Pittsburgh is a town that has gone through tough times and emerged victorious. They made a decision to build out a startup culture with the power universities in their midst and it worked in a big way. Innovation Works and its AlphaLab Gear hardware-focused accelerator are prime examples of how you gather like-minded people to fix a challenge.
We know a bit more about this town than some of the places that the 3DRV visits because we lived here for two-plus years while my wife completed her MBA at what is now the Tepper School of Business. So when Pittsburgh expressed interest in us visiting to check the pulse of 3D, we gladly said yes. It is always a great feeling to “come home.”
Aaron Morris from the local Autodesk office took a keen interest in our work and showed us the new faces of tech in the ‘Burgh with tons of enthusiasm. Not too long ago, he completed his Ph.D in the robotics department of Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), so we received an inside tour of the robotics lab, which is radical. Students working on all kinds of groundbreaking technology ideas surround you. You may recall the Great Robot Race on PBS (part of DARPA’s Grand Challenge) a race that William “Red” Whittaker, roboticist and researcher at CMU, led to victory in 2007 and also part of the Google Lunar X Prize, among many other exciting robotics efforts. Aaron is a part of that robotics heritage and active in various mentor type roles for students in the current program.
We then got to hang out at the AlphaLab Gear space for the afternoon that included an interview with Sole Power – inventor of a shoe insole that will recharge your cell phone battery. More on them in a post next week, but they are quickly iterating on their designs using Fusion 360 and we’ll have an animation or two to share.
That evening we were part of another action-packed meetup that took a unique approach that we plan to continue – give the local startups a chance to share what they are working on – Demo Day style – in one minute. Aaron’s creativity gets the credit for this brilliant idea and way to build community. Just a few that we heard from:
- Identified Technologies – autonomous drones – as in they fly back to base to swap out their own battery, plus other cool things. Now that’s smart.
- PieceMaker – retail 3D printing play.
- LifeShel – maker of a phone case that sounds an alarm to deter sexual assault.
The FARO scanner rep presented, too – which was an engaging session with lots of questions. I’m consistently amazed at how many people have never heard of the scanning technologies and have tons of questions.
A big night in Pittsburgh to meet with dynamic 3D-minded folks. We’re making our way to Boston for another great meetup, so if you’re in Boston in early August – register for our Reality Computing event there.
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