Professional Development
Business development / DEI / Pittsburgh / Software / Startups

Pittsburgh Power Moves: Meet PRN’s new senior program manager

Plus, see the finalists for the Pitt Sustainability Challenge and the semi-finalists for the UpPrize Social Innovation.

Jenny Sharpe. (Courtesy photo)
Power Moves is a column where we chart the comings and goings of talent across the region. Got a new hire, gig or promotion? Email us:

Pittsburgh Robotics Network hires new senior program manager

Jenny Sharpe is the Pittsburgh Robotics Network’s new senior program manager for workforce development. In her new role, Sharpe will support the Build Back Better Regional Challenge-funded “Expanded Pathways to New Economy Careers” program.

Sharpe’s stints working as a Venture for America fellow and in workforce development and talent management at Rivers Agile, a tech consultancy firm, gives the organization the confidence that she’s well prepared to take on this new role. On Sharpe’s part, she says she has a deep love of startups and she’s eager to help make Pittsburgh a place that works for everyone.

“I love watching the individual transformation that can happen when you give someone the economic opportunity of a job, and not just any job, but a dream job,” Sharpe said in the announcement. “I’m just really open. I’m here to learn. I’m here to listen and I’m here to create opportunities for more folks to collaborate.”

Here are the Pitt Sustainability Challenge Finalists’ pitches for a more sustainable future

Four local groups are contenders to win $300,000 in the Pitt Sustainability Challenge.

The University of Pittsburgh asked contestants to write a plan for a feasible way to move towards its goal to achieving carbon neutrality by 2037. Proposals included a range of approaches to tackling the challenge — from creating personalized dashboards for reducing one’s carbon footprint to creating energy efficient freezers.

“We’re excited to present a diverse platform of proposed solutions — and hope it will entice Pitt, our region and others to think just as creatively about how to combat climate change and other grand challenges of our time,” said Aurora Sharrard, Pitt’s sustainability director. “Once a winner is selected, we will be moving them into implementation as quickly as possible.”

The finalists’ pitches according to the release:

CO2IReduce by University of Pittsburgh

The CO2IReduce project would collect data and create a personalized dashboard relevant to any student, faculty or staff member on the Pittsburgh campus to demonstrate how they can use space efficiently and reduce their carbon footprint. A key goal of the project is to provide scalable solutions to make even the least energy-efficient buildings more efficient, especially when compared with new buildings or vast renovations.

Anaerobic Digestion Technology by Ecotone Renewables

Ecotone Renewables’ Anaerobic Digestion Technology looks to divert carbon emissions by converting local food waste into nutrient-dense, ready-to-use fertilizer. Excessive food waste and dying soils are having a profoundly negative global impact, notably in creating extreme atmospheric carbon levels. Food waste also expands landfills, leads to less healthy plant life and weakens the soil microbiome.

ZEUS anaerobic digesters on or near Pitt campuses would address these issues by processing 10 tons of food waste and diverting 120 tons of CO2 emissions per system per year, aiding in Pitt’s mission to achieve carbon neutrality by 2037. This waste would then be converted into 2,600 gallons of Soil Sauce, a ready-to-use, ultra-clean, nutrient-microbial-rich fertilizer.

Panther Tracks by S&B USA Construction

S&B USA Construction wants to facilitate regional transportation decarbonization and increase Pitt’s electric vehicle charging and eMobility infrastructure. They plan to leverage the physical places that Pitt controls, such as garages, lots and adjacent buildings across campuses, to support the transition of single occupancy vehicles, shuttles, shared-use vehicles and micromobility to zero emissions.

In fiscal year 2019, commuter travel represented 16.4% of Pitt’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory. Due to Pitt’s size, geographic pull and relative shortage of nearby affordable housing, many community members rely on personal vehicles to get to campus.

Pitt–Johnstown Geothermal Tunnels Feasibility Study

Pitt–Johnstown has an unseen resource under the campus grounds — mining tunnels that can provide sustainable geothermal energy. A team led by partners at Apex Companies and H.F. Lenz, which both hire Pitt alumni, will study the feasibility of using the mining tunnels as a heating and cooling source and develop a project management plan.

This year, Pitt-Johnstown’s electricity consumption is trending 60% to 70% above budget allocations. A sustainable solution is needed, and this project would also result in savings via tax credits.

Introducing UpPrize 2023 Finalists

Nine local companies are currently working on technological solutions for addressing racial equity, economic justice and sustainability in Pittsburgh — and competing for a chance to win $300,000 in this year’s UpPrize Social Innovation Challenge. Only three companies can win.

The nine semi-finalists will receive continued support and mentorship through UpPrize’s boot camp. On Oct. 19, the semi-finalists will make their final presentations during the Final Showcase.

The semifinalists according to the release:

  • Behaivior AI — Behaivior AI has developed the Recovery platform to improve equitable access to high-quality mental health and addiction support.
  • BLK DYMND Rewards — This cashback loyalty program rewards consumers who support Black-owned businesses.
  • de-bias — This platform integrates research and predictive analysis to provide evidence-based solutions to achieve racial equity in communities through the policies and procedures of businesses operations.
  • Farm to Flame — This startup provides renewable on-demand power and heating to industrial facilities using biomass waste as fuel.
  • Korion Health — Korion Health’s electronic stethoscope for detection of heart and lung disease bridges cultural and technical gaps by empowering patients to take more control of their health in a culturally-competent way that is affordable, comfortable, and convenient for them.
  • Lotus Fertility Insurance — Lotus Fertility Insurance aims to create a new category of insurance and financial products designed to help make fertility treatments and services more accessible and equitable.
  • Russell General Contracting — Russell General Contracting aims to provide a platform of both nonprofits interested in supporting sustainable redevelopment and listings of historical buildings at risk for demolition with the goal of advocating for these buildings to be saved.
  • Sustainible — Sustainible is an online business co-pilot that provides business health scores, action plans and development tools to move BIPOC entrepreneurs closer to capital readiness and business sustainability.
  • Testa-Seat — Testa-Seat designs products through the utilization of advanced 3D printing technology to enhance the lives of individuals with disabilities while minimizing environmental impact.
Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: BLK DYMD Rewards / Pittsburgh Robotics Network / University of Pittsburgh
Series: Power Moves

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