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A group of beer-loving mechanical engineers at Bresslergroup automate the home-brewing process

Three craft-beer enthusiasts who work for Bresslergroup, a local product design consultancy, have developed a consumer home-brewing appliance that may one day turn the growing home-brewing industry on its head. The Bresslergroup Brewery, as the team calls its new venture, has created an Arduino-powered automated system that brews computer-assisted beer.

The idea for the appliance was the result of an informal conversation between a small group of employees, all of them home-brewing hobbyists. "One of our partners thought, 'Hey, it'd be pretty cool if we could do this here,'" recalls Todd Sack, a Bresslergroup product design engineer. "Sort of leverage the expertise and talent we have at Bresslergroup to take [home brewing] to the next level.'"
 
And that is exactly what they did.
 
The team's "yearlong quest to innovate … and automate the typical home brew process" -- as it's explained in a company blog post -- has resulted in a setup that still requires a decent level of computer literacy to operate. Should the kit ever make its way to market, however, it would likely include a kettle, a heating element and a thermocouple, as well as an Arduino-operated control box with a user-friendly interface, and an app that could be controlled from a laptop or mobile device. The product would probably come with a retail price-point in the $500 to $600 range. (Similar commercially available units capable of brewing beer are generally priced in the $1,200 to $2,000 range.)
  
As part of this year's upcoming Philly Tech Week, a presentation of the automated system, complete with a beer tasting, will take place at the Bresslergroup offices (6 - 8 p.m. April 9). Reserve your seat here.

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Todd Sack, Bresslergroup



Workshop PHL, a lo-fi maker space, comes to Fishtown

Fishtown will soon be home to a new hands-on arts-and-crafts school known as Workshop PHL.
 
Its founder, Delaware County native Kelly Malone, describes Workshop as a lo-fi, DIY interpretation of a maker facility. It will be a place where affordable classes are treated as laid-back social affairs, and where local creatives will teach everything from simple sewing and cocktail-making to photography and jewelry-making.     
 
According to Malone, the mostly one-night courses offered at Workshop will include "all the popular ones," such as beer brewing and screenprinting. A number of more eclectic offerings are also in the works, including a three-and-a-half-hour "Sewing for Dudes" class and a two-hour course on building tiny glass jar terrariums.
 
The Workshop concept was actually born in Malone's former home of San Francisco, where she opened Workshop SF with fellow maker David Knight in late 2009. Last December, Malone returned to Philly to care for her parents.

"I needed a job and I didn't want to go get a normal one," she says. "So, I decided to open another location here."
 
A decidedly low level of commitment and a co-ed environment are both big parts of the Workshop ethos. According to Malone, throughout her childhood "everybody in my family made stuff, but no one really did it together. The men were in the garage or out in the shed, and the women were in the sewing room."
 
Workshop PHL is currently holding a two-week preview (through March 15) and will open officially on April 1.

"You can just go in and have a good time," explains Malone, "and see if you like it before you really dive in."

Writer: Dan Eldridge
Source: Source: Kelly Malone, Workshop PHL

 

Need to charge your phone? A local company has your back

There are few things worse than watching the battery on your smart phone slowly drain towards zero at the worst possible moment. Fortunately, an innovative local company is hoping to lend a hand.

One of the many vendors debuting products at the recent GreenBuild International Expo was Plymouth Meeting-based CarrierClass Green Infrastructure (CCGI), founded by Jim Innes and Ian Jones in 2008. CCGI designs, sells and installs solar electric, solar thermal and custom off-grid solar power products for commercial and residential customers. 

CCGI's latest solar-powered product addresses a mounting problem for those of us who rely heavily on our mobile devices -- their tedency to lose power at inopportune times. 

Though other public mobile device charging stations are already available, CCGI’s ConnecTable Solar Charging Stations offer the distinct advantage of using green energy to repower devices. In addition to the sustainable advantages offered by their use of solar energy, ConnecTable Solar Charging Stations provide unique security advantages over other charging stations. As a fully off-grid system, ConnecTables continue to provide power during extended electric outages and natural disasters.

ConnecTable Solar Charging Stations are available for commercial and residential use in café, picnic and deck table forms, designed to accommodate a range of table design aesthetics, surface materials and site designs. They are ideal for universities, city parks, outdoor malls, sports complexes, mixed-use developments and theme parks. 

Qualifying organizations may be eligible for low-interest financing of the tables through Pennsylvania's Sustainable Energy Fund, founded during electric deregulation proceedings to promote, research and invest in clean and renewable energy technologies. 

ConnecTables also qualify for the 30 percent federal business energy investment tax credit offered to businesses that install solar; and colleges may use designated green funds to purchase tables.

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Paige Wolf, Certified B Corp.

Inventing the Future: Creative Café @ Replica, first-ever print shop/cafe opens in University City

Believe it or not, until December 2, there was no one-stop shop for caffeine and creatives—no Kinko’s/Starbucks joint venture. Keith Leaphart, the CEO who reimagined the graphic design firm Replica Creative at a time when many thought print was a dying business, saw this as an obvious opportunity. 

"I’m proud that Philadelphia is the birthplace of this concept,” says Leaphart. "The Creative Café @ Replica allows us to do what we love to do best, and that is provide great services, while meeting and greeting people. And what better way to do that than over coffee?”

The Creative Café @ Replica prints marketing materials, wedding invitations and custom wall graphics while serving up comfort food from DiBruno Brothers and coffee from Counter Culture. Leaphart hopes that the cafe/lounge/print shop hybrid will be more than the sum of its parts; its location at University City Science Center should be a huge asset.

"So much is happening in University City," he says. "The creative economy is truly thriving; and University City is one of the best places to be, to foster and grow original concepts. When we found this space in the Science Center, it was love at first sight…I was excited at the opportunity to launch the concept in the heart of the innovation zone."

Though two different groups of employees were hired to staff Creative Café (graphic designers and baristas), Leaphart looked for the same basic qualities when hiring

"Across the board, we like intelligent, energetic, creative types who understand that our corporate philosophy is ‘Grow or Go!’" he explains. 

The Creative Cafe @ Replica is located at 3711 Market Street; to learn more, visit replicacreative.com and follow @designprintcafe on Twitter. 

Writer: Nicole Woods
Source: Keith Leaphart, Creative Café @ Replica 

Recycled Artists in Residency, a program for innovators in creative reuse, officially launches

After spending two years as a pilot creative reuse project, Recycled Artist In Residency (RAIR) is officially launching. The program provides local artists with 1,000 square feet of studio space, private offices, welding and woodworking equipment, and a daily supply of tens of thousands of tons of post-consumer construction materials. The organization is currently accepting applications from individuals and collaborative groups.
 
RAIR was founded by Fern Gookin while she was a grad student in Philadelphia University's Masters of Sustainable Design program. She hoped to bring attention to sustainability issues through art and design. Gookin partnered with Billy Dufall, a local artist whose reuse projects include racing "toilet tricycles" and furniture made from building insulation. 
 
The program is hosted by Revolution Recovery, a construction waste recycling plant located in the Northeast; they donate the space and raw supplies. The time spent in the pilot stage gave RAIR the chance to fine tune the partnership and develop safety protocols.
 
"It's nontraditional to have artists working in a very busy operational facility," says Gookin. "We have to be aware that we're guests in the house."
 
RAIR has two tracks: the Standard Track is a one-to-four month residency, while the Biggie-Shorty asks the artist to build a "big project" in one to two weeks and then return the materials to the recycling stream. Artists document their process online.  
 
"It gives the artists the ability to experiment and work with materials at a different scale than they might be used to," explains Gookin. "It's less about making a piece of work that can be crated and shipped -- it's letting the creativity be the focus."
 
In its first year, RAIR will accept anywhere from three to eight local artists. They encourage artists and designers who are interested in reuse to apply regardless of discipline.
 
Source: Fern Gookin, Recycled Artist In Residency
Writer: Dana Henry

Public Workshop completing construction on Philly's first GreenBuild Legacy Project

The Public Workshop is finishing construction on Philly's first GreenBuild Legacy Project. In the coming years, this play structure, located in Smith Memorial Playground and Playhouse, is expected to engage hundreds of thousands of local users.

The concept was selected by Delaware Valley Green Building Council. This November, they are hosting the international GreenBuild Expo in partnership with the City of Philadelphia. Previous legacy projects in other cities have largely focused on urban agriculture.

Alex Gilliam, founder of Public Workshop, announced plans for the project back in March. Since then, the organization's "Building Heroes" -- young adult and teenage project leaders -- have created an "adventure playground" using salvaged wood and fallen trees.

"We got excited about the potential of leaving a lasting project at Smith playground, but also engaging youth," says Fern Gookin, director of sustainability at Revolution Recovery and chair of the Legacy Project Committee.

The group's work transforms the natural landscape through designated play areas -- "The Jungle" has bendable beams that can be woven into caves, tunnels and huts; "The Forest" offers reclaimed materials for building temporary structures; and "The Whirlpool" is a shifting deck wrapped around a large tree, begging the user to look up at the canopy.

During the design-build process, the Public Workshop engaged local community groups and citywide organizations, including Urban Blazers and Mural Arts. Final workdays and upcoming Legacy Project events are open to the public.

"During the GreenBuild Expo, the spotlight on a national and international level will be on Philadelphia," says Gookin. "The Legacy Project will live on after the conference packs up and moves away."

Source: Fern Gookin, Legacy Project Comittee; Alex Gilliam, Public Workshop
Writer: Dana Henry
 

Inventing the Future: EEB Hub offers guidance in wake of new Energy Benchmarking Law

Imagine knowing how much energy a apartment consumed before you signed the lease. Thanks to the recent enactment of the Building Energy Benchmarking Law -- an energy-use disclosure act -- and the expertise of the Energy Efficiency in Buildings (EEB) Hub, the environmental performance of buildings will soon be public information.

People who own buildings with over 50,000 square feet of space are now required to report property stats, including annual energy and water use, through the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's online Portfolio Manager. (The deadline for compliance is October 31, 2013). With help from EEB Hub, those numbers will be analyzed to determine a building's energy efficiency rating. By publishing the results in an open, searchable database, the city hopes to spark a ripple of efficiency improvements.

Energy benchmarking is a new strategy but it's already changing cities across the country. In New York, for example, buildings reduced consumption by 18 to 31 percent after the first year of implementation.

"You can't manage what you don't measure," says Laurie Actman, deputy director of the EEB Hub. "This provides a measurement tool. Hopefully, there will be tenants who seek out more efficient buildings and that will drive more owners to invest in energy efficiency."

Starting August 14, EEB Hub will offer five monthly sessions on the benchmarking process, explaining strategies and resources for increasing building performance. The series compliments a two day "re-tuning" seminar – scheduled for September 23 through a partnership between EEB Hub, Building Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) Philadelphia and the EPA -- that teaches building operators to reduce energy costs through ongoing refinements.

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.

Source: Laurie Actman, Energy Efficiency in Buildings Hub
Writer: Dana Henry

South Philly Food Co-op preps for annual garden tour, is hiring

They're popping up all over the neighborhood -- little stickers proclaiming "We Support South Philly Food Co-op." 

The infant co-op is prepping for a big year. After an aggressive membership push earlier this spring, the ever-so-secretive real estate committee is scouting sites (they could tell you, but they'd have to kill you) and the organization continues to raise funds.

Next on the docket is the Third Annual South Philly Garden Tour on September 7 -- a chance to take a peak into the area's hidden backyard oases. As any resident could tell you, this neighborhood is filled with secret spaces, spotted through fences and from adjacent rooftops, decked out by dedicated gardeners and DIY designers.

Due to growing turn-out and participation, this year they're narrowing the geographic area, showcasing home gardens from Washington Avenue to Snyder Avenue, 11th to 17th Street. Consider it an inside look at the South Broad Street corridor. (Click here for details on how to participate.)
 
In another sign of their rapid growth, the Co-op is currently hiring a Capital Campaign Coordinator; it's a part-time contracted position in charge of fostering the organization's $500,000 capital campaign.

Source: Carolyn Huckabay, South Philly Food Co-op
Writer: Lee Stabert

Philly hosts second GameLoop, an "unconference" for the gaming industry

For Philly's burgeoning community of indie game makers and enthusiasts, GameLoop is a chance to swap ideas, learn techniques and make new contacts in a growing industry. Philly's second incarnation of this event takes place at University of the Arts' Terra Hall on Saturday, May 18.

Dubbed an "unconference," GameLoop has no set agenda. Participants propose and decide on talks and roundtables at the beginning of the day during an open floor discussion.

"[The local gaming community] has brought together programmers, artists, musicians, designers, modelers -- you name it," says organizer Ray Merkler. "A rapidly growing indie game scene needs events like this to share ideas and create new relationships."

GameLoop originated in Boston in 2008. Merkler brought the concept to Philly in 2011, after meeting founder Scott Macmillan at the PAX East gaming show in Boston. Philly's first GameLoop drew 80 people, including leaders from Boston, New York and Baltimore. Topics covered included 2-D and 3-D design, prototyping, and business models, but Merkler says GameLoop isn't just about development or the industry. For example, someone looking to build a new narrative into a classic game, such as Dungeons and Dragons, is welcome to share.

"You can attract new talent into your city, or you can take the talent you already have and let it interact in new ways," says Merkler. "GameLoop tries to do the latter."

Source: Ray Merkler, GameLoop Philly
Writer: Dana Henry

Indie game developers Cipher Prime climb into international spotlight, hiring

Like so many accidental entrepreneurs, Will Stallwood launched Cipher Prime -- an independent mobile game development company -- while trying to get a job. Auditorium, the game Stallwood first created with music composer Dain Saint as an example of his capabilities, won him no job, but earned millions of downloads. In 2009, shortly after that unexpected success, Cipher Prime was born.

Now based in Old City, the company has since released four games on seven platforms, earning countless awards from the likes of Google, Apple, the Indie Games Festival and Pocket Gamer.

Splice
, their most recent product, gained international attention after debuting on the iPad as Google's "Feature Launch of the Week." The game was named runner-up for Game of the Year by Apple's App Store -- and it was developed on a $120,000 budget, compared to a $1 million budget for the winner.

The company builds games in the "instructionless play" genre. Players solve abstract layered puzzles with no rules and no text. Cipher Prime incorporates work by local musicians and original art. The format starts simple but has a plethora of variables, making the games hard to master. Stallwood says this formula has helped solidify their international success.

"Basically, you're dragging and dropping these little nodes to try to form and outline," he says of Splice. "By the time you’re done the game, it's like a petri dish. You’re pulling cells around all over the place and they’re multiplying and you’re bending time back and forth. It really gets involved."

The company has raised $71,000 on Kickstarter for their next game, Auditorium II, and is hiring a marketer.

Cipher Prime is dedicated to building a local community of unconventional gamemakers. They host weekly development nights (regularly attended by 20 to 30 gamers), organize game-making challenges, hold public book clubs and host Skype conferences with industry leaders.

"We're really trying our damnedest to make sure there are more game developers here in Philadelphia," says Stallwood. "Everyone here loves what we do, and we want to share with other people."

Source: Will Stallwood, Cipher Prime
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: A public call for 'Innovators Walk of Fame' nominees

The University City Science Center is now seeking nominations for their Innovators Walk of Fame. The inaugural members will be revealed during the organization's 50th anniversary celebration in October. In preparation, the Science Center is asking Greater Philadelphia to recommend regional candidates who have made an impact in science, technology, engineering, art or math (STEAM). There is also a category for innovative companies.
 
"We're not doing this prescriptively," says Stephen Tang, president and CEO of the Science Center. "We want to hear from the community."
 
Final selections will be made by a committee comprised of Science Center affiliates and members of the regional innovation and entrepreneurial communities. By opening in conjunction with Philly Tech Week and the Science Festival, the call for nominations is expected to draw on the city's growing enthusiasm for discovery and invention.
 
Not yet officially decided, the location of the walk -- think the musical stars on Avenue of the Arts -- will likely be on the Science Center's campus. The monument aims to draw public attention (particularly from local K-12 students) to these individuals and their accomplishments.

With leaders like Buckminster Fuller, biotech pioneer Hubert Schoemaker and radar technologist Britton Chance, Philadelphia has a powerful history to pull from. Tang is looking forward to nominations that reach beyond traditional science hubs.
 
"Innovation is kind of an ethereal concept," he says. "I think we will surprise people because they'll recognize that we've had geniuses in our midst for some time." 
 
Nominations can be submitted here through June 15.

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.
 
Source: Stephen Tang, The University City Science Center
Writer: Dana Henry

Team Slopes takes dramatic victory at the fifth Philly Startup Weekend

Cramming the development of a smart, thoughtful minimum viable product into a grueling 52-hour session requires the passion and stamina often associated with athletic competition. Fittingly, the team behind Slopes, a performance app for snowboarders and skiers, took a come-from-behind victory in the fifth Philly Startup Weekend, held April 26-28 at Workbridge Associates in Center City.
 
Curtis Herbert, developer and founder of Consumed by Code, had been discussing the concept with fellow snowboarders since January. "When you're on the slopes, you want to track your stats," he explains. "How fast were you going? Were you going faster than your friend?"
 
Yet Slopes faced an uphill battle at the competition. During Friday's round -- when 50 presented and 110 participated – the concept did not receive enough votes to make it to the next round. After the setback, Herbert joined Tim Li, Jiate Zhang and Liwen Mao in a different team. The new collaboration eventually dropped their original pitch and chose to design Slopes instead. Their winning product is akin to Nike+, using GPS-capacity to track individual stats including speed, distance and calories burned.

During Startup Weekend, the team established user needs, the back-end GPS-processing, and identified runs and ski lifts that affected the data. Their user interface garnered an impromptu award for "best design."
 
In second place was Adventures of Bob, a game that encourages kids to eat well by featuring a super hero who grows stronger through smart dietary decisions. DesignSync, the third place winner, helps graphic and user interface designers transfer work created with proprietary software (Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign) to clients and teammates who don’t have those programs using Dropbox.
 
Organizers Chris Baglieri and Melissa Morris Ivone -- who have been with Philly Startup Weekend since the beginning -- said this event was marked by a growing comradery. When they needed to reconfigure the wifi, a sponsor picked up the tab; when they ran out of beer, an organizer made an emergency trip. In the final hours, when most participants were operating on red bull, beer and sheer will, teams tweeted messages of support for one another.
 
"You see some of the turmoil a team goes through," says Baglieri. "Then you see them present, and you’re like, ‘Oh, you guys are all over this,’ but 12 hours ago, they were freaking out."
 
Source: Curtis Herbert, Team Slopes; Chris Baglieri and Melissa Morris Ivone, Philly Startup Weekend
Writer: Dana Henry

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

SA VA Fashion expands nationally, relocates its studio to Port Richmond

In 2010, when SA VA opened its doors in Center City, the apparel company set a new standard for sustainable production in Philadelphia. Not only were the clothes made from environmentally-conscious fabrics, they were also manufactured -- at fair wages -- directly above the store.

Now Sarah Van Aken, founder and CEO of SA VA, is taking that local ethos national. In February 2012, Van Aken launched a wholesale line that is currently showcased in boutiques in 15 states. To keep up with production, Van Aken has moved her design studio to The Loom in Port Richmond.

The decision to go wholesale is part of Van Aken's efforts to hone her brand. The business -- which got its start selling men's custom shirts and uniforms for high-end restaurant employees -- has been developing lifestyle "collections" for women. After the initial success of the wholesale line, Van Aken reconsidered her business model.

"We used to be able to design a few things and put them in the store," says Van Aken. "I realized there's some traction here and we have the capacity to really be a distinct brand."

To bolster the shift, Van Aken created a board, an advisory board and hired a brand manager and three additional national sales reps. SA VA also contracted six neighborhood sewing companies. According to Van Aken, those moves allow her focus on clothing design.

"It doesn’t matter if it's made in Philadelphia, sustainable, organic or anything if it's not great fashion," she explains.

SA VA's wholesale division recently completed its first round of financing. While staying small is common among sustainably-minded businesses, Van Aken says growth is exactly what the fashion industry needs to bring back high-quality, domestic textile jobs. She credits the Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, Philadelphia Collections and Philadelphia Works Inc for their work locally on that front.

"We used to have a huge industry [in Philadelphia]," she says. "What really became clear to me is that I can actually create more jobs by growing faster and working with other [local] companies that are experts in different areas of manufacturing."

Source: Sarah Van Aken, SA VA
Writer: Dana Henry

Inventing the Future: Department of Making + Doing offers testing ground for workshop-based learning

When Evan Malone moved NextFab Studio from the University City Science Center to Washington Avenue in late 2012, he left in place several fabrication tools (including a laser-cutter and 3-D printers) and the last two years of NextFab's lease. To reinvent the space, NextFab and Breadboard, who partner on community outreach and artist residency programs, teamed up with  Public Workshop and The Hacktory. The local organizations are developing a combined headquarters and coworking space for tactile projects and education. The partnership, dubbed the Department of Making + Doing (DMD), opens at 3711 Market Street this month.
 
In addition to the high-tech toolage, the space features a full wood shop and electronic workbenches. Initially it will serve as a homebase and workspace for the four partnering organizations, as well as a location for their outreach and educational programming.
 
As schools continue cutting art and music programs, public spaces for tactile learning become critical. "[The school system] is taking away a whole domain of knowledge," says Breadboard's Dan Schimmel. "Essential to understanding these cerebral, book-taught topics is an innate understanding of the physical world."
 
Currently, DMD serves Public Workshop's Building Hero Project, a community design leadership program for young adults. In the fall, DMD plans to offer afterschool programs at the space -- classes will include kinetic sculpture, basic programming and soft circuits (integrating electronics into fabric and clothes). The Hacktory will also host Hardware Freedom Day on April 20.
 
Eventually, DMD hopes to serve the immediate University City neighborhood by offering a space where community projects, such as green infrastructure, can be imagined and built.
 
"It empowers people to believe they have the tools to solve problems," says Michael Darfler of Public Workshop. "We’re coming to this with the attitude that we’re not just talking about how to solve problems, but actually doing it."

The University City Science Center has partnered with Flying Kite to showcase innovation in Greater Philadelphia through the "Inventing the Future" series.
 
Source: Alex Gilliam and Michael Darfler, Public Workshop; Dan Schimmel, Breadboard; Georgia Gutherie and Daniel Bergey, The Hacktory
Writer: Dana Henry
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