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Greg Babe, CEO of Liquid X, the promising metallic ink with enviable viscosity

Greg Babe always dreamed of running a successful corporation. He knocked that off his to-do list in 2012 when he retired from Bayer Corp. at 55, at the pinnacle of a successful career.

Looking for a new entrepreneurial challenge, he joined his two sons at Orbital Engineering as CEO. When Orbital proved a less than perfect fit for them, they went their separate ways. Liquid X Printed Metals Inc., a Pittsburgh startup in stealth mode, hired him a month later in July of 2013.

“I spent 36 very enjoyable and successful years at Bayer,” says Babe. “I went from 16,000 (employees) to six. That sort of puts some scope on it.”

Richard McCullough and John Belot, both CMU professors, founded Liquid X in 2010; Bill Newlin, chairman of Sewickley-based Newlin Investment Co., was the startup’s first outside investor. The company raised $1.4 million from seven investors in May, including McCullough and Andrew Hannah, CEO and co-founder of Plextronics.

The key to Liquid X is in the makeup of the metallic ink, explains Babe. The composition and viscosity is unlike anything else on the market. While other inks are thick—composed of particles and flakes—Liquid X is so refined it will work with a common inkjet printer.

“This means we can use less metal (gold and silver) than competing technologies,” explains Babe. “It saves money for our customers.” Metallic inks are a billion dollar industry used for touchscreens, medical devices, consumer electronics and printed radio-frequency (RFID) tags.

Liquid X has the added bonus of being an attractive ink for the growing additive manufacturing industry, Babe says. Rather than coating a surface and removing what is needed during printing, products are printed without the waste of the subtractive process.

Liquid X, based in Harmar, is next door to Plextronics, another local inkmaker.  The location is intentional. McCullough was co-founder and chief scientist of Plextronics and Newlin is a director. 

The two products couldn’t be more different, notes Babe. Plextronics is creating organic electroactive inks for a variety of applications ranging from alternative power sources such as solar to lightweight battery applications. Liquid X is an inorganic product used for printed circuitry.
 
“There is an existing market out there, one we don’t have to create,” says Babe. “It’s very exciting.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Greg Babe, Liquid X
 
 

Thread rolls out its first bolts of fabric spun from the trash-strewn streets of Haiti

Socially-minded Thread LLC has successfully spun its first bolts of fabric made from plastic trash collected on the streets of Haiti.
 
It's a major milestone for the for-profit social enterprise, which began three years ago under the leadership of Ian Rosenberger, a contestant on CBS’s Survivor. Following the earthquake that leveled the island country, Rosenberger found himself wandering the country, wallowing in waste, and enlisted others to find a way to improve the country's health by turning the trash into something useful.
 
With the help of partners and investors, including Idea Foundry and the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, Thread has begun moving mountains, of trash that is. This month an unnamed industrial partner in North Carolina wove the first bolts of trash-spun material.
 
The process is fairly complex. Trash is collected in Haiti, melted down into flakes and shipped to the North Carolina center where it is funneled, melted and filtered into slimy strands, says Frank Macinsky, marketing director of Thread.
 
The strands are then gathered, spun onto spools and woven into bolts. The resulting material is a soft canvas that will work well for backpacks and similar products.  
 
“Now that we know that fabric is possible, we will move into producing it on a larger scale so it can be sold to manufacturers as a responsible fabric for their products,” he says.  
 
The long-term goal is to establish a supply chain and manufacturing center in Haiti that employs local workers. The fabric will be manufactured in the U.S. until the process is perfected.
 
Earlier this year, Thread announced several new partners along with Partners in Health: Executives Without Borders, the Mapou Foundation and Samaritan's Purse. The Ramase Lajan Center opened in the seaside city Jacmel, on the southern coast, to organize resources and coordinate a network of collection centers.
 
Ian Rosenberger was honored with the 2013 Emerging Leader Award from the Johnson Institute for Responsible Leadership.
 
“One of the great things about what we’re doing is involving a lot of people from the public and private sector,” says Macinsky.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Frank Macinsky, Thread LLC

Pittsburgh's Kextil is the small voice with big answers for field technicians

For service technicians working in the field, getting quick answers to complex questions can be daunting, especially when they're in a tight spot and their hands are full.   
 
Pittsburgh-based Kextil offers an easier way. Its hands-free, speech-recognition technology puts a virtual advisor and supervisor in the ear of the service technician.
 
“It eliminates barriers to getting and using information,” says Jonathan Berman, CEO.
 
Berman founded Kextil in 2011 with two colleagues, Jordan Cohen and Alex Rudnicky, co-CTOs and world-class experts in the voice recognition field. The company has been lying low, in stealth mode, developing the technology until recently.
 
Their first product, which is in beta, gives technicians access to important and complex information using a headset and voice commands. Several global enterprises have signed on, including oilfield service companies, advanced manufacturers, semiconductor and medical equipment companies.
 
The product solves two problems at once, explains Berman. It helps technicians to comply with best business practices and it accelerates the processing of data and paperwork.
 
“Workers need their hands and eyes to push buttons and turn parts,” he says.  “They can’t always look up needed information, which leads to mistakes.”
 
Kextil employs two full-time, five in total, and is planning for major growth and a new office space in the coming year.
 
Innovation Works invested in Kextil in 2012. The company is busy raising $2 million that will assist in launching its first commercial version.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Jonathan Berman, Kextil
 
 
 

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Green Building Association, Branding Brand, Reed Smith and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company hiring news.
 
The Green Building Alliance (GBA) in Pittsburgh is looking for a property specialist to lead its efforts in the Pittsburgh 2030 District. The program is designed to encourage and empower small commercial property owners in the city to reduce energy, water consumption, transportation emissions and improve indoor air quality while putting money back in their pockets.

Branding Brand is looking for a technical recruiter to work in the Pittsburgh office and lead team development. The ideal candidate is entrepreneurial in nature, a true people person and someone who lives and breathes mobile. 
 
Communities In Schools of Pittsburgh-Allegheny County is hiring an executive director. This nonprofit serves at-risk students by encouraging them to stay in school. The program works with local school districts to provide alternative education, after-school programming, mentoring and more.
 
The Sarah Heinz House, a center that supports local youths and families, is looking for a director of finance and business operations. The chosen candidate will join a dedicated staff committed to giving youths the tools they need to reach their potential.
 
Pittsburgh Public Market is hiring an assistant market manager to assist with market operations at the expanded Pittsburgh Public Market at 2401 Penn Ave. in the Strip District. PPM is a year-round market bringing shoppers together with locally grown and sourced food; it offers programs and classes as well.
 
Reading Is FUNdamental Pittsburgh is looking for an energetic, entrepreneurial individual to join its new Storymobile team. RIF is working to narrow the literacy gap in the region; the Storymobile program offers an opportunity to engage low-income families and children in their own neighborhoods.  
 
The law firm of Reed Smith downtown is hiring a document specialist, a position that entails the accurate completion of work submitted to the document processing department. Administrative support skills are preferred.
 
The Port Authority of Pittsburgh seeks an experienced PeopleSoft application systems developer to develop and maintain systems and programs using current technologies. The job requires a BS in Computer Science and/or related experience. Interested applicants should send a resume and salary requirements to mramsey@portauthority.org
 
Dress for Success, a nonprofit serving disadvantaged women by providing professional attire, is looking for a communications intern and fashion consultant for its Washington County branch. While unpaid, the internship will offer experience to those considering a career in public relations, fashion, event planning and social work.

Have hiring news? Email Pop City and send the links.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Innovation Roundup: Entrepreneurial news you need to know

Safaba in Squirrel Hill has closed on its first private equity financing round, although the amount was not disclosed. The CMU spinout previously raised $1 million from the National Science Foundation and regional business accelerators.
 
Newlin Investment Company lead the investment with additional funds from Innovation Works. The funds will be used to further develop Safaba’s Enterprise Machine Translation technology, which assists global companies with the enterprise-wide translation of their digital content.
 
CivicScience and BuiltinPgh have teamed up for the Pittsburgh Startup Research Project, an initiative providing free marketing research software and services to local startups.
 
Each month one local company will be selected to receive access to CivicScience's suite of polling, survey and data mining tools. To qualify, startups must be based in the City of Pittsburgh and employ fewer than 20 full-time employees. 
 
Three Pittsburgh companies made the 2013 Inc. 500 list, an annual compilation of some of the fastest growing companies in America: Branding Brand, 4Moms and Target Freight Management.
 
Another 27 companies made the long form, the Inc. 5000. Included among the group is AE Works, Independent Catalyst, VolP Innovations, Z Brand Group, Urban Lending Solutions, SDLC Partners, Gatesman+Dave, Summa Technologies, PCN Network, Beyond Spots & Dots, Genco, College Prowler, Quaker Steak & Lube and Celtic Healthcare.

CMU has announced the latest round of companies in its Open Field Entrepreneurs Fund (OFEF). The fund awards $250,000 to five startups to help them grow their business ventures; it is administered by the CMU Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship.

Recipients include:

Lumator: Intelligent automated services for residential electricity consumers that optimizes how they buy and use electricity.

NetBeezA network-monitoring tool that tests and validates enterprise networks from an end-user perspective.

QuantMDA healthcare startup that uses robust algorithmic analysis of medical image data to aid physicians and surgeons in diagnostics and surgical planning.

ToolsCloud: Offers an open source development environment in the cloud, providing a flexible, managed way to growing IT development groups of any size.  

Vibrado: Has created a wearable sensor tool that maximizes the benefits of athletic training, learning and perfecting sports-specific skills.

Writer: Deb Smit

Living the life of a Pittsburgh child is one Wonderaddo day after another

Want to travel the world with your family on a small budget?
 
Wonderaddo is a new website that highlights global opportunities and activities for children right in our own backyard.
 
The site was created by Mandy Yokim, a native of Virginia and graduate of both University of Virginia and Duquesne. Yokim describes herself as a geekie mom who prefers to take her children places where they can learn more about diverse cultures and global issues. 
 
“Parents are so busy these days, they need a resource that spells it all out for them,” she says.
 
Wonderaddo, as the name suggests—addo means inspire in Latin—aims to instill a sense of wonder about the world through opportunities and events, whether its a trip to the World Launch Event at Pittsburgh Public Market or the Ukranian Festival in McKees Rocks.
 
The website is visually appealing, clean and easy to use. The calendar offers  events at a glance being held throughout the year. Specific topics are organized on tabs. A map of the world encourages parents and children to make the connection from a geographic perspective.
 
Yokim’s colleague and mom-friend Cassie Brkich of Brkich Design designed the site.
 
The easiest way to engage a child’s interest is by presenting opportunities that already interest them, be it languages, music or art, says Yokim. Pittsburgh is so diverse, that makes it easy.
 
“It’s a great visual representation of how Pittsburgh is connecting people and places all over the world,” she says.
 
Going forward, Yokim plans to collaborate with groups like Global Pittsburgh and the World Affairs Council to spread the world about the diverse cultural opportunities here.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Mandy Yokim, Wonderaddo

Music and innovation rocks Bakery Square at the inaugural Thrival Festival

What began as a backyard barbecue to raise money for the startup community has evolved into an exciting festival of music and innovation.

The first of potentially many THRIVAL Innovation and Music Festivals gets underway on Saturday, Sept. 7th at Bakery Square.

A hot ticket for the end of summer, the event is two in one. The afternoon innovation showcase--which is free--will feature “Pit Talks” with speakers, educational workshops and an “Innovation Row,” presenting some of the most exciting new startups in the region.

Thrill Mill’s Hustle Den in East Liberty will put its companies in the spotlight as they pitch their businesses before regional and national investors in the Google office.

The music festival kicks off at 5 p.m. at Bakery Square II, featuring performances by several acclaimed national groups including De La Soul, RJD2, Frightened Rabbit and local acts Formula 412, to name but a few.

General admission tickets to the music festival are $20. (A VIP $100 ticket includes free parking, complimentary beer and food.) As in the past, proceeds benefit Thrill Mill, the nonprofit now running what was formerly the Baller BBQ and Business Bout competition for up-and-coming startups in Pittsburgh.

“It’s all about Pittsburgh and making the concept bigger and better,” says Luke Skurman, founder of College Prowler and a board member of Thrill Mill. “We want to make it a celebration of entrepreneurship in the region.”

The event is presented by PNC Bank and powered by Thrill Mill, Inc. and the Pittsburgh Global Shapers Hub.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Luke Skurman, Thrill Mill 

Who's hiring in Pittsburgh? Sprout Fund, Pipitonegroup, Bombardier and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest hiring news.

The Sprout Fund is launching the Remake Learning Corps, a new program to connect tech-forward experts with afterschool and out-of-school educators to move education into the future. Sprout is looking for a program associate to work closely with Sprout's community-building team and direct the Digital Corps and their toolbag of resources. Tech-savvy people who are passionate about innovative learning need apply.

Pipitonegroup is looking for a digital marketing expert, preferably someone who knows their SEO from a hole in the ground. Experience with digital marketing tools is key.

Conservation Consultants is hiring a weatherization program coordinator responsible for the Peoples Natural Gas Weatherization program.  Applicants should send resume and cover letter to: micheller@ccienter.org.
 
Wrecking Crew Media in Pittsburgh is hiring a director/producer/editor with strong concept and writing abilities. Motion graphics experience is a must.
 
Mylan Inc. is looking for a promotion review editor to ensure consistent application of copy standards in multiple marketing projects across various brands among other tasks.
 
Bombardier in Pittsburgh seeks a mechanical engineer with five years of experience to assist in project evolution from the bid phase through design.

Kurt J. Lesker in Jefferson Hills has more of an entry-level mechanical engineering position, requiring two years of experience in mechanical design.

Robert Morris University seeks a program coordinator for the School of Nursing and Health Services.
 
Vocollect in Penn Hills seeks an elearning project manager to manage the development of elearning training offers. The positions requires lots of experience in elearning instructional design and development.  
 
Have hiring news? Email Pop City and include the links.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Jim Roddey on Gas Shale Roundtable findings and how it compares to Heinz's CSSD coalition

Pitt’s Institute of Politics released its Gas Shale Roundtable Report, a plan that suggests ways to embrace the economic promise of the gas industry while, at the same time, address environmental concerns.
 
The 26-member panel—gas industry, environmental organizations, legislators, educators, foundations and civic leaders—outlined several recommendations. Among them is conducting good research that protects the environment, updating outdated state laws and building relationships across the sectors. 
 
The Roundtable began meeting two years ago, organized by Pitt’s Institute of Politics, which guided the group in reviewing laws, scientific studies, regulations and other areas relating to the gas industry, says Jim Roddey, co-chair of the group, principal at ParenteBeard and a former Allegheny County Executive.
 
Roddey was joined by fellow co-chair Carnegie Mellon University President Emeritus Jared Cohon.
 
The first thing we did was agree that the single most important resources in the region are fresh water and clean air, says Roddey.
 
“While our air and water still need a lot of work, we have one of the best natural supplies of water anywhere in America. We didn’t agree on a lot of issues, but we agreed on those two points."
 
The biggest takeaway was the need to protect our resources while we grow the economy.  Natural gas should be the catalyst to achieve these goals, Roddey says.
 
Roddey agreed the Roundtable’s work echoes another local attempt at bringing together a broad coalition to address shale concerns. Earlier this year the Heinz Endowments created the Center for Sustainable Shale Development (CSSD).
 
While the two groups are comprised of many of the same organizations—Chevron, EQT, Consol, Shell, CMU, Pennsylvania Environmental Council, PennFuture and Heinz Endowments—they have very different goals, says Roddey.
 
“The Heinz’s CSSD is about best practices in the industry, a house-keeping seal of approval,” he says. “They hope to monitor the best practices in the industry, develop a certification process and ask others to adopt them.”
 
The CSSD is an ongoing process. The Roundtable group has disbanded now that the report is done.

It will be up to the governor, state legislators and the three participating foundations—Heinz Endowments, Richard King Mellon Foundation and The Pittsburgh Foundation—to implement and fund the strategies, Roddey says.

Among the Roundtable’s key recommendations:
 
·       Establishing an independent research model, one not funded by a special interest group, to ensure the research is a best practice.
 ·       Updating the 1961 Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Conservation Law to include the latest fracking technologies; limit surface disturbance and avoid wasted oil and gas resources.
·       Protecting water resources in the state by improving management and regulation across several areas including water sourcing, groundwater protection and wastewater treatment and disposal.
·       Developing recommendations to minimize the environmental and surface footprints of midstream construction, improve pipeline safety and enhance the planning and coordination of decisions regarding the location of pipelines.
  
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Jim Roddey
 

Mike Elchik's vision for WeSpeke, a social platform for language learning

Pittsburgh entrepreneur Mike Elchik believes his latest company, WeSpeke, will catapult foreign language learning and relationships across global boundaries.
 
The president and CEO of WeSpeke has spent the last 30 years working on disruptive technologies coming out of CMU. His early work focused on robotics. There was the high-tech digital microphone sold by Akustica, which Bosch acquired it in 2011.
 
WeSpeke is a language technologies platform he co-founded with Jaime Carbonell, director of the Language Technology Institute (LTI) at CMU. It's the eHarmony of language learning, he says.

Learners expand their knowledge by connecting with other learners in foreign countries. The key is matching people with similar interests, who are passionate about the same things. 
 
Like Skype, users communicate online through the WeSpeke social media site. Students practice writing, learn vocabulary and translate phrases with their digital acquaintances.
 
“It’s a social network for the social networks,” he says. “This is an opportunity to connect everyone in the world.”
 
While in stealth mode early on, working from a low-profile office space in GreenTree, WeSpeke launched its French platform in February 2013. Since then it has added Spanish, Portuguese, Italian and German. 
 
The company has raised $1.73 million to date, with another round underway, and employs seven full-time with an additional 15-20 consultants who assist from all over the world.
 
Language educators around the world and the study abroad market are the initial focus. The program is being used by classrooms in the U.S.; Indiana University of Pennsylvania will use it this fall as part of its French curriculum.
 
The platform is a free resource for educators. A mobile app is underway.

“Wikipedia has proven if you challenge humanity they will stand up and deliver,” says Elchik. “Learning and teaching is as necessary as loving and eating and being loved. I’ll help you if you help me. Everyone wants to learn and teach.”
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Mike Elchik, WeSpeke
 
 

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? ModCloth, Animal, Carnegie Learning, evolveEA and more

Each week Pop City reports on the latest in company hiring news.

Animal VFX in Pittsburgh, a production company and post production house, is looking for a full time motion designer. Animal creates commercials, short films, music videos and documentaries and was behind "Blood Brother," a film that won the Grand Jury and Audience Award at Sundance.
 
LightSide in Shadyside, a startup building tools to automate the assessment of writing in academic and business settings, is hiring a web and JAVA developer. A special interest in web platforms for educational technology is required.
 
ModCloth, the online vintage retailer, founded by Eric and Susan Koger of Pittsburgh, has announced the hiring of 50 new employees at its Crafton office and fulfillment center. Not all are posted as of yet. Current openings range from software engineers to freelance creative stylists, models and project managers.
 
Red House Communications on the South Side has four open poisitions: a junior and senior account executive, a director of account services and a social media manager. Interested candidates should email a cover letter and resume.
 
Carnegie Learning, makers of educational tutoring software, is hiring a game programmer and a research programmer.
 
evolveEA, self-described as a “nimble” practice at the intersection of sustainability and built design, currently has two positions, a building rating systems manager and building rating assistant.
 
WYEP-FM's Allegheny Front is looking for a reporter/producer with at least three years of professional news experience, particularly in reporting on the environment in Pennsylvania.
 
Nutrition and health company GNC is hiring a franchise communications and marketing coordinator to enhance franchise communications.
 
Edison Learning in Pittsburgh seeks a technical writer and documentation specialist to assist both technical and non-technical applications for this educational solutions provider.
 
Have hiring news? Email Pop City and send the links.
 
Writer: Deb Smit

Shadyside startup is changing the way we assess writing, receives Gates Foundation grant

When it comes to online learning, there are programs galor to assist with math and science. Few, however, address reading comprehension and writing ability.

Shadyside startup LightSide is building tools to delve into this more ambiguous subject area, using machine learning to instantly assess writing for both academic and business settings.

The CMU spinout and Project Olympus startup is well on its way with the help of a grant for $25,000 from the Gates Foundation. LightSide was among only 29 companies chosen as part of the Literacy Courseware Challenge.

CMU graduates Elijah Mayfield, David Adamson and Carolyn Penstein Rosé first began working on the idea while at school as an open source platform to assist academic researchers and social scientists.
 
When it comes to assessing writing, machine learning tools work well for some aspects of the process, but not so well for others, explains Mayfield, CEO, and a recipient of a 2011 Siebel Scholarship and named a “Global Shaper” by the World Economic Forum.

Making sure students have the right concepts, are stylistically correct and follow grammatical rules are areas that computers handle easily. Creativity and spontaneity is not as easily addressed.

“It’s not just a magic wand,” Mayfield says. “Software relies on patterns of training examples.”

While a final product is still a year away, LightSide is consulting with individual clients to help them leverage the beneifts of machine learning. Several are heavy weights in the assessment industry, College Board and CTB McGraw Hill.

“It’s all about empowering the student and making sure they know what the strongest and weakest elements of their writing are,” he says.

LightSide employs seven people and is hiring.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Elijah Mayfield, LightSide

Pop Stop Popsicle Company, fresh and fruity treats peddled to your door

Who wouldn’t love a frosty treat in the summer with a name like Pop Stop? Especially if it arrives on two wheels.

Pittsburgh English teacher Todd Saulle was inspired by the local food truck scene and a Pop Shop he heard about in Philadelphia to start his own mobile pop business.

He enlisted the help of friends at The Franktuary in Lawrenceville, who lent him kitchen space, and launched the operation this summer with the help of a bike imported from England.

“It made sense,” says Saulle. “There are lots of ice cream stores. Why not popsicles?”

Saulle mounted two popsicle coolers on either side of his Donkeybike, the burro of the biking world, built to haul payloads. He figures he peddles about 100 pounds or 400 popsicles when at full capacity.

“I’m working on lightening the load,” he says. “Maybe with dry ice.”

His most popular flavors sound refreshing, if a bit surprising. There’s strawberry and sweet basil, parsley-infused watermelon, peach, raspberry, cantaloupe and a creamsicle made with greek yogurt, honey and berries. All fruits are locally grown and change with the season.

He is concocting an alcoholic version as well, something with Wigle Ginever, cucumber and lime, or a La Dorita Dulce de Leche pop, both liquors from Pittsburgh.
 
Pop Stop made the rounds last weekend at the Pittsburgh Bike Fest and will be at Peddle Pittsburgh. It also does special events, catering, weddings, gallery openings and church bazaars.
 
Who knows, maybe a Pop City Pop will be next, something with an Andy Warhol twist, he says.

Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Todd Saulle, Pop Stop

Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire, a carnival of kid-friendly innovation and mind-bending robotics

The Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire, a family-friendly carnival of spectacular innovation, brings its impressive mix of new crafts and old world technologies to the North Side this weekend.
 
There’s even some high-tech mind reading art to make.
 
More than 65 regional makers will be on hand on Sunday, Aug. 18, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Buhl Community Park at Allegheny Square by the Children’s Museum.
 
Displays and hands-on activities abound, spanning the gamut from 3D technology to robotic exhibits, Indie crafts, power wheel car races, floating origami, SparkTruck and LED wearables.
 
The Girls of Steel Robotics Team, a winning high school science team, will demo their Frisbee shooting, pyramid-climbing robot Eve.
 
It’s not your every day walk in the park, to say the least.
 
Pittsburgh startup Beyond Theory Robotics is one example of just how high the bar is set at this third annual Faire. Shane Adams and Chase Dudley, co-founders, are offering a hands-on experience of the raw power of the human mind.
 
Beyond Theory is developing a robotic prosthesis for arms and hands that is controlled by human thought. Seeing it is believing it, they say. Those on hand will witness their brainwaves in action as signals are transmitted to a smartphone where they will create an abstract work of art.  
 
“People will really enjoy having a piece of artwork derived from their brain waves,” says Adams.
 
The startup plans to enroll in AlphaLab Gear this year, Innovation Works’ new hardware accelerator.
 
“We hope to be inspirational to other makers in the community. Children don’t always get this kind of exposure in their schools,” Adams adds.
 
The Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire is a collaboration of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and HackPittsburgh and primary event sponsor MAKE magazine.
 
The day is made possible with the support of The Spark Fund, The Pennsylvania Cyber Charter School, Pepsi, Agora Cyber Charter School and pairNetworks.
 
Writer: Deb Smit
Source: Pittsburgh Mini Maker Faire; Beyond Robotics
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