ImaginePittsburgh.com

STEM education is not just for city kids anymore.

A permanent workshop, known as a “Fab Lab,” will be located in Grindstone, Fayette County, while a second, mobile Fab Lab will travel to other rural school districts in area governed by regional education agency Intermediate Unit 1 (IU1). The labs will provide high-tech equipment and teacher resources that are not often available in rural parts of these counties.

“At Chevron, we understand STEM education is important to a successful future for our local communities. We are working with our partners to provide access to state-of-the-art education and technology resources to equip students with the critical skills needed to fill the jobs of tomorrow, particularly for those with limited access to the tools necessary for success in these fields,” said Nigel Hearne, vice president of Chevron Appalachia Michigan Business Unit based in the Pittsburgh area.

The IU1 Community Fab Lab will provide access to resources for the students in the K-12 system, undergraduate students and the community at-large, including skilled staff and volunteers, design and fabrication equipment and access to an international Fab Lab network. It will ultimately touch an estimated 56,000 people. Founded in 2009 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Fab Foundation brings digital fabrication tools and processes to people of all ages, developing educational and offering professional development training programs for teachers.

The hands-on learning that will be available at IU1 Fab Lab aims to spark interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and prepare individuals for the nearly 1 million U.S. jobs that will require basic STEM literacy over the next five years – including more than 2,000 energy and manufacturing jobs southwestern Pennsylvania.

“This Fab Lab is a tremendous resource for teachers and students throughout southwestern Pennsylvania,” said Fayette County Commissioner Al Ambrosini. “It will help get our kids excited about science and give them the technical skills they will need in their careers. I commend Chevron for its commitment to our community and to educating our children.”

The IU1 Community Fab Lab will feature such state-of-the-art design and fabrication equipment as laser cutters, 3D printers, vinyl cutters and milling machines. The Fab Lab will promote innovation and design in the community and will build the local workforce capacity.

This digital fabrication workshop is made possible through a $1.2 million contribution by Chevron. It is part of the company’s $10 million commitment to the Fab Foundation to build Fab Labs in areas where it operates in the United States. This Fab Lab is a component of the Appalachia Partnership Initiative, a collaborative effort formed by Chevron to develop a highly-skilled regional workforce.

“Intermediate Unit 1 is proud to be one of the few organizations selected from around the world to receive both a mobile and a stationary community Fab Lab,” said Charles F. Mahoney, Intermediate Unit 1 executive director.

“We will continue to be an innovative educational keystone transforming education and learning for the countless students, educators and community members we serve.”

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Amanda Waltz

All eyes were on Pittsburgh yesterday when 500-plus invited guests gathered at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh for the first-ever White House Frontiers Conference, a daylong event culminating in an address by President Barack Obama and panel where he participated.

At CMU’s Jared L. Cohon University Center, Secret Service agents and SWAT team members weaved through hundreds of tech entrepreneurs and students attending panels featuring top scientists and researchers discussing innovative approaches to solving community and national issues. Those leading the interplanetary track–which covered space exploration and the journey to Mars–were easily identified by their shirts emblazoned with NASA patches.

Just down the street, the University of Pittsburgh hosted tracks on healthcare (Personal) and the issues of climate change and clean energy (Global). The other two tracks featured were Local, focusing on transportation and criminal justice, and National, featuring Artifical Intelligence.

At the event, it was announced that $300 million in funds would be granted to further technology’s role in improving city infrastructure, brain research, small-satellite technology and precision medicine.

The choice of setting made sense in a time when Pittsburgh has garnered wide attention for its role as an emerging tech hub and smart city.

“Pittsburgh’s overnight success story is 30 years of hard work and innovation,” said Mayor Bill Peduto while addressing attendees at the Local Frontiers track. At the center of that success are the research and startups produced by Pitt and CMU.

The Local Track

Peduto offered his views on transportation on a panel that included United States Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx, Zipcar co-founder and former CEO Robin Chase, and Tim Kentley-Klay of the autonomous driving startup Zoox.

In a breakout session on transportation that followed, Foxx asked, “What fundamental changes in transportation policy need to happen? It took a hell of a lot to get Congress focused on it. The conversation has always been 90 percent where will the money come from and 10 percent policy.” It needs to be the reverse, he said.

The $65 million in new funding awards announced at the Conference “will help cities and communities do the work to advance on a local level,” he said, citing the work of the Traffic 21 initiative in Pittsburgh where smart traffic signals have helped to reduce traffic congestion by 40 percent. The increased funding will allow that to “be applied to Downtown Pittsburgh much more broadly.”

“To reduce congestion, to increase safety, to really hardness opportunity, we are changing how we think about innovation,” Foxx said. ” There has to be constant vigilance by everyone . . . You tell us what you don’t like, tell us what you do like; we’re going to keep trying to build a better mousetrap.”

Kids are our future

Two themes that resounded throughout the day were about how our children will be the ones to solve many of the problems we face today and how critical it is to prepare all of our kids for the future, and how no one should be left behind as we innovate our way to the future.

“We are stronger than we think we are,” said Megan Smith, Chief Technology Officer at the White House. “How do we unlock and unleash the talent of everyone?”

More than once, a panelist talked about how “a seven-year-old is out there” who will one day to be able to solve the problems we face today. The 20-year-old leader of Greening Forward, Charles Orgbon III, urged the audience to “think differently about your role with young people. You’re not just a teacher of young people. To create that transformative change, we’re gonna need a lot of things and one of those things is your role as a mentor.”

The problems of today, he said, “should not be left to so-called experts. Young people are ready to take action against the environmental issues that impact us and the global challenges we face. We’re the first generation to feel the impacts of climate change.”

Obama addressed climate change in his remarks. “We don’t listen to science just when it fits our ideology. That’s the path to ruin,” he said. “When the Russians beat us into space we didn’t deny that Sputnik was up there…we acknowledged the facts and then we built a space program almost overnight and beat them to the moon.”

Obama gave a shout-out to numerous people and groups advancing the city, including the Girls of Steel, the upcoming Maker Faire, and the remarkable work at Pitt around brain implants. He talked about meeting Nathan Copeland, paralyzed since 2014, who has a prosthetic arm that allows him to feel sensation in his fingers. He shook his hand, said Obama, then they fist-bumped.

Making sure all are included

A panel roundtable discussion later led by Chief Innovation & Performance Officer Debra Lam pointed out that Pittsburgh still has some hurdles to overcome in order to make this new tech landscape inclusive for all.

“You need to ask, am I reaching out to everyone?” Lam said as she led a group containing tech, education and nonprofit representatives from Pittsburgh and throughout the country. “If I’m not, how do I do that?”

One solution lies in sourcing and analyzing data to understand the city’s needs and concerns. It was recently used to show how diverse Pittsburgh’s 90 neighborhoods really were. “Data doesn’t lie,” said Lam.

Chief of Innovation and Performance Debra Lam at the White House Frontiers Conference. Photo by Amanda Waltz.
Chief of Innovation & Performance Debra Lam at the White House Frontiers Conference. Photo by Amanda Waltz.
The words ring true for one agreement made just prior to Obama’s arrival for his afternoon address. Peduto announced plans to join forces with White House-led Police Data Initiative (PDI), which supports efforts of local law enforcement to build trust with the communities they serve by using data to increase transparency and accountability.

“In order to rebuild police-community trust, transparency is a vital first step,” said Pittsburgh Police Chief Cameron McLay in an official statement. “In a free democracy, the public has a right to understand the workings of government, and the actions of law enforcement touch the lives of our citizenry in powerful ways.”

Part of the participation includes the expansion of the Guide to Crime, Courts, and Corrections, a website developed by the Western Pennsylvania Regional Data Center (WPRDC) to increase public access to law enforcement data for Pittsburgh and Allegheny County. The WPRDC will enlist help from the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police, the Department of Innovation & Performance, and the Allegheny County Human Services to add up-to-date information on everything from non-traffic violations to police training to civil rights lawsuits.

The site will also feature a variety of tools, such as charts, maps, interactive visuals and reports, as well as additional criminal justice-related data provided by Allegheny County and the State of Pennsylvania.

“This important work continues to build upon our broader efforts around open data,” said Lam in an official statement. “We hope that providing such data not only increases government accountability but empowers the community and strengthens partnerships. This is another testament to Pittsburgh’s inclusive innovation.”

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Jennifer Baron

October rocks, with heavy hitters like VIA, Maker Faire and Reel Q, plus tacos galore, the cult of Lebowski, dogs in costume, and even some yinzer gore. It was a challenge to pick just 12, so check out our events section each week for more.

DogtoberFEST
Courtesy DogtoberFEST.

1. DogtoberFEST at The Waterfront: October 1

Whether you’re ready to add a canine companion to your clan or are looking for a festive fall outing for your favorite four-legged friend, head to The Waterfront for an afternoon celebrating all things canine (and some cats too!). Pittsburgh’s largest animal adoption event, DogtoberFEST will feature 64 shelters, breed-specific rescue groups and vendors. Attendees can meet adoptable dogs, shop for pet-themed products and doggie goodies at a specialty vendor market and bake sale, pick up resources from vets and trainers, and more. The free, outdoor festival will also feature live music by The Real Deal, search and rescue demonstrations led by Nosework, and a recreational enrichment trail for pups. If your dog loves to don garb, don’t miss the Pooch Pride Parade Costume The free furry fun is presented by the Coalition to Adopt, Rehome and Match Abandoned Animals and Robinson Animal Hospital.

Smithfield United Church of Christ
Smithfield United Church of Christ. Amy Cicconi Photography.

2. Doors Open Pittsburgh: October 1 & 2

If you’re like us, you’ve strolled the streets of downtown, looked up to spot a carved gargoyle, intricate spire, or green roof and thought to yourself: I wish I could go inside. Now you can. Swinging open the doors to some of Pittsburgh’s most iconic structures, this first-of-its-kind event features behind-the-scenes access at 40 downtown buildings—including historic landmarks and off-the-beaten-path gems. From private clubs to chic hotels—it’s your chance to experience Pittsburgh’s storied structures, rich architectural heritage, and diverse urban landscape. Peer into the magical “forever mirrors” at the Benedum Center, wander through the Allegheny Harvard, Yale and Princeton Club—originally built in 1894 as workers’ row houses—and explore ornate, early-19th-century masterpieces erected by industrialists like Henry Clay Frick. Inside the Flemish Gothic Union Trust Building, you’ll experience the awe-inspiring central rotunda, 10-story atrium and breathtaking Tiffany glass dome. Bask in the Beaux-Arts splendor of The Pennsylvanian, tour an aquaponics site and enjoy rooftop access at the convention center. Don’t just walk past quickly without noticing, look up and go on in. Download the event guide.

Pittsburgh Taco Festival
Pittsburgh Taco Festival.

3. Pittsburgh Taco Festival at Hop Farm Brewing: October 2

The city’s love affair with the small but mighty traditional Mexican dish will be on the front burner at the first of what we hope will be an annual affair. Bringing 20 top taquerias together, the highly buzzed about Taco Festival will feature everyone from Edgar’s and Round Corner Cantina, to La Palapa and Mission Mahi. Boasting one of the largest selections of tacos in the Burgh, the event will also feature a Chihuahua costume contest and a taco-themed mercado. Slinging the goods at Hop Farm Brewing—because nothing tastes better with tacos than beer—the festival offers two afternoon sessions with live music by DJ Mateo and Gavas Beat. The brainchild of Pittsburghers Craig and Bridget McCloud—self-professed taco lovers who operate Popsburgh, a food cart selling handmade Mexican paletas—the event celebrates the couple’s favorite handmade street food. Dig in for a cause because this tasty fest benefits Allegheny CleanWays’ mission to eliminate illegal dumping and littering. Buy tickets now because this foodie fiesta is expected to sell out.

UpPrize
UpPrize finals event. Photo: Erika Gidley.

4. UpPrize networking event at AlphaLab Gear: October 6

Have a grand idea and want to take it to the next level? UpPrize, the social innovation challenge created by The Forbes Funds with partners BNY Mellon and Bridgeway Capital, is back after its stellar debut last year. You’re invited to share your best and brightest solutions and help NEXTpittsburgh launch the latest round during this free networking event. Called “the networking event of the year” by AlphaLab Gear‘s Ilana Diamond, the night will feature great food, local craft beer, and the chance for citizens, cohorts, organizations, and others to envision solutions addressing two challenge areas: access to healthy food and innovative technology. Imagine yourself in a room packed with entrepreneurs, nonprofits, funders and techies—with every chance to talk social innovation and network for all you’re worth—and you’ve got the picture. Applications will be accepted between October 1 and November 30. Each challenge offers a $350,000 award. Finalists will be selected by January 2017.  This is close to being filled so hurry. Learn more about UpPrizeRegister now.

Aye Nako
Aye Nako from Brooklyn.

5. VIA Music & New Media Festival: October 6 – 9 at Ace Hotel

For four days Pittsburgh will be at the epicenter of experimental music and audiovisual culture. It’s fitting that for its 7th ambitious edition, the previously nomadic VIA Festival will make the city’s newest boutique hotel its flagship laboratory for cutting-edge audio and visual presentations. VIA and East Liberty have a collaborative history, with the festival popping up in its formerly vacant urban spaces and running an underground venue at 6119 Penn (RIP). The thoughtfully curated fest features 40-plus artists and 15 main events, highlighting unlikely pairings in sound, new media, performance and technology. Staunchly multi-disciplinary, multi-sensory and multi-format, the star-studded lineup brings together legends and legends in the making—several making their Pittsburgh debut—such as Cannes winner Giant, Rihanna collaborator Sam Rolfes, iconic rapper Rakim, and South Bronx pioneers ESG. Free highlights include a discussion with landmark black female artists, a master class with Brooklyn performance duo Fluct and a hands-on coding and digital drawing game titledExquisite Donut. What sets VIA apart in a sea of festivals? Its commitment to including local artists, and rich opportunities for attendees to be active participants in featured artworks. Projecting out from Ace, VIA also offers satellite events at non-traditional spaces such as pop-up galleries, theaters, libraries, universities and more. View a schedule and buy tickets.

King Cobra
King Cobra, Justin Kelly (2016).

6. Reel Q Film Festival at the Harris Theater: October 6 – 15

Get ready to strike a pose at Reel Q. Boasting standout performances from Madonna to James Franco to Isabella Rossellini, Pittsburgh’s annual presentation of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender cinema returns for its most star-studded festival in Reel Q history. Spanning film, television and Broadway, this year’s festivities bring 10 days of diverse programming to downtown’s Cultural District. We all know about the Material Girl, but what about the talented male dancers who performed with the pop icon? Reel Q kicks off with a bang, presenting the behind-the-scenes story of the dancers who performed with Madonna during her legendary 1990 Blond Ambition World Tour. Don your 1980s-era garb, because the film will be followed by a Madge-themed after-party at Bricolage. Reel Q wraps with a stellar pairing of Oscar-nominated actor James Franco and Golden Globe winner Christian Slater, who star in Justin Kelly’s 2016 film, King Cobra—a gripping true story about a murder scandal that rocked the adult entertainment industry. Reel Q also features themed shorts, French cinema, 20th-anniversary classics, a closing party and more. View a scheduleBuy tickets.

Pittsburgh Abides
Courtesy Pittsburgh Abides.

7. Pittsburgh Abides Big Lebowski Fest: October 8 at Spirit

In August, fans on all continents mourned the passing of David Huddleston, who played the title role in the iconic 1998 Coen brothers film, The Big Lebowski. Here to give 412 achievers their annual fix of the cult flick—while anointing new generations of Dudes—is Pittsburgh’s homegrown take on a quirky festival held around the globe. Slip into that beige bathrobe, mix up a White Russian and spew witty Dudeisms, when Spirit becomes a playpen for everybody’s favorite slacker. More than a movie screening, the 4th annual shindig is bigger than ever with two floors of Dudery hosted by charismatic artist Alexi Morrissey. Be an achiever as you play rounds of ear spitting, ringer toss and trivia, ride a zip line, and compete in a citywide scavenger hunt (bring them a toe by 3 p.m.!). Pitch your Lebowski sequel to actor/director Patrick Jordan, show off your dance moves in a competition judged by Attack Theatre’s Peter Kope and score under par in a mini-golf course designed by Pittsburgh artists. Wash it all down with classic rock performed by the F*cking bEagle Brothers and Charlie Hustle and the Grifters. Buy tickets.

Grindhouse Wetware
Courtesy Grindhouse Wetware.

8. Maker Faire Pittsburgh on the Northside: October 15 & 16

Where can you watch a robot sort trash and recyclables and witness a hand-cranked Gatling gun fire off 144 rubber bands? Dubbed “the greatest show-and-tell on Earth, Maker Faire lands on the Northside for two days jam-packed with wondrous exhibits, demos, performances, and activities—spanning every category under the sun, like the Internet of Things, Steampunk, gaming and more. Pittsburgh’s second foray into the Maker Faire phenom will flood Buhl Community Park, Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh and Nova Place with a melting pot of makers, tinkerers, inventors, techies and beyond. Equal parts science club, county fair and DIY confluence, Maker Faire brings together some of the region’s most inventive minds—from cutting-edge roboticists to kid inventors to commercial entrepreneurs. Delve into the fascinating world of biohacking, play a fun new lawn game handmade in Pittsburgh, and learn basic coding and animation techniques to customize your own Pokémon characters. Step into an augmented reality sandbox to create digital art and interact with colorful projections, topographic maps and photo portraits. View a schedule and buy tickets.

FUSE@PSO
FUSE@PSO. Photo by Wade Massie.

9. FUSE@PSO presents Bartók + Björk at Heinz Hall: October 19

Ready to meet the lovechild of Hungarian composer Béla Bartók and Icelandic icon Björk? Musically speaking that is. The synergistic sonic results just may surprise you. If you missed the rousing debut of conductor Steve Hackman’s FUSE@PSOlast year, then you have three fantastic chances to catch the cutting-edge series when it returns. Boldly going where most symphonies don’t venture, FUSE pairs contemporary and classical masterpieces to forge bold musical hybrids. For its 2016 launch, Hackman will conjure a vibrant and evocative mashup of Bartók’s 1943 Concerto for Orchestra, and 11 striking songs from Björk’s seminal albums—DebutPost and Homogenic. The one-of-a-kind concert will showcase the vocal talents of Malia Civetz, Carla Kihlstedt and Kristin Slipp. With Hackman at the helm, the production will explore Bartók’s love of Western art music and eastern European folk music along with the eclectic vision of Björk, which spans pop, electronica, jazz and more. Arrive at 5 p.m. for a lively happy hour in Heinz Hall’s sublime garden, featuring specially-priced drinks, activities, snacks and mingling with the musicians. The concert starts at 6:30 p.m. and it’s open seating with drinks allowed. Buy ticketsPlease note: Due to the current PSO Musicians’ strike, concerts through October 27 have been canceled. For more information, please visitpittsburghsymphony.org and PSOupdate.com.

Wigle Whiskey
Courtesy of Wigle Whiskey.

10. Walkabout Apple Whiskey Weekend: October 21, 22, 23

Where can you bob for apples and drink them in your whiskey? Channel the spirit of Johnny Appleseed—who introduced apple trees to Pennsylvania—celebrate the fall harvest season and be among the first to taste Wigle‘s new cider-infusedwhiskey at this weekend-long festival. At Wigle‘s Strip District distillery and Northside barrelhouse, Walkabouters will sample the new release, sip autumnal cocktails, grab grub from food trucks, bob for apples, and take selfies with Johnny Appleseed. Free and family-friendly, the festivities will include presentations by the Apple Whiskey development team, apple-themed games with City of Play and live music by The Lonely Lights and Chris Hannigan. Created in collaboration with Chatham University’s Food Studies Program, Wigle’s newest concoction is a base of rye and wheat whiskey hand-blended from 15-gallon casks. Savor the robustly-flavored results for yourself as you enjoy this custom blend of hearty apple cider and subtle sweetness on a crisp fall day. For more whiskey, check out the Pittsburgh Whiskey & Fine Spirits Festival October 28 at Rivers Casino.

El Vez
El Vez, photo by Randall Michelson.

11. Night of 1,000 Elvises at The Warhol Museum: October 22

Warhol turned repetition into a global art phenomenon using everyday objects and pop icons. You’ll see much more than double at the museum’s signature fundraiser, back with a creative new twist riffing on one of the Warhol’s favorite subjects. Whether you prefer him as a guitar-slinging Army sergeant, rockabilly bad boy or 1970s lounge crooner, it’s not too early to start crafting your over-the-top Elvis ensemble for this glittery tribute to all things The King—and King of Pop. Channeling the Tupelo tornado will be the self-proclaimed “Mexican Elvis,” El Vez (aka singer-songwriter Robert Lopez), who has not performed locally since 1998. Attendees can get marked with Elvis-inspired temporary tattoos, swing their hips Memphis-style during DJ sets and shop for iconic Warholian wares. Elvises will have access to the museum’s seven floors, and will be the first to see the new exhibition, Andy Warhol: My Perfect Body. Featuring 200 artworks, the first-of-its-kind show explores Warhol’s focus on the human body—abstracted, tormented, sculpted and idealized—and delves into his personal struggles with physical appearance. VIPers will have access to an exclusive underground “Viva Las Vegas” lounge featuring casino games, unlimited drinks and hors d’oeuvres. Buy tickets.

Bricolage
Artwork by Joe Mruk, Red Buffalo Illustration.

12. Night of the Living Dead N’at: October 27 – November 12

Ever since the first zombie crawled out of a western Pennsylvania cemetery in George Romero’s 1968 seminal cult classic,Night of the Living Dead—literally spawning a new genre—Pittsburgh has nurtured a love affair with horror films. With the spooky season upon us, Bricolage is breathing new life—and death—into the cinematic classic, updating it with a raucous yinzer twist. Bricolage’s longtime fan favorite Midnight Radio Series returns to dish out a comedy-laden revamping of the flick complete with a contemporary “yinzerized” script adapted by the company’s producing artistic director, Tami Dixon. Paying homage to the Godfather of Zombies, the spine-tingling show will be augmented by the eerie live music of classical rock powerhouse Cello Fury. Via its trademark 1940s radio format, Midnight Radio will also showcase live Foley sound effects, commercial spoofs, and a dub over the film screening using Dixon’s clever script. For added gore, don’t miss the pre-show Happy Half-Hour and The Brains N’at Ball on Halloween. Buy tickets.

Check out more events every week in NEXTpittsburgh, including these coming up in October:

VIA
VIA visual artist Chris Coleman.

StepTrek in the South Side Slopes: October 1
Esperanza Spalding presents Emily’s D+Evolution at the August Wilson Center: October 7
Weird Reality Symposium at Carnegie Mellon: October 6—9
Quantum Theatre’s The River at Aspinwall Roverfront Park: October 7—30
Patti Smith lecture at Carnegie Music Hall: October 10 (sold-out)
Tig Notaro at Carnegie Library of Homestead: October 14
Pittsburgh Zine Fair at the Union Project: October 16
Third Thursday: EDEN at Carnegie Museum of Art: October 20
ReelAbilities Film Festival: October 20—November 2
Global Links’ Dia de los Muertos fundraiser: October 22
Hometown-Homegrown at the Heinz History Center: October 22

Looking for live music? Read our Everything you need to know about Pittsburgh concerts in October feature.

Looking for events for families and children? Check out our 10 great family adventures in Pittsburgh this Septemberfeature.

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Looking for a job? ImaginePittsburgh.com‘s got ‘em — more than 20,000 open positions on our powerful, 10-county job search aggregator, updated nightly.

Find a job, advance your career, build a life you’ll love: ImaginePittsburgh.com.

Alison Treaster

For decades, the Pittsburgh region has been a haven for refugees fleeing violence and oppression in their home countries. Refugee families, children and individuals have put down roots in southwestern Pennsylvania with the help of local resettlement agencies, religious organizations and nondenominational groups. Today, our region is dotted with vibrant communities of hard-working Bhutanese, Bosnian, Burmese, Congolese, Iraqi, Somali, Sudanese and Syrian refugees, among others.

While adapting to a new home with different languages and customs is difficult even in the best of circumstances, refugees positively contribute to the Pittsburgh community in a variety of ways. On June 17, Pittsburgh’s World Refugee Day in Market Square celebrated those contributions with musical and dance performances, as well as “Refugee Voices” presentations and food and fares from the local communities.

WRD_Poster_2016Who are refugees? A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war or violence. While returning home is often a goal, many refugees spend years in temporary camps in third countries before either returning home or being approved for resettlement in an adopted country. Their plight has been brought to wider public attention over the past year as conflict in Syria and ongoing violence around the world has forced more than 15 million people to flee their country of origin. The United Nations’ Refugee Agency calls this the worst refugee crisis since World War II.

Through it all, Pittsburgh has remained a welcoming city. Thanks to the tireless efforts of various organizations, our region continues to help more than 500 refugees create homes here each year. The U.S. refugee process is grueling and typically takes years. Refugees remain among the most highly vetted population to enter our country, undergoing screenings by the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI and one-on-one interviews abroad before they may be approved to enter the United States.

For more information or to help refugees in the Pittsburgh region, contact a local refugee resettlement agency such as  AJAPOCatholic CharitiesJewish Family & Children’s Services or the Northern Area Multi-Service Center.

Bonnie Pfister

Four months of spirited competition concluded Wednesday as San Jose, Calif-based Lucid VR won the $50,000 grand prize in the AlphaLab Gear National Hardware Cup.

Second-place winner BotFactory took home $5,000, according to AlphaLab Gear’s Twitter feed, while DogParker (my personal favorite) fetched the $3,000 third prize. (More info about the contestants are below.)

Pittsburgh-based robotics venture capital firm Startbot funded the prize money in the second-annual contest to find and support the best ideas in innovative new products. The final showdown played out to a sold-out crowd at AlphaLab Gear’s offices in East Liberty. Each inventor had four minutes to pitch and five minutes to answer questions from the panel of judges, who will weighed commercial viability, team capability and demonstrated commitment.

“Our goal is to build a network of hardware startups everywhere and increase awareness and interest in investing in them,” AlphaLab Gear Managing Director Ilana Diamond told the Pittsburgh Business Times. “These companies need a community and investors.”

Erik Norwood, of Austin, was last year’s winner with his device CURB, a product that monitors household electricity use, offers money-saving tips and lets users control usage remotely.

“Taking home the Hardware Cup provided real validation from the investment community that we were on to something extremely valuable,” he said. “We were able to leverage that win into closing CURB’s full seed round investment of $1.5 million later in 2015.”

Pittsburgh was represented among the finalists. PalpAid is a medical device that uses a novel combination of soft tissue mechanics and computer vision techniques to make currently qualitative and subjective breast exams quantitative. It was developed by Molly Blank and James Antaki, mechanical engineers at the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Carnegie Mellon University.

Here’s the low-down on the competition:

  • Washington, D.C.: PrintLess Plans creates sleek yet rugged large-format e-paper devices made for the demands of architecture, engineering and construction professionals.
  • Boston: Water Hero creates a smart leak detection + prevention + conservation system to avoid costly water damage from burst pipes.
  • New York: Sort of like Zipcar for canines, Dog Parker creates on-demand neighborhood doghouses in dense urban areas, allowing humans to safely board their pets for short stints while they step inside a grocery store, cafe or other no-pet zone.
  • Los Angeles: Rufus Labs creates The Rufus Cuff, an advanced wearable device that also allows for voice and video calls, web browsing and more on its 3.2-inch screen.
  • San Jose: Lucid VR creates LucidCam, a stereoscopic 3D camera that captures the world as we see and hear it. Its 180° wide-angle lens enables an active view, with enhanced audio.
  • Austin: EllieGrid creates a smart pillbox that allows users to organize their medications in seconds.
  • Chicago: Mohop allows users to create customizable footwear via smartphone by combining on-demand 3D fabrication with emerging body scanning technology.
  • Wildcard (audience award winner): BotFactory (of New York) brings the future of electronic circuit fabrication to desktops with the introduction of Squink. Just like a 3D Printer, the small circuit printer allows users to prototype in minutes instead of weeks at the click of a button.

The finale was judged by seven nationally renowned venture capitalists, including Pittsburghers Josh McElhattan of Startbot, Tom Jones of Draper Triangle and David Motley of BlueTree Allied Angels.

Each of the regional winners won $1,000 cash, a yearlong TechShop membership, $500 in 3D printing from ExOne and a one-year license with Altium, which designs printed circuit boards used in electronic devices.

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Pittsburgh has jobs: more than 20,000 across 10 counties. Tap into ImaginePittsburgh.com to explore southwestern PA’s trending careers and industries. 

NEXTpittsburgh

Powered by NEXTpittsburgh / Written by Amanda Waltz

It’s time to head outside for some fun family activities. From a children’s theater festival to a week long celebration of innovation in learning, there’s something for everyone this month.

Kids Day at PNC Park.
Kids Day at PNC Park.

Kids Day at PNC Park: May 1

Baseball season will go into full swing with Kids Day at PNC Park. Little ones can have some fun before the game at the #1 Cochran Family Fun Zone on Federal Street. Inside the park, fans age 14 and under will receive a commemorative Andrew McCutchen Silver Slugger Plastic Bat with paid admission. After the final inning, kids can pretend to be their favorite players when they rush onto the field for a chance to Run the Bases.

Federal Street activities will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Visit the Pirates website for more details and ticket prices.

 

Mother’s Day Weekend in Lawrenceville: May 6—8

The whole family should head to Lawrenceville for the neighborhood’s Mother’s Day Weekend. Mom can indulge in discounts and freebies at 54 participating businesses all along Butler Street. For the foodie mom, there are brunch deals, wine tastings and sweet treats at various restaurants, bars and bakeries. Take advantage of special deals on gifts and services at Wildcard, Love Bikes and Metamorphosis. The event will also offer activities for kids and moms to enjoy together, including Mom and Me make-up classes at The Gilded Girl, Mommy and Me Yoga at Shining Light, and puppet shows at the Teddy Bear Hospital of Pittsburgh.

Mother’s Day Weekend in Lawrenceville will begin on Friday, May 6 and continue through Sunday, May 8. Some activities require registration.

 

Photo by Kate Buckley.
Photo by Kate Buckley.

Millvale May Days:

May 6—7

The Business Association of Millvale (BAM) will present a weekend full of activities for Millvale May Days. The free event will feature self-guided tours of 30 stops in Millvale’s business district, where guests can check out sales, specials and raffles. Also included are horse-drawn carriage rides, live music, and opportunities in GAP Park to learn about Millvale’s plan for a sustainable future. BAM will also provide tour maps to mark off for a chance to win one of three grand prizes.

Millvale May Days will begin at 10 a.m. on Friday, May 6 and at 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 7. Grand prize winners will be announced at 5 p.m. during the Saturday Post Party at the Millvale Library.

 

Pittsburgh Vegan Festival: May 6—7

Vegan and non-vegans alike can attend two days of food and fun at the North Hills Unitarian Universalist Church during the Pittsburgh Vegan Festival. The all-ages event will begin on Friday, May 6 with an opening party and the RE-Model Gala, an art and dance fashion show featuring belly dancers modeling designs by local artists who work with recycled materials.

The event continues on Saturday, May 7 with a full day of vegan cuisine, live entertainment and over two dozen vendors offering everything from handmade jewelry to astrology consultations. Among the available food items are vegan hot dogs from Onion Maiden, Indian fare from Sree’s Foods, and empanadas from Salud Pgh. Especially for kids, there’s story time, an art activity, play time, and more.

The Pittsburgh Vegan Festival will kick off on Friday, May 6 with an opening party from 6 to 9 p.m. The event continues on Saturday, May 7 from 12 to 7 p.m. Tickets for the opening party are $10 pre-sale, $15 at the door, and free for kids 12 and under. Admission to the Saturday main event costs $5 at the door (free for kids 12 and under).

At the Children’s Museum.
At the Children’s Museum.

Remake Learning Days: May 9 – 15

During Remake Learning Days, a first for Pittsburgh, kids and families can experience first-hand the revolution underway in the future of education in our region. With hundreds of events on tap, all categorized by audience (children and families, for one), this is your chance to explore the world of hands-on and technology-based learning including STEM and STEAM – that’s science, technology, engineering, arts and math. From STEM all hands on tech at the Carnegie Library to Family Maker Night, there’s plenty  to do in this  weeklong celebration showcasing everything that makes the Pittsburgh region a  national leader in innovative teaching and learning.

Find events everywhere from schools and museums to universities and tech startups, all free and open for you to explore. Check the schedule and plan your week!

 

EQT Children’s Theater Festival in the Cultural District: May 12—15

The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust will celebrate 30 years of bringing outstanding children’s programming to Pittsburgh with the latest EQT Children’s Theater Festival. Organized by the Children’s Theater Series, the event will roll out productions by eight award-winning theater companies from Canada, Northern Ireland, Mexico, Peru and Scotland. As part of the festivities, the Cultural District will also offer a wide array of hands-on activities, public art and music at a variety of outdoor, pop-up green spaces and indoor lobbies.

Performances will take place at the Byham TheaterEQT Plaza at 625 Liberty Ave., the August Wilson Center and the Trust Arts Education Center.

 

Pizza from Driftwood OvenSteel City Pizza Fest in Arsenal Park: May 14

Enjoy a slice or two at Steel City Pizza Fest, Pittsburgh’s premiere pizza and music festival. The annual event returns to Arsenal Park to serve up offerings from 11 area pizza shops representing Millvale, Bloomfield and Lawrenceville. Spirit’s Pizza Boat, the Driftwood Mobile Pizza Oven and the Pittsburgh Pizza Truck will also appear.

In addition to gorging on some cheesy, doughy goodness, guests can also listen to live performances by bands The Turpentiners, Allegheny Rhythm Rangers, Strange Monsters and Turbosonics, or shop for local, handmade goods at the Spring It On craft show.

The 2016 Steel City Pizza Fest will take place from 12 to 6 p.m. The event is free to attend and open to everyone, including dogs.

Touch-a-Truck in the Strip District: May 14

The Junior League of Pittsburgh, an organization of women committed to improving communities through volunteerism, will host a Touch-a-Truck fundraiser in the Strip District. Kids of all ages will have the opportunity to explore fire trucks, ambulances, police cars and other vehicles, and meet the men and women who drive them. Food trucks will add to the mix by selling food and beverages. Proceeds from the event will support the Junior League of Pittsburgh.

Touch-a-Truck will take place from 10 a.m to 2 p.m. at 15th and Smallman Street in the Strip District. Tickets are $4 online, $5 at the door. VIP tickets are $10 for adults, $15 for children (includes early access at 9 a.m. and a t-shirt). Parking is free.

 

Noah’s Ark whale at Kennywood.
Noah’s Ark whale at Kennywood.

Noah’s Ark Grand Opening at Kennywood: May 25

Families visiting Kennywood this year will discover some major surprises. The historic theme park begins its 118th season with the much-anticipated return of the Noah’s Ark whale. Twenty years after its removal, the majestic creature returns to celebrate its 80th anniversary serving as the entrance to the classic ride. The park will commemorate the occasion with a grand opening event.

Other changes include a new and improved Potato Patch, and the addition of a 4-D Theater, which will run the animated short Ice Age: No Time For Nuts 4-D every 12 minutes. The theater is free with park admission.

 

Free Family Fishing Day at Fort Pitt Museum: May 29

Point State Park and the Fort Pitt Museum will provide fun and educational activities in conjunction with the Pennsylvania Fish and Boat Commission’s Fish-for-Free Days, a state-wide event allowing people to legally fish on Pennsylvania waterways with or without a license. Point State Park staff will provide plenty of modern fishing equipment and teachable moments for the 21st century. The Fort Pitt Museum will have costumed interpreters with period 18th-century fishing equipment to demonstrate how people fished at Fort Pitt 250 years ago.

The Free Family Fishing Day at Fort Pitt Museum will take place in the Amphitheater along the Monongahela Wharf. While participants are not required to have a fishing license, all other fishing regulations still apply.

 

Image courtesy of PyroFest.
Image courtesy of PyroFest.

PyroFest at Cooper’s Lake: May 28-29

Now in its fifth year, PyroFest returns to Cooper’s Lake to unleash an epic Memorial Day weekend fireworks display. For the first time ever, the event will feature four highly renowned international pyrotechnic companies. On Saturday, May 28, the Chinese company Vulcan will present their action-packed show Road Trip Ramble, followed by Ricardo Caballer Ricasa. On Sunday, May 29, the Canadian company Sirius Pyrotechnics and Pyrotecnico, the largest fireworks company in America, will light up the sky.

PyroFest will also have a choreographed special effects production set to a live performance by the band Rusted Root. Other offerings include music on the main stage, food vendors and a Kids Zone.

Tickets for PyroFest are available for purchase at Showclix.

Honorable mentions:

Waves Party at Assemble: May 11

Penny Arcade at Arcade Comedy Theater: May 14

Zooperheroes Family Game Night at the Pittsburgh Zoo: May 15

Venture Outdoors Festival: May 21

3 Rivers Comicon at Century III Mall: May 21-22

 

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