The third annual Innovate Your Cool conference promises to advance innovative thinking in a variety of arenas during the Art of Cool Festival. Dozens of guest speakers, experts and entrepreneurs will give presentations on everything from designing sneakers to coding to beekeeping.
The conference takes place Saturday, April 29, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at American Underground @Main, located at 201 West Main Street, Durham.
Program Director Mike English filled the day-long conference with panels, demonstrations and hands-on activities for both kids and adults. His goal for the conference is to expose local opportunities and ideas to minority groups in a fun and educational format using three main themes: innovation, music and culture.
“Our goal is to leverage popular culture to get more underrepresented minorities into entrepreneurship, innovation, technology, science, coding, design.”
“A big component for us is to bring quality programming at a level where people who can’t necessarily pay the thousands of dollars to go to South by Southwest can interact with these thought leaders.”
New programming this year includes a coding class with Angie Jones, a LexisNexis software engineer and leader of the Raleigh-Durham chapter of Black Girls Code. Traveling art exhibit “Black On Black” will be on view at American Tobacco Campus in the Reed Building, showcasing visual art by local artists of color. Students from North Carolina State University’s textile design program will lead a workshop on sneaker design and job opportunities in the industry. One of the biggest events of the day is a workshop with representatives from global design company IDEO. They will be onsite to discuss branding and small-business building for entrepreneurs, as well as leadership techniques.
Those looking for a dose of fun can learn how to brew beer from Celeste Beatty, CEO of Harlem Brewing Company. Foodies can partake in the Bull City Cool Food Tour and meet local chefs. Entrepreneurs looking to start a business or people who want to learn more about money should attend the Invest Wisely panel, a deep dive into the world of business and personal finance.
Though the Art of Cool Festival is generally skewed older, Innovate is intended for people of all ages, English explains. High school and college students will benefit from the networking social with local tech companies that are looking to hire a diverse workforce. Pendo, Citrix and Red Hat representatives will be in attendance at the informal session the Friday evening before Innovate.
The conference will wrap up around 3 p.m. with a live performance and classic hip-hop cypher on the rooftop of American Underground in Durham.