In summer of last year, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Pittsburgh launched a new program called STARTup SOMETHING, a chance for area teens and their mentors to meet entrepreneurs and business people from all over the city and learn about how they got to where they are. With the new year upon us and more workshops being scheduled, we take a look back at some of the amazing opportunities STARTup SOMETHING has provided its students.

Students playing checkers at STARTup SOMETHING / Photo: Ohad CadjiFor the program’s inaugural workshop in August, seven youth and their mentors ventured into the University of Pittsburgh’s Katz School of Business to speak with the co-founder and CEO of girl-empowering social networking site iTwixie, Rebecca Gaynier. Rebecca facilitated a series of fun, interactive activities centered on her professional experience and passion for marketing, branding and computer programming. Beginning with an opportunity for participants to watch commercials from major companies like LifeSavers, OREO and LEGO, Rebecca then presented a real world marketing problem and challenged the group to use creativity and teamwork to solve it.

In early October, Thread International teamed up with humanitarian partner Team Tassy to facilitate the second STARTup SOMETHING workshop, attended by eleven youth and their mentors. There, participants learned about challenges facing developing countries like Haiti, and how creative business ideas can help alleviate these problems. Guided by Thread’s mission to “transform trash in the developing world into dignified jobs and useful stuff people love,” participants learned how to re-purpose their own “trash” into wallets, bracelets and containers.

Finally in late November, twelve youth and their mentors visited the South Side start-up incubator, AlphaLab¬†for an experience facilitated by tablet-based learning game designer, Digital Dream Labs. During this third workshop, participants learned about game design theory and the stages of product development from the company’s co-founders. Then, the group was challenged to think like game designers while re-inventing the classic board game of checkers.

These workshops have given underserved youth around the city an opportunity to speak with innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs, giving teens a look into the future at what they can achieve if they set their minds to it. In the new year, look for more workshops and projects as STARTup SOMETHING explores more of the city and its start-up community!