Ignite Philly 13: It’s for the kids (and the comedians)

Even the night's winner of the "big check" promised to spend the money on his students. "We aren't going to use this money to buy a Porsche," said Dan Ueda, Central High School's robotics coach (and reigning Geek of the Year). "We're going to use it to buy a microcontroller."

Full Diclosure: Our events organizer Corinne Warnshuis helped organize Ignite Philly 13.

Ignite Philly 13 was undoubtedly for the kids, with nearly half its 15 speakers encouraging the audience to join them in their youth empowerment work.

Even the night’s winner of the “big check” promised to spend the money on his students. (Every Ignite, a past speaker wins a “big check,” money with no strings attached.)

“We aren’t going to use this money to buy a Porsche,” said Dan Ueda, Central High School‘s robotics coach (and reigning Geek of the Year). “We’re going to use it to buy a microcontroller.”

It wasn’t surprising that education was the issue to rally around during this season’s Ignite: with the Philadelphia School District in distress, how we’re serving the city’s students seems to be on everyone’s mind.

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Sarah Joseph of WePAC talks about how to open a library in 11 steps. Photo by Kevin Monko for Ignite Philly.

Another theme running through the bi-annual lightning talk event? Comedy, and how Philadelphia is a great place to do it. To underscore that point, a group of comedians from Philly Improv Theater even came onstage at the end of the talk to make fun of each other.

Here’s a list of places you can volunteer or help, as suggested by Ignite Philly speakers:

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Michelle Schmitt and Sean McGinnis talk about balloon mapmaking and their work with PublicLab. Photo by Kevin Monko for Ignite Philly.

And now, our awards:


Open data isn’t just about governments releasing data, said Michelle Schmitt of “Open data is also making your own data, so you can advocate for the places you love,” she said in her talk with Sean McGinnis about balloon mapmaking. We also liked this definition from McGinnis: “Open means you’re invited.” Learn more about Philly’s PublicLab chapter here.


“Get on the right side of history,” said Jim MacMillan, cofounder of journalism outfit called that aims to chronicle (and find solutions to) gun violence in the city. His sobering talk about the reality of gun homicides in Philadelphia gave everyone pause (even the comedians who roasted every talk at the end of the night).

He encouraged everyone to find a way to take action against the problem: “Only the suffering is segregated,” he said, “not the responsibility.” He even took a moment to point out the lack of diversity at Ignite: “This isn’t the most diverse event I’ve ever attended.”

If you want to help GunCrisis, it needs someone to think about the business side of the project.


File this one under things you won’t find on how to open a school library in 11 steps. Why would you need to know how to do that? Only six percent of Philadelphia’s schools have a certified librarian, said Sarah Joseph of the West Philadelphia Alliance for Children (WePAC), an organization that helps start libraries in public schools.

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Bill Mauchly proposes an ENIAC Museum. Photo by Kevin Monko for Ignite Philly.


Let’s bring ENIAC back. That’s what Bill Mauchly wants to do. Mauchly, son of one of the founders of ENIAC, is working on a campaign to bring a piece of the first computer back to Philly. The computer was separated into lots of parts and shipped around the country in 1955. Only one part of it is still in Philly, and it’s only open to Penn students, he said. Bringing ENIAC back would be a great way to teach students about STEM, women in tech, history and startups, he said. We agree. Follow Mauchly’s project here (and offer to help if you have any ideas).


It was exciting to hear from James Yoakum, someone who’s running a business in Camden, and a distillery, no less. The founder of Cooper River Distillers offered a quick and dirty rundown of what distilling is (most things you drink that have over 20 percent alcohol by volume are distilled, he said) an order (go fight with your friends about what alcohol can be considered “craft”) and an invitation: come visit next Thursday during Camden’s Third Thursday Art Crawl. He’ll be giving tours.


We love Little Baby’s Ice Cream (we even had a recent team Little Baby’s Ice Cream sandwich day). And we get it, the Little Baby’s guy — Martin Brown — did not want to talk about ice cream. It probably gets old. But we had a hard time following Brown’s talk about important words in his life, though there was this striking moment of clarity: “The only thing that matters is staying genuine.” (And a Ryan Gosling meme, to boot.) So give us another, Martin. You don’t have to talk about ice cream.

Companies: Ignite Philly
People: Daniel Ueda / Jim MacMillan / Michelle Schmitt

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