During Saturday night’s third annual gala Philly Geek Awards, a digital literacy training company for Autistic youths took Startup of the Year, a high school robotics teacher was named Geek of the Year and Skeletor brushed shoulders with the Drexel professor who put PONG on the Cira Centre.
Like last year and the year before, it was again a playful black tie affair inside the Academy of Natural Sciences, full of inward community jabs, mission-minded calls for action and civic pride-drenched geek and pop culture references. Technically Philly saw a raptor helmet, a presenter dressed as the villain from the 1980s cartoon He-Man and lots of quirky dress. Academy staff was also out in full force, some guiding, others holding animals for guests to get close to, like snakes, an owl and others.
After a cocktail hour, the more than 300 attendees, which sold out the event this year in less than 90 minutes with tickets at $25 a pop, piled into the Academy’s auditorium.
Here are the winners from the event, which is organized by geek culture blog Geekadelphia, operated by founders Eric Smith and Tim Quirino and supported by a host of friends, like developer Mikey Il, Academy staffer Jill Sybesma, O3 World project manager Robert Perdue and others. Though sponsors supported the event and catering — including glowing robot awards from maker space NextFab Studio — the effort is done by volunteers, including an intern.
“It’s to shine more light on the great work we’re all doing,” Smith said.
Geek Story of the Year — Pong on the Cira Centre: Dr. Frank Lee of Drexel took his dream to the clouds to kick off Philly Tech Week this April.
Startup of the Year — Autism Expressed: The online digital literacy learning tool for kids with Autism.
Hacker of the Year — Dr. Frank Lee: The night’s only two-time winner.
Social Media Campaign of the Year — #GunCrisis: The hashtag and news source focused on gun crime in Philadelphia, accepted by cofounder and journalist Jim MacMillan.
Visual Artist of the Year — Braille Street Art: The effort from visually-impaired Austin Seraphin and his friend Sonia Petruse to put political slogans in art on Philly’s walls that the blind can use is on the cover of Philly Citypaper this week. Of winning this category, Seraphin, who was aided on stage by Petruse and a cane, deadpanned: “I have a confession. I am not actually a visual artist.”
Scientist of the Year — Kimberlee Sue Moran: The Rutgers-Camden forensic archeologist who has done work with the Philly Science Festival and done work like exploding a transit bus to offer a training to area first responders.
Comic Creator of the Year — Andrew Goletz: The editor of Grayhaven Comics has gotten an explosive response following his ‘You are Not Alone’ anti-bullying graphic novel.
Web Project of the Year — AxisPhilly: The data-minded public affairs outlet has had a rough few weeks, including its CEO’s departure and some conversation about its future, but tonight the focus was on the data journalism it has put out in its short history.
Mobile App of the Year — BizVizz: It’s an app that allows you scan corporate logos and find campaign finance disclosures and other backroom filings.
Event of the Year — Open Air Philadelphia: The epic light show above the Ben Franklin Parkway was called the largest art display in the city’s history.
Feature Length Indie Film of the Year — Backyard Philly Project: Put together by a Drexel University alumnae, this documentary follows four students from Penn Town, a community of public housing and lower-rent homes west of Northern Liberties.
Viral Project of the Year — We are Never Ever Going to Win with Andy: He may be the most successful coach in the history of the Philadelphia Eagles (or not), but Andy Reid’s coming up short of the Super Bowl year after year spawned a viral hit.
Geek of the Year –Dan Ueda: The mild-mannered physics teacher at the illustrious Central High School has gained a reputation of shorts around growing the Philly Robotics Expo, which has been part of Philly Tech Week, and leading Central’s popular robotics team. More recently, his words of caution about the city’s budget shortfall caught the attention of the Washington Post.
Hear a report from NewsWorks here, which was the Philly Geek Awards official media sponsor.