With more than 40 nominees in 14 categories, this year’s Philadelphia Geek Awards honor a wide range of local scientists, artists, teachers and entrepreneurs — united not by any particular interest but by the intensity of their particular interests.
“The term ‘geek’ doesn’t necessarily refer specifically to technological innovation,” says Tim Quirino, co-founder of local blog Geekadelphia, which presents the Geek Awards in conjunction with the Academy of Natural Sciences. “It’s more about having a hobby or a side project that you feel really passionate about, that you care so much about that you pour yourself into it.”
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This year’s nominees include an archeology professor working with Dogfish Head Brewery to revive ancient beer recipes; giant "Pong" games played on the Cira Centre; a startup helping to teach adolescents with autism to use digital and social media; a visual artist creating work inspired by hot dogs; and a card game involving mutant dinosaurs. For the first time this year, those nominees were discovered with the help of Philly’s larger geek community, who were encouraged to submit suggestions and ideas through the Geekadelphia website.
“Informed as I and the rest of the team try to be, we all have normal jobs that keep us really busy,” says Geekadelphia co-founder Eric Smith. “So something incredible could slip under the radar. In the end, we received over 600 emails and had this gigantic pool of resources to pull from that we didn’t have the past two years. I think it really helped us to find things that we might not have come across otherwise.”
The black-tie, red carpet awards show takes place at the Academy of Natural Sciences, where the pre-show cocktail hour will feature science demonstrations and live animals. The ceremony itself will include presentations by local “celebrigeeks” like “Mystery Science Theater 3000” creator Joel Hodgson, cartoonist Brad Guigar, and photographer Kyle Cassidy.
The evening’s most coveted award, of course, is Geek of the Year. This year’s headline nominees are molecular biologist, game designer, and comedian Matthew Akana; Drexel engineering prof (and Cira Centre Pong mastermind) Dr. Frank Lee; and Central High robotics team leader Dan Ueda.
“That’s like our Best Picture,” Smith says of the award. “We look for people who have done outstanding things in the community that isn’t just about themselves or about making a product, but that’s inspiring others or that gives back in a really big way. When you look at the nominees, they’re really inspiring people that I think the community should look up to.”
Philadelphia Geek Awards
Saturday, 6:30 p.m.
The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University
1900 Ben Franklin Pkwy.