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Business as Usual: Civic Hackathon 2021

Business as Usual

Our second "Pittsburgh Civic Hackathon: Strengthening Communities" is right around the corner on January 29th and there is still time to sign up.

We welcome hackathon organizers Kit Mueller of Rustbuilt and Ryan Gent of the Pittsburgh Technology Council to overview key details of this important community event.

During PGH Civic Hackathons, participants create solutions for civic good, forming teams to create useful prototypes that solve pressing needs, meet technical, creative and business mentors, and learn from domain experts. All you'll need is your keen interest, applicable skills, and a healthy dose of enthusiasm.







Good afternoon, everyone and Happy Friday. This is Audrey Russo, President and CEO of the Pittsburgh Technology Council, we have a great way to wrap up the week. I'm very excited about the two people that are joining us today. And I also want to give a shout out to Jonathan kersting, who joins us each and every day. And he is oversees all the roles in terms of storytelling and marketing for the tech Council. And I want to give a shout out to Huntington bank, as well as a wholly owned subsidiary of the tech council called 40 by 80, which focuses on workforce development and entrepreneurship. So we are have muted your mics just to make sure we don't hear noise in the background. And we've also allowed for chat, please participate, ask questions. We have two wonderful guys here with us today that have a lot of passion, about our city in our region. And one I like to refer to as an instigator and the other I like to refer to as a community builder and convener. So I those are words with love and and I'm going to introduce them in a second. Taylor.

Hi, they judge Gilbert Godfrey, then they change for Pittsburgh, judge for Pittsburgh, and it's being sent by Kitt Mueller and Ryan Gent. Ah, we'd like everyone to know that Pittsburgh civic hackathon is happening January 29, through the 31st. And all civic minded citizens are invited to join and help build solutions to important challenges in our cities. Why am I yelling about?

I don't know. I don't know. What is he yelling about? Thanks for being here. Thank you. Awesome. So with that kind of intro, I want to take this opportunity to introduce you to friends of the tech community, people that we are close to and that I mentioned earlier, care deeply about Pittsburgh and making sure that it is an incredible place. But they've done some interesting work. And I'm going to first just say both of their names. It's Ryan Gent and Kitt Mueller. And before we get started, like I do each and every day, I just want to know Who are you? Who are you? I'm going to start with Ryan. Hi, Ryan, thank you so much for your leadership in this. And tell us a little bit about Ryan. Well, first, which

one was I you said? instigator,

the other one unity builder. I later went to Kitt.

Oh, okay, good.

I think it's very interchangeable, though.

I mean, I am the membership director at the Pittsburgh Technology Council. And Andre, you still you were a little grumpy with five minutes ago. You okay,

well, I'm really good now. Not grumpy

at all. Um, and, yeah, that was the tech Council for about six years. And we are excited to be hosting our second hackathon.

Right. And it's been your leadership with us in terms of your role because of the work that you do in the community trying to connect people that you saw this opportunity for the Civic hackathon. I'm putting words in your mouth, because I know that's true.

Oh, thank you. Did you put that in an email? Yes,

I will. I'll put that in your performance review. And so now I'd like to pass the baton over to kit Mueller. If you don't know kit, he is just gonna tell you a little bit about his interesting journey and passion.

Hey, Andre. Thank you, Gilbert. Thanks very much for your great summation of this initiative. And Ryan, thanks for partnership in the tech Council. We're excited to be doing this. The second time, my background is I'm a gun Bender, a Pittsburgh born and raised guy, built some companies here and moved away and kind of got cut my teeth in startup community building. And now I've been back for close to a decade. And hopefully, like you said, instigating in the best possible way, you know, up into this most recent effort.

Right. And I hope you both know that I said that with a lot of love and respect Krishna are so really appreciate both of you coming together. So let's let's just talk about the, you know, talk about what led to the starting of the, you know, last year's hackathon who wants to take a stab at that.

Okay, I'll start with that. So, you know, it was the very early stages of COVID, probably early April, and we knew that we were probably going to be all at home for a while and we were looking at different things to do because As you know, Audrey, our whole thing is to get people together, bring people together. And that was about to change. So we had never done a hackathon at the Pittsburgh Technology Council. And kid has been doing them for I don't. It's like 62. Now, so you've been doing it for 40 years,

at least flirting?

Yeah. So I, you know, I got together with Kitt. And he had been doing civic hackathons for a while, which I really liked the idea of doing a civic hackathon. Because a lot of my passion lies in how do we make the community better? What what are the problems that we face? How can we make things you know, more inclusive for everyone? How can we make things work better as a community? So we put that last one together? Hit 134 weeks? A month? Yeah. Yeah. And we got some great God, about 60 to 70 people broken up into six teams. Right now we are sending out 110 registers. So I think that one of the big differences is last time was May 15. And the weather was really nice. And people wanted to get outside. Now, it's, you know, not so nice. And we're still on lockdown. So I think we're going to have a lot more engagement.

It's great. It's really great. So Kitt, do you want to add anything to that you want to talk a little bit about some of your experience and doing civic hackathons occur?

Yeah, I've, I've been lucky enough to to, with a rotating cast of characters, um, host a bunch of community events. And one of the more impactful things that I've been able to be a part of is hackathons at large, I've probably done up to about 100 of them around around the country, around the world. And so the Civic bite dynamic of it has more of a community impact and overall kind of altruistic, how can we you leverage technology to solve some of the ills in our communities?

Great. Yeah. And I actually I had a flashback, as we were talking, and I thought about the first startup weekend that I worked on together. Yeah, running around putting stuff in each other's cars realizing last minute, everything that we forgot and pulling it off. Quite a feeling. It's quite a feeling of camaraderie. And we'll talk about that in a little bit and relationships that lasts for a very long time. And that's why I'm excited that the both of you are doing this because you both care about about all those things, and more. So talk, let's just talk and practical purposes, just so everyone understands. What's a hackathon, because there probably are people who are thinking, the word hack, and they think of themselves as that they're not part of that ecosystem, they're not a coder, etc. So let's just sort of break that down and demystify it

a little bit. Sure. And there are multiple ways you can deploy a hackathon. And I think people do kind of get caught up on the nomenclature of it. For our purposes, this hackathon is a group of like minded people from a whole broad cross section of the tech community, both business design and development leaders are going to come together with ideas and share them with the community, and then assemble teams to build them over the period of a weekend for a little sprint. So they'll all the all the solutions will leverage technology. But as we'll share later on, most of the participants are not technical.

Okay, that's interesting. So people are so not technical. So that could that mean that if someone was working in a technology firm, but they're actually in human resources, that they might be able to provide value to this kind of configuration?

Definitely, yeah, because we break the teams up. And normally, you can find somebody to compliment the other skills. Some people come in with a team or armed you know, don't come in with a group of friends. But people come in, I would say, the majority kid, right come in as individuals, individuals, and that's what they really want to stress, intimidated, and think that you need to have a technical background to do this, because we will have technical people to match you up with on your team. And then throughout the week, we're going to have mentors that we're going to be breaking out of zoom. So if you run into certain issues you need help with, we will have that expertise for you.

Alright, so essentially, if I can paraphrase this and both of you can correct me if I'm not conveying this, in a clear way, if you have an idea, and many all of us have ideas, whether we are people who have software engineering backgrounds, or you know, experience in working in deep technology or engineering, that all of us have ideas, all of us have have ways that we think we can solve problems. So is that correct? So that really that kind of expertise of being close to customers having ideas is really what you look for. Yeah.

I mean, actually, it boils down to this, is there something that ticks you off in the community, or an opportunity that you're like, man, I have an idea to improve this. That would make my neighborhood my city my country better? Just technology. It doesn't have to be earth shattering. But there has to be a notion of impact.

Okay, great. So why don't we just wind back for a second from last year? This was one of my questions. And I see Julia popping asked this what what were some of the outcomes from last year? So we can get some examples because you have a couple of really good outcomes. Well, yeah,

we had, the winning team was kerb K, U, rb. And Audrey actually, you know, regarding outcomes you had just mentioned you connected them with,

so I just served as a reference for them. And I did as many connections as I could, but they actually got a contract, I think, in Texas, and they called me for reference. That's great.

That team won the last year. And they what they did was they basically used a map UI, to be able to in this new dynamic of whether you want to have dining in the streets, or use civic spaces, for kind of new modes, it allows both citizens and the people in government to kind of be able to collaborate, and for these new purposes, and kind of abide by the construct of permitting and regulations and make sure that they're citizen buying other ideas that came to fruition where resources for this new, you know, teach from home schools from home, what are the resources, safe resources for kids? And how can those be enriching activities? There were, how do we change this new last mile delivery? What you know, what does it mean now to to beyond sort of the the door dash, how do we get local goods that last mile to people's homes?

Right? And then, and the other thing that I really hear is that it's not even just the outcomes, but it's actually the journey of building relationships across the weekend, right?

Thank you for saying that. So my favorite part of any of these events are the Sunday night presentations, right? Um, because everybody, everybody is amazed at how much they got done. And, you know, you go into and you go into this kind of like, what, why I have a silly, half baked idea that actually got picked up and these people, I was able to stand up a team, and we were able to go test it in the market. And I met these mentors, and oh my gosh, that was the speaker. And by Sunday night, it's like, hey, it's the it's the best church experience across kind of nondenominational tournament that you can have.

It really is. And then even last year, your keynote speaker, remind everyone tell everyone who the keynote was.

My buddy Rafi, who was was a dubray. TC went on to be the CTO of the DMC and now he's at the Emerson collective. I mean, he's a global civic tech leader. We aren't announcing the speaker for this year yet, but it's equal caliber.

Right. And so when he says the Emerson collective that is Steve Jobs, his wife's philanthropy, just so you know, the level of engagement of this is really exciting. And he was wonderful. Yeah. So thank you. Thank you, kid for keeping us tethered to the world, not just to Pittsburgh. So Ryan, can you talk about the format, like walk us through the typical format for a hackathon and made and you can use last year as an example, but just sort of talk what people can expect over those few days.

Yeah, definitely. And we are going to pretty much follow the same format as last year. And one thing I want to stress, you know, we talked about having an idea at work, you don't have to have an idea to come to the table. We will be in week leading up to it. We're going to be reaching out to all the people have signed up to submit ideas by the Thursday night before the event kicks off that Friday night, we will do one minute pitches of those ideas. Kid last time we had about a dozen to 15 I would say you know, yeah. And then what we'll do is we'll vote to park depending on how many registrants we have, we will vote to pare them down. We like to have teams of about 60 people. So then we'll we'll go with the top, you know, top 10 teams that will then continue through the weekend working on the idea. So after we vote on the top teams at that point, people will pick the teams they want to go on, we're going to break them out to different zoom rooms, they can go meet with a different team leaders and decide what idea they want to work on throughout the weekend. Then Saturday, you know, people that's when they're really going to be getting into it and start formulating their ideas. We will have mentors throughout the day that you could sign up for different you know, you might have somebody specializes more in the business aspect of it, you might have a coder you want to talk to so people can sign up for different breakout sessions, if they're running into any problems that you know, they need to be talked through. And that will continue through Sunday morning. And then a lot of the mentoring on Sunday is based you know more on the presentation. How do we want to make this look Sunday evening. We're going to do a run through for you know, technical run through mid afternoon and then at four o'clock, we'll kick off with six minute presentations of all the teams and then our judges will convene and come out and announce the winners.

Wow, that's really exciting. It really is I, I say that it's about the journey. I personally think Brian because and as well kit, I think that the need for connection and opportunity to be reinvigorated and juiced by new ideas, the timing couldn't even be better. You know, not just, it's just everything that's happening in our world, and in our region in our city, that the opportunities for connections that transcend just zoom is really amazing. I know that you're going to be using zoom, I know that you've got mentors, talk about what that mentor means, so that people can understand that kit. Yeah.

So the whole notion, the idea is coming together as a community and having bigger outcomes that we can do on our own. So you know, from you know, coming to the table with an idea or just an interest to roll up your sleeves, and build something impactful over a weekend with like minded people is half of it. But the mentorship is really where we kind of like really take off and Saturday and Sunday, we have a host of people from our own community, business tech design leaders that just kind of help improve your idea, because you're coming to it having to AC does it does it pass the sniff test with being able to assemble a team to work on it, and then be going out into the real world? And seeing is this is this is my hypothesis, right? Is the thing we're building towards that goal? Correct. And we have some some notable experts from our own community helping kind of catalyze those ideas.

Well, if you use the example of the winner from last year, I was at curb and I think it's called Yes, if you if you think about them, they immediately got the support from the city's department of mobility that actually helped them do rapid prototyping with customer feedback. all weekend.

Yeah. And so those mentors are not only using their expertise, but their networks. So like, in any instance of that idea. Yeah, by the time that they were able to present on Sunday from an idea on Friday, they have social proof in the form of civic buy in from the leaders, the actual people, decision makers in our municipality, from business community, right from from retailers that said, Hey, that'd be important, as we go into this new dynamic of outdoor dining in space usage. And then they also had like, actual technical kind of validation from some of the technical help that we're gonna have that weekend.

I mean, and I think that's the piece that if you're listening here, and you're wondering about this, the your ability to get close to potential customers, and get feedback from people at something that you just don't get an experience very often to do in terms of having that iterative design experience. And And again, it's not, it's really all about the business model. And the idea in business means civic here, it doesn't have to be a thing that's, that's just focused on it and a business in a traditional way. So what are some of the you've heard right now you have how many people have already signed up?

We have 110.

Right now. 110. So there's still opportunity to sign up, right?

Yes. All the way up until that event? Yeah.

Okay. And so what's the link to that?

I think Lexi can put it in the comments. Okay.

Lexi, if you could put the link into the comments so that people know that there's opportunities for this. And if they have, you know, they can they can line up. So what do you imagine? How many hours of time is it committed? what's the what's

the length of the event? Is it about 50 to 54 hours in length? You'll be working most of the day on that. And depending upon the size of the challenge, and what you're actually building. You'll probably work a lot of that. It goes by Nick, I think the biggest feedback we always get is boy, we didn't have enough time and it felt way short. But it's it's Friday, we kick off around six, and then we'll finish around the same time on Sunday. And you'll you'll be you know, surprised at how much you get done. The people you interact with the community that's built. Because you know, that that actual community that you work with over the weekend lives beyond the actual weekend.

Right. And so what about for high school students and college students?

Really, um, the the high school students probably not not as much kit, I would say college students. Definitely we had a bunch of CMU hit Robert Morris students who came participate last time. And, you know, so definitely, that's that's a lot of college. Yeah, yeah. Yeah.

I mean, I can imagine that it's a great talent attraction piece.

Right? Audrey, it couldn't be more it is. I mean, you're literally seeing people express their talents, right, and, and show their grit of working on an idea that didn't exist on Friday night and make it something by Sunday and probably has legs beyond that.

Right. And so as a result, the attraction for talent is being is building these connections. Who else Who's different people that you can stay connected with for a long time? Right? So you have some sponsors now, right? You have some sponsors for this event. Ryan,

we do yes, B and y Mellon is the presenting sponsor and i q Inc is sponsoring as well, there are still opportunities available. And I think Lexi put something in the comments with Ashley speckles contact information. So there still are plenty of opportunities available. And this is really a great way. I mean, we get a lot of press around this, you know, both beforehand and afterwards with the winners. And you know, a lot of events are an hour long, and they happen and they're done. This is a long event, there's a lot of chances throughout the weekend to get exposure and remind people of your support of the event.

And then in the end there, are there any excuse me, are there any more opportunities for mentors? So I think

we're, we have a good day, I have people from kind of the whole cross section of tech and business. But we always more if you if you want to lend your hand and kind of help the next generation of people wanting to make a dent. Absolutely get in touch with us.

All right. And again, demystify that a little bit. Because it actually can be anyone, it doesn't need to be someone who's right. So it could be anyone who cares about the community wants to stay connected, get connected with new people who care about the issues that are tied to civic and just

want to give a couple hours of their time over the weekend.

Right. And so one last thing about civic define civic when it comes to this microphone.

So I'll take that I think anything that's going to improve us as citizens, right, so our our immediate neighborhoods like a, I have a I have a novel idea to leverage technology to improve something in my streets or broader food delivery for at risk neighborhoods or nationally. literacy, right, like it spans the globe, like how do we as the citizenry leverage technology to make improvements to our life as people in our communities?

Ryan, do you want to add anything to that?

No, I think you nailed it, that's perfect that you care about your feet and want to help it grow, make it make it as good as it can be, this is an event for you.

I want to add one thing, a lot of time, some civic hackathons actually provide data sets. And it gets a little hairy, because a lot of those have political kind of realities attached to them. So it we will be using open datasets. So you can kind of bring anything to the table, if let's say you're doing literacy, and you need, you know, that like a census data, we can use dummy data, or you can go source it, we just will not provide it that weekend, we will out However, for any teams that want to take the ideas beyond the weekend, we will help find resources for you.

Right and and talk about that post post civic, you know, post the Civic hackathon. Talk about how it lives on beyond that, besides the way that I talked about in terms of building relationships with so

that's a lot of it. So a lot, you know, one of the prizes is is us using our networks, our connections to get people connected to help them with the next steps, like you did with, you know, the comedy in Texas, right, we will help get the word out that they want to talk about the idea, find different people to connect them with that might help them grow the idea if they would like to do that. And kid you want to add anything to that.

Yeah, the whole the whole idea of the weekend is to is is to have people to express their ideas, roll up their sleeves, and kind of work together with with a bunch of like minded people. But those relationships and outcomes, we're gonna we're gonna help catalyze beyond Sunday night. So anything we can provide capacity or connections or context to we'll do it.

And so do you use list of people that just say, Hey, I'm available all weekend, in case you need me? I have expertise in X, Y and Z summit. We

we have a broad list of it, but we do scheduled them and the ask is two to three hours to lend your experience to the attendees? Yeah, well, we'll probably do last year, I

think we did about 11 to three on Saturday and about 10 to two on Sunday. And normally what a mentor would do is they would commit to a two hour period within that window. And then we will have a sign up sheet. So they will know whether they're needed for those full two hours, or whether they can just you know, have one or two meetings.

So if I'm interested over the weekend, and I say, Hey, I'm available to be helpful to you, if I want to peek in there are there ways to do that for the hackathon.

So not necessarily peek in but like we will schedule your windows of mentorship. So the event is is is all in. So if you're attending you're attending and you're rolling up your sleeves and in the explicit commitment is I'm going to avail my talents and energies and efforts from Friday night till Sunday from attendees. So it's not it's not a spectator sport. From a mentorship perspective. We only ask your time on on Saturday. If it's pretty Technical dynamic. And then Sunday's more of the presentation and pitching.

Adrienne, let me just add Sunday night is a spectator sport. That's what we want people to watch. So throughout the development that's really going to be the people who are getting their hands dirty all weekend, Sunday is for everybody to come see the work that's been done throughout the weekend. And you'll be amazed. I mean, kitten, I feel like we do nothing all weekend except to be available to people. And we're amazed at what people come up with. It's amazing.

It really is. It's amazing. First of all, I want to thank both of you for your leadership and doing this doing it again, doing it in less than a year, and just continuing to instill that kind of excitement and optimism in terms of problem solving. And against all odds when none of us can be together in a physical way. Because I remember early on last year, we thought how is this going to go in a virtual way, because it's so bound on the nuances of human exchange, that I you know, worried about it a little bit. But I gotta tell you, both of you what you did last year, I I'm more than blown away. And I know that this year, knowing what you know, and knowing what's going on in our world. I'm I'm really thrilled. So to go on,

say yeah, it's a lot of fun. And like you talked about earlier, the relationship building throughout the weekend is just great to see, I think we only had one team with an internal fight, right. So that's, that's pretty good. That's pretty good. And you're on our team really helps us with a lot of the technical things. And since last May, zoom has made a lot of improvements, I think that flows going to be even smoother than it was last time. That's true. So

is Gilbert godfried going to be around this weekend at all, um,

his rates are going up now. So I think that was a one off.

But we will have some really cool surprise guests, some amazing mentors, our judges data sets off the hook. We'll be announcing that over the coming weeks. So stay tuned.

So one thing kid really likes to emphasize you should not come to the table with an idea that you've been working on already.

Correct. Yeah, in the era of fairness, that the ideas pitched on Friday do not exist in the world right now, you've probably been thinking about it. And this is a great excuse for you to finally do something about it. Um, but but for for fairness. And we do check over the weekend to see that this doesn't exist already. But for fairness, the idea should be kind of nascent in its own right, that you pitch to the group. They vote whether that should be continued to the weekend. And then on Saturday, we do some validation on the back end to make sure it didn't exist.

Well, again, I can't thank you both for having the passion to do this work. And to work round the clock on a weekend, it is a lot they joked about just sitting around doing nothing. That's really far from the truth. But they are there to make sure that everything is not just flowing nicely. But if people need resources, and things that they can anticipate. They're both they're really making sure that those connections occur. I am looking forward to this. And you know, just being a spectator, it's always just, as I mentioned, just totally mind blowing, please register for the hackathon. If you have any questions, you can reach out to Ryan or Kitt directly, we'll put their emails in there, but they're easy to find. Both of them are really easy to find. And I know that we've been more than happy to really spend the time talking to you about this work. This work is community building. And my hat's off to the both of you. And thanks to be ny as well as to IQ Inc, for leaving in this work and making sure that they have what they need to make it possible. And I'll do

let me just say one more time. If you're sitting here thinking about getting involved, do not be intimidated. Don't think this isn't for me, I don't have the right skill set. If you care about your community, you have the right skill set, and we will pair you with people that can help you work through you will be additive, you will be helpful to a team. So don't don't feel like this is don't be intimidated. It's it's for everyone. That's right.

Yeah. And there's really no excuse to not be involved.

Now what else you gonna do? Look, it's girl girl at home.

It really is. So thank you both so much. Thank you for your energy and your spirit. Everyone reach out to these two if you can find them. And we are very, very excited about this hackathon work. So it's the weekend we're taking off. We're back on Monday, Jonathan, who's with us on Monday

got a great guest kicking off with us. We had AJ Harper, who's the president of the health care Council of Western Pennsylvania, talking about the impact on our medical systems to date and healthcare. Guests and we have coming back to us, you know, Kelly hunt from the SBA to talk about the new PPP stuff. So

now we've got a lot going on. I can't thank you all enough for joining us today. And thank you so much kit and Ryan for spearheading this and doing this work. Thanks, Audrey. Have a great day. weekend.

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