Liftoff and Uplift
When we started planning Liftoff PGH more than 2 years ago, we never imagined how our vision would come to life. At its core, Liftoff PGH is about bringing people together to collaborate--without limits. Despite the distance between us, in two weeks the Pittsburgh community has connected with each other in ways we have never seen. Organizations are rethinking their entire business model, while residents are finding new and unusual ways to become community advocates. So as you sip your weekend relaxation, lighten your mind with some truly uplifting (yep we said it) Liftoff PGHers.
A New Cure
It should be no surprise that the laboratory responsible for the polio vaccine is back at the front lines of the pandemic. The University of Pittsburgh’s Center for Vaccine Research, endowed by the Jonas Salk Chair, is part of a coalition granted $5 million to develop a SARS CoV 2 vaccine. Pitt’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute has also put out a call for $50,000 research grants, while a number of departments from all city universities have banded together to donate extra protective supplies to the COVID-19 command center.
In the digital world, Carnegie Mellon has partnered with C3.ai, Microsoft Corporation, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of California, Berkeley, Princeton University, the University of Chicago, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to form the C3.ai Digital Transformation Institute. The consortium of scientists and researchers has dedicated $370 million to accelerating AI techniques to accelerate social progress, with their first call for proposals focused on AI techniques to mitigate the pandemic.
A New Model
With treatment centers facing shortages in critical supplies, local makers and manufacturers are retooling their businesses to create completely new products. Wigle Whiskey and Maggie’s Farm Rum have begun distilling hand sanitizer for the Pittsburgh Public Safety Department, and Major League Baseball uniform producer Fanatics now produces surgical gowns and masks in a patriotic pinstripe nonetheless! International packaging conglomerate SGK has even begun producing plastic face shields for medical worker’s added safety and protection.
Two different mask making collaboratives have also sprung up from Pittsburgh’s vibrant artist and maker communities. mask(Makers) PGH is a partnership between Knotzland, Protohaven, KerfCase, Cut & Sew Studio, Firecracker Fabrics, The Iron Horse Atelier, Pittsburgh Center for Creative Reuse, and Radiant Hall. Other artists and artisans have formed Operation Face Mask, producing surgical masks and mask making kits for volunteers.
Sites all across the county are opening to provide meals for seniors, children, first responders, and families in need. 412 Food Rescue has partnered to create a Free food map, tracking the availability and hours of different centers for pick up. Many Pennsylvania hotels have also volunteered to house needed patients, converting their rooms into isolated recovery suites.
People are also discovering new ways of meeting their neighbors. Using the Virtual Senior Academy platform, organizations like Age Friendly Pittsburgh and the Anathan Club are hosting virtual classes and coffee hours for seniors. Through the GRAN intergenerational reading program, grandparents can even read to children trapped at home, freeing their parents to actually get work done. That’s not even mentioning the hundreds of museum tours, virtual workshops, streaming cinemas, and film competitions springing up to keep our brains fed and occupied.
We are now in the testing phase of Liftoff PGH. Our mission has unwittingly become the rallying cry of this entire region, and people are preparing for change with renewed boldness and tenacity. There is no scarier moment to band together, and yet the moment is upon is. It is time for unusual partnerships. It is time for axis-shifting innovations. We are at Liftoff. No one knows what the coming months will unearth, but please stick with us as we capture the incredible ingenuity powering this community. Like the hundreds in Aspinwall who stepped out for a porch toast, we salute you.