SXSW EDU announces finalists for Launch and Learn by Design competitions

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2019)

Image: SXSW website

AUSTIN, Texas – SXSW EDU announced finalists and judges for the Launch startup
competition and Learn by Design, plus powerful films, and captivating performances for the
Conference & Festival taking place March 4-7, 2019. The festival program complements the
conference through experiential and creative components for attendees to learn and grow.


Now in its eighth year, Launch is a competition for early-stage startups to pitch to leaders across
the business, investment, and learning sectors, and gain knowledge about how to take their
companies to the next stage of growth. Since the Launch competition’s inception, many of the
startups have gone on to receive millions of dollars in funding and greatly impact learning across
the country, including: Clever, The Whether, by Better Weekdays, BloomBoard, Elsa, and last
year’s winner Quottly.

This year’s finalists showcase projects that teach students how to master mental math
calculations, a new app that marries facetime with story time, and robust research that supports
the high school to college transition and pathways towards career readiness. This year’s top eight
finalists are: • Amira Learning // Las Vegas, NV • Caribu // Miami, FL • Edmit // Boston, MA •
Giide // Boulder, CO • Pie for Providers // Chicago, IL • ROYBI // San Jose, CA • SoroTouch //
Tokyo, Japan • Upkey // Chicago, IL.

Judges for this year’s competition include:
Jonathan Rochelle (JR), director of product management at Google for education and
best known as the creator of Google Docs, Drive, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and more.
Tony Wan, managing editor of EdSurge, who oversees the outlet’s news coverage of
people, ideas, and technologies that shape the future of learning.
Vince Chan, co-founder and general partner at Creta Ventures, where she spearheads
investment in learning innovations in China and abroad.
Bridget Burns, executive director of University Innovation Alliance, the ground-breaking
national consortium of public research universities working together to test and scale
innovations that close achievement gaps and improve outcomes for all students.

The Launch competition is presented by the Walton Family Foundation. The winner of the
competition will be announced at the Competition Awards Party on Tuesday, March 5.

“SXSW EDU’s Launch competition was an outstanding experience for Quottly,” said Alicia
Policinski, co-Founder and CEO, Quottly. “Through the competition, we were introduced to
many impressive Ed Tech entrepreneurs and key Ed Tech investors. In addition, we were able to
take advantage of the pitch preparation and the feedback session with edtech investors, which
really helped us hone our investment pitch and presentation skills. We highly recommend

“Festival programming represents the broad spectrum of experiential and hands-on learning
that plays a vital role in education today,” said Greg Rosenbaum, General Manager, SXSW EDU.

“This part of SXSW EDU has grown exponentially alongside the conference just as
entrepreneurship, design-thinking, arts education, and experiential learning have grown inside
and outside the classroom. The Festival supports the latest creative thinking in how best to
support teaching and learning throughout the entire learning cycle.”

The third annual Learn by Design competition celebrates the collaboration between designers
and educators in re-imagining physical space and how it can improve learning outcomes. This
year’s finalists support neuro-diversity, adventure education, future education spaces,
trans-disciplinary learning, and entrepreneurial education that spans the entire learning cycle. The
top 7 finalists are: DLR Group’s Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo & Aquarium Robert B. Daugherty
Education Center • University of Kansas’s Project Lemonaid • Kurani’s Code Next Lab • HDR
Architecture’s Spero Academy • Ennead Architects’ Seoul Foreign School, New High School •
Cannon Design’s Waukee Innovation & Learning Center (WILC) • Gulf of Maine Research
Institute’s LabVenture.

Judges for this year’s competition include:
Jim Determan, principal at Craig Gaulden Davis, is a published architectural researcher
and is currently teamed with educators at Morgan State University, neuroscientists at
The Salk Institute and biophilic consultants at Terrapin Bright Green, to reveal the
impact of biophilic design on student success.
Jane Werner, executive director of the Children’s Museum Pittsburgh, where she leads
all aspects of the Museum’s mission and vision, exhibits, public programming, funding
and operations.
Roosevelt Weeks, library director of Austin Public Library, who is passionate about
improving technology and literacy and education, both inside and outside of the library.
Stephanie Santoso, director of Maker Initiatives at Citizen Schools, works with the
organization’s US2020 City Network of 22 communities to expand and deepen
opportunities for maker-centered learning and STEM mentorship.

The Learn by Design Competition is presented by VS America. The winner of the competition will
be announced at the Competition Awards Party on Tuesday, March 5.


An attendee favorite is the SXSW EDU Film program which tackles important issues facing
today’s students and young adults through powerful and poignant visual storytelling. Many
screenings feature a Q&A with the filmmakers, providing attendees with an opportunity to connect
on a personal level.

From accessibility and inclusion to equity, student agency, and higher education, our 2019 film
program highlights the powerful movement to heal and mobilize following the Marjory
Stoneman Douglas shooting, discussions and action around sexual boundaries and #metoo,
individuals fostering inclusive environments, and those creating innovative solutions to combat
America’s staggering college dropout crisis. Presented by the Special Olympics, the film lineup
#MSDStrong Documentary – Created by the students of WMSD-TV at Marjory Stoneman
Douglas High School, with help from students and alumni across the country, this
collaborative documentary covers the days after the incident as the school began the
rebuilding, and healing, process.
Eighth Grade – Thirteen-year-old Kayla, portrayed by Golden Globe-nominated actress
Elsie Fisher, endures the tidal wave of contemporary suburban adolescence as she
makes her way through the last week of middle school—the end of her thus far
disastrous, eighth-grade year before she begins high school.
Intelligent Lives – From award-winning filmmaker Dan Habib comes Intelligent Lives, a
catalyst to transform the label of intellectual disability from a life sentence of isolation
into a life of possibility for the most systematically segregated people in America.
Life, Animated – Life, Animated is the inspirational story of Owen Suskind, a young man
who was unable to speak as a child until he and his family discovered a unique way to
communicate by immersing themselves in the world of classic Disney animated films.
Moving Stories – Six diverse dancers from an acclaimed New York dance company travel
the world to work with at-risk youth, teaching them the tools of choreography so that
they can tell their stories through dance.
Personal Statement – Three seniors at Brooklyn high schools are determined to get their
entire class to college, even though they aren’t even sure they are going to make it
there themselves.
Roll Red Roll – Roll Red Roll is a true-crime thriller that goes behind the headlines to
uncover the deep-seated and social media-fueled “boys will be boys” culture at the root
of high school sexual assault in America.
School in the Cloud –The film follows Indian professor Sugata Mitra, who sets up an
unmanned internet kiosk in a remote Bengali village to pioneer the School in the Cloud
and the children as they encounter the internet for the first time.

Seats at the Table – Seats at the Table is a feature documentary film which depicts a
unique college class that brings together university students with residents of a
maximum-security juvenile correctional center through the study of classic works of
Russian literature.
The R-Word – The R-Word is a feature-length documentary film about the word
‘retarded.’ This film confronts how, when, and why the r-word became so present in our
culture, illustrates who this word impacts, and, ultimately, makes the case for why the
conversation surrounding people with intellectual and developmental disabilities needs
to change.
Unlikely – Set in the cities of Akron, Atlanta, Boston and Los Angeles, five individuals
failed by America’s higher education system fight for a second chance at opportunity.

Bringing arts to life, the performance series offers SXSW EDU attendees a unique entertaining
and educational experience. Following each act, the performers and their associated
organizations lead the audience through a workshop, offering insight to the concepts that fueled
the performance and, in many cases, activities that can be adopted for the classroom. Highlights
of this year’s performance schedule include The Kennedy Center’s “Staged Reading: The
Kennedy Center’s Long Way Down”,” The Paramount Story Wranglers’ “From Page to Stage:
Bringing Students’ Stories to Life,” and The University of Texas at Austin and Make Your Move’s
“Make a Move: Bodies Creating Change”. For more information please visit Performances.

Rounding out the festival is the Expo, the central hub for innovations in learning at SXSW EDU.
The dynamic space features a discovery-based learning playground, curated programming, and
networking opportunities, alongside interactive exhibits showcasing what’s new in education.
The Expo, which is presented by AT&T and Chevron, will run from Monday, March 4 through
Wednesday, March 6.

SXSW EDU announces finalists for Launch and Learn by Design competitions