By Nico Chiodi – 11th grade, Homeschool
Hosted in the Pittsburgh Environmental Charter School, Startup Weekend Education Pittsburgh (SWedu for short) lasted the whole weekend of February 20th-22nd. I arrived 4:00 on Sunday, in time to witness everyone who had participated in the weekend join together in the main meeting hall and strike up conversations with each other.
SWedu is a weekend event created to give young entrepreneurs a chance to present their business ideas, get developers and designers to back them up, and then to compete against eleven other teams in an attempt to win a grant, as well as a few other perks. The weekend looked something like this:
On Friday night, over forty presenters had a minute or so to tell who they were, where they were from and what their idea was (all ideas had to be based around education). Twelve of them were chosen, and they teamed up with developers and designers, as well as other competitors who hadn’t made it into the top twelve. This sets SW (and SWedu) apart from many other competitions: even the people who lose can win.
Emrj, which was one presenter’s idea, would be a website to help teens find job shadowing opportunities. “Companies want to help students, but don’t want to throw money and resources [at the problem].”
Andrew Hart and his co-workers were support volunteers for the weekend, having already competed once in Startup Weekend (not the education version), and lost. His idea, Megabits, is actually one of the many success stories of SW. He and his team lost the competition they were in, but didn’t let that stop them: Megabits, their app which is an “Apple-Maps-based” Pokemon style battle game, which uses the local weather and your location to put the fight in real time, is going viral and has received glowing articles by technology news sources, such as Product Hunt, teQ Magazine and Tech Burgher.
Saturday and most of Sunday, the teams went about creating their ideas, using social media to crowd source market data, and then make a ten minute pitch to the panel of judges, all respected entrepreneurs themselves. One team would win the top prize and two more would win runner up.
In a few hours, the presentation ceremony on Sunday night would begin, and the air was positively buzzing with excitement and anticipation: though very few had actually gotten a good night’s sleep and were at the point of exhaustion from working so hard. The end was nigh, and no-one could wait to see what would happen.
When the competition finally began, it held everyone’s attention: there was no whispering or laughing as you’d expect in a room full of twenty-somethings and teens, just complete silence and concentration. Hearty cheers followed every presentation: the atmosphere was very friendly and supportive.
The winner of the event was Project Playground, an app that early elementary and kindergarten teachers could use to encourage cooperation amongst their students.
SWedu was a wonderful event for all who attended, and I could tell that even those who did not win would come away with something useful. It was a changing experience for all involved and for, I believe, the community in general.
Nico Chiodi is going into 11th grade. He lives in Thornburg and is home schooled. He has been in Pittsburgh Youth Media for 2 years and has published stories in Belt Mag’s Pittsburgh Anthology. Nico can be seen playing banjo with his father and brother all around the city.