and students collaborate on interactive, dynamic, and validated material.


Continuing their support in the startup community, Saul Ewing contributes at the Platinum level. Saul Ewing provides legal services to businesses, nonprofit entities and public institutions, including general corporate counseling and commercial litigation.


At the Gold Level, The Sprout Fund supports innovative ideas that catalyze change in Pittsburgh– making our community a better place to live, work, play, and raise a family.


At the Silver level, we have 2014’s Best of the Burgh for Tech Tinkering. TechShop is a community-based workshop and prototyping studio on a mission to democratize access to the tools of innovation.

A huge thank you to all of our sponsors!

Want to learn more about SWeduPGH? Join us at AlphaLab Gear on January 27th from 6:30-8:30 p.m. for our info session. Click here to sign up for our meetup.

Questions? Tweet @swedupgh, leave us a comment on Facebook or email us at pittsburghedu@startupweekend.org.


Ed + Tech: At long last

I’ve spent almost a decade working on the tech side of ed tech, and over the years I’ve come to know a dynamic, creative, and passionate community. Back in the day, each camp was in a bit of a transition and seemed to operate independently; techies were too smart to need teacher’s recommendations and teachers were reluctant to let technology change their classroom.

But in recent years attitudes have changed and ed tech is thriving- especially in Pittsburgh! Now, we’re not just focused on working together, but we’re focused on working together to do better work.

Since ed and tech are a little more cozy, it’s easier to learn from each other. People working in both areas are similarly spunky, creative, solution-focused and iterative. But the worlds in which they work encourage the growth of separate skill sets. This is part of the reason Startup Weekend Education is so exciting!

The goal for this post is to suggest ways education and technology can benefit each other. Let’s start with educators, for without them this would not be Startup Weekend Education.

Photo courtesy of Norton Gusky. Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Educators are used to thinking on their feet, and great at quickly changing strategies when they need to. Their work encourages:

Photo courtesy of Startup Weekend Pittsburgh.

To make viable goods and services, entrepreneurs focus on:

These skills are super complimentary and I can’t wait to see them put to work.  And these are just my observations- what do you think these communities can learn from one another?

Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh updates: keynote speaker, sponsors, judges, and more

The new year is underway, and so is our official planning for the first Startup Weekend Education in Pittsburgh. With many things to finalize before the big weekend on February 20-22, we’re thrilled to already have more exciting updates to share, including new sponsors, speakers, judges, and more.


Informational session: January 27

Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh info session

Are you in the education space but not sure what Startup Weekends are like? Or are you a serial Startup Weekend participant who’s not sure how to translate your skills to this new venture? Then come to our info session at AlphaLab Gear! We’ll have presentations and discussions, plus, in traditional Ed Tech Meetup fashion, delicious food.

Register now here: http://www.meetup.com/Ed-Tech-PGH/events/219675845/


Keynote speaker: Luis von Ahn of Duolingo

Luis von Ahn DuoLingoduolingo icon

One of the more exciting developments in the past few days has been the confirmation of our keynote speaker, Luis von Ahn. Duolingo has continually been recognized as revolutionary tech for learning a language, and we couldn’t be more honored and excited to have one of the co-founders and CEO speak on Friday evening.


Sponsors: TurnItIn, Cherin Law Offices, and The Hardware Store

Of course Startup Weekend Education wouldn’t be anywhere without the generosity of the community, so we have many thanks to give to our newest sponsors.


At the gold level, TurnItIn is the worldwide leader in originality checking, online grading and peer review for educators, students, and researchers. Having such a pioneer in student learning at our event is a privilege.


Also at the gold level is local co-working space and technology services company The Hardware Store, which will also be handling all our digital media needs for the Sunday pitches. Many thanks to founder Josh Lucas for his ongoing support and documentation of startup events.

Cherin Law Offices

Steve Cherin, of Cherin Law Offices, is a frequent supporter of the startup community and we’re glad to have him officially on board as a silver sponsor. He provides legal services for many of Pittsburgh’s startups and is a valuable resource for companies at any stage.


First two judges: Lisa Palmieri and Elijah Mayfield

We’ve set a promising precedence with the confirmation of our first two judges, who will be among a panel of five.

lisa palmieri
Source: The Sprout Fund

Lisa Abel-Palmieri, Ph.D, is the Director of Technology and Innovation, the Director of Learning Innovation Institute, and the Head of Computer Science at The Ellis School in Shadyside. Dr. Abel-Palmieri is a prominent and active member of the Pittsburgh ed-tech community, and is involved in several projects, including Remake Learning and TRETC.

Elijah Mayfield
Source: Pittsburgh Business Times

We’ve also confirmed Elijah Mayfield, who is the founder and CEO of LightSide Labs, which was recently purchased by TurnItIn. LightSide Labs provides writing support for students and teachers in grades 6-12, and his insight in the ed-tech scene will be invaluable.


We will send out more updates as we confirm more judges, mentors, sponsors, and vendors.

Questions? Email us at pittsburghedu@startupweekend.org.


Buy your tickets now for the inaugural Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh and get 20% off with code EARLYBIRD until February 1, 2015.

If you’re a student, you can get 50% off your ticket with code STUDENT– you’ll be required to show a valid student ID at the event.


Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates.

Sponsor Spotlight – Harbor Compliance

logo-sloganStartup Weekend Lancaster couldn’t happen without our sponsors. We (virtually) sat down with Mike Montali from Harbor Compliance to learn a little more about the company, why they sponsor our prize pack, and got a little nugget of business wisdom from him as well!

Tell us a little bit about Harbor Compliance…

Harbor Compliance is a national provider of business licensing and compliance services. Harbor Compliance helps you incorporate and stay compliant throughout the life of your business.

How did you get plugged Startup Weekend?

Our first experience with Startup Weekend was the inaugural year of Startup Weekend Lancaster. Our co-founders participated that year and our experience was so positive that we’ve sponsored both Lancaster and Harrisburg every year since. We’ve also become involved with a few other Startup Weekends throughout the country and have helped the winners incorporate their businesses.

What’s your best piece of advice to tech entrepreneurs?

Stay in tune with the market. Before you build anything, validate the need for your offering by speaking with target customers. Continue the process of asking customers for feedback as you go live.

Also make sure to get your “legal house” in order early to avoid potential problems down the road. Incorporating your business, agreeing on ownership terms, and creating a partnership agreement are all key steps to laying the foundation for a successful startup.