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Social media meets personal trainers in a Philly-funded fitness app

Malvern native Matt Madonna is getting only four hours of sleep a night -- when he’s lucky. That’s what happens when you start medical school at the same time your groundbreaking fitness app is preparing to launch.

The Northeastern University graduate majored in health sciences and worked in New York City as a personal trainer with Equinox. But Madonna discovered a big problem: most people couldn’t afford the service. On average, a starting session with a personal trainer can cost $110 to $130.

"It’s crazy," he says. "Who can afford that? There’s got to be a better alternative. The people who needed the training the most weren’t getting it, because they don’t have that [room] in their monthly budget."

Madonna, who rowed crew at Northeastern, began to research fitness and training apps, but couldn’t find anything that was easy-to-use and accessible to a wide range of sports and workout needs. That’s when he got the idea for Athlee, an app he plans to launch in Philadelphia next year.

"We’re like a fusion of Instagram and a really well laid out fitness map," he explains.

Athlee is a one-of-a-kind social network dedicated to fitness, where users (without ads or a monthly fee) can sign up and find other gym mavens or sports players who are sharing training programs. If you like someone’s training methods, goals or results, the app can provide "a standardized library of exercises," demonstrations and tutorials tailored to that workout, all vetted by health professionals.

The app’s platform allows for as much or as little gym-time sharing as you please.

"You can share your program if you want to," says Madonna. "If you don’t want to, it’s completely fine, you can be by yourself."

For those who choose to, the ability to share your progress with other users is a "double motivation," he adds, because you can get inspired by someone else’s workout, and then show your friends you’re doing it.  

An in-app store will let athletes access advice from a specific trainer. Madonna is currently signing up as many as ten trainers per week, each with at least six years professional experience. They’ll help with programs as diverse as weight loss, body-building or figure competitions, or sports from hockey to cross-country.

He designed the whole thing himself, spending countless hours mastering Photoshop on his own to create the platform. Then, something happened.

Seeking funders for his venture in late August, Madonna reached out to the author of rowing magazine story, a former teammate and alum of the University of Pennsylvania. Two days later, they sat down together, and Madonna got the dollars to move ahead with full development of the app -- an initial infusion of $50,000, with $20,000 more pending -- by the following week.   

Athlee will do select beta testing through the end of this year, and Madonna hopes to launch it in January 2015 (prime New Year’s resolution time). The date and location of the launch are TBA, but Madonna thinks Boathouse Row would be the perfect spot.

Writer: Alaina Mabaso
Source: Matt Madonna,
 Madonna Technologies LLC
 

MilkCrate, a Yelp for local sustainable living, launches on Indiegogo

Morgan Berman was living in West Philadelphia when she experienced what she calls her "first burst of sustainability consciousness," and began attempting to live a life that was aligned with her newfound values.

She joined a neighborhood food co-op, took a job as Grid magazine's director for community engagement, and slowly became more involved in the local sustainability scene.
 
"But there wasn't a central hub where I could go and understand what sustainability means," recalls Berman. "It didn't feel like anyone had quite created the tool that people need to answer their quick questions about [sustainable living]."
 
Berman's new app for Android and iOS, MilkCrate, aims to fill that void -- initially here in Philadelphia, and if the app takes off, nationally.
 
Described by its nine-person team as a digital hub for sustainability, MilkCrate currently exists as a database-style listings service -- not unlike Yelp -- with a collection of more than 1,600 Philly-area businesses that operate sustainably and promote economically responsible practices.

"Everything from fashion to food to furniture [to] energy," explains Berman in a video created for the app's current crowdfunding campaign. "Anything you could possibly want that fits into your local, sustainable lifestyle."   
  
At the moment, MilkCrate-approved businesses are organized in both listings and map layouts. But with the infusion of the $20,000 Berman hopes to raise through an Indiegogo campaign (launched on August 25), users will be able to write reviews, add news businesses, and search by keyword and neighborhood.      
 
Perks for campaign funders include MilkCrate T-shirts and tickets to the app's upcoming launch party. Click here to donate. 

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Morgan Berman, MilkCrate

Fairmount's Design Logic releases innovative cargo "fat" bike

In 2010, Lance Portnoff placed ninth among fifty contestants at the Motor Assisted Bike Death Race in Tuscon, Ariz., on a bicycle he designed and assembled himself in the basement of his Fairmount home. Shortly after, he earned a patent for the design -- dubbed "Da Bomb" -- and launched Design Logic Bikes.

The company makes heavy duty cargo bikes with built-in electric motors that travel up to 50 miles per hour (20 mph, legally). The frame includes a carrying rack that can hold up to 150 pounds, allowing the bike to haul anything from camping gear to humans over the back wheel. These are bikes built to do more than just get a person from place to place.

"The rear of the bike basically has a built-in rack," says Portnoff. "With most bikes you’d have to buy an accessory and bolt it in."

In mid-May, Design Logic will release a cargo bike, "Da Phat," with tires 4.8 inches thick. In addition to the built-in rack, the frame has a hitch that allows the Da Phat to move a small automobile trailer.

"There's a new trend in bikes within the last few years called a 'fat' bike with big fat tires," explains Portnoff. "A couple of manufacturers make bicycles with that size tires. We’re pretty much the first cargo fat bike."  

Design Logic plans to keep their operations lean (they outsource the machining). In addition to the new release, Portnoff is organizing an electric bike racing team. 

Source: Lance Portnoff, Design Logic
Writer: Dana Henry

Next month's Geek Awards will be ladies night

After the Philadelphia Geek Awards organizers finalized the nominees for next month's big bash at the Academy of Natural Sciences, something else had changed besides the categories for the second installment of what organizers have lovingly described as the Daytime Emmys version of the Webbys.
 
"It wasn't until after we finished going through nominations that we realized there were more women this year," says Tim Quirino, cofounder of Geekadelphia, the all-things-geeky blog and community that continues to grow. 
 
Make no mistake, this year's Geek Awards -- already sold out for Aug. 17 (but overflow tickets have just been released) - are indicative of Philadelphia's feminine firepower. No fewer than nine lady nominees dominate the event's 14 categories, which moved away from the "new" theme to include more static categories (like Indie Game Developer of the Year) that will have more staying power. 
 
Most notably, three women are up for Geek of the Year, including Tristin Hightower (Girl Geek Dinners), Gerri Trooskin (Franklin Institute) and Roz Duffy (TEDxPhilly).
 
Last year, only five women were represented individually among all the nominees. While the influx of women in the program might not have been entirely deliberate, it is clearly a product of Geekadelphia opening up the nomination process, receiving upward of 100 pages of nominations from across the region.
 
"Thanks to cool events like the Women in Tech conference and cool organizations like TechGirlz and Girl Develop It, I'm constantly hearing about the interesting things (local women in tech) are up to," says Geekadelphia cofounder Eric Smith. "The increase in nominations reflect them being passionate about making themselves heard."
 
Says Quirino: "There are more women doing things in the Philadelphia tech scene than before."

And next month, one of them will be called Geek of the Year.

Source: Eric Smith, Tim Quirino, Geekadelphia
Writer: Joe Petrucci

Educational strength in numbers: The School Collective connects teachers with good ideas, hiring

There's a lot of talk about technology and education, but most of the time, the conversation is about individual schools implementing technology. In the case of The School Collective, a social entrepreneurship startup based in Philadelphia, technology becomes a way to link and improve all schools at once.
 
Sebastian Stoddart, one of the co-founders, says "We originally came up with the idea at Oxford University. Alyson Goodner and I were both studying for our MBA. The education problem is bigger than just one issue. We identified an element of the education world where we can actually make a difference." 
 
The School Collective joins teachers across schools through a website where educators can share best practices through lesson plans, materials, and instant communication. Currently there are over 1,700 members sharing nearly 21,000 documents and over 36 thousand lesson plans.
 
Stoddart, who remains in the UK but visits town 3 to 4 times a year, says it was Goodner's enthusiasm and energy that drew him into the project. "She's incredibly passionate. It's her one focus and one mission. From my standpoint, it's a real chance to use innovation to improve education. It's an opportunity to reshape an existing model that isn't working."
 
Coming from one of the most venerated learning institutions in the world doesn't hurt. "One thing you get from Oxford is a hands on teaching style," says Stoddard. "You work directly with a tutor, and there are 2 to 3 other people in the room. The difference of that model to Philadelphia education is huge. Oxford is an incredible education, and it gives you a massive desire to give that education as well."
 
Goodner adds, "I am not British. I was born here in Philly, and ended up at Oxford, a place where people gather to talk about global change. Here in Philadelphia we get a fairly bad rap. People say, education reform here in Philly? Good luck with that. But there has been movement. There are amazing people doing reform work in Philly."
 
The School Collective, says Goodner, gathers revenue via a freemium model. Teachers sign up for free or pay $5 per month to access the full functionality of the site. Organizations can also subscribe to the site using a tiered model.
"The School Collective is built to give benefit to every user on the site," says Stoddard, who compares traditional teaching tools that are brought in by the principal, but offer no benefit to the teacher, "From the beginning we wanted this to be something teachers would want to be on."
 
An essential key to The School Collective's success is Goodner and Stoddart's professional development package, their hands on approach to teaching teachers. During a 10-hour workshop, The School Collective shows educators take the time to visit schools in person and explain exactly how to use the tools, resulting in a 98% acceptance rate.
 
With this level of success, expansion is on the agenda, although it would be difficult to replicate an Oxford-educated team. "We are looking to bring on a person full time similar to what I am doing, and a full time developer on Sebastian's side to build a team in Philadelphia," says Goodner, who plans on tapping into former Teach For America participants to find the right fit.
 
Currently, The School Collective serves a diverse roster of Philadelphia schools, including The William Penn Charter School, Stepping Stones, and The School District of Philadelphia. The plan is to expand to include parents and students, and to extend The School Collective's reach to neighboring states. 

Source: Alyson Goodner, Sebastian Stoddart, The School Collective
Writer: Sue Spolan

Crosstown tracking: The Philly Tech Week 2012 preview

Sure Old City is ground zero for the Philly tech scene, but Philly Tech Week 2012 organizer Christopher Wink has his eye on advancing technology citywide. Kicking off April 20 with Philly Startup Weekend, PTW 2012 is designed to reach a bigger audience with curated events organized by track. With over 60 items now on the calendar, and more to come, Wink says he wants PTW to reflect a broad, inclusive and impactful tech community.

"I have always been interested in digital access issues," says Wink, who is working with State Representative Rosita Youngblood on an event aimed at increasing computer literacy for seniors, as well as widening the circle to include neighborhood groups outside the city ring. Wink, who is also the co-founder of Technically Philly, is looking forward to the robotics expo, which aims to show middle and high school kids that technology can be both cool and practical.

The avalanche of events of last year's inaugural PTW, says Wink, was meant to rapidly raise awareness of the tech community. Feedback from 2011 led to curation of 2012 participants and creation of tracks for Entrepreneurship/Investment, Media/Transparency, Arts/Creative, Access/Policy and Design/Development. "Sixty to 70 events are too much to comprehend," says Wink. "The grouping of events makes it easier for Joe Entrepreneur." A close relative, by the way, to Joe Sixpack, organizer of Philly Beer Week and the inspiration for PTW.

That first weekend, beginning April 20, already packs a punch. In addition to Startup Weekend, which will take place at University of the Arts, the Women in Tech Summit meets all day Saturday, April 21, and on Sunday, April 22, Indy Hall sponsors a block party on North 3rd Street from 1 to 8 pm. You can also get a peek into how the Philadelphia Eagles choose draft picks, find out if your IP is leaking, and mingle with Switch Philly judges Josh Kopelman, Ellen Weber and Mayor Michael Nutter, who will choose one entrepreneur in the competition for a major prize package. The complete schedule can be found here.

Source: Christopher Wink, Philly Tech Week
Writer: Sue Spolan

Drexel engineers music, 3D technology innovations with separate Philly institutions

Drexel University looks at the entire region as an extension of its campus. Ideas flow like steam beneath Philadelphia's streets. Two professors in different departments are heading multidisciplinary teams that merge new technology with Philadelphia traditions. 
 
In collaboration with the Academy of Natural Sciences, the plan to print 3D dinosaurs has already gained national attention. In the area of music technology, Professor Youngmoo Kim is developing the first app to do real time annotation of Philadelphia Orchestra performances. The Drexel-generated iOS orchestra app will be the first of its kind in the world.
 
Paleontologist Ken Lacovara is in the process of reanimating dinosaurs. Before you jump to the obvious Jurassic Park conclusion, there are a lot of steps in between. Lacovara, a paleontologist, has teamed up with Dr. James Tangorra in Drexel's College of Engineering to scan and print out 3D dinosaur bones. 
 
Also on board is Drexel Mechanical Engineering prof Sorin Siegler, whose focus is biomechanics. "We don’t really know exactly how dinosaurs moved," says Lacovara, who wonders how a creature weighing 60 to 80 tons could move and trot. Not to mention lay an egg. 
 
With a birth canal opening at two and a half stories in the air, and an egg the size of a volleyball, Lacovara wonders how the massive dino would withstand the stress of squatting and getting up. With the help of his colleagues, creating 3D models and working out the biomechanics will answer literally tons of questions.
 
Over in Drexel's METLab, whch stands for Music, Entertainment and Technology, Youngmoo Kim takes a break from a robotics demonstration to talk about his collaboration with The Philadelphia Orchestra. It started a few years ago, when Kim made his students sit through a classical concert. "Those without classical training said, yeah, that was nice, but I didn't get it," recalls Kim. It was around the same time the iPhone came out, so he and students undertook a project to create an app that would tell listeners about the performance in real time. 
 
It was such a hit that Kim and students applied for and won the Knight Arts Challenge. While Kim cannot be specific about the date of the public rollout, he says it will be within the year. Perhaps the launch will coincide with the orchestra's 2012-2013 season opener this fall, but Kim remains mum.
 
Kim also says that not every concert will have an accompanying app, so concertgoers who find smartphone use distasteful can choose performances without the tech overlay.
 
"There used to be a brouhaha over supertitles at the opera," says Kim, who has dual training in music and engineering. "Ten to twenty years later no one cares. If you go to an opera now and there are no subtitles, something seems wrong. Likewise, 10 to 20 years from now, no one will care if someone uses a phone at the symphony."

Source: Ken Lacovara, Youngmoo Kim, Drexel University
Writer: Sue Spolan

New Moore College of Art & Design students to receive iPads in the fall

Incoming students get a lot of stuff when they report to campus at the beginning of each semester. At Moore College of Art & Design, new BFA students will get an iPad2 when they come to school in the fall.

The iPads will come pre-loaded with apps chosen to support visual art and design education at Moore, which is the first art and design college to partner with Apple to provide students with iPads in this manner, according to a school-issued news release.

"The iPad2 will be a pivotal learning tool in the new Foundation curriculum where the integration of digital media and tools will be taught and used in tandem with traditional drawing and design media," says academic dean Dona Lantz.

Source: Moore College
Writer: Joe Petrucci

State of Young Philly has never looked better

If you want to know how young Philly's doing, let me sum it up for you: smart and good looking. From the highest reaches of government right down to our youngest up and comers, there's never been a more attractive bunch of people in charge.

The second annual State of Young Philly, convened by the all-volunteer Young Involved Philadelphia for a two-week run, was a series of six events designed to engage, connect and represent citizens. Targeting community engagement, education, sustainability and the creative economy, State of Young Philly drew close to 1,000 young professionals and representatives from over 50 organizations in the city, according to organizers. From the first packed event at World Cafe Live on Oct. 4 to the standing-room only crowd at the finale at The Gershman Y, the crowd was diverse in age and background and alike in its forward-thinking approach.

Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philadelphia Board Chair, says, "When I first moved to Philadelphia just over a decade ago, I was initially struck by the negativity of the city. But the spirit in the discussions over the course of the past few weeks has been very different than that initial perception I got when I first moved here. Rather than focusing solely on what was in need of improvement, each of the discussions was as much about how to build on already existing innovation and assets the city has to offer."

Alain Joinville, Public Affairs Coordinator for the city's Department of Parks and Recreation and a Young Involved Philly board member, adds, "It was easier to get partnering organizations involved. The State of Young Philly series is the biggest and most audacious project our organization has undertaken in its 11-year history, and we did it pretty well last year, so we are seen as a credible organization in the eyes of the City's leaders and leading organizations."

Robertson-Kraft points to several initiatives that launched in the lead-up to this year's State of Young Philly: a local version of the online web portal Change By Us,a partnership with United Way to improve Philadelphia public education, entry into the Open Data Philly challenge, and social media hashtags #WhyILovePhilly and #PhillyArts.

But ultimately, the draw of State of Young Philly is the promise of doing good combined with a commitment to fun. Reports Robertson-Kraft, "Let’s just say that the after-party went into the late hours of the night. At all of our events, we strive to achieve that perfect balance of meaningful conversation and a good time."

It's a whole new take on a thousand points of light.

Source: Claire Robertson-Kraft, Young Involved Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Open Data Race lets you vote for data sets that are most fit for public consumption

Data collection and dissemination: how much fun is that? If you are participating in Philadelphia's Open Data Race, you might actually squeeze a good time out of otherwise flat statistics. Voting in the Open Data Race is open to the public until Oct. 27, and currently, you can make your opinion known on which of 24 data sets you would like to see made public.

"We hope to generate excitement around open data," says Deborah Boyer, project manager at Philadelphia-based Azavea. Nominations contributed by non-profit organizations were reviewed by OpenDataPhilly partners, namely Azavea, NPower Pennsylvania, The William Penn Foundation, and Technically Philly.

It's probably too early to judge, but right now the Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia's request for stats on reported bike thefts is atop the rankings with 55 votes, followed by Demographic Info for Individuals Accessing Shelter Services submitted by Back on My Feet with 50 votes. Other organizations represented in the voting ranks include the Committee of 70, The Urban Tree Connection and The Sustainable Business Network.

Boyer says, "Public participation has been a key feature of OpenDataPhilly and is also crucial to the Open Data Race. We encourage people to submit data sets for inclusion in OpenDataPhilly or nominate data they would like to see made available."

Boyer points to difficulties municipalities might have in identifying which data is most needed. "Through Open Data Race, non-profit organizations have the opportunity to let the city and OpenDataPhilly partners know what information they need to fulfill their missions."

Winners, to be announced on Friday, Oct. 28, will receive cash prizes. First place gets $2,000, second place gets $1,000, and third receives $500. At that point, the fun really begins, when OpenDataPhilly works with the city to unlock the requested sets and then hosts hack-a-thons to create applications that use the data.

Source: Deborah Boyer, Azavea/OpenDataPhilly
Writer: Sue Spolan

Crowdsourced education comes to Philly with Skillshare

What do you know? There's a new way to make money based on your particular set of skills and talents. It's called Skillshare. Launched in Philadelphia last month with national headquarters in New York City, Skillshare allows anyone to teach anything and get paid for it. Brendan Lowry has been in charge of launching the program in Philadelphia. "Every city is a university, all the restaurants and cafes are classrooms, and our neighbors are our greatest teachers," says Lowry, whose title is Special Operations.

Here's how it works: Say you are really good at knitting. Sure, you could sell your stuff on Etsy. But with Skillshare, you can also hold knitting class at a location of your choice. Set your own price per student, and get paid through PayPal. Skillshare deducts 15 percent of every ticket sold.

Skillshare, on a mission to democratize and redefine education, launched in New York in May of this year, and is now operating in Philadelphia and San Francisco, with hopes for setting up in cities across the US. Each city needs to be unlocked by popular vote. When the vote count surpasses 500, a team is created to get the word out. "We've targeted the tech community. It's one of the first industries we tapped into, but we don't want to fall exclusively in that category," says Lowry, who says right now there are over a hundred classes on offer in the Philadelphia area, ranging from The Art of the Cold Call to Beer 101. Teachers post credentials and a feedback process is designed to ensure a quality learning experience (full disclosure: I am teaching Communications for Startups on Sept. 20).

"Our marketing budget is literally zero dollars," says Lowry, who has done outreach through social media and word of mouth. There is also a newly created, limited time $1,000 scholarship fund which encourages more people to take classes in Philly and SF. Skillshare is set to launch next in Boston, Washington DC and New Orleans.

Source: Brendan Lowry, Skillshare
Writer: Sue Spolan

All geeked up: Inaugural Philadelphia Geek Awards gets nuts

The thing that surprised Eric Smith the most about the first annual Philadelphia Geek Awards wasn't the guy who accepted his honor in a fox head costume. It wasn't the sold out crowd of over 400 who packed the Academy of Natural Sciences auditorium last Friday night. It was the negative feedback from folks who were upset by who was left out. "It shows that people were invested and care about what we're doing," Smith reflected after a good night's sleep. "It was supposed to be something mostly for fun, but it got a lot more serious." In the two weeks leading up to the Awards, Smith says press coverage blew up, and tickets disappeared.

The Geek Awards, the brainchild of Smith, Tim Quirino and Michelangelo Ilagan, who make up the staff of Geekadelphia ("A Guide to Everything Geek in the City of Brotherly Love"), were by all measures a total success. Sponsored by a host of local organizations including The Academy of Natural Sciences, who provided the venue free of charge, along with Drink Philly and National Mechanics who donated food and beverages, the event celebrated dozens of the city's technological finest, with just under twenty categories, from Best New Blog (a tie between DrinkPhilly and Naked Philly; the latter wore the fox head) to Outstanding Achievement in Fashion & Lifestyle, which is not the first attribute that comes to mind in the geek world, but Philly happens to have some very hip and good looking techies. Cadence Wrist Watch Company, home of the 4-bit, 4:20 and Wrist Rocket models, won that title.

"It was always something Tim and I wanted to do," says Smith of the awards. "We have all these great awards in Philly, but nothing for geeks." Let's just say that PriceWaterhouseCoopers did not oversee the process. Smith and cohorts at Geekadelphia designed the ceremony and chose categories, nominees and winners (with a little help from friends like Alex Hillman of Indy Hall). Next year the Geek Awards will be even more inclusive and probably a lot more serious, with spots for scientists, web developers and programmers.

Following his moment in the spotlight and cheering crowds, Smith returns to his day job at the Philadelphia based Quirk Books, which turns out bestsellers including Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, as well as the aptly titled Geeky Dreamboats.

Source: Eric Smith, Philadelphia Geek Awards
Writer: Sue Spolan

South Philly resident grows composting collection business

Your scraps are Tim Bennett's gold mine. Bennett Compost offers urban dwellers the opportunity to recycle food waste without expensive equipment or outdoor space. Bennett began the business out of a personal need. "At the time, where I was living in South Philly, I wanted to compost, but I had no backyard." After dissatisfaction with home composting systems costing around $300, Bennett created a composting service that would benefit city homes and businesses at a fraction of the cost.

For a $15 monthly fee, residential customers receive a covered bucket, and Bennett's truck swings around once a week to empty and return the container. Commercial customers, including coffee shops, a florist and some restaurants, pay on a sliding scale depending on volume and frequency of pickup, but Bennett adds that the cost offsets commercial trash hauling fees, and in some cases commercial customers are able to save money on refuse.

Used food and some types of paper are sent to a composting facility in Delaware and then picked up for distribution to area community gardens. Customers can opt to receive up to 10 gallons of the finished product free of charge; beyond that, compost is available at a discounted price. You don't have to be a customer to buy compost. Five gallon buckets are available to the general public for $10, and will soon be sold at area retail locations including Essene Market and Green Aisle Grocery.

Current offices are based in South Philly at Bennett's home, with a North Philadelphia warehouse. Bennett was able to quit his day job at Temple University last summer to devote his career full time to compost. "We bootstrapped our way up. Now we are profitable enough that I am able to pay my own salary, and we have three part time employees." The business continues to grow, with 300 residential customers and 20 businesses distributed across the entire city.

Source: Tim Bennett, Bennett Compost
Writer: Sue Spolan

Philly science program going national

A partnership between the Franklin Institute and the Free Library of Philadelphia designed to grow young scientists is going national. LEAP into Science began as an offshoot of the library's afterschool homework help program. This year, 10 sites in urban centers nationwide will adopt LEAP, which encourages science and literacy learning among children and their families.

"We received National Science Foundation funding to pilot and develop the program," says Dale McCreedy, Director of Gender and Family Learning Programs at the Franklin Institute. LEAP has used the four year, $1.1 million grant for programs in 33 library branches across the city, taking advantage of the library's vast trove of science books for kids in kindergarten through fourth grade.

The two originating institutions, which sit across the Parkway from one another, have overlapping missions, says McCreedy, in trying to reach multiple age levels and supporting lifelong learning, combining the library's resources with the Franklin Institute's strengths in informal science education.

While the original model was set up in a library, nationally, the program may look different, according to McCreedy, with workshops and enrichment sessions held in museums and schools in addition to libraries. A recent expansion conference held in Philadelphia brought together stakeholders from across the country to consider curriculum and goals as they design and launch their own programs. The national expansion program received 30 applications for the 10 available spots in the first phase of the NSF funded initiative.

LEAP into Science now employs around 54 people in Philadelphia, with a dozen teens who serve as leadership assistants, some of whom have moved up the ranks to become associate leaders.

This is the third locally launched program out of the Franklin Institute that's gone nationwide, says McCreedy, who cites two initiatives in collaboration with the Girl Scouts that have expanded to 90 sites around the country.

Source: Dale McCreedy, Franklin Institute
Writer: Sue Spolan

New Campus Philly program looks to extend the summer job to full-time

A college internship can be the first step to landing a full time job. Tonight, Campus Philly launches My Philly Summer, a new program to convert the city's summer talent into full time employees. The initiative is a kind of career alchemy that mixes equal parts fun and networking in the city's coolest neighborhoods.

Deborah Diamond, President of Campus Philly, says, "It seemed like a lost opportunity to have interns living and working here and no one to show them all the fun." My Philly Summer provides a place to make great contacts and even land a full time job.

My Philly Summer 2011 is a trio of events designed to thrill and captivate the newest members of the city's workforce. WHYY, Deloitte, Independence Blue Cross, TD Bank, the Mayor's Office and NFL Films are supplying a total of 125 interns.

Tonight, June 28, My Philly Summer kicks off at North Bowl Lounge & Lanes on Second Street in Northern Liberties. In attendance will be local luminaries to share their career experiences. The roster includes Tayyib Smith, publisher of two.one.five magazine and founder of ad agency Little Giant Media; Alex Hillman, co-founder of Indy Hall and an accomplished developer behind the blog Dangerously Awesome; and Alan Joinville from the professional network Young Involved Philadelphia.

The event runs from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., and Campus Philly is running a free shuttle starting at 5 from 15th and JFK Boulevard. Guests are required to RSVP. Free food and soft drinks will be on offer.

In July, My Philly Summer goes south to The Navy Yard for a tour and party featuring special guest Mayor Michael Nutter, and in August, party people take over Eastern State Penitentiary for a tour and talk about the city's arts and culture.

The only similar program in the United States is in Memphis, says Diamond, where young professionals are treated to The Summer Experience. Campus Philly was in touch with that program's organizers to shape Philadelphia's series.

Funding for My Philly Summer 2011 comes from Campus Philly's general operating budget, which is supported by its 26 college partners and the City of Philadelphia. The events are completely free for both interns and employers.

Source: Deborah Diamond, My Campus Philly
Writer: Sue Spolan


Azavea hiring to keep up with growth, new projects in Philly and Toronto

Robert Cheetham, founder and CEO of Philadelphia-based geospatial analysis firm Azavea, is all about good growth. "We hire conservatively. We're not a venture capital funded company. We grow based on cash flow and the amount of business coming in, so there's not much margin for error."

His company is currently in the process of building staff. Some positions have recently been filled, while others are in the resume review stage, and still other positions are yet to be posted.

Azavea has built a strong reputation for merging geographic data with web and mobile software. Its high profile projects include the recently released PhillyTreeMap, which can easily be adapted to any city in the world and was funded by a research and development grant from the USDA; PhillyStormWater, to assist the Philadelphia Water Department's Green Stormwater Management Initiative, and a yet to be launched open source redistricting tool for implementation anywhere in America.

Azavea has just added several administrative and marketing assistants, a Graphic Information System (GIS) Analyst and a web designer. "We have grown every year we've been around," reflects Cheetham. "The last 2 years were relatively slow. Last year was 6 to 7 percent growth. The year before, nine percent. This year we're on track to grow 20 percent."

The secret of Azavea's growth is a mix of spending on business development and marketing through lean times, along with the lucky decision to hire a dedicated grant proposal writer just as the recession began. "We didn't necessarily anticipate the recession," says Cheetham, expanding Azavea nationally as well as internationally, with a recent job for the City of Toronto. "We get a fair amount of federal R&D work," says Cheetham, and while that's not the most profitable sector of the business, it's good for cash flow and pays for research that lays the groundwork for applications that can be adapted to any city or region in the world.

Azavea is always looking for great software engineers, a job sector that has remained fairly recession proof. In comparison, administrative job listings yield hundreds of resumes, and as a result, Azavea has developed a tool to select applicants. "We have crafted a questionnaire that requires job seekers to go to our website and look at the projects we do," says Cheetham.

Those who make it to the interview round have a much better take on Azavea's work and environment, and are able to explain exactly why Azavea is the right fit. It's almost like a college application, says Cheetham, who adds that he asks would-be employees where they heard about the job opening, allowing Azavea target the most effective places to advertise. Maybe there's a future app: Azavea Management Map?

Source: Robert Cheetham, Azavea
Writer: Sue Spolan

A mobile app brings the dead to life at West Laurel Hill Cemetery

Eternity just got a little longer and a lot more powerful, thanks to a new Android app. West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd has launched an interactive cemetery guide designed to run on the Samsung Galaxy tablet. It's a pilot program designed by WebCemeteries, and the first of its kind in the country. West Laurel Hill and its cross-river predecessor Laurel Hill have always been ahead of the times. Back in the 1800s, founder John Jay Smith envisioned a rural burial ground, away from the city. Before Laurel Hill, the only option for burial was in a churchyard. In 1836 and in 1869, Smith built havens for the heavenly in Laurel Hill and West Laurel Hill, creating verdant spaces that attracted families out for a Sunday picnic. There was even a train that stopped directly at West Laurel Hill for just such visits.

The idea of creating a non-denominational park setting for the dead caught on like wildfire in the 19th century. And then cemeteries pretty much remained the same. The great majority of memorial parks still do business on paper. West Laurel Hill has broken new ground in other ways, creating a scattering garden for loved ones' ashes, a green burial section, and a soon to be opened Jewish section. "We're proud of the fact that West Laurel Hill embraces new trends," says Deborah Cassidy, the cemetery's Marketing Manager. Working with WebCemeteries of Virginville, Berks County, on the mobile app, visitors can access photos, video, text and other information graveside. There is a built in GPS to keep you on track. Additionally, says Cassidy, the app will increase efficiency internally, allowing the office to go paperless.

There are a lot of famous Philadelphians buried at West Laurel Hill. So far, says Cassidy, about 25 of the cemetery's permanent residents are featured on the app. Videos were produced by Gillian Hurt of GH Video Communications, a Bala Cynwyd based production company. Preview some of Hurt's West Laurel Hill videos on architect Horace Trumbauer, hat magnate John B. Stetson, and Dr. John Thompson Dorrance of Campbell's Soup.

For now, visitors to the cemetery can check out one of six tablets running the app; Cassidy says plans are underway to release the smartphone tour as a paid app to the general public in the next six months.

Source: Deborah Cassidy, West Laurel Hill Cemetery
Writer: Sue Spolan

FLYING BYTES: SEPTA's TransitView, MAC founder raises $75M, and Phila. Printworks strikes chord

Flying Bytes is a recurring roundup of innovation and quick updates on the people and companies we're covering:

SEPTA launches TransitView

Back in January, we reported that SEPTA was weeks away from launching a real-time, system wide tracking program. The future is finally here. Like SEPTA's TrainView for regional rail, the new TransitView provides live updates on the whereabouts of buses and trolleys throughout the city. Also launched: SMS Transit Schedule Information, allowing customers to receive a text with the next four scheduled trips, and Schedules to Go, a mobile website function that provides information on the next ten scheduled trips.

Shah closes $72 million IPO with Universal Business Payment Solutions

Following a hot tip, we learned that Bipin Shah, creator of the MAC, was seeking $72 million for payments startup Universal Business Payment Solutions. On May 13, UPBS (NASDAQ: UBPSU) got its money. According to Shah's partner Peter Davidson, "we closed on 12 million shares at $6.00 per share. The underwriters have a 45 day option to cover any over-allotments, which they have not exercised to date." Investors include hedge fund magnate J. Kyle Bass, who purchased about 800,000 shares.

Philadelphia Printworks up, running, finding its market

The lovely ladies at the helm of Philadelphia Printworks are going full speed with their new T-shirt business. Co-founder April Pugh reports that most of PPW's customer base has come from custom work, particularly from local indie rock artists. PPW loves its rockers right back and offers a band discount. Pugh says she and partner Ruth Paloma Rivera-Perez are now seeking partnerships with retail outlets and will be selling at upcoming summer festivals.

Specticast expands with EuroArts partnership
Digital entertainment distribution company Specticast continues to widen its reach. The company, which we originally profiled back in April, announced an exclusive partnership with EuroArts, bringing live and pre-recorded events from Berlin's Philharmonie, The Sheldonian Theater at Oxford University, and Madrid's Teatro Real, according to Mark Rupp, SpectiCast president.

Source: Andrew Busch, SEPTA; Peter Davidson, UBPS; April Pugh, PPW; Mark Rupp, Specticast
Writer: Sue Spolan

Sweet sound: Pew awards nearly $700K to local music groups

Money makes music sound so much sweeter. The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage has awarded 10 area recipients a total of $664,500 through the 2011 Philadelphia Music Project.

This year, Pew chose a diverse roster of performers with a common theme of creating connections. "You have everything from spirituals, to Irish music, to Indian music, to spectral music, which is one of the more hermetic forms of composition," says Paula Marincola, Executive Director for The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. "These projects will reach so many different kinds of audiences. It is an expression of the strength of the Philadelphia music scene."

The Crossing, a South Philadelphia choir, will use its $70,000 grant to fund The Gulf (between you and me), for which three composers write choral works based on the poetry of French-American writer Pierre Joris, accompanied by ambient sound gathered at the Gulf of Mexico. Astral Artists, a 2009 PMP recipient, got a $70,000 award this time around for Spiritual Voyages, a project that showcases the work of African American composers Alvin Singleton, David Sanford, and Evelyn Curenton. Tracy Segal, Development Director for Astral Artists, says that getting the grant was a rigorous process that began in the fall of last year. "It's a very rewarding grant, and a lot of work to put the proposal together," says Segal, who cites new guidelines rolled out this year.

The Spoken Hand Percussion Orchestra gets a Pew nod for its collaboration with the vocal group Philip Hamilton's Voices at The Painted Bride Art Center. The drum ensemble and chorus will use its $70,000 grant to create four public performances along with a residency at Philadelphia's Creative and Performing Arts High School.

The newly renovated Rodin Museum will host a performance of work from French composers Tristan Murail and Philippe Hurel, who use Rodin's sculptures as inspiration for their spectral music. The actual grantee is The Philadelphia Museum of Art, where audiences will preview the compositions during its weekly Art After 5 series.

Other recipients include Sruti, the India Music and Dance Society, The Philadelphia Ceili Group, which performs traditional Irish music, and Bobby Zankel's 16 member jazz orchestra Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, featuring the work of Muhal Richard Abrams.

Source: Paula Marincola, Pew Center for Arts & Heritage; Tracy Segal, Astral Artists
Writer: Sue Spolan


Academy of Natural Sciences and Drexel announce historic partnership

Sixteen tons of dinosaur bones. Let's start in a lab somewhere in the vast reaches of the Academy of Natural Sciences. Drexel University paleontology professor Kenneth Lacovara has been using the Academy's research facilities for over a decade.

The Academy of Natural Sciences and Drexel University have announced that they are joining forces. Pending approval of both boards, the Parkway stalwart will henceforth be known as The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University.

Drexel will take over management of the Academy's $61 million endowment. It is an innovative strategy that could set a standard for institutional partnerships nationwide, says Gary Steuer, head of Arts, Culture and Creative Economy for the City of Philadelphia. Compared to its West Philadelphia neighbor Penn, Drexel has not had signature cultural facilities, adds Steuer.

In what Lacovara terms a win all around, leveraging scientific assets at both institutions, students and faculty at Drexel will have access to one of the greatest science collections, rated top-10 worldwide, and the museum will have access to Drexel's growing Media Arts and Design school to enhance exhibit design. Lacovara points to grad student Evan Boucher who digitally reconstructed and animated a 65 million year-old crocodile whose bones were discovered right across the Delaware in Sewell, N.J.

The Academy is "much more than a place for school trips," says Steuer, who views the Drexel/ANSP partnership as marrying a 19th century museum with forward thinking technological creativity.

Source: Ken Lacovara, PhD, Drexel University; Gary Steuer, City of Philadelphia
Writer: Sue Spolan

Fairmount CDC prepares for Spring Arts Crawl with call for entries, poster contest

Just blocks from one of the premier art museums in the world lies North Philadelphia's Fairmount neighborhood. But once a year, Fairmount is more than just Art Museum-adjacent, bringing all the neighborhood's best artists out of the woodwork and into the frame for the Fairmount Arts Crawl. Started seven years ago by neighborhood art activists, the Fairmount Arts Crawl brings local artists and their works to various neighborhood businesses and meeting places every spring. With the event just six months away, Fairmount CDC officials, who have since been handed control of the event, begin preparations this week, issuing a request for proposals to any and all local artists interested in a neighborhood exhibition.

"This year, we are really trying to cast our net wider this year," says Fairmount CDC Executive Director Rebecca Johnson. "We hope this will give artists another venue, another avenue to expose their artwork to the public."

For the local homeowners in the neighborhood, CDC officials have created a poster contest to bring in revenue and create a seminal event poster to capture a quintessential event in their community. CDC officials hope the poster will be a key advertising feature, a great souvenir and a way to raise revenue. Interested artists should send work here.

"This artist from the community created a famous 'Doors of Fairmount' poster three years ago and people are still really interested," says Johnson. "People who live in the neighborhood want to have a piece of art that reflects their neighborhood so we wanted to create an official arts crawl poster as a keepsake."

Source: Rebecca Johnson, Fairmount CDC
Writer: John Steele




Interactive mapping platform launched to connect Philadelphians to their local communities

It's one of life's great mysteries: you can travel to a thousand cities and eat at a hundred fancy restaurants and drink a dozen craft beers at each of the bars along the way. But a meal never tastes as good as one at your favorite neighborhood haunt. And according to Philadelphia's sustainability leaders, this phenomenon is not just good for your appetite, it can be good for your neighborhood and your city as well.

Based on a concept created by the William Penn Foundation, partners from the Sustainable Business Network, Azavea and NPower created Common Space, a new mapping platform that creates a network of neighborhood establishments within a certain walkable, bikeable or busable distance to help residents support local business.

"The really cool thing is, I can map my friend's common space as well as my own," says SBN Executive Director Leanne Krueger-Braneky. "So if I am leaving from my office in Center City and meeting my husband who is coming from our house in West Philadelphia, he could say he is going to bike for 15 minutes and I could say I was going to walk for 20 minutes and Common Space will map the area where we would be able to meet up and map local culture events and businesses in that field."

Partnering with tastemakers like UWISHUNU and Yelp, Common Space shows you the best spots in your transit area, allowing you the most sustainable way possible to hit your next favorite haunt. After their trial run, organizers hope to partner with citywide festivals and cultural events like LiveArts and Philly Beer Week.

"Sustainability was one of the values William Penn outlined, which is why they wanted to partner with us," Krueger-Braneky says. "Because the application does encourage walking, biking, and public transit, it's a way of showing what's going on in the city while encouraging alternative transit."

Source: Leanne Krueger-Braneky, SBN
Writer: John Steele





Knight Arts Challenge offers $9M over three year for next great urban artistic movement in Philly

From the LOVE statue to the Mural Arts Program to Market Street's massive Clothespin, Philadelphia has its share of big, urban art projects. But there is more to creating the next big movement in urban arts than making the largest painting or sculpture. So the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation launched the Knight Arts Challenge, a search looking for urban projects to change the artistic landscape of American cities for the better. Started in Miami, Knight Arts brings it's challenge to Philadelphia this fall.

"We are coming to Philadelphia and it would be presumptuous of us to say that we know just what you need in the arts," says Knight Arts VP Dennis Scholl. "So instead of saying that, we're saying we don't know what Philadelphia's next art idea is and we need you to tell us. It's not about large institutions only getting grants, people who have been in the arts forever only getting grants. It's open to everybody in the community."

After three successful years in Miami, the Knight Arts Challenge has spawned poetry collectives and arts education centers and jazz festivals. Philadelphia's challenge, a three-year, $9 million initiative, will provide new funding for established arts institutions, independent artists, businesses, service organizations and anyone else with a great idea and a plan to execute it. The challenge kicks off October 5 with a cocktail reception, where interested artists can find out how they can contribute to Philadelphia's artistic future.

"Philadelphia has two important things going for it: it has incredible, world-class cultural assets," says Scholl. "But in addition to that, Philadelphia has an incredibly hot, steadily rising art scene, with collectives and up-and-coming performance arts groups. And that is really why we were drawn to Philadelphia, because it's kinda happening, frankly."

Source: Dennis Scholl, Knight Arts
Writer: John Steele
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