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Art Institute of Pittsburgh alum works visual effects magic on new X-Men film

If you haven’t had a chance to check out the new X-Men film X-Men: Days of Future Past, you are missing out on visual effects by Pittsburgh’s own Joseph A. Spano III. Spano, who received his bachelor’s degree in visual effects and motion graphics from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh in 2009, worked as senior compositor for Digital Domain on the film starring Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellan and Jennifer Lawrence.
 
Prior to his graduation from The Art Institute, Spano sold nearly all of his belongings in preparation for his cross-country move to Los Angeles. Determined to hit the ground running, he packed up his car and embarked on his journey the day after receiving his diploma. He’s since made himself at home in Hollywood with more than 29 films under his belt, including Iron Man 3, Wolverine, 42 and A Good Day to Die Hard. He's also worked on numerous  television productions, including True Blood, Behind the Candelabra, Mad Men and CSI.
 
Spano says the highlight of his career has been getting a job with Digital Domain, which was his “dream studio” in college. As part of the Digital Domain team, he worked on Iron Man 3, which was nominated for an Academy Award for its visual effects.
 
“A career in visual effects is interesting in that almost every day I have a new, unique challenge to face,” says Spano. “Specifically as a digital compositor, my job is at least 50 percent problem-solving.”
 
Spano is responsible for the final shot as it appears on screen. To do this, he combines the work from other departments like CG, Environments and FX, and is responsible for color corrections and green screen keys among other preparations. 
 
Spano says the visual effects work is a much heavier process than people tend to think. Things shot in front of a green or blue screen do not magically vanish. Spano says they spend sometimes hundred of hours to attain photo-real results.  
 
The technical work is just one aspect of the challenges Spano faces in his career.
 
“If I were to single out the absolute most challenging aspect, it would have to be the difficulty of leading a normal life while working,” he says. “We constantly have to move for work, often working 12- to 20-hour days, six or seven days per week. This starts to put a huge strain on your day-to-day life, as well as your social life."
 
Spano recently worked 47 consecutive days without a day off.
 
It may be exhausting, but Spano says he loves his career.
 
“I absolutely love knowing that my work is going to be around long after I am gone -- living on in these films.”

Who's hiring in PGH? The Parks Conservancy, C-leveled and more ...

Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Read on for this week’s roundup.
 
Burson-Marsteller’s Consumer and Brand Marketing team is searching for a client executive, a public relations professional with a minimum of one year of previous public relations work experience, to be an integral member of the account team and service the client through research, writing, program development and management, and day to day account administration. The global agency is also searching for a senior associate, a public relations professional with a minimum of six years of previous public relations work experience, that will be responsible for day-to-day client projects and/or events to ensure the quality of work meets the client’s objectives and provides value. This role will manage diverse internal teams, drive project deliverables, achieve deadlines and deliver outstanding results. Enthusiastic, tireless, passionate and driven people are encouraged to send a resume and cover letter indicating interest in either of these positions to Annette Capp at annette.capp@bm.com. No phone calls please.
 
Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy is hiring a grants manager to handle all phases of the grants application and administration processes, from the identification of potential new sources of funding and proposals, writing and submitting the grant requests, ensuring compliance with grant requirements and preparing reports in a timely and accurate basis. The ideal candidate will have at least seven years of grant management and writing experience, including grants from foundations, corporations and government entities.

The Pittsburgh Botanic Garden, which is currently being developed on 460 acres along the airport corridor near Settler’s Ridge, is seeking a horticulture and facilities manager. The position is responsible for the construction of horticultural exhibits, and maintenance of living plant collections, garden buildings and infrastructure. The ideal candidate will have a bachelor’s degree in horticulture, botany, natural science or a related field and at least five years of progressive experience in managing horticultural staff, preferably in a public garden.

First Insight is hiring a product marketing manager to develop, implement and maintain First Insight’s product line. The position is responsible for directing and performing all aspects of product development, product changes and product promotions including development procedures, specifying components, packaging and header design, product positioning, pricing, catalog and sell sheet copy, training aides and point of purchase merchandisers.

InRhythm, a fast growing, innovative technology company, is hiring a distributor support specialist. The position is responsible for providing ongoing personalized support and training of the InfoMetrics database program to client distributors and their staff.
 
Carnegie Mellon University is hiring several interesting positions, including a director of marketing for Student Affairs Operations to develop and implement marketing strategies and initiatives for Conference & Event Services, Dining Services, Housing Services, and the Cohon University Center. A bachelor’s degree in marketing, business administration, or a related field and a minimum of five years of progressively responsible experience in a marketing role is required. CMU is also hiring a campus affairs financial manager to assist in providing financial data and analysis, communicating and assuring policy compliance, and facilitating colleagues' abilities to anticipate needs, identify potential problems, and forecast resource requirements.
 
The University of Pittsburgh is hiring an assistant manager for its computing services department. This senior level technical assistant manager position reports to the director of system engineering involving analysis, planning, requirements, design, development, maintenance and testing of enterprise/ departmental system and services.
 
C-leveled is hiring an account executive to manage three to five company accounts by maintaining and directing client contact and managing client expectations to ensure client satisfaction. The ideal candidate will have two to five years of experience in managing accounts; agency experience preferred. 

Are you hiring? Send your job openings to Pop City at innovationnews@popcitymedia.com.

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.

Highlights from Demo Day

On Tuesday, a crowd of about 500 people flocked to see demos by the current cohort of companies at Alphalab, which was recently ranked the sixth best accelerator in the country. This Demo Day also marked the debut of Alphalab Gear, a hardware and robotic startup accelerator. For the first time, the event was held at Stage AE to accommodate the ever-growing crowd, a testament to the excitement and momentum surrounding Pittsburgh innovation.
 
With so much talent in Pittsburgh, it’s no wonder Illana Diamond, managing director of Alphalab Gear, says it’s the mentorship and extensive alumni network that make Alphalab/Alphalab Gear standout from their counterparts. Indeed, in a survey led by MIT professor Yael Hochberg, entrepreneurs ranked Alphalab third in the nation for general mentorship and industry-specific knowledge.
 
Both Alphalab and Alphalab Gear are part of Innovation Works, the region’s largest seed stage investor. Investing in and providing business assistance to high-potential seed and early-stage tech companies in the Pittsburgh region, Innovation Works has made a name for itself as one of the nation’s most active seed investors.
 
While Innovation Works is certainly a major player in the Pittsburgh innovation scene, the city as a whole continued to outpace national averages in the amount of venture dollars invested in regional companies from 2009-13, according to a report by Ernst and Young and Innovation Works that was released earlier this spring. The report also points to the growing number of successful company exits as proof of Pittsburgh’s success as a hub for innovation.
 
Read on for highlights from the Demo Day presentations.
 
Last year, the United States threw away 40 percent of its food supply. FreshTemp, an Alphalab Gear company, aims to eliminate waste by making it easy to monitor and manage the temperature of perishable goods across the entire supply chain. Cloud-based Freshtemp automates temperature collection during production, transportation, and the storage of any product via state-of-the-art Bluetooth devices. The company is already working with some big names in the food industry, including Wendy’s and Popeyes.
 
What’s lighter than aluminum and stronger than steel? Carbon fiber. Just one problem, until now, manufacturing carbon fiber products has been cost prohibitive to only the aerospace and automotive industries. That’s where Alphalab Gear’s RapidTPC comes in. RapidTPC has developed a proprietary manufacturing process that enables consumer markets to automate the mass production of parts from composite materials – reducing both initial capital costs and production costs by 90 percent. Replacing materials with composites can reduce the weight of a product by 50 percent. The company is already working with a baby product company and plans to expand into the sporting goods industry in the future.

CDL Warrior, an Alphalab company, is a mobile platform for commercial truck drivers and fleets. It saves truckers time and increases productivity through tools that simplify mandatory logs that keep drivers compliant, thus avoiding costly fees and lost time on the road. The app also has a feature to quickly facilitate resolutions to long wait times and other events that delay drivers while sending automated, real-time alerts to their dispatch.

Who's hiring in PGH? Alcoa, Duquesne University, PULSE and more...

A note from the editor: Pop City will soon launch a regular series featuring recent hires and departures in Pittsburgh. Submit your hiring news and job openings via email.
 
Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Read on for this week’s roundup.
 
DICK’S Sporting Goods is hiring a community and corporate relations coordinator with three to five years of relevant experience to create, support, execute and evaluate community relations events, charitable programs and corporate giving strategies.
 
Alcoa is hiring an innovation and technology communications manager with at least 10 years of relevant experience. This newly created position will develop and drive a dynamic technology communications strategy and brand vision for Alcoa globally.
 
Conestoga-Rovers & Associates is hiring an environmental engineer with at least 10 years of environmental experience to manage projects, maintain budgets, oversee remedial system installation, conduct field activities, maintenance and operations.
 
Winchester Thurston School is hiring a director of eLearning to provide leadership, planning, and oversight of the school’s teaching and learning that is delivered, supported and enhanced through the use of electronic and/or digital technologies. 
 
Pittsburgh Council of Higher Education is searching for an executive director with seven to 10 years of experience in higher education to work to strengthen existing partnerships and to create new collaborative opportunities for PCHE's member institutions. The position will act as a spokes person for PCHE and promote and support other collaborative efforts for PCHE institutions through fundraising, proposal writing, program development, and joint sponsorship of academic and non-academic programming. 
 
Duquesne University is hiring an advancement communications coordinator to plan and execute a wide range of communications projects, including electronic and printed materials, feature articles, reports and other collateral for the Development, Alumni Relations and External Relations functions within the Division of University Advancement. 
 
Carlow University is hiring a web and social media content editor with at least three years of professional experience working in a web content development role or similar function.
 
Carnegie Mellon University is hiring several exciting positions, including an associate director of Corporate Relations and Career Services at the Integrated Innovation Institute, an associate director of the Career Opportunities Center (Technology Careers) at the Tepper School of Business, a computer security information analyst at the Software Engineering Institute, a software developer and senior software developer at the Software Engineering Institute, a director for strategic initiatives and engagement in the Office of the Provost, and a data services librarian who has a demonstrated understanding of data curation and lifecycle management of data in an academic setting.
 
The University of Pittsburgh posted several interesting positions last week, including a director of fan engagement and new media with at least five years of relevant experience and an assistant director of media relations for the athletics office.
 
PULSE (Pittsburgh Urban Leadership Service Experience) is hiring a high-energy, part-time office administrator to coordinate office work and help support fundraising efforts for 20 hours per week. Cover letter, resume and salary requirements should be sent to ccooke@pulsepittsburgh.org by 5PM on June 6.

New real-time traffic signal technology to hit the streets this June

The city is soon extending its cutting-edge system of real-time traffic signals that adapt instantly to shifting traffic conditions. The new traffic signal technology is coming to the Baum-Centre corridor. This $1.8 million pilot project will provide the first-of-its-kind smart traffic technology from the city’s eastern edge almost to Downtown.
 
This work is being done in cooperation with the locations foundation community and two Carnegie Mellon University entities: the University Transportation Center (UTC), which explores cutting-edge technologies that could influence everything from the safety of vehicles and roads to the analysis of traffic flow, and Traffic 21, a multi-disciplinary research initiative addressing problems facing the transportation system of the Pittsburgh region. The UTC and Traffic21 project call the technology the Scalable Urban Traffic Control system, or Surtrac.
 
“Pittsburgh uses its quirks -- in this case a tight urban street grid packed with pedestrians, bikes and commuters -- to make itself great. We don’t have the resources to widen roads or buy up properties to solve our traffic issues -- we use brainpower to create efficiency instead,” says Mayor Peduto.
 
“What also makes Pittsburgh special is the way government works alongside university and private partners to make splashes, such as with this project, that get noticed on the world stage. This is a proud moment for CMU and our city.”
 
Traffic21’s Surtrac project has studied adaptive traffic signal control technology to control real-time optimization of urban traffic flows for the last four years. Prior adaptive signal technologies typically focused on straight-ahead traffic flows common to suburban areas. Surtrac senses constant shifts in crossflows of traffic that dominate urban areas and adjusts green lights on a second-by-second basis, accounting for changes in the traffic flow resulting from breakdowns, accidents, special events or street closures. The system is decentralized, meaning each intersection manages its own local traffic and neighboring intersections communicate to coordinate behavior.
 
“The Baum-Centre corridor serves as a critical gateway to Oakland, Shadyside, Bloomfield, Friendship and East Liberty," says Councilman Dan Gilman. "This project will not only improve traffic between these neighborhoods, but will also improve the health of residents and visitors by reducing vehicle emissions by over 20 percent."
 
According to the Mayor’s office, an existing UTC traffic signal project at 18 intersections in East Liberty and Shadyside has cut vehicle wait times by 42 percent, travel times by 24 percent and vehicle emissions by 21 percent.
 
The project will soon be expanded to another 23 intersections along Baum Boulevard and Centre Avenue going west to Craig Street. Installation of the system is scheduled from mid-June through the end of the year, and should be operational in early 2015.
 
The project is underwritten by UPMC, the Hillman Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the R.K. Mellon Foundation, as well as the city, U.S. Department of Transportation and PennDOT. The foundations are funding nearly $1.3 million of the work and government bodies are funding $512,000.

Two Pittsburgh companies team up to bring sustainable goods to market

Two Pittsburgh-based companies recently teamed up to bring new sustainable bags to market that are both fashionable and functional. Moop specializes in quality canvas bags that are made in Pittsburgh from start to finish, while Thread transforms discarded plastic bottles from Haiti into dignified jobs and the fabric of sought-after goods.
 
In the wake of the Port-au-Prince earthquake in 2010, Ian Rosenberger founded Thread and Team Tassy, both of which share a core philosophy: ending multidimensional poverty by investing in the poor to create as many dignified, sustainable jobs as possible. Thread processes recycled plastic, converting it into fabric and that is eventually turned into finished goods and jobs for Team Tassy families.
 
“Helping other companies make their products more responsible, more sustainable and more valuable is at the heart of our mission,” says Rosenberger, who happens to be a former competitor on the hit TV show Survivor. “We know that by connecting customers of things like bags, shoes and jackets to the poor, we can use a simple thing like fabric to help end poverty."
 
This industry is still among the dirtiest in the world. Even ‘sustainable’ fabric companies have a tendency to make only half of their product from recycled materials. Many times the other half comes straight from a barrel of oil. We think there are plenty of companies who are searching for more responsible alternatives that can prove their impact through every piece of the supply chain."
 
The two special edition Moop + Thread bags, which can be purchased on the Moop website, are the newest additions to the product line. Moop’s Messenger No.1 and Paperback utilize Thread’s fabric as the lining, with between eight and sixteen bottles used to produce the lining of each bag.
 
“We are always looking for new materials to work into our product line,” says Wendy Downs, Moop owner, designer and manufacturer. “We like fabrics that have a legacy, an important history or a reputation for being the most durable. When Thread approached us with their story, we felt like it would be a good match and we started developing a fabric with them.”
 
Because we design and hand-manufacture each and every Moop bag in our studio, we keep our overall product offering to a tightly curated selection so we can stay on top of our daily production volumes. We’ll keep the conversation going with Thread as the project evolves.”

Who's hiring in PGH? Carnegie Library, Carlow University, Philips and more...

A note from the editor: Pop City will soon launch a regular series featuring recent hires and departures in Pittsburgh. Submit your hiring news and job openings via email.
 
Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Read on for this week’s roundup.

Carnegie Library is hiring a teen services coordinator to provide system-wide leadership for the identification, planning, delivery and evaluation of innovative, responsive, high-quality programs, services and outreach activities for teens and young adults in Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh service areas and throughout Allegheny County.
 
Big Heart Pet Brands is hiring several positions, including senior buyer, application engineer II, software quality assurance manager, data architect, senior technologist, sourcing assistant and a business intelligence developer.
 
The University of Pittsburgh is hiring an annual programs coordinator in Institutional Advancement and a temporary marketing manager for the Institute for Entrepreneurial Excellence.
 
Carlow University is hiring several positions, including a multimedia production specialist, web and cloud services applications analyst and an advancement data services manager.
 
MAYA Design’s Human Services Group is hiring a user experience architect with 7-10 years of experience and a chief information security officer with at least 10 years of experience.
 
Summa Technologies is hiring a sales lead development representative with a minimum of three years of information technology sales, telemarketing and/or lead development experience.
 
CyberCoders is hiring several positions, including a senior web development engineer, front end developer, Linux systems engineer and firmware engineer.
 
ThermoFisher Scientific is hiring a product services coordinator.
 
Philips is hiring a software engineer to design, implement and document high performance enterprise software applications that support and add value to Respironics’ ventilators and devices that treat Obstructive Sleep Apnea.
 
Bessemer Alliance is hiring a software engineer to work with their design and development team, take ownership of at least one aspect of the application’s infrastructure and help out elsewhere when needed.
 
LegalSifter is an early stage start-up based in Lawrenceville that is developing an innovative application to help organizations evaluate, analyze and store legal contracts. It is hiring a senior web development engineer who has experience deploying large, complex websites with significant traffic.
 
Highmark is hiring a director of IT to oversee and manage the client, sales and product suite of applications. The position supports three managers and between 60 to 80 application developers and will work to position the client/product technology platform for performance and growth with architectural enhancements and modernized applications. 
 
McKesson is hiring a senior software engineer with at least four years of experience for its Moon Township location.
 
Branding Brand, which powers mobile commerce sites and apps for over 200 of the world's leading retailers, including American Eagle Outfitters, Crate & Barrel, Ralph Lauren and Sephora, is hiring a director of app development. The ideal candidate has experience working with and managing highly skilled software developers, thrives in a rapid, high-energy environment and is up-to-date on the current and future direction of iOS and Android platforms. The best applicant will have experience and success in previous startups that have grown to large, established software companies. 
 

New technology helps customers answer the question: Is it bumpin'?

New technology answers the question: Is it bumpin'?
 
If you've been to Commonplace Voluto lately, you may have noticed a new device lurking by the door. Then again, it's so discrete that you may have overlooked it. The device, installed just about two weeks ago, is the technology behind IsItBump.in?an intended solution for people who want to make the most of their time and avoid waiting in long lines.
 
The device is the brainchild of Matthew Pegula, creative software engineer at Deeplocal and longtime Commonplace Voluto customer, who enjoys pursuing personal projects off the clock.
 
"Deeplocal keeps me plenty busy, but it's fun to work on projects like this with no real deadlines that let you explore ideas."
 
His other side projects include apps Baby Selfie and the popular Yinztagram, which lets you pose with such Pittsburgh greats as Rick Sebak and a Primanti Bros. sandwich.
 
The idea for IsItBump.in came to Pegula when waiting in a long line at the grocery store.
 
"I thought, 'I wouldn't have come if I knew it was so busy.'"
 
That got him thinking about how he could know how busy places were before he left his house.
 
"I'm a new dad and time is tight—so if I can avoid waiting in line and use those 15 minutes doing something else, it's a big win," he says.
 
Using infrared sensors, the device detects people entering and exiting, keeping a running count. Numbers are reported back to a central server every minute and saved. Data is then made available via the website and an application program interface. The technology uses historical data to make predictions about when places will be busy to help people optimize their time.
 
"A coffee shop is a good example test bed because it's a place that doesn't take reservations, or have a seating policy. [It's a place] that you might get to and have to leave if they're too busy," says Pegula.
 
He says the test site is seeing consistent usage and encouraging trends.
 
Megan Drew, manager at Commonplace Voluto says, "People are just curious about it. We haven't noticed a change in business."
 
Other locations are currently in the works, including a test box at the Carnegie Museum of Art. Boxes are also en route to Australia and France.
 
"We've received lots of interest and we're planning our approach for fine tuning and getting it out there en masse," he says.
 
Pegula wants people to put it anywhere they have to wait or are inconvenienced if it's too busy, such as Laundromats, grocery stores and banks.
 
"The big picture is to make the devices cheap/easy enough that anyone can buy them and deploy them anywhere on their own," he says. "So, even if your local coffee shop didn't want to install IsItBump.in, you could buy one and do it on your own so you knew when it was busy."

Thinkerous: Helping communities solve problems through structured collaboration

The idea for Thinkerous, the free online platform that helps communities rank problems and track solutions, was born in a Carnegie Mellon residence hall.
 
When Aaron Zhang was a freshman at CMU studying electrical and computer engineering, he noticed it was hard for his peers to openly discuss ideas, and even harder to find a team to build these ideas. The following semester, he put up an “idea bulletin board” in his residence hall.
 
“This was the catalyst to several projects I saw completed,” he says. Among these projects were a custom RFID-protected wallet and a low-cost velcro snowboard.
 
Zhang realized the bulletin board was increasing structured collaboration, which resulted in more creative and productive communities.
 
Zhang and two friends pondered these realizations and developed Thinkerous. They launched the platform by the end of their sophomore year. In fact, it only took a few hours to get the first prototype up, running and public.
 
“People are passionate about solving problems they experience, but often don’t have the resources to do so,” says Zhang. “And people don’t always know how to verbalize their problems, but often have ideas to improve their current situation, whether at work, at home or in the community.”
 
There are lots of tools out there that simplify collaboration – so what’s different about Thinkerous? Structure. Whereas other collaborative software, such as Google Groups, lack organization, Thinkerous provides a guided method to help communities efficiently find and support the ideas that solve its most pressing issues.
 
The website is divided into three sections: Issues, Ideas and Thinkathons. The Issues section features factual problems that community members experience first-hand, while the “Ideas” section contains possible solutions to these issues, as submitted by community members. Thinkathons, are competitions, virtual or otherwise, where community members can work together to bring prototypes and business plans to fruition.
 
“Our platform has unique ranking and matching algorithms, to give decision-makers inside organizations more information when determining which ideas they should invest their resources in,” says Zhang.
 
Thinkathons bring issues and ideas together with judges, prizes and rules for 1-2 day events where people come in with issues and ideas and leave with working prototypes. Zhang compares Thinkathons to hackathons for “business people, designers and people who are actually experiencing the problems that need to be solved.”
 
The company is also piloting “Thinkerous for Enterprise” for corporations, non-profit organizations and government organizations, adding special capabilities like privacy controls, group management and analytics to help track the lifecycle and impact of a submission. Participants in the enterprise pilot include CMU, the University of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, TEDxGrandviewAve and Startup Weekend Pittsburgh. Zhang suggests communities with an interest in joining the pilot program contact Thinkerous at team@thinkero.us.
 
Because Thinkerous is always tweaking its algorithms and evolving, it will soon phase out Thinkathons in favor of focusing on enterprise software, as it has much greater long term viability than one-off events surrounding specific issues.
 
“We found that with Thinkathons and the like, most projects end up not surviving past the conclusion of the event and thus don't benefit much from our longer-term analytics and ranking algorithms,” says Zhang.
 
Thinkerous also recently worked with the Pittsburgh Association for the Education of Young Children to identify and solve leading problems in today's classrooms.
 
“Our software gave the opportunity for teachers from across western Pennsylvania to see which problems were the most common, and the opportunity for the local community to work together directly with teachers to build the solutions,” says Zhang.

Who's hiring in PGH? The P-G, Casbah, Rhiza and more. . .

A note from the editor: Pop City will soon launch a regular series featuring recent hires and departures in Pittsburgh. Submit your hiring news and job openings via email.
 
Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Read on for this week’s roundup.
 
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette seeks a creative front-end web developer to work on data and data visualization projects for a new energy vertical, as well as assisting in newsroom-wide reporting projects. The core mission of this position will be on acquiring data and the creative, contextual display of information for a developing must-read energy site. 

Duquesne Light is hiring a SharePoint Architect with at least 10 years of experience with business information systems integration or custom business application design and development and at least seven years of experience with MS SharePoint Server development and infrastructure. Resumes can be sent to Lynn Palen at lpalen@duqlight.com.
 
Beyond Spots & Dots, a full-service advertising agency, is looking to hire a Drupal developer. Applicant must possess desire to work with Drupal modules, theming, distributions and content management, as well as programming skills in HTML, CSS, PHP and Javascript to produce quality client websites.
 
Rhiza, a start-up technology company and developer of the award-winning Rhiza Analytics Platform, is hiring several positions, including software engineers, sales administrators and a front end user interaction designer.
 
The Mattress Factory is hiring a part-time accounting assistant with a knowledge of QuickBooks accounting software and at least one year of experience in an accounting or bookkeeping role or equivalent combination of education, training, and experience.
 
The Carnegie Museum of Pittsburgh Development Office is hiring a prospect researcher to conduct and provide comprehensive donor research on major gift prospects for the museums’ development officers. The Carnegie Museum is also hiring a director of corporate and foundation relations with at least five years of nonprofit fundraising experience to develop strategies for raising funds from corporations and private, public, and corporate foundations and oversee the writing of fundraising communications.
 
Point Park University is hiring a print and communications services coordinator with at least two years of office experience.
 
Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania is hiring a regional vice president of operations to develop, implement, and assess council strategies for delivery of a nationally consistent leadership development experience for girls that includes program, membership and volunteer development within the council’s 27 counties of Western PA.
 
Animal Rescue League is hiring a Wildlife Center volunteer manager to provide professional staff support to volunteers and acts as the link between employees and other volunteers
 
Jewish Federation Volunteer Center is hiring a program associate with strong programmatic and entrepreneurial skills to assist the center’s director in program development, execution and marketing.
 
Casbah, a Mediterranean restaurant in Shadyside, is looking for a talented, experienced pastry chef  to lead the team in creating a delicious variety of desserts to compliment Executive Chef Eli Wahl's menu.

Iontank: Bringing the imagination to life through interactive technology

Iontank, a specialized design studio based in Friendship that develops custom-built interactive hardware and software solutions for just about anything you can imagine, is looking to grow. In fact if you're a technically minded artist or a creative coder, Iontank might just be the place for you. A typical day at the office might include tossing around ideas involving “giant robots, fire and lasers,” says Rob de la Cretaz, technical director.

"Due to the nature of our business, growth is a weird thing," says de la Cretaz, who joined the company two years ago when there were just three employees. Now there are five and while the company is looking to expand, they want to be smart about how they are doing it, keeping the dynamism of their business in mind.

Iontank devises imaginative concepts and guides clients around the country through the prototyping process and into production. Director Stephen Streibig founded Iontank in 2001. Today, the crew includes disciplined techs and artists that boast a complete mastery of pixels, hammer drills and soldering irons.
 
“Pittsburgh is where we have chosen to live because we love the collaborative spirit of the creative folks that live here,” says de la Cretaz. “We are always open to collaborating with local artists and entities. We have an extensive war chest of technical toys and we don’t mind sharing.”
 
While the sky is the limit, much of Iontank’s work revolves around remarkable projects that leave jaws agape via installations, events and the trade show industry. For example, Iontank collaborated on the world’s first audience-driven interactive fireworks display alongside fireworks giant Pyrotecnico and VICE’s electronic music and culture channel THUMP. Commissioned to celebrate the launch of Samsung’s Galaxy S4 on Manhattan’s Pier 84, the project has been called a game-changer in the pyrotechnic industry.
 
Iontank built a phone app that integrated seamlessly to a pyrotechnics firing board and allowed hundreds of participants to customize and view the launch of actual fireworks at the touch of the screen.
 
“Seeing the looks on peoples’ faces when they realize they just fired a real firework made for an incredible project,” says de la Cretaz.
 
“The whole process was very collaborative and could never have happened in such a crazy time frame without the support of the experienced techs and logistics personnel at Pyrotecnico. . . We are used to working under pressure and know how to plan for all kinds of contingencies, but there is nothing quite like having huge batteries of live fireworks on the other end of your mouse,” says de la Cretaz. “Click and bang.”
 
Though Iontank can’t disclose specifics about current projects in the works, de la Cretaz says the team is building off the momentum of the interactive fireworks project and buzzing with ideas to harness the energy of a crowd to create exciting experiences.
 
“The concept of allowing a large group of people control their entertainment through innovative means instead of simply subjecting them to a predetermined composition is a very exciting prospect for us,” says de la Cretaz. “We are in the process of developing several prototypes to explore this territory.”
 
He describes his dream project as one that involves a client who is open to new and exciting ideas, a realistic budget and the shared understanding that amazing experiences normally take longer than four weeks to pull off.
 
“We’re always curious and hungry to develop new experiences,” says de la Cretaz. “There’s no doubt that there’s a healthy cross-pollination taking place between the worlds of advertising, architecture, design and digital artistry. We look forward to pushing those boundaries even further and to shaping a wondrous and unexpected future.”

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.

Who's hiring in PGH? Zipcar, Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania, ModCloth and more...

A note from the editor: Pop City will soon launch a regular series featuring recent hires and departures in Pittsburgh. Submit your hiring news via email.

Each week, Pop City brings you exciting job opportunities in Pittsburgh. Read on for this week’s roundup.
 
Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank is hiring a grant writer with five years of related experience. The grant writer is responsible for preparing proposals for submission to potential funding sources to obtain funds for ongoing or special Food Bank projects.
 
Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania is hiring a membership director with strong marketing, organization and communication skills. The membership director is responsible for the development and implementation of plans to increase and retain girl and adult membership
 
Temple Sinai, a Reform synagogue in Squirrel Hill, is hiring an event and venue coordinator. The position is responsible for coordinating events and scheduling logistics for a large volume of meetings, classes, services, life cycle events and private rentals.
 
The University of Pittsburgh is hiring a variety of positions, including a Communications Services web developer with five to six years of experience and an operations manager to coordinate the day-to-day activities of the Latin American Studies Association Congress at the University Center for International Studies.
 
Carnegie Mellon University is hiring a College of Engineering communications manager, an administrative coordinator for the Human Resources office, and a temporary one-year full-time senior systems/software engineer to design systems and software, and code, integrate and maintain new and existing software and scripts for the University Libraries’ UNIX-based information retrieval systems.
 
ModCloth is hiring a senior software engineer, preferably with Ruby/Ror experience. ModCloth is also seeking senior Java and/or Python engineers to tackle complex and challenging development tasks.
 
Zipcar is hiring a marketing associate to focus on the acquisition of new members through a variety of channels and tactics, including: university marketing, Zipcar for Business, sponsorships and experiential events.
 

Pittsburgh 2030 District is two years ahead of schedule for energy reductions in Downtown Pittsburgh

With the goal of reducing Downtown Pittsburgh’s impact on the environment by 2030, the Green Building Alliance launched the Pittsburgh 2030 District in 2012. The initiative was inspired by the Architecture 2030 Challenge, a non-profit, non-partisan and independent organization established in response to the climate change crisis by architect Edward Mazria in 2002. Their mission is to rapidly transform the built environment from the major contributor of greenhouse gas emissions to a central part of the solution to the climate and energy crises. The Challenge calls for 50 percent reductions in building energy use, water use and transportation emissions by 2030, with incremental goals along the way.  

Last week, the Green Building Alliance released the Pittsburgh 2030 District’s inaugural progress report.

The Pittsburgh 2030 District has become the fastest growing 2030 District in the country and is already two years ahead of schedule for energy reductions, according to the Green Building Alliance. It originally sought to achieve a 10 percent reduction by 2015, but had already attained an 11.6 percent reduction by the end of 2013. The energy reductions reached thus far represent the equivalent of removing 7,748 homes from the grid, according to the Green Building Alliance.

“This report confirms that we’ve reached a dynamic moment in our region’s history,” says Sean Luther, senior director of the Pittsburgh 2030 District. “Through the Pittsburgh 2030 District, we will fundamentally alter the way we view our energy distribution system.”

Green Building Alliance will continue to work with property partners to achieve energy reductions while simultaneously working to recruit additional properties in order to reach its goal of 100 percent participation. Participation in the program has already grown to almost 40 property owners and managers, representing 109 buildings and 35 million square feet of real estate. 

Reducing energy demand is the key to maximizing the utilization of existing power plants, eliminating the need for new coal- or gas-fired plants and related infrastructure costs. Reduction in energy consumption also paves the way for greater use of renewable energy sources and dramatically improves air quality, according to the report. On a related note, the District is working with the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh to develop and pilot an indoor air quality metric for possible implementation across the country. 

In addition to reducing energy demand, the initiative plans to place an increased focus on water use reduction, which is one key to solving the region’s sewage infrastructure crisis.

“Substantially reducing water consumption in individual buildings has a direct correlation to increased capacity in the combined sewer system, allowing for better handling of major storm water events and increased reliability of potential future “green infrastructure” investments,” according to the report.

The Green Building Alliance attributes the success of the Pittsburgh 2030 District thus far to its property partners, community and resource partners and funders, as well as the 2030 District sponsors: The Efficiency Network; The ECB Network, Powered by Bayer; Stantec; and Scott Electric, GE Lighting. 

Writer: Amanda Leff Ritchie
Sources: Green Building Alliance, architecture2030.org, Sean Luther, and Leslie Montgomery
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