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Remember Pong on the Cira Centre? To help Philly’s creative economy do more civic projects like that, ‘support folks who have big ideas’

Drexel professor Frank Lee reflects on Philly Tech Week successes of the past, and outlines what he wants to see local tech achieve in the next 15 years.

The view of Philly Tech Week 2014's Tetris event from Eakins Oval. (Courtesy Drexel University)

In February 2009, Technical.ly published our first article. Fifteen years later, we're still here — but a lot has changed. We're celebrating our anniversary with a look back, and a look forward.

This is a guest post by Frank Lee, professor and director of the Entrepreneurial Game Studio at Drexel University, written as part of a series celebrating Technical.ly's 15th anniversary.

As I recently celebrated my 20th year at Drexel University, I’ve been thinking back on all the fond memories I’ve made collaborating with so many wonderful people throughout Philadelphia. So many of those memories include Chris Wink and the folks at Techincal.ly.

While I don’t recall exactly when or where I first met Chris, Technical.ly’s cofounder and CEO, I remember precisely what our first conversation was about.

You see, I had dreams of making a giant video game out of the LED lights of the then-recently opened Cira Centre office tower, ever since I’d laid eyes on its sparkling lights as I was driving on I-76. This was back in 2008 and I didn’t know a single person associated with the Cira Centre, so I began telling anyone and everyone I met about my idea for creating a game using its lights, on the outside chance I’d make the right connection.

Lucky for me, one of those people was Chris.

It was thanks to Chris’s encouragement and guidance from my president at Drexel, John Fry, that I was able to connect with supportive folks at Brandywine Realty Trust, the owner of the building, and eventually pitch my idea to its CEO Jerry Sweeney to turn my dream into a reality.

That project, Pong on the Cira Centre, which was chosen as the signature event for Philly Tech Week 2013, was a huge hit in Philadelphia and made national headlines. The next year we went even bigger, celebrating the 30th anniversary of Tetris with a version that used both sides of the Cira and set a Guinness World Record for the largest architectural video game display as part of Tech Week’s “Arcade at the Oval” event.

Since then, Chris and Technical.ly have been partners in and supporters of so many of my projects —  War of the Worlds: Philly, Skyscraper Games for Kids, SIM-PHL and Civil Dialog — with the goal of using technology to bring people together and inspire them to imagine what could be.

Over the years, seeing so many people who have been excited by these projects, and Technical.ly’s tireless engagement and community building, has been nothing short of inspirational. And I think it portends a bright future for our city.

Philadelphia is home to some of the most creative, diverse, and highly motivated people in the world. With our economy poised for a growth spurt in the coming years, I expect the city to attract even more visionaries — drawn, if not by the Cira’s lights, then by the possibility that their dreams can become a reality.

My sincere hope is that the community we’ve built continues to nurture this excitement and creativity and support folks who have big ideas. If we could all be a little more like Chris Wink and the folks at Technical.ly in that way — not just leading the conversation, but helping others to be leaders in their own way — I think Philadelphia’s creative economy will be a tremendous success story when we’re looking back on it in another 15 years.

Companies: Drexel University / Technical.ly
Series: Technical.ly 15th Anniversary
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