Innovate Your Cool: A Conference on Innovation

Innovate Your Cool (IYC) celebrates the power of cool ideas and its impact on business and music. This year's program will pack inspiration, ideas, innovation and fun into Saturday, May 7, 2016.

Media partners include WTVD, The Herald Sun and WUNC’s The State of Things, as well as community partnerships with American Underground, American Tobacco Campus, Moog Music, NC Science Festival, Durham Public Schools and the Greater Durham Boys and Girls Club.

Free conference programming for children include the hip-hopera, 5p1n0k10, which tells the story of a robot­boy who wants to become human. Children also can participate in the Kids Cage Powered by Morehead Planetarium featuring “Carolina Skies”, a guided tour of the nighttime sky. High schoolers and college students  can participate in the “Pitch Perfect” competition, and share a business idea to win scholarship money, and other prizes.

Adults interested in music can attend free panels on music industry sampling, visual art and activism, Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy-winning album To Pimp a Butterfly, a fireside chat with legendary artist Terence Blanchard, intimate performances at American Underground’s Blackspace, a hip-hop cypher, and more.

Adults interested in entrepreneurship and innovation can hear discussions lead by World Overcomer’s pastor Andy Thompson, entrepreneur Chris Heivly, Anthony Frazier and others.


To advance innovative thinking by creating maximum collisions of intelligent people, cool ideas & improvised music.




(347) 555-1234



American Underground @Main

201 W. Main Street

Durham, NC 27707



Saturday: 10-4pm


2016 Programming 


5P1N0K10 (Spinokio) 

5p1n0k10 is a Hip Hopera about a robot-boy who wants to become human. In the distant future, when robots are used for war, engineer Jeghetto built 5p1n0k10 – an android who fights for humanity through b-boying and hip hop. This Afro-Futuristic take on Carlo Collodi’s Classic ‘Pinocchio’ includes hand-crafted puppets by Tarish “Jeghetto” Pipkins, projections and a live score produced by Afro-futurists Pierce Freelon and Hir-O. 

PSI THEATER  10:00-11:05AM

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Kid's Cage: Powered by Morehead Planetarium and Science Center

Carolina Skies

        Carolina Skies is a "live" star show is led by a Morehead educator and is a traditional planetarium show that focus on stars, planets and constellations. "Carolina Skies" takes visitors on a guided tour of the nighttime sky as it appears on that very night above North Carolina. Currently, "Carolina Skies" shows also include an exciting "fly-out" experience that travels beyond our Solar System into the Milky Way Galaxy and beyond into our universe! 


        Sphero SPRK Edition will inspire a love of robotics, coding, and STEM principles... all through play. The SPRK community is thriving with thousands of kids shaping their future through fun and discovery. Fire up your imagination and break the rules of learning.

Science of Sound

        Human Drums!? Enough Said!



SESSION 1: 11:00-12:00PM
SESSION 2: 12:00-1:00PM
SESSION 3: 2:00-3:00PM
SESSION 4: 3:00-4:00PM

Werkstatt Workshop Powered by Moog Music 

Moog Music's Werkstatt Workshop is an interactive musical and engineering workshop.  Participants will learn the history of Moog Music, build a small analog synthesizer, and learn the fundamentals of circuits and analog subtractive synthesis. 

American Underground Training Room (2nd floor)  
Session 1: 11:00-12:00pm
Session 2: 3:00-4:00pm

Fireside Chat: Anthony Frasier Of The Phat Startup

Anthony Frasier is a digital strategist, tech entrepreneur, author, and public speaker. A Newark, NJ native, Anthony has a long history of mentoring and advising startups & community infrastructures, to solve real problems and build solutions. Anthony has been instrumental in bringing up a new generation of black & minority technology leaders.

American Underground Bullpen  11:05-11:45am

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ARTivism Panel

Some of the world’s best philosophers have used visual art as a means of expression, escape and engagement with the world around us. 

Durham has no shortage of talented artists and curators that use their platform as a vessel to bring light to the events that are happening as we speak. Artivism, the marriage between activism and art has grown into a global social movement for injustice. 

Join our esteemed panel of artists and curators as they lead a discussion on the current state of Artivism and Durham’s contribution to the movement. 


Meet the panelists.

Roundtable Talk: Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly

This panel discussion will focus on the creative process behind the 2015 Rolling Stone Album of the Year, To Pimp A Butterfly. Featuring Grammy award winning artists Terrace Martin and Rapsody,  this is one conversation sure to be heard around the music world.

American Underground Bullpen  12:45-1:35pm

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WildEyes Virtual Reality

WILDEYES is taking the lead in an exciting new form of virtual reality filmmaking with an ambitious project that uses 360° video and sound to connect people with the natural world. A collaboration between educators, national parks, and filmmakers, in celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the national park service. We are inviting people of all ages to “put on their WildEyes” and take a virtual field trip to any national park in the US!


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Catch The Beat: Press Tent @ Blackspace 

Catch the Beat is an on the spot exchange of music and culture. Fans will be treated to a premium showcase of talent as the festival's headlining acts come through The Blackspace for an exclusive interview.

Blackspace is a digital makerspace and Afrofuturism community center, where youth engage in beat making, videography, coding and puppetry workshops free of charge. With downtown locations in Durham and Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Blackspace is a social entrepreneurship and arts innovation incubator designed to organize and empower at-risk communities through technology-and-art based resources and trainings. Blackspace programs are infused with a Pan African cultural enrichment curriculum that celebrates thinkers, makers and entrepreneurs of African descent.


Carolina Love: Who Sampled? Powered By Lessons in Jazz

Some say imitation is the highest form of flattery and in the music industry sampling best sums up the common phrase.

Join us as the Lessons in Jazz crew schools us on the history of some of North Carolina’s most influential artist in a classic game of Whosampled?

This interactive session will give attendees insight on the innovative thought process of recreating a classic tune into a modern hit.

American Underground Bullpen  12:00-12:40pm

#IYC Iron Chef

The food scene in Downtown Durham is heating up!

As Bull City cuisine gains national recognition this event will give new meaning to the phrase “taste test”. Local chefs will be given the opportunity to create a specialty dish for the attendees, with one catch.  In true iron chef style, the chefs must prepare a dish using one secret ingredient chosen by the Innovate Your Cool staff. Festival attendees will be given the opportunity to vote for their favorite dish via the social hashtag #IYCPotluck to determine the COOLEST chef in the city.

Main entrance lobby  12:00-1:30pm 

Meet the chefs.

Leap of Faith: Lightening Talk with Pastor Andy Thompson 

Innovation is never an easy thing to spearhead. The path to disrupting an industry can often be a lonely road in which constant inspiration is needed to reassure you that you are in deed called to bring about this much needed shift in tradition. And what's more traditional than religion? Join us as Pastor Andy Thompson speaks on some of his experiences in the innovation of the church and receive some much needed tips on how to stay focused and faithful to your mission.


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2Beat HIV: Lightening Talk with Allison Matthews

If you could shape the future of HIV cure research, what would it look like? How would you get people to care andhave a sense of ownership over a seemingly unbeatable epidemic like HIV/AIDS? Allison Mathews discusses how she worked with community to design 2BeatHIV, a research project that uses crowdsourced innovation contests to encourage community members to use art, technology, and music to develop HIV cure marketing campaigns. 


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Build The Fort: Lightening Talk with Chris Heivly 

Chris Heivly is an accomplished executive with proven experience in marketing, sales, business development, investment finance and operations. Chris is currently one of two Managing Directors of THE STARTUP FACTORY a seed-level investment fund making 10-14 new investments per year.  In addition to TSF, Chris is the founder of the Big Top Job Fair and a national writer and speaker about startups and startup communities and the author of Build The Fort.

Join Chris in an informative discussion on the five elements that are common to both fort building and startups.

Shoeboxed Treehouse (2nd Floor)  2:00-2:45pm

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Innovation in Film and Music: Fireside Chat featuring Terence Blanchard

In this interactive conversation legendary trumpeter Terence Blanchard will dissect the work that has shaped his amazing film score career. His scoring credits include classic movies such as Mo’ Betta Blues, Crooklyn, Love & Basketball, Red Tails and Cadillac Records just to name a few. 


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Google Lounge Performance: Featuring J Rowdy and Cypher U

Rap? Bring your bars.

Sing? Bring your melody.

Musician? Don’t forget your instrument.

The cypher movement is alive and well in the Triangle area. Attendees will have the opportunity to join local musicians, MCs and performers from all over the state in the city’s largest cypher. Hosted by J Rowdy, member of Guinness World Record team for the world’s longest cypher, and Cypher Univercity, a North Carolina based movement rooted in freedom of expression, the improvisation arts, and the open exchange of knowledge.


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Pitch Perfect Competition

The world we live in is not perfect. If given the opportunity to build a business to solve one major problem - what would you solve?

Some of the brightest high school and college students from the Triangle area will use innovation and creativity to develop a business to answer that very question.

Local teams will compete for the opportunity to secure numerous prizes including scholarship money, tickets to see AOCFEST's Saturday Headliner, The Internet, and much more.

Be sure to support the future problem solvers of America at this year’s Pitch Perfect Competition.



The world we live in is not perfect. Given the chance to design any product or service to solve a problem that plagues your community, what would you build?

You can either participate as a team or an individual. Participants in this pitch competition will be required to come up with an original idea to solve a problem in their community. Your mission, should you chose to accept it: Pick a problem, solve it.



  1. Applicants must have at least one team member who is of African, African American, Native American, or Latino descent

  2. Each team must have no more than 3 members for a single pitch

  3. Each individual or team entering the competition can submit only one idea

  4. The pitched idea must be the original work of the individual or team participating in the competition



1st Place

  • $1,000 cash prize

  • Mentoring from select American Underground community members

  • 1 Ticket (per member) to Saturday Night headline AOC concert

  • 1 Ticket (per member) to Sunday morning VIP AOC breakfast

2nd Place

  • $500 cash prize

3rd Place

  • $250 cash prize

*Each participating team will receive a Dell Desktop (1 per team) sponsored by Duke University.

**Please note that prize money will be split equally between all team members.


2BeatHIV Challenge:

The 2BeatHIV project is a research project at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the Institute for Global Health and Infectious Disease (IRB Study Number: #13-1913). The 2BeatHIV project is seeking Pitch Perfect participants to pitch creative ideas for the development of an app that will improve HIV cure community engagement in the Research Triangle area. The winner of the pitch contest will win ADDITIONAL cash and in-kind prizes if they design a pitch related to HIV cure!  For more information about the 2BeatHIV project, contact Dr. Allison Mathews


We’re looking for ideas that get people interested in learning about HIV cure research. The app should encourage users to learn about HIV cure research in a fun and interactive way. We are especially interested in app ideas that include elements like photo and video sharing, virtual world gaming, sim gaming, trivia challenges, a chat room, or other interactive ways to get people involved.


2BeatHIV additional prizes:

-$500 additional prize money

-10 hours of consulting with local graphic design artist, valued at $2000

-10 hours of consulting with local coding developer, valued at $2000

Pitch Guidelines


  • Team or individual must be able to clearly explain the idea or concept of the product or service in a short duration of time.

  • Note that the pitch competition is not a sales pitch. Do not try to sell the product or service to the judges but instead prove the value of the product or service for potential customers.


2. The Pitch

  • The purpose of the pitch is to explain your product and how it addresses will solve a problem for the community.Below are the basic judging criteria for your pitch. Intangible factors such as passion and presentation skills will also weigh in to the judges’ votes.  


i.  Product or Service – Briefly describe the product or service.

ii.  Value Proposition – How is the product or service going to add value for customers?

iii.  Target Market – Who will be buying the product or service?

iv.  Market Size – How big is the target market?

v.  Differentiation – How is the product or service different from existing competition? What is the competitive advantage? (patent, algorithm, unique service model, etc.)

vi.  Revenue Model – How will the product or service generate revenue? (sales, subscription, advertisement, etc.)


3. Time

  • Each team or individual presenting will receive two (2) minutes to present their idea to the panel of judges

Following the presentation there will be a brief (2-4 minute) Q & A period with the judges. Time will begin when the presenter begins to speak.


4. Other Guidelines

  • Art of Cool/Innovate Your Cool reserves the right to disqualify any team or individual before and/or during the pitch competition if the team or individual violates any of the competitions’ rules and regulations


Instructions for Submission

  1. Complete the application form. Submit one application form per team.

  2. Each participant under 17 years old must have a parent sign the consent form allowing you and your team members to participate.

  3. Submit all materials to Michael English


Deadline for Application Submission:  

April 15th 2016

Finalist will be announced on April 22nd 2016

If you have any questions, please contact


Meet the Contestants

With community in mind Innovate Your Cool 2016 features programming geared towards children of all ages. Community programming for the 2016 Innovate Your Cool Conference is sponsored by the City of Durham and Durham County.


2016 Innovate Your Cool Sponsors