More than 420,000 people descend on Austin, Texas each March for the behemoth of innovation, music and technology festivals, South by Southwest. And as such, the festival has become a hot ticket for aspiring speakers.

SXSW annually levels the playing field for potential speakers with PanelPicker, a public process that lets anyone submit a panel idea and then solicit comments and up-votes over a three-week period. The stated goal is to “ensure that less well-known voices have as much of a chance of being selected to speak at SXSW as individuals with large online followings.” Public votes are weighted 30 percent, while the ultimate programming decisions are up to the staff and advisory board.

SXSW reports that 4,400 proposals came in for the 2018 festival (check out the video below for more on the process).

Below, you’ll find 28 potential panels featuring local talent. They include politicians like former Governor Bev Perdue and Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts, local entrepreneurs Cindy Whitehead of The Pink Ceiling, Karl Rectanus of Lea(R)n, Matthew Crisp of Benson Hill Biosystems and Tyler Confrey-Maloney of Undercover Colors, as well as government employees like Derrick Minor of the city of Raleigh and Ryan Smith of the City of Durham.

There are more than a dozen faculty and staff from universities across the state. Voting happens through August 25—we’ve included the links to each panel so readers can vote on their favorites.

Have fun reading through these panel descriptions—it’s pretty inspiring to see the huge variety of expertise we have in North Carolina.


Innovation Everywhere: The rise of regional tech

Featuring: Derrick Minor, Innovation and Entrepreneurship Manager, City of Raleigh

Regional hubs are challenging Silicon Valley’s monopoly on tech innovation. Fueled by new investment, local government support, and an influx of talent, these cities are building new epicenters of innovation, taking advantage of their unique regional qualities and areas of expertise. This panel brings together a range of perspectives from several tech hubs on the rise to discuss the challenges and opportunities of building innovative communities, fostering talent, and helping rejuvenate cities.

Designing for Healthier, Wealthier Cities

Featuring: Andrea Dinneen, Senior Behavioral Researcher, Common Cents Lab; Mariel Beasley, Principal, Common Cents Lab, Center for Advanced Hindsight; Ryan Smith, Innovation Team Project Manager, City of Durham

How can modern cities ensure a financial safety net for citizens despite tightening budgets? This workshop will dive into concrete policy ideas gleaned from 3 years of financial wellbeing research with FinTech companies, banks, credit unions, non-profits, and cities. From child savings accounts to improving SNAP benefits to easing Gig Economy worker woes, we’ll dive into ways cities can advance citizens’ financial health and put in place testing plans to ensure their ideas deliver.

The Next Wave of Disruptors in Women’s Health

Featuring: Cindy Whitehead, Founder & CEO, The Pink Ceiling; Tyler Confrey-Maloney, Co-Founder & CEO, Undercover Colors

One day after the landmark approval of what the media dubbed, “Female Viagra”, Cindy Whitehead sold Sprout Pharmaceuticals for $1B. Since then, she has made it her mission to pay it forward to a new wave of disruptors. Through the Pinkubator, Cindy and her team advise and invest in companies that are founded for or by women. The startups Cindy works with fall in line with Cindy’s reputation to not only tackle the taboos, but become game changers in women’s health.

Under Her Eye: Women Are Our Future

Featuring: Cindy Whitehead, Founder & CEO, The Pink Ceiling

Women – nearly 4 billion strong – are our business leaders, entrepreneurs, investors, global leaders, journalists, scientists, philanthropists and CEOs making their mark on the world today. Women multiply the impact of an investment made in them by building businesses that outperform, creating better lives for their family and cultivating strong communities. Explore why women are vital to long-term business and community success and meet the dynamic female leaders championing other women.

Collaboration as a Path to Digital Equity

Featuring: Deb Socia, Executive Director, Next Century Cities; Jennifer Roberts, Mayor, City of Charlotte; Pat Millen, Founder/President, Eliminate the Digital Divide – E2D; Valerie Truesdale, Chief Officer, Technology, Personalized Learning, Engagement, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Schools

Panelists will discuss how Charlotte NC, the Charlotte Mecklenburg schools, business, community, and the non-profit E2D (Eliminate the Digital Divide) partnered to address the “homework gap” for the city’s children. They will discuss how the project came into being, the ways the community was mobilized, and how the schools collaborated to focus on shared digital equity solutions. Participants will be provided with concrete action steps to help them forge similar results in their communities.

Story 2.0: Visual Marketing for a Brave New World

Featuring: Nathan Clendenin, CEO, StoryDriven

From VR/AR to bite-sized video, storytelling has become a fragmented medium. As a result, today’s marketers combine as many as 12-14 distinct types of visual media to achieve singular goals. Visual content is now king, but chasing the latest trends can obscure rather than illuminate your message. So how can you adapt in this brave new world? Two award-winning visual storytelling experts will share solutions that cut through the noise, focus your message, and engage your audiences long-term.

Strategic Policy Playbook Driving Innovation in Ed

Featuring: Bev Perdue, Former Governor, digilearn; Jim Geringer, former Governor, digilearn; Craig Horn, legislator, NC General Assembly

Governors Bev Perdue and Jim Geringer, Rep Craig Horn, and Supt Lynn Moody focus on changing state policy and budgets to create innovative schools. Teaching and learning takes place in schools not at the state -states need to set up the education environment to support teachers and students to be risk takers and innovators. Ed reform continues to yield little results and successful ideas and schools that fail to reach scale because state systems remain standardized.

Re-Creating the Minority Report UI with AR

Featuring: Don Shin, President and CEO, CrossComm, Inc.

As an experiment, we attempted to re-create the Minority Report user interface as a holographic AR app using tech that is readily available today. This session will describe the hardware and software we used, the obstacles we faced, and compromises we made to make the interface usable. After giving a live demo of the resulting holographic app, we will share lessons learned for designing successful spatial computing user interfaces going forward.

How to write code inside 600 apps simultaneously

Featuring: Sean Doherty, Chief Software Architect, CrossComm, Inc.

Creating an SDK for use on mobile platforms is a great way to allow your customers to use your product or service with less friction. Developing an SDK is fraught with difficulties and is vastly different from creating a normal mobile application. Drawing from lessons learned creating a SDK’s used in 600 of applications with 20m MAU processing 200m events/day, this talk will explain common pitfalls and techniques to use to make the process much easier.

TEACH: A Holistic Lens to Improving All Kids Lives

Featuring: Patrick Cronin, Assistant Director for Policy & Programs, North Carolina Institute for Emerging Issues

We believe there are five pillars (#TEACH) to achieving significant, sustained improvement for ALL kids:

Two generation strategy – Engage parents and guardians.
Early investment – Invest heavily in early childhood development.
All kids – Include all kids: Special education, English language learners, gifted, and all others.
Cradle to Career – Focus on the long term view when making short term investments.
Holistic child – Address ALL needs: Health, developmental, and educational.

New Models of EdTech Entrepreneurship in Higher Ed

Featuring: Lisa Dawley, Director, MA in Educational Innovation, Technology & Entrepreneurship, UNC Chapel Hill

How are universities relevant to supporting edtech innovators and entrepreneurs? In this session, we’ll explore new and emerging models, partnerships and roles that higher ed can play in the rapidly evolving space of edtech innovation and entrepreneurship. We’ll look at opportunities and challenges in the field as we strive to close the gap between idea, innovation and startup launch. Learn more about edtech innovation clusters and new degree models.

Reality but Better, Augmenting the World With News

Featuring: Steven King, Professor of Emerging Technology at UNC Chapel Hill

Even in its infancy augmented and mixed Reality tools and techniques have the potential to radically reshape the news business. Deeply immersive stories can be made more interactive and compelling with AR techniques and tools. But in the near future, contextually relevant news — determined by time and location — will be delivered by AR/MR on new hardware systems that seamlessly blend virtual and physical worlds. We’ll explore how this AR/MR revolution will change news delivery and consumption.

You Don’t Need a Whistle to be a Coach

Featuring: Tavia Clark, Digital Innovation Coach, The Friday Institute at NC State University

In this session, we’ll focus on coaching within your role. We’ll talk strategy, coaching frameworks, and essentials to being a coach who can inspire the team. We’ll explore practical ways to be a tech integration and pedagogical leader in your building through collaboration with your colleagues and innovative lesson design. Some of the strands we’ll explore are: Tech integration, Engagement vs entertainment, Pedagogical methods, Innovative lesson design, Design thinking.

Design Thinking, Social Good & Breaking Higher Ed

Featuring: William Moner, Asst Professor of Communications, Elon University

If you could design a course to address your community’s wicked problems, how would you do it? At Elon University, four faculty recruited 14 students from multiple disciplines to take a 16-credit megacourse, the Design Thinking Studio for Social Innovation. No grades, no other course work. Just a team-based student-led agency to address wellness. We succeeded, we failed, and we’re ready to share our lessons learned from when we tried to break free from the structures of academia.

What’s in a Name? Defining Innovation in Higher Ed

Featuring: Kristen Eshleman, Director of Digital Innovation, Davidson College

“Innovation” is a term often used in higher ed, yet rarely defined. Tech adoption and innovation have become synonymous, but how should institutions differentiate between education innovation and learning innovation? What kind of innovations have the potential to really transform teaching and learning? Join academic pioneers for a discussion that moves beyond buzzwords to examine learning innovations — from data to pedagogy, tech to collaboratives — that are creating real impact.

Gaming Religion: Finding Faith in Digital Games

Featuring: Greg Grieve, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Religious themes have supported the story lines of many mainstream games from World of Warcraft to Halo. Gaming has also been described as a spiritual endeavor by avid gamers, and religious groups are increasingly creating and using games to counter religious stereotypes and teach members about core beliefs and practices. This workshop considers how video games can be used to address issues of tolerance, diversity and cultivate civility in our digital culture.

The Bus and Beyond: Our Microtransit Future

Featuring: Rahul Kumar, VP of Revenue, TransLoc

Every community’s public transit needs are unique, but one thing remains universal: fixed-route service is crucial to the future of transportation. Yet, Transportation Network Companies like Uber and Lyft have done more to disrupt the expectations of consumers rather than innovating within the public transit industry. In The Bus and Beyond: Our Microtransit Future, we will examine how microtransit promises to solve these current challenges through a demand-driven approach to transportation.

Empowering People to Own Their Health Data

Featuring: Robert Califf, Vice Chancellor for Health Data Science, Duke University; Bray Patrick-Lake, Director of Patient Engagement; Director of Stakeholder Engagement, Duke Clinical Research Institute

With miniaturized sensors, machine learning, and exponential compute power, researchers can seamlessly capture and understand health information in new ways. What’s next? Figuring out how to share information with those it matters to most: people. This panel will examine how modern initiatives like Project Baseline and All of Us are developing tools and strategies to bridge the gap between clinical research and clinical care, and empower everyday people to understand and manage their health.

American Sleep Deficit: Ways Tech & Beyond Can Red

Featuring: Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Director of Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program, Duke University

Lack of sleep among the U.S. workforce costs approximately 1.2 million working days a year, to the tune of $411 billion in lost productivity. We have a serious problem with sleep, and we’re paying for it—figuratively and literally. So what can we do to help America sleep better? It’s not enough just to decrease our intake of blue light before bed. Hear from leaders in the sleep sector on the ways technology, brands and even the government can help us start catching quality Zs again.

Build it & they’ll come! Data viz for the dataless

Featuring: Cathy Clark, Director, CASE i3 Initiative on Impact Investing, CASE at Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

Data visualizations are a great way to communicate a complex subject or issue, but how can you leverage this powerful storytelling tool with imperfect data? By being fearless! Using the Case Foundation’s Impact Investing Network Map as a case study, we’ll dig in with data science & impact investing experts to discuss leveraging available resources & creative problem solving to build a useful data visualization platform, while creating conditions and infrastructure to meet your eventual objective

What AI Reveals about Our Place in the Universe

Featuring: Adrian Bejan, Physicist & J.A. Jones Professor of Mechanical Engineering, Duke University

Artificial intelligence reveals self-reflexive patterns in our brains, bodies, cities & organizations. Nikos Acuña, Managing Director of Rocket Fuel Institute & author of Mindshare, discusses the very essence of these patterns and what it could mean for humanity with futurist TV star, Jason Silva, PhD Neuroscientist, Vivienne Ming, and Physicist, Adrian Bejan. Together, they’ll illustrate the implications of AI, nanotechnology, cognitive experiences, and digital transformation.

PopUp Star Contest to Improve Clinical Trials

Featuring: John Stewart, Associate Professor of Surgery, Duke University

Lack of clinical trial awareness remains a barrier to bringing new medicines to market. The industry spends millions of dollars recruiting participants into clinical trials; yet, despite a true need for innovation, delays continue. Pop Up Star is a global competition to create broad awareness and promote the concept of clinical research as a care option within the broader health care community. This panel will explore the issue at hand, inspiration, guidelines, and progress to date.

A Progressive Food System through Gene Editing

Featuring: Matthew Crisp, CEO, Benson Hill Biosystems

Gene Editing can level the playing field to help transform our food system, empowering a robust community of innovators to tap the natural genetic diversity of plants and develop more nutrient-dense crops, scale local indoor agriculture, manage diseases with less pesticides and use natural resources more efficiently. How can we deploy this technology to empower progressive innovation, to align with consumer values and expectations of transparency and to create more opportunity for farmers?

How Districts Can Save Billions on Edtech

Featuring: Karl Rectanus, Co-Founder and CEO, Lea(R)n

While digital learning tools are increasingly in the hands of our students and teachers, purchasing practices are stuck in the past. Led by the Technology for Education Consortium, a national leader in edtech purchasing, this session will outline how a lack of transparency in pricing leads to overcharged school districts. The panel will show the severity of the problem by walking through real, anonymous pricing data from districts buying popular hardware and software products.

Improving the Impact of Instructional Technologies

Featuring: Karl Rectanus, Co-Founder and CEO, Lea(R)n

Technologies are adopted and piloted by K-12 and higher education institutions every year. Institutions however do not always adopt the best strategies to determine which technologies have the most impact on their students. This session will highlight this challenge and provide conference attendees with strategies to overcome this challenge that include the use of the LearnPlatform, a new tool that helps institutions determine how helpful adopted technologies improve student learning.

Can OER Take On The Publisher Giants?

Featuring: Brian Kingsley, Assistant Superintendent for Academics, Wake County Public School System

Three publishers have dominated K-12 curriculum. Yet new OER options promise flexibility, standards alignment, & lower cost. As OER evolves into full-course textbook replacements, we ask: Can OER truly replace textbooks? Is there evidence of a shift, or is it hype? What are OER’s headwinds? We’ll discuss Noodle Markets’ research insights and OER curriculum provider experiences, and hear from districts leaders adopting OER curriculum, to explore how the market is responding to new OER entrants.

Bringing Citizen Education to Scale in a Public HS

Featuring: Martin Ferrell, Dean of the High School Academic Program, University of North Carolina School of the Arts

Current developments in education and politics have made developing and implementing a robust, experiential citizen education program ever more challenging. The Citizen Action Project (CAP) has met these challenges, running successfully for all students in a public high school since 2006. This workshop will immerse participants in the CAP experience, demonstrating great potential for bringing civility back to our political discourse and informed civic participation back to our communities.

Hacks, Flacks & Robots: Automation in Today’s News

Featuring: Joe Procopio, CIO of Automated Insights

First, you were told to write for robots. Now, robots are doing the writing for you. What are these robots looking for in a news story? What do you need to know to protect your brand and job when robots and algorithms are shaping your company’s image?
Leading reporters and experts on news automation and A/B testing discuss their impact on the future of the PR/journalist relationship. We’ll also tackle how both sides, are harnessing this technology to feed seemingly insatiable news appetites.