Held inside City Council Chambers thanks to co-host Councilman Bill Green, it almost felt like a City Council budget hearing with the six judges (including Green) seated at Councilmembers’ desks, grilling the presenters on their ideas and why they needed the $5,000 grand prize. But at the end of the night, it was the audience, not the judges, who had final say on who would win the money.
The judges were a new component to this year’s event, said co-organizer Rachel Meadows, who works on Green’s staff. Last year, Meadows said organizers heard from attendees who felt that the pitches themselves weren’t enough for them to choose a winner — they wanted to see the presenters challenged a little more, and that’s why the judges were invited this year.
This year’s event was also smaller and more focused than last year’s, where there were 12 presentations on a broad range of education ventures. Last night, five teams centered around the theme of “technology that impacts the classroom” presented to about 130 attendees. 15 teams applied to present at SEED 2.0, Meadows said.
Here’s a quick rundown of last night’s presenters:
Kinvolved: A New York City-based mobile app that tracks student attendance, alerts parents of their child’s absences immediately and analyzes that data in hopes of pushing school reform. One of the cofounders is a Philadelphia native, and Kinvolved won $15,000 in funding from Penn’s Fels School of Government earlier this year. One of Kinvolved’s missions is to make parents feel more engaged in their child’s education, the cofounders said.
The School Collective: An online professional development platform for teachers that allows them to upload lesson plans, find resources and connect to other teachers. Cofounder Alyson Goodner said 23 schools are currently using the platform.
Slate: An open source web platform for schools from NoLibs web dev firm Jarvus. We previously covered Slate’s soft launch. Jarvus cofounder Chris Alfano presented the platform, clad in his Code for America track jacket (he’s also Code for America’s local brigade co-captain). When asked what his revenue model was, he said he didn’t have one. I’ve got a day job, Alfano said, adding that he built Slate because he saw a need for it.
Teachers Lead Philly: A virtual and in-person network for “teacher leaders” to share best practices and empower Philly’s teachers. Teachers Lead Philly was arguably the least tech-heavy when it came to infrastructure (as compared to, say, The School Collective’s tech-heavy online platform and network for teachers), but presenters and teachers Kathleen Melville and Timothy Boyle were clear about that — they placed a lot of importance on the in-person network. Melville and Boyle were also the most enthusiastic presenters, leading judge and Indy Hall cofounder Alex Hillman to say, “It sounds like this is powered by happiness.”
Temple University MESA: Computer Science & Technology Entrepreneurship: Presented by Professor Jamie Bracey and some of her students, this is a program to train high school in entrepreneurship and app development. We previously covered the program here. 500-600 students participated in the program this year, Bracey said.