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IBM's Watson? CMU will develop an app for that

This fall, students at Carnegie Mellon University will have unprecedented access to IBM’s Watson cognitive technology, which famously beat Jeopardy! champions in a 2011 on-air showdown. Students in a new computer science course will develop mobile applications for the artificially intelligent computer that processes information more like a human than a computer—by understanding natural language, generating hypotheses based on evidence and learning as it goes.
 
The IBM Watson Group is working with CMU and six other universities to offer cognitive computing courses this fall that will give students the technical knowledge and hands-on experience needed to create new applications for the system.
 
The new course, Intelligent Information Systems Featuring IBM’s Watson, is open to both undergraduate and graduate students and will focus on mobile applications of Watson. Eric Nyberg, a professor in CMU’s Language Technologies Institute (LTI) in the School of Computer Science and a leading researcher in question-answering computer systems, is one of the course’s instructors.
 
“The home run we’re looking for is to add our vision to IBM’s technology to create an application that is useful and worthy of being spun off as a product,” says Nyberg.
 
Nyberg and his students began working with IBM on Watson in 2007 and have collaborated with IBM on the Open Advancement of Question-Answering Initiative. The effort created system architectures and methodologies that support systems like Watson that can understand questions as expressed by people and search through massive databases to respond appropriately.
 
Applications undertaken by the class may be related to healthcare or energy, but Nyberg says he is interested to see what other ideas might be hatched by students in the course.
 
The initiative is part of an ongoing effort to expand and strengthen student skills and understanding of big data and analytics in order to meet the growing demand for highly skilled analytics workers.
 
“By putting Watson in the hands of tomorrow’s innovators, we are unleashing the creativity of the academic community into a fast-growing ecosystem of partners who are building transformative cognitive computing applications,” says Michael Rhodin, senior vice president, IBM Watson Group. “This is how we will make cognitive the new standard of computing across the globe: by inspiring all catalysts of innovation, from university campuses to start-up offices, to take Watson's capabilities and create."

CMU launches cross-disciplinary institute to spur innovation

With the launch of Carnegie Mellon’s Integrated Innovation Institute, it becomes the first university to cross train students in engineering, design and business. The market-focused institute is meant to speed the pace of innovation via collaboration, something that has long been a hallmark of CMU. Students take courses across disciplines to understand how those other disciplines think, so they will be ready to be successful innovators in the marketplace.
 
"Global business challenges demand a new breed of executive talent,” says institute co-director Peter Boatwright, the Carnegie Bosch Professor of Marketing at the Tepper School of Business. “Our integrated innovation tenets force students outside their previous training and comfort zones, creating hybrid thinkers and doers. We've been moving toward this pivotal point for years, training students in a deeply integrated and pragmatic method that directly addresses the barriers inhibiting speed in industry."
 
The institute was inspired by the cross-disciplinary curriculum of CMU’s Master of Integrated Innovation program, which was founded in 2003 as the Master of Product Development program, says co-director Eric Anderson, an associate professor in the School of Design and associate dean of the College of Fine Arts.
 
Anderson says the program’s success has been the result of tackling the “fuzzy front end of development” — figuring out the kinds of things that should be designed and what features customers want to see in products.
 
In addition to the Pittsburgh-based Master of Integrated Innovation for Products in Services, the core of the institute includes the Master of Science in Software Management, based in Silicon Valley and founded in 2004; and a professional master’s degree planned for fall 2015 as part of Carnegie Mellon’s new Integrated Media Program at Steiner Studios in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.
 
“I think the challenges most folks have is that they don’t always start off with integration of disciplines in mind,” Anderson says of typical snags in the innovation process that the institute aims to alleviate.
 
“Companies are still very linear in how they think of product design. In companies that are more successful, they collaborate in points of the process. But we distinguish ourselves because we are integrated in how we teach — so people become hybrid thinkers and doers. It’s hard to get disciplines together to think about a problem at a high enough level that people can work through the difficulties.”
 
Anderson says being empathetic to other disciplines helps identify opportunities and shape potential solutions to challenges.
 
“Our students, from day one, they are thinking in an integrated environment,” he says. “And they are being taught the fundamentals of other disciplines.”
 
So what does this kind of cross-discipline collaboration look like in action?
 
“From the outside, it may seem like organized chaos,” Anderson says, with a laugh. “It is very dynamic. You have people sketching and making diagrams and papers and reports, all of which inform the process from different disciplines… They all weave it together at different stages in the process to make arguments about why what they are proposing is the best solution for the problem that has been stated.”
 
The university has dedicated a state of the art building to the institute that features open and flexible space that can be reconfigured at any time to accommodate talks or teams.
 
Not only are students constantly integrating other disciplines into their work, they are often immersed in the cultures and environments for which they are designing solutions. A CMU collaboration with the long haul truck company Navistar several years ago exemplifies the success of this level of immersion.
 
Anderson says during the project, students practically lived at truck stops. This environmental research yielded key insight students would not have otherwise learned.
 
“Students found in their research that when truckers are pulled over by state troopers — truckers must open their door to share their license and registration. And when the truck is dirty, truckers are more likely to get a ticket.”
 
For this reason, a cleaning zone was one of the five activity zones implemented in the redesign of the internal cab of the truck. The other zones included sleeping, working, meal preparation and pets. The five teams that designed the zones had their work patented and their features were translated to one large system. The truck won the 2008 Truck of the Year award.
 
“It’s because of this integrated approach that allows them to have these real world experiences and allows them to be immediately valuable in the marketplace,” says Anderson.

Digital excavation project uncovers experimental works by Andy Warhol

Native son Andy Warhol was an incredibly early adopter of digital technology and may have been the first major artist to explore such mediums as digital photography, video capturing, animation editing and audio composition. 

Now, upon realizing that they had access to digital art produced by Warhol, the Andy Warhol Museum has unearthed several digital doodles created by the artist from floppy disks that were sitting in the museum's archival storage.

In 1985, computer manufacturer Commodore International hired Andy Warhol to produce several artworks using the Amiga 1000 to demonstrate its sophistication and accessibility as a conduit for creativity. A team of artists, curators, archivists, and technologists recently retrieved Warhol’s experimental images, which have been inaccessible since the Andy Warhol Museum obtained the collection of floppy disks in 1994.

The idea to retrieve these digital sketches was birthed in 2011, when New York-based artist Cory Arcangel came across a fuzzy YouTube clip of Warhol promoting the Amiga 1000 in 1985. Arcangel contacted the Andy Warhol Museum with the idea of restoring the Amiga hardware to catalog and exhibit the digital files. The digital excavation was performed by members of the Carnegie Mellon Computer Club, which is known for its collection of obsolete computer hardware and retro-computing expertise, working in cooperation with Archangel at the Andy Warhol Museum throughout three months in 2013. The team received support from the Frank-Ratchye STUDIO for Creative Inquiry (FRSCI) at CMU, which support atypical, anti-disciplinary and inter-institutional research projects at the intersections of arts, sciences, technology and culture.

“I am both a serious Warholfanatic and lifelong computer nerd, so to have the opportunity to help uncover this history, i.e., dig through Warhol's dusty disks, was a dream come true on both counts," says Arcangel. "What's amazing is that by looking at these images, we can see how quickly Warhol seemed to intuit the essence of what it meant to express oneself, in what then was a brand-new medium—the digital."

Out of 41 Amiga floppy disks in the collections, 10 disks were found to contain at least 13 graphic files believed to be created or modified by Warhol. The files show the mature artist struggling with digital imaging tools, and encountering a learning curve familiar to anyone who remembers picking up a mouse for the first time: squiggly lines and haphazard paint-fill.

According to a report by the CMU Computer Club, the disks were in excellent condition, allowing easy data retrieval. However, several were found to be corrupted, allowing access to only partial versions of some files. Raw low-level disk images and physical low-level copies of the disks found to be corrupted were made and may provide a starting point for future study. In addition, the team recovered several copies of pre-release or unreleased software that may also be of great historical interest. 

Michael Dille, who just completed his Ph.D. in robotics at CMU and is one of the computer club members who helped “crack the code” and uncover the files, says the project is an excellent reminder of the seriousness of digital decay. 

“Do you really think that important document you're working on right now will be accessible in 10 years,” Dille asks. “Will the media you've stored it on still function? Will you find something to plug it into? Will that cloud provider still be in business or not have quietly expunged it for you? Will you still have the software?  . . .  These aren't simple questions to address, yet they are ones everyone is left to solve for themselves with very little guidance, and software/service providers have very little motivation to help.  A good starting point, certainly, is the use of standard well-documented widely-implemented open formats, which is something of which we've naturally become very strong proponents.”

The team's efforts are documented in the Hillman Photography Initiative's new short film, Trapped: Andy Warhol's Amiga Experiments. It is the second part of "The Invisible Photograph" documentary series that investigates the expansive realm of photographic production, distribution and consumption by way of the hidden side of photography, whether guarded, stashed away, barely recognizable or simply forgotten. The film premieres at 7PM, Sat., May 10, at Carnegie Library Lecture Hall, and will be available online at nowseethis.org on May 12.

Science fiction or future of emergency medicine?

Suspended animation sounds like something out of a science fiction movie. That’s why the investigative team at UPMC Presbyterian describes the lifesaving technique they are ready to perform on humans for the first time ever as “Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation” or EPR.
 
The new technique, which requires the cooling of the body by 50 degrees, is designed to improve survival rates and protects brain function in trauma patients who suffer cardiac arrest due to massive bleeding from gunshot or stabbing wounds.
 
Currently, patients who suffer cardiac arrest from major trauma rarely survive,” says Dr. Samuel Tisherman, associate director of Shock and Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation at the University of Pittsburgh’s Safar Center for Resuscitation Research and director of the Neurotrauma Intensive Care Unit at UPMC Presbyterian.  “Less than 1 out of 10 of these patients leave the hospital alive. EPR, or emergency preservation and resuscitation, is a novel way that we’re hoping to try to resuscitate trauma patients who suffered a cardiac arrest.”
 
Using a large tube to administer ice-cold fluid to lower the patient’s body temperature by 50 degrees, EPR gives the medical team time to get the patient to the operating room for surgeons to control the bleeding before resuscitating patients.
 
“The body can’t tolerate the lack of blood flow for even more than just a few minutes,” says Tisherman. “By cooling them, we can buy time by slowing down processes that occur when there is no blood flow to the vital organs like the heart and brain. This will allow the surgeons to repair injuries and save the patients.”
 
Tisherman is now leading the Emergency Preservation and Resuscitation for Cardiac Arrest from Trauma (EPR-CAT) Study, which will use the profound cooling technique on about 10 patients throughout the next one to two years.
 
Ideal candidates for the trial are 18-65 year-olds with penetrating trauma who experience cardiac arrest less than five minutes before arriving in the emergency department and show no response to standard care, including airway intubation, blood transfusions and opening the chest.
 
The interest in using hyperthermia therapeutically in the treatment of cardiac arrest from trauma came about through the observation of “patients who drowned in cool water and survived incredibly long times underneath the water,” says Tisherman. “So it appears that hyperthermia could have a great preserving effect if you have a cardiac arrest.”
 
Traditional therapeutic hyperthermia after cardiac arrest involves cooling patients by only about six or seven degrees below normal. “For EPR, we’re talking about cooling them by almost 50 degrees below normal temperatures,” he says. “This type of cooling has never been tried before in trauma patients.”
 
Tisherman and his team have been ready since the beginning of April to use this new emergency medicine technique that could save the lives of patients experiencing cardiac arrest from severe trauma at UPMC Presbyterian Hospital. They are the only team in the country ready to perform EPR-CAT, though teams at the University of Maryland and the University of Arizona are expected to start performing EPR-CAT on humans within the next few years.

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Source: Dr. Samuel Tisherman

Carnegie Mellon robot plays mean game of SCRABBLE

There’s some stiff SCRABBLE competition at Carnegie Mellon University. So stiff in fact, that the fierce competitor inhabits a body encased in plastic. Victor the Gamebot, the latest in a series of social robots developed at Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute, is a limbless torso with a mobile head and animated face who spends most of his time trash-talking opponents across a SCRABBLE board. 

“We believe that robots will soon be ubiquitous in society,” says Reid Simmons, research professor and associate director for education at the CMU Robotics Institute. “We want them to be able to interact with people just in the same way people interact with other humans.”

If an elderly person or someone with disabilities has a service robot with them 24 hours a day, seven days a week, people will begin to feel it is more than a machine — and expect it to interact with them in anthropomorphic ways they would not expect from their dishwasher or microwave, says Simmons.

The research team behind Victor includes collaborators from robotics, computer science, drama, design and entertainment technology. They wanted to develop a robot that would interact with people while completing a joint task. 

Located near a cafe on the third floor of CMU's Gates and Hillman centers, Victor electronically move his tiles while his human opponents move their virtual tiles on the touchscreen board using their fingers. Victor converses with opponents with his voice, and people reply to him using keyboards. 

“We figured people would like to play games, so we’d make the robot play games with people,” says Simmons. “They could interact during the game, and the robot could comment on the moves the people make and how it’s doing relative to the person.” 

Indeed, Victor speaks freely throughout gameplay. Perhaps a little too freely.

After his opponent played the word “wave” for 14 points, Victor chides, “I have seen better, but not from you.”

Simmons says he was surprised by how strongly people react to Victor when he becomes angry while losing a game. Opponents can observe Victor’s mood thanks to a light over the gamebot’s heart that changes color and pulsates at different speeds depending on his mood. 

“When he’s in a good mood and kind of bantering, people don’t tend to type much to him,” says Simmons. “But when he starts trash talking them, they start trash talking right back. …I think people feel that the robot — just because he’s losing — he shouldn’t be a bad sport.”

While Victor has a high opinion of his SCRABBLE skills, he is not a strategic player. He’s not particularly concerned with double- and triple-word scores, and his 8,600-word vocabulary is hardly a match for the 178,000 words in the Official SCRABBLE Player Dictionary. Eventually, the researchers will enable him to recognize previous players and adjust his level of play to that of his opponents. 

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: Carnegie Mellon University

Pittsburgh celebrates National Robotics Week

April 5-13 marks the fifth annual National Robotics Week, which celebrates the United States as a leader in robotics technology development and educates the public about how robotics technology impacts society. With Pittsburgh playing a major role in robotics innovation, it’s no surprise that there are lots of robotics events taking place throughout the city this week.

Robo Day in Pittsburgh
On April 9, AlphaLab Gear will host a robotics week event in its East Liberty facility that will feature speakers from 4moms, MYRIA RAS, and Girls of Steel FIRST Team, and demos by two start-ups in the accelerators current class, IdentifIED and Rapid TPC.

Dick Zhang,  cofounder and CEO of IdentifIED, says, “Industrial businesses, in oil and gas, agriculture, mining, or safety, all require massive amounts of data to increase their outputs, decrease their inputs and operate safely. Unfortunately they don't have access to this information because aerial sensing is extremely expensive, time-consuming and requires a lot of special equipment. We are an aerial data and sensing company focused on delivering this information through small unmanned aerial vehicles.” 

The IdentfIED demo will feature a small quadrotor, a multirotor helicopter that is lifted and propelled by four rotors, that will fly around the office among attendees and a video reel highlighting the company’s vehicles in action.

International Space Apps Challenge
The International Space Apps Challenge, led by NASA, government collaborators and more than 100 organizations around the world, is a two-day hackathon that embraces collaborative problem solving with a goal of producing relevant open-source solutions to address global needs applicable to both life on Earth and in space. The Pittsburgh event will take place at the TechShop in Bakery Square on April 12-13.

“The International Space Apps Challenge lets people in Pittsburgh collaborate with others around the globe using NASA open source data to build and program robotic solutions to global problems,” says Richard Behana, executive director at Space Challenges, Inc., the host of the Pittsburgh Space Apps Challenge. “Challenges range from creating a robot with salvaged parts controlled from your smartphone to creating a simplified kid friendly rover using a single-board microcontroller known as an Arduino.”

Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University Celebrates National Robotics Week
The Robotics Institute at Carnegie Mellon University will celebrate National Robotics Week on April 10 with the Teruko Yata Memorial Lecture with special guest speaker Marc Raibert, chief technical officer & director of Boston Dynamics followed by a satellite screening and performance of the Robot Film Festival. The celebration will continue on April 11 with project demonstrations, lab tours, and the annual Mobot (mobile robot) races. (RSVP required to attend.)

The Secret Life of Robots
Artist Toby Atticus features a dozen scenes of robots in everyday scenarios in The Secret Life of Robots exhibition. Robots are constructed from vintage thermoses, picnic coolers, and various found objects, and some include animatronic elements that control eyes and accent lights. Peaking into the sometimes mundane daily activities of a typical robot through various stages of their lifespan reveals a glimpse of our lives through the looking-glass. The free and public Pittsburgh Cultural Trust exhibition is on display through April 27 at SPACE art gallery, located at 812 Liberty Avenue. See website for gallery hours.

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: nationalroboticsweek.org, AlphaLab, Dick Zhang, spaceappschallenge.org, and Richard Behana

Plugged in: CMU's Electric Garage now offers the only public Tesla charging station in Pittsburgh

Need to recharge? Carnegie Mellon University’s Electric Garage is now home to a high-power wall connector for Tesla electric cars, joining eight existing vehicle recharging stations available for public use in the Oakland facility. All of the charging stations are available at no cost 24 hours a day on a first-come, first-serve basis. 

Located at 4621 Forbes Ave., a former gas station now houses ChargeCar, a community-centered electric vehicle research project that wants to make electric vehicles practical and affordable enough to revolutionize urban commuting.  

“This is definitely the largest charging infrastructure of any institution in this half of Pennsylvania, and likely anywhere in the state,” said Illah Nourbakhsh, CMU professor of robotics and project director. “And the Tesla charger is the only one available to the public locally.”

Made possible through private donations, the Tesla High Power Wall Connector at CMU’s Electric Garage can provide 58 miles of range per hour of charge.

In January, Tesla’s first Supercharger station in Pennsylvania opened in Somerset off of exit 110 of the I-70/I-76 turnpike, a toll road connecting Pittsburgh, Harrisburg and Philadelphia. Superchargers can replenish half of the battery in as little as 20 minutes. The Somerset station supports the Tesla cross-country route that will soon enable Model S owners to drive from Los Angeles to New York without paying a cent to refuel.

Interested in joining the electric car revolution but can’t afford a new electric car? ChargeCar can help. In addition to lowering the costs for commercially-developed electric vehicles, the project helps people convert their cars in collaboration with local mechanics and garages. ChargeCar is hosting an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. on Friday, April 4, during which gas vehicles converted to electric power and other electric vehicles will be on display. 

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: Byron Spice, Carnegie Mellon University, ChargeCar, Tesla Motors

Yahoo and CMU a potent force for the future of mobile technologies

Yahoo and CMU have joined forces in the development of a new generation of consumer applications for mobile technologies.
 
The collaboration between a tech company and university is the first of its kind in the country, says Justine Cassell, director of CMU’s Human Computer Institute.
 
CMU’s reputation as a powerhouse in the areas of computer science research and machine learning and Yahoo’s mobile technology databanks will generate not only new technologies but jobs for the region.
 
The five-year-partnership is estimated to be worth $10 million. It gives CMU researchers access to Yahoo’s experimental mobile software data in the creation of new products and technologies.
 
In return, Yahoo gains access to human resources at CMU, says Cassel. Yahoo plans on hiring scientists, researchers and practitioners in the area of machine learning and computer interaction as a result of the deal.
 
“They know CMU is stellar in these areas and by many metrics the best,” says Cassell. “This is a way for them to partner with faculty and students to see who is aligned with their interests.”
 
Dubbed Project InMind, the program includes the creation of a Yahoo-sponsored fellowship program at CMU that will provide financial and research support for computer science students and faculty.
 
Yahoo is focused on personalization, the primary focus of the collaboration. In the future, smartphones will predict where you will be driving later in the day and send you information on how to reserve a table at a nearby restaurants, says Cassell.
 
Or your mobile might remind you to re-subscribe for a piece of software on a set date and will increasingly do so without violating your privacy and giving specific access to your data, she adds.
 
The first two awardees are a computer scientist who is looking at how to better target and tailor news deliveries to meet people’s interest. A second researcher is developing usable privacy metrics.
 
CMU will have ownership over all intellectual property created by CMU but Yahoo will own anything developed with the company and will be able to license property owned by CMU.
 
Writer: Debra Smit
Source: Justine Cassel, CMU
 
 

CMU unveils some of the hottest new disruptive technologies in health care

Disruptive isn’t usually a word uttered in the same sentence as good health, but many of the promising new technologies in the health care industry are just that.
 
CMU hosted a day-long conference last week, the third annual Innovation in Health Care Technology Conference, a gathering of health care industry leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators in Pittsburgh who shared what they’re doing to disrupt and transform health care.
 
Experts presented sophisticated solutions that address the growing needs of the industry. Among those in attendance were Body Media (now Jawbone), Omnyx, Rinovum Women’s Health, Cognition Therapeutics, Highmark and Mylan.
 
“If ever there was an industry in need of disruption, it is the health care industry,” says Lynn Banaszak Brusco, executive director of the Disruptive Health Technology Institute at CMU. “Disruptive innovation, based on advances in science and engineering, has already brought lower-cost, quality products to a variety of industries, but health care has not experienced this pioneering drive — until now.”
 
The conference sessions reinforced that the region is worldwide leader for creative ideas that will improve healthcare for patients and the community in the future, she adds.  
 
“The CMU Disruptive Health Technology Institute is working to bring the same disruption to health care. We are researching and deploying new technologies to help reduce health care costs and improve outcomes for patients.”
 
Among the newer companies on hand was South Side-based Proximedics, providers of USB-powered RFID (radio frequency identification) readers that work in tandem with a customized web application, providing clinics and hospitals with solutions for everything from inventory management to device regulation.
 
Presenters included several research projects that are still in development. Body Explorer is a new medical training simulator for educating medical professionals from the University of Pittsburgh's Simulation and Medical Technology R&D Center.

Medical Robotics Technology Center at CMU's Robotics Institute is working on a flexible needle steering system for minimally invasive navigation in the brain.

CMU’s BioPharma and Healthcare Club, a joint graduate student organization of the H. John Heinz III College and Tepper School of Business, hosted the event.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Lynn Brusco, CMU
 
 

Need storage? Help balancing your budget? AlphaLab Demo Day shows and tells all

The AlphaLab Demo Day & Technology Preview proved yet again that entrepreneurs and startups are a big draw in Pittsburgh.
 
More than 375 people attended the presentations of six university tech startups and nine Innovation Works AlphaLab companies at the New Hazlett this week. Many stuck around to meet the companies afterward during an informal lunch mixer.
 
“The companies gained market traction and validation during the AlphaLab program and did an excellent job of presenting their products and companies at Demo Day,” said Jim Jen of IW. “This cycle’s companies continued the tradition of raising the bar for future AlphaLab classes.”
 
This year marked the first time that National Energy Technology Laboratory joined the lineup.  
 
The preview opened with university technologies, ranging from Lightside, an online platform that instantly assesses student writing and offers feedback to both teachers and student writers, to Diamond Kinetics, which is in the throes of commercializing technology that improves the performance of baseball and softball players.
 
The current crop of AlphaLab companies were equally compelling, ranging from reality-based gaming to a look at the savvy new age of college-level athletic recruiting. 
 
A few highlights:
 
What is augmented-reality gaming? MegaBits CEO Patrick Perini explained how his new game brings the gaming world and real world together. The game is based on a player’s physical location, allowing gamers to chase and battle monsters and feed and train them, in all kinds of real world weather.
 
It’s catching on. Nearly 200 applicants signed up in the first two hours of MegaBits’ launch, said Perini.
 
Ever lose an important file, or key nugget of information on your computer? Steve Cotter of Collected wants to streamline the way you find it by providing intelligent authoring technology to help you quickly access frequently used content. Not only does it speed up access, but also it can drill down contents on a Google drive and costs, at minimum, $10 a month. Launching in January.
 
Forget reconciling your bank statements across several apps. BudgetSimple tracks your spending and income all in one place and keeps it up-to-date.
 
“The most successful budget is one where you can keep the things that are important and eliminate the waste,” says CEO Phil Anderson, a successful internet marketer who previously worked for Vivisimo (before it was acquired by IBM) and LunaMetrics in Pittsburgh. BudgetSimple has 130,000 users signed on to date.
 
Wing Ma'am, a fast growing mobile app, is bringing bring LBGT women together as a resource for one another. It already attracted 108,000 users to date and is on target in reach 2 million in the next two years, says CEO Ariella Furman.
 
It’s also the only app of its kind that searches for events, not just people, she says.
 
If you’ve ever tried to stay abreast of a high school or collegiate athletic team’s changing schedule, you will appreciate the value of AthleteTrax. The startup is working with high school and collegiate club teams to provide an online tool that puts all a team’s information in one place, a sort of dashboard for athletics.
 
Lacking space for storage? Have space to rent? Spacefinity matches the have-nots with the haves and helps the haves convert their extra space into cash. The startup is tapping into the $22 billion storage industry and has 70 live space lords in Pittsburgh so far, says CEO Alex Hendershott.
 
Those looking for motivation to keep up with their physical therapy routines will gain support from Hability, a mobile tool that keeps patients engaged and therapists and family in the loop. “Compliance is in the root of attendance,” says CEO James Lomuscio.
 
Crowdasaurus stands at the intersection of crowdfunding and digital marketing. Projects with crowdfunding campaigns are matched with like-minded organizations—nonprofits or media outlets—who can benefit from the exposure they will receive by having content appear on the same page, says Josh Lucas, CEO. The Pittsburgh Foundation is already one of several beta testers on board. 
 
Finally, a senior at Grove City College believes the college athletic recruiting system is broken. Her startup, ProfilePasser, is the only platform that brings players and coaches together on the field where the players can be seen and recruited, says Sam Weber, founder. The app is available in the iTunes store now.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: AlphaLab, Innovation Works

In a quiet corner of Pitt's campus, Wangari Maathai's garden grows

Two red maples and a garden brimming with zinnias quietly grow in the shadow of the Cathedral of Learning, a tribute to a humble yet charismatic African woman who passed through Pittsburgh 50 years ago.
 
Wangari Maathai came from Kenya in 1965 to earn her master’s degree in biology from University of Pittsburgh, the beginning of a celebrated career that included a Nobel Peace in 2004. From Pitt, Maathai went on to spend several years studying abroad.
 
When she returned to her native country, she found it nearly decimated by a deforested landscape that threatened the local farming ecology and economy. Maathai started a simple tree-planting project in response, a project that came to be known as the Green Belt Movement. The movement was instrumental in planting more than 51 million trees in Kenya and across Africa, helping to restore indigenous forests while assisting rural woman by paying them to plant trees in their villages.
 
Maathai campaigned loudly against deforestation and was even arrested and beaten by police at protests. She led hunger strikes. She addressed the United Nations about her concerns, eventually serving on the U.N.’s Commission for Global Governance and the Commission on the Future. 
 
Not only was she the first African woman to receive the Nobel Peace Prize, but she had a successful career as a writer and political leader, unheard of for an African woman at the time. She was an elected member of Parliament, an assistant minister for Environmental Natural Resources in Kenya and an honorary Councilor of the World Future Council.
 
Sadly, she died of complications from ovarian cancer in 2011.
 
A public dedication in her honor was held recently at the garden near the Fifth Avenue Entrance of the Cathedral of Learning, a fitting homage to a woman whose life was dedicated to sustainable development.
 
“Professor Maathai’s lifelong commitment to advocating for women, the poor, and the oppressed has had a truly global impact, bringing hope and opportunity for a better life to countless women,” said Mark A. Nordenberg, president of Pitt. “The garden will serve as an ongoing inspiration to generations of Pitt students to come, reminding them of the positive difference that one person, armed with an education and a dream, can make.” 

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: University of Pittsburgh

Kenyan student Nicholas Wambua and Chancellor Nordenberg at the dedication of the garden. Image courtesy of Michael Drazdzinski/University of Pittsburgh

UX Pittsburgh hosts discussion on the future of "big data" driven design at Revv Oakland

The future of data-driven design and how big data fits into the picture is the focus of an event at Revv Oakland Oct. 1.
 
UX Pittsburgh, a forum of Pittsburgh user experience professionals, will host “Data-Driven Design” to address just how big data can be leveraged in this area, from aggregation to information visualization and predictive modeling.
 
Adi Veerubhotla, a user experience designer for IBM, and Pat Stroh, vice president of Data Science and Consulting Services at Precision Dialogue, will speak and lead the discussion.
 
“Big Data has been around for quite some time, but professionals need to figure out a way to look at, analyze and understand what all that information is really saying and how to make it digestible to users,” says Erica Volkman, founder of UX Pittsburgh.
 
The event will be held at Revv Oakland, located at 122 Meyran Avenue in Oakland. To reserve a spot, click here. It is co-sponsored by Gatesman+Dave.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

The Porch in Oakland keeps bees busy, reaps 50 lb. harvest

Bees are an integral part of our diet. They are also struggling to survive.
 
Burgh Bees is giving bees a fighting chance with a program they launched in 2008 to establish bee hive colonies around the region. They created the nation’s first community apiary in Homewood, which operates like a community garden, and put hives at Whole Foods, the roof of Google Bakery Square and the Pittsburgh Zoo.
 
Last year they established a bee colony on the roof of the Oakland restaurant. Those busy bees sweetened the pot. The Porch harvested 55 pounds of honey this month and a second large harvest is expected later this summer and in the fall, says Stephen Repasky, certified master beekeeper and aviary director for Burgh Bees.
 
“Last year was one of the worst die offs in bee history,” says Repasky, who lost 70% of the hive behind his Dormont home. “No one thing is causing it. The whole issue of colony die off continues to plague the whole U.S.”
 
The honey at The Porch goes from hive to table, says Becky McArdle, spokeswoman for Eat'n Park. The restaurant uses it in its pizza dough, homemade sourdough bread and cheese and dessert plates.
 
Pittsburgh’s Wigle Whiskey added it to its distilled rye as well. A bottle resting on the bar is fermenting as you read.
 
It’s all part of Eat'n Park’s master plan to produce locally grown food on its premises, says Repasky.
 
“The more and more the word gets out, the more educated the public will be,” he adds. “We can’t sit back and let bees perish or we will all be eating rice.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Stephen Repasky, Burgh Bees, Becky McArdle, Eat'n Park

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Google Pittsburgh announces major expansion and more

Each week Pop City reports on hiring and job news in the region.
 
Google Pittsburgh is expanding again and will hire between 100 to 200 people in the coming year. Google Inc. announced this week it is leasing another 50,000 square feet of office space in Bakery Square and will begin aggressively hiring for 75 open positions, many in the shopping and commerce division.
 
Google Pittsburgh has grown rapidly since establishing a presence in Pittsburgh, having hired 50 people in the last year alone. Positions include software engineers as well support staff.

Across the way, a new restaurant called Social will be holding open interviews on Thursday, June 13th, from 12-8 pm for all positions: waitstaff, cooks, hosts, managers. Social is located at 6425 Penn Avenue.

ThoughtForm, a communication design consultancy working at the crossroads of business strategy and creative thinking, is currently recruiting people for six permanent positions and one contract position. The positions include designers, developers, writers, an image specialist and project manager.

The Congress of Neighboring Communities, better known as CONNECT, is hiring an outreach and program coordinator. CONNECT, part of the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Pittsburgh, works to bring the region’s urban municipalities together to enhance and deliver important public services.
 
MARC USA is hiring an advertising account executive and looking for a PR/social media apprentice. The ad exec/ new business development specialist will focus on many aspects of the agencies new business program.  The PR/social media apprentice is a paid position for a college grad in advertising, marketing business or a related degree.

Pop City is looking for a part-time person to size and load photos in Pop City's content management system every week. Deadline day is every Tuesday so availability is important on Mondays and early Tuesdays. Position requires approximately 7 hours every week. Previous online experience with photos is very helpful. Photoshop skills are a necessity.  Must have photo software.  For more info email info@popcitymedia.com

Quantum Theatre is looking for a part-time consultant to raise brand awareness and deliver traffic to the theatre’s website, social media destinations, live productions, and special events. 
 
KDKA-TV is looking for a commercial videographer with skills as a sound mixer and lighting director, able to support all studio and set productions in preparation for productions.
 
Think Through Learning is hiring a senior editor, K-2. The position is responsible for the production of web-based mathematics and instructional materials for elementary-aged students.
 
A.C. Coy Company in Pittsburgh is hiring a technical writer for its technical writing department to work on a complete overhaul of their documentation and must have experience with Doc-to-help and authoring tools.

The Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) is opening a customer service center in Greentree that will create 150 jobs. The servicing operation offers services and counseling to student loan borrowers. Many of the positions are related to loan counseling and human resources. A recruitment event will be held on June 25. 

Still looking for the perfect job? The Allegheny Conference this week unveiled a re-imagined Imagine Pittsburgh website, a gateway to more than 30,000 jobs in the region. New features take the site beyond that of a mere job board, including  stories about the people who work and live in our region.
 
Have hiring news? Email Pop City. Sign up for Pop City on our homepage and receive hiring news each week.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Evive Station takes on the single-use bottling business with kiosks across the region

Single-use water bottles might be most wasteful invention of all time. At last, they are getting their due.
 
South Side-based startup Evive Station is waging a campaign against waste with a network of kiosks that not only encourage the recycling of water bottles, but take a customized marketing approach to refilling them.
 
With design help from Pittsburgh-based Daedalus, the startup developed one of the world’s first on-site bottle cleaning and filtered water dispensing services. Unlike other approaches, Evive sells a BPA-free water bottle for $10, entitling the user to free cleaning and water refill for the life of bottle.
 
And the whole process takes less than one minute, says Tom Petrini, Evive founder.
 
The first Evive Stations appeared on the campus of West Virginia University last April. The kiosks have since expanded to Pittsburgh locations, including American Eagle and the campus of CMU. Evive plans to locate kiosks on Pitt's campus this fall.
 
Americans buy 50 million single use water bottles each year; 40 million wind up unrecycled in a landfill, notes Petrini. “It’s really less about the water bottle and more about the reusability and convenience of the reusable bottle.”
 
Evive is taking the idea one novel step further. Each bottle has an embedded RFID tag in it, similar to an EZ Pass, which enables the station to identify each customer. This customized approach means Evive can tailor the content on the screen for each customer and increase profitability.
 
So while you are waiting for your bottle to sanitize and refill with UV-treated municipal water, users may view benefits and deals that might appeal to them, such as a special offer on a kayaking trip.
 
"We are really blown away by the response we’re getting to this," says Lacy Caric, business developer for Evive. “People enjoy interacting at the station and learning about local businesses. The user experience has been very positive.”
 
Evive Station currently employs 11 and plans to expand in the coming year to multiple locations across the state, including hospitals, resorts, fitness centers, says Petrini.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
SourceL Tom Petrini, Evive Station
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