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City to hold first ‘app’ development competition


The City of Pittsburgh will launch its first-ever civic software application (app) development competition designed to grow the city’s innovation and technology community through the creation of technology infrastructure that will benefit citizens.

The competition, called The Steel City Codefest, marks the first major event generated from the mayor’s PowerUp Pittsburgh initiative and will take place beginning at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 23 and run through 2 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24 in the Google Pittsburgh offices at Bakery Square, 6425 Penn Avenue.

“Steel City Codefest builds off of Pittsburgh’s strong spirit of innovation, collaboration and competition and encourages innovators to come together to build interesting and creative solutions that will benefit our community and improve our city’s tech climate,” Mayor Luke Ravenstahl said. “Our ultimate goal is to create an opportunity for Pittsburgh’s best and brightest minds to connect and use their skills to create apps that are useful to City residents and organizations.”

The first-of-its-kind event in the region will challenge developers to turn government data into an application that benefits Pittsburgh residents, visitors or businesses. Codefest participants will be given access to city, county, state and federal datasets prior to the event and teams of one to six people will have 24 hours to create software applications. The Pittsburgh Neighborhood and Community Information System, which is a program of the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research (UCSUR) will be assisting with data collection.

“For the past seven years, UCSUR has helped residents and community organizations find and use public information,” said Bob Gradeck, research project manager at UCSUR. “Through Steel City Codefest, we are excited to support the work of software developers in building apps that will improve communities and the lives of Pittsburgh residents.”

Due to space constraints, participation is limited to the first 100 people who register. Registration began December 3 at the Codefest website, To facilitate team creation, participants are encouraged to reference the question and answer section of the Codefest website, where they can advertise for teams or team members, and post ideas for apps to be created during the contest. In addition, organizers will provide at least one opportunity in advance for participants to meet and build teams.

Participants will be able to stay overnight in the Google Pittsburgh offices to work on their apps. Participant registration is $10, which includes food and a T-shirt. While diverse skill sets are welcome, participants with backgrounds in technology, design and community development are especially suited for this event.

“We are happy to partner with the City and URA to host the Steel City Codefest at Google Pittsburgh,” said Andrew Moore, vice president of engineering, Google. “We hope this event provides a platform for developers to come together and build innovative solutions to improve our community.”

Several winning teams will be chosen by judges using the following criteria: Civic Engagement - meets a clear community need; Technical Sophistication - overcomes interesting technical challenges; User Interface Design - presents an effective interface that facilitates the user experience; and Artistic Merit.

Each team member from the winning teams will receive a Nexus 7 tablet.

In addition to the main event, the Mayor will host a mixer the night before to encourage participants to build ideas and form teams before the data is released. Additional information on the contest, how to register, and the mixer can be found at

The codefest was coordinated by Jennifer Wilhelm, the URA’s new innovation & entrepreneurship strategist. Partners include the URA’s Center for Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Google Pittsburgh, Bakery Square, the University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Social and Urban Research, MAYA Design and Traffic 21. ShowClix, a URA client, is the official ticketing sponsor.


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