The fourth annual Philadelphia Geek Awards on Saturday, Aug. 16, honor and celebrate Philadelphia’s bustling geek culture. Credit: Clever Girl Photo
The blog Geekadelphia and the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University have released the list of nominees for the fourth annual Philadelphia Geek Awards. Winners will be announced during the black-tie red-carpet ceremony Aug. 16 at the Academy of Natural Sciences (1900 Ben Franklin Pkway). Geeks and guests can mingle in the museum over cocktails before the event.
Award presenters include Joel Hodgson of "Mystery Science Theater 3000," celebrated comic book illustrator J.G. Jones and award-winning author E.C. Myers.
Here are the nominees by category, from Geekadelphia and the Academy of Natural Sciences:
Startup of the year
CORA: Woman for woman, month for month. Germantown native Molly Hayward’s social-good business, Cora, delivers healthy, organic menstrual management products to women monthly by mail. But the startup goes beyond just being a subscription box service. For every monthly order Cora ships, they provide a month’s worth of sustainable sanitary pads to a girl in a developing country. In addition to helping young women, the startup seeks to create local, sustainable jobs.
CODED BY KIDS: Founded by Sylvester Mobley, an Iraq war veteran, Coded by Kids was created to teach “underserved urban youth website development skills and other basic digital literacy.” The organization gives children a safe and supportive learning environment where they can learn coding basics, real world development skills, and preparation for successful careers in the tech industry through internships and college prep.
ANALOG WATCH COMPANY: A local independent business creating beautiful, simple watches inspired by the natural world. And the watches are made of wood and are 80 percent biodegradable in recyclable packaging. For every single watch the team sells, they plant a tree.
IRL (In Real Life) Project of the Year
THE TITAN ARM: An upper body exoskeleton, the Titan Arm was created by four students at the University of Pennsylvania as an engineering senior design project for use in physical therapy and occupational lifting. It took eight months of development to prototype, with the resulting arm being able to add 40 pounds to the user’s bicep curl. The arm has been recognized by Popular Science and was the first U.S. winner of the James Dyson Award. You can check out a video of the arm on Engadget, here.
PHILADELPHIA HISTORY TRUCK: A mobile museum, the Philadelphia History Truck rolled out for the first time in May to tell the oral history of the East Kensington neighborhood. The creator, Erin Bernard, worked with the neighborhood to plan what stories the truck would tell and enlisted their help in sharing the history.
COLOUR: West Philadelphia based Peterson Goodwyn runs DIY Recording Equipment, a website where he lists numerous tutorials on how to make, well, DIY recording gear from makers all around the world. He also created Colour, “a modular harmonics generator that makes real analog coloration cheaper than current high-end offerings.”
Visual artist of the year
KYLE CASSIDY: During the American Library Association’s midwinter meeting in Philadelphia, Kyle Cassidy photographed librarians in an attempt to shed stereotypes of what librarians look like. The result? The most popular photo essay Slate has ever published and a traveling exhibit / documentary narrated by Neil Gaiman, fully funded on Kickstarter. A beautifully photographed project, Cassidy’s work brought attention to libraries and librarians all over. You can read the Slate article and view his photographs here.
KID HAZO: The charming, witty and playful work of Kid Hazo surprises and delights Philadelphians whenever it appears. Real-looking street signs that are actually warnings against vampire squirrels or reserved parking for Ghostbusters; gigantic faux Philadelphia Parking Authority tickets on top of cars; playful satire on Visit Philadelphia’s With Love campaign. Hazo is everywhere, making us smile and brightening up Philadelphia’s streets in unexpected ways.
BENJAMIN VOLTA: A Philadelphia muralist and teacher who works with the city’s Mural Arts program, Benjamin Volta’s art blends together a serious love of art and science.
Scientist of the year
KATHERINE KUCHENBECKER: When she’s not ballroom dancing or mentoring students, this associate professor in Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics and the GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania is exploring the potential of tactile technologies (haptics); from high five-ing robots that can tell you something is “fluffy,” to improving surgery training, the future is touchable! Get to know Kuchenbecker, and check out her amazing TED talk from 2012 here.
GENEVIEVE DION: A professor of fashion design at Drexel University, Genevieve Dion explores the frontier of wearable technology, creating high-tech textiles using digital fabrication and computerized knitting machines. This year, she presented at TEDxPhilly and was named one of Fast Company’s 100 Most Creative People in Business.
TED DAESCHLER: In January, Dr. Ted Daeschler, paleontologist at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University, published a scientific paper about a key link in the evolution of hind limbs, an important discovery linking fish and land-dwelling tetrapods. The new fossil materials he uncovered from the ancient fish species Tiktaalik roseae are a key link in the understanding of the evolution of hind limbs.
Comic creator of the year
BOX BROWN: Everyone remembers Andre the Giant from his extensive career in professional wrestling and his role in The Princess Bride. Using his skills as an amazing artist and biographer, Box Brown created a graphic novel that draws from historical records about Andre Roussimoff’s life to paint a picture of the larger-than-life character that was Andre the Giant. Since its release, Brown’s Andre the Giant (published by FirstSecond) has sat on The New York Times bestseller list, enjoying critical acclaim in the world of comics.
BOB SCHOFIELD: The Inevitable June takes readers into Bob Schofield’s surrealistic world, with beautiful black-and-white illustrations and moving poems. An artist who experiments with art and prose in a unique, striking way, Schofield creates work unlike anything else.
MARIO CANDELARIA: Exploring the struggles of firefighters in New York City, Mario Candelaria ran a successful Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to publish the book Ashes. It was released in fall 2013, delivering a moving story accompanied by stunning black-and-white artwork. A Philadelphia jack of all trades, Candelaria dabbles in stand-up comedy, acting, and more, but has found his calling working in comics. At least we think so.
Game of the year
THESE FRENCH FRIES ARE TERRIBLE HOT DOGS: In Shawn Pierre’s card game, players use lies and deception to convince one another that they have the best hot dog, hat or other object. An IndieCade 2013 selection, and with nearly $20,000 in Kickstarter backers, the game’s hilarious premise captured the public, which responded well.
COIN CRYPT: Last year’s Game of the Year winner, Greg Lobanov, is back with another amazing title, Coin Crypt. A rogue-like card game currently on Steam’s early access, Coin Crypt brings gamers into a world where coins are your weapons and currency as you explore dungeons rich in coins and danger. He’s created a deep, immense universe and once again continues to be a one-man development machine.
DRIVE TO HELL: A free iOS and Android game, Drive to Hell is the debut title from Philadelphia’s newest game studio, Ghost Crab Games. With an old-school, shoot-em-up, pixelated feel, it’s an exciting retro game with a thrilling soundtrack. A two-person team run by Chris Hoopes and Dustin Twilley, Ghost Crab has released a great debut title. We can’t wait to see what they do next.
Story of the year
N3RD STREET: When Old City’s tech business corridor was officially renamed N3RD Street by the City of Philadelphia, the neighborhood celebrated. Places like Indy Hall, SEER Interactive, Impact Hub, Jarv.us, WebLinc, and the nearby Philly Game Forge were thrilled to be recognized in the historic name change.
OPENING OF PAINE’S PARK: Paine’s Park has been talked about since 2002, but finally—with much community support, including the Kickstarter campaign—the physical park and a community to tie current and future skate parks together came into being. Skater geeks have a new place to call their own.
RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE: A Guinness Book of World Records attempt to create the largest Rube Goldberg machine, this awesome event took place during the Philadelphia Science Festival and took the media by storm. While the machine didn’t quite make it, the story thrilled and delighted geeks throughout Philadelphia.
Web project of the year
SNOW SHAKE: Allen & Gerritsen’s digital snow globe represented a lot more than just a simple web toy. Friends from around the country can interact with this digital web app that connects your smartphone to the website using no downloadable apps and your phone’s gyroscope. It’s a remarkable piece of web technology under the guise of a playful web gadget.
UNLOCK PHILLY: Unlock Philly is a website and app that uses open data and social media to map out accessibility in Philadelphia. Created by Code for Philly, Philadelphia’s chapter of Code for America, the project is led by civic hacker James Tyack, a King of Prussia software developer. You can learn more about it here, on the Unlock Philly website.
PAPERCLIPS215: The team behind PaperClips215 seeks to catalog all the art happenings in Philadelphia, with the goal of being a one-stop source for everything visual art in the city. A great niche blog run by volunteers who are passionate about the Philly art scene, it’s a valuable resource that brings the art community together and calls attention to the cool projects artists are creating. Visit their website and learn more about the arts community in Philadelphia.
Streaming project of the year
LIVING IN 8 BITS: The crew at Mixed Nuts Productions has been creating hilarious episodes in their Living in 8 Bits series for a while now, presenting video game situations in real life. Referencing the best parts of old-school gaming, Living in 8 Bits continues to make us laugh and feel nostalgic. Check out their YouTube channel, and enjoy.
THE BLACK TRIBBLES: An incredible podcast based in Philadelphia, The Black Tribbles cover geek culture and work incredibly hard to build their community online and offline. This year, the five tribbles hosted a book donation drive to bring graphic novels to Philadelphia schools and shelters. You can catch their show on GTown Radio and 900AM WURD, as well as on Podomatic. Learn more about The Black Tribbles on their official website.
PANEL BY PANEL: Panel by Panel is a web series created by Temple University student filmmakers Wandering Studios. A sitcom-esque series that explores geek culture, Panel by Panel is a fun, low budget, funny show that is as silly as it is touching. Expect great things from this bunch of young Philly filmmakers, and check out their website here.
Event of the year
FUNERAL FOR A HOME: On May 31, a home in Philadelphia’s Mantua neighborhood was demolished. However, before the home was torn down, it was celebrated. People came out to toast the house, sing songs, and remember the home. A moving event that doubled as an art project by Steven and Billy Dufala (who Philadelphians might know from their group Man Man), the goal was to engage the community “through public memory and civic dialogue.” Learn more about the project at the official Funeral for a Home website.
EXHUMED 24-HOUR FILM FESTIVAL: Every year the folks at Exhumed throw incredible 24-hour film festivals, bringing together the horror and film communities for a full day of movie-watching madness.
8-STATIC FESTIVAL: The chiptune scene in Philadelphia continues to grow and is proud to be one of the biggest in the country. The team behind the amazing chiptune parties at Studio 34 and PhilaMOCA banded together to create the 8-static Festival, a three day celebration of 8-bit music and visuals in Philadelphia. Their Kickstarter campaign pulled in more than $11,000 and gifted the city with an amazing new music festival.
Social media project of the year
PHILADELPHIA PARKS & REC’S TREE PHILLY: In an effort to bring attention to Philadelphia’s parks and trees, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department launched #TreePhilly, a campaign that playfully displayed signs on trees around the city and eventually gave away more than 1,500 trees to more than 800 Philadelphians. The resulting photos and social media chatter were charming, fun, playful, and beautiful.
SLICE COMMUNICATIONS’ TURKEY BACON MEDAL: Local PR agency Slice Communications works with Godshall’s Quality Meats, a turkey bacon provider in Telford. How exciting can you make a campaign circulating around turkey bacon though? Well, when Olympic Gold Medalist Sage Kotsenburg proclaimed his desire to have a bacon medal, they jumped on the opportunity. Through a series of tweets and marketing tactics, eventually Kotsenburg was on Conan O’Brien, proudly displaying a medal made of bacon. Sometimes an entire campaign can launch from a single tweet, and this one became a story in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and more.
Feature length indie film of the year
THE SUSPECT: Two African American social scientists pose as bank robbers in an effort to understand the racial dynamics of small-town law enforcement. However, their experiment takes an unplanned, deadly turn. It was shot in Philadelphia and starring Mekhi Phifer. You can view the trailer for the film here.
LET THE FIRE BURN: A history of the conflict of the City of Philadelphia and the Black Liberation organization, MOVE, that led to the disastrously violent final confrontation in 1985. You can watch the trailer for the film here.
ADJUST YOUR TRACKING: An incredible documentary capturing the modern day VHS culture and VHS collectors. Check out the trailer here. It also has one of the greatest movie posters ever.
Geek of the year
LESLIE BIRCH: A mover, a shaker, an awesome hack maker, Leslie Birch creates incredible work in Philadelphia. Her wearable tech with a DIY approach, her Senti8 project with team members in 2014 International Space Apps Challenge “best use of hardware,” and ISS Orbit Skirt from 2013 show her commitment to wearable tech. She works hard to inspire young women in the region to get involved in tech, design and more. She can often be found teaching at The Hacktory and Hive 76.
JASON RICHARDSON: In addition to his incredible podcast with The Black Tribbles, Jason Richardson is a community builder and leader, with his production company J1 Studios. He hosts J1-Con, one of the biggest anime conventions in Philadelphia, as well as the Cosplay Prom. And when he isn’t recording podcasts or hosting huge events, he’s a comic book artist.
CHRIS ALFANO: A driving force in Philadelphia’s hacking scene and a mentor organizer for countless hackathons in the city, Alfano is a major leader in the community. He serves as the Brigade Captain of Code for Code for Philly.