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April 17, 2013

Innovation City CMU Promotes Technology, Fun at SXSW Event

By Piper Staff


The party may have been in Austin, Texas, but it was all about Pittsburgh.

The H. John Heinz III College, the Human-Computer Interaction Institute (HCII), and the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) along with the Pittsburgh Technology Council (PTC) showcased CMU students, local tech firms and entertainment ventures at Innovation City, a party that was part of the South By Southwest Interactive (SXSW) festival.

"It's exciting to live and work in Pittsburgh right now," said Heinz College's director of online strategy Brad Stephenson, who worked with PTC officials to plan the event. "There is so much happening here - from startups to the arts to the film industry to community development. The city's star is rising on a global scale, and CMU is obviously a big part of that."

CMU often has a presence at SXSW. The Master of Entertainment Industry Management (MEIM) program sends first-year students to the festival. The opportunity allows students to hear speakers, interact with alumni working in the field and participate in panel discussions and networking events.

Ari Lightman, a distinguished service professor and director of the CIO Institute, moderated a panel on the impact big data analysis has on developing winning marketing strategies.

At the party, which was held at Meduse Lounge in downtown Austin, guests were treated to freshly made guitar picks and glasses without lenses created by the local firm Makerbot 3-D printers. Other Pittsburgh-based companies such as BodyMedia, WebKite and Paul Michael Design offered giveaways and interactive activities, and representatives from the rustbelt innovation advocacy group were on hand to help promote the city.

"The party was a unique opportunity that showcased Heinz College's diverse programming and keen sense of forward thinking; bringing together individuals interested in film and interactive aspects of the festival," said Judy Liu (HNZ'14). "South by Southwest was a great place to network and meet new people, and I hope we continue to attend to create more awareness for Heinz College."

Supporting sponsors included AlphaLab, The Resumator and Steeltown Entertainment Project. Innovation City was funded by the Pennsylvania Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED), the Sprout Fund and the Claude Worthington Benedum Foundation.

Presenting the innovations of Pittsburgh and CMU to the broader SXSW audience was a perfect fit for a conference where the keynote speaker was Elon Musk, known for founding SpaceX and co-founding Tesla Motors and Paypal.

"In my experience the best parties are the right mix of the seemingly wrong people, and this one definitely delivered," said CMU alumnus Fritz Myers (A'04), who attended SXSW to promote the soundtrack for his film "Sushi Girl." "I was very glad I came because it was an opportunity to talk with a lot of technical and business people who are normally outside of my sphere."