Nearly 200 students from universities across the country gathered in Chicago for Think Chicago: Chicago Ideas Week, in order to experience Chicago’s growing tech scene first hand. 69 of those students were from the University of Illinois.
This three day program, which took place on October 20th to the 22nd, was hosted by Chicago Ideas, Mayor Rahm Emanuel, World Business Chicago and the University of Illinois. The primary goal is to introduce university students to the ever growing tech scene in Chicago and demonstrate that Chicago is a perfect place to work upon graduation.
The agenda for the program was packed with company tours, exciting keynotes, activities, and networking opportunities. Students really got a chance to get a feel for what Chicago has to offer within its growing tech ecosystem.
The program kicked off with a keynote from Brad Keywell, the Founder and Co-Chairman of Chicago Ideas Week and Co-Founder and CEO of Uptake. Mayor Rahm Emanuel took the stage and welcomed the students to the city of Chicago. Throughout the three days, students got a chance to hear from people like, Jimmy Odom (Senior Vice President of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at Intersect Illinois and Founder of WeDeliver), Charles Adler, (Founder of the Center for the Lost Arts and and Founder of Kickstarter), among others. In addition, interacting with a Civic Tech Panel, which included Danielle DuMerer (First Deputy Commissioner and Chief Technology Officer, City of Chicago); Katie Olson (Director of Program Design, UI Labs) Shelley Stern Grach (Director of Civic Engagement, Microsoft) Kenneth Watkins (Chief Strategy Officer, Blue1647) Tom Alexander (Chief Operating Officer, 1871). The program also offered students a chance to attend two talks at Chicago Ideas Week.
Students visited multiple companies for a hands on tour and discussion. Some of the companies that the students toured included Civis Analytics, Context Media, Linked-In, MHub, Matter, Microsoft, Northern Trust, and Review Tracker, among others. In addition to the tours, students had the opportunity to network with potential employers beforehand at the company showcase.
The program wrapped up with the top six teams presenting their Civic Tech Challenge idea. They had three minutes to pitch their idea to a panel of judges, whom are all leaders in Chicago’s tech scene: Kateland Beals (Education Program Manager at Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs, IBM), Tom Schenk (Chief Data Officer, City of Chicago), and Paul Seidler (Director of Venture Development, Clean Energy Trust).
Team Harry Caray took first place, which included a student from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: Luis Rodriguez. The team’s idea is to create a mobile application that allows pedestrians to easily report city issues, like fallen tree branches or pot holes. The app also offers rewards such as free transit rides, shop discounts, coupons, and free tickets for constantly using the app and uploading pictures. “The more you contribute, the more you get,” Rodriguez said.
The winning team received complimentary Lollapalooza passes and admission into the ThinkChicago: Lollapalooza program next summer. ThinkChicago happens twice a year and each time the experience varies; however, the information that the students acquire about Chicago’s growing tech eco-system and all the available opportuntiies will stay with them forever.