By Hilary Pham
Usually when people think of the technology industry, hubs like Silicon Valley are the first places that pop into your mind. To promote Chicago as a technological center, every year 200 university students are invited to ThinkChicago, a three day program with a Civic Tech Challenge, company tours, and networking events for STEM and business majors.
This year, the program kicked off with a presentation from Mayor Rahm Emanuel and speeches from George Burciaga, the CEO/Founder of elevate DIGITAL, and Neal Sales-Griffin, the CEO of CodeNow. Unlike most events, ThinkChicago’s goal was to include the creativity and ideas of the students through question and answer sessions during each presentation. After the presentations, the offices of tech companies and startup incubators, such as mHUB and 1871, were toured and the culture of the technology industry in Chicago was explored.
The second aspect of the program was the Civic Tech Challenge, a competition where groups of students would identify a problem that the city faces and use technology to improve life for Chicago residents. Every aspect of the issue would be analyzed creatively and a one page business proposal was submitted the next day. The top six proposals were then pitched to a panel of judges on the final day and the top three ideas were chosen as potential solutions the Mayor’s office could implement.
Sponsored by the University of Illinois and World Business Chicago, ThinkChicago was a unique, in-depth immersion into the technological ecosystem of Chicago. Through working with university students from other disciplines and exploring the resources offered to entrepreneurs, Chicago was introduced as a metropolitan area with a small town feel, standing out from all the other technological hubs across the country. Want to apply to ThinkChicago? Visit www.thinkchicago.net!