The Philadelphia Geek Awards 2015: Thank You!

By | on August 17, 2015 | 0 Comment

Every year, the Philadelphia Geek Awards team fiercely argue and passionately debate for several months leading up to our annual show. Who can we get to sponsor? What kind of swag can we dish out? Who will we nominate? What will make this show better than the last?

Those long discussions result in a big celebration of our community, and couldn’t be happier with the results. After months of research and planning, the 2015 Philadelphia Geek Awards wrapped up on Saturday.

You can see the exclusive winner announcement with WHYY here as well as details regarding the Philadelphia Geek Grant here. In the coming days, we’ll have plenty of photos and video to show you.

Thanks again, Philadelphia. You make this a great city to be a geek in. Check out the winners after the jump, and see you soon after our little post-Geek Awards hiatus. We need to sleep.

Scientist of the Year: Penn’s “Twitter Predicts Heart Disease” Team

The World Well-Being Project (WWBP) is a multidisciplinary research group at the University of Pennsylvania. A collaboration between computer scientists and psychologists, WWBP is pioneering big data techniques for measuring physical and psychological health and well-being based on language in social media.

In a study released in January of 2015, led by graduate student Johannes C. Eichstaedt, the Penn team found that Twitter can predict community mortality rates from heart-disease better than 10 common demographic, socioeconomic, and health risk factors, including smoking and hypertension.

Specifically, language patterns reflecting negative social relationships, disengagement, and negative emotions—especially anger—emerged as risk factors; positive emotions and psychological engagement emerged as protective factors. WWBP’s work suggests that Twitter is not only a meaningful indicator of community well-being, but that big data language analysis can complement, and in part replace, traditional survey methods.

Read more about the project at

Streaming Project of the Year: Book Fight!

When these two book lovers collide, things get heated in the best way. Discussing books they love and hate, as well as talking about the craft of writing, Book Fight! is a podcast headed up by two Temple professors that are fiercely passionate about the literary world.

With production that’s as high quality as the discussion, Book Fight! is an insightful look into the literary, dishing out in-depth criticism by two smart literati. They’ve also taken their podcast into the wild, hosting events at places like Tattooed Mom, The Spiral Bookcase, and the Philadelphia Writers Conference.

To learn more about Book Fight!, and to give them a listen, visit

Story of the Year: Analog Watch Company’s Ant Farm Watch

With an April Fool’s Joke that took the Internet by storm, Analog Watch Company’s Ant Farm Watch found itself in plenty of local media outlets, getting showcased and discussed on Philly Mag, Technically Philly, and Geekadelphia… but made waves all over, tricking blogs around the world.

Showcased (and in some cases, fiercely argued about) on websites like TechnaBob, Design Taxi, Beautiful Decay, Complex, Fast Company, TechCrunch, and listed as one of the Best April Fool’s Pranks of 2015 by The Telegraph, Yahoo, Analog Watch Company’s joke didn’t just make us laugh and think. It brought attention to Philadelphia and this awesome startup in a fun, quirky way.

Analog Watch Co. is focused on creating sculptures for the wrist that are inspired by nature and developed through the lens of material innovation. From wood to marble, Analog aims to solidify itself as a Philadelphia’s premier boutique watch brand. With a showroom and studio on East Passyunk, the team focuses on creating wearable art.

When it came to the Ant Watch, the team just couldn’t ignore one of the best holidays of the year and decided to relish in the potential to go viral on every geeks favorite playful holiday.

Startup of the Year: Billy Penn

Launched in October 2014, Billy Penn is a mobile-first news platform designed with millenials in mind. What makes this startup unique (besides the penchant for covering political debates with emojii or explaining local dynasties a la Game of Thrones) is the approach to civic engagement, targeting an audience that’s typically hard to reach.

With their innovative blend of original content with aggregated must-read links from around the local web, plus events and forums about town, Billy Penn is already forming a community in Philadelphia while making waves with journalism institutes across the country.

I.R.L. Project of the Year: The White Mountains

Through a partnership with the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Medicine and the Chemical Heritage Foundation, REACH (Resources for Education and Action for Community Health) Ambler explored the history, environmental health, and community identity of Ambler, Pennsylvania. A play, The White Mountains, was the culmination of a project that also included a website, exhibit and publication. The entire project was funded through a Science Education Partnership Award from the National Institute of Health.

Produced by Ambler’s Barrymore-winning Act II Playhouse, The White Mountains brought together ten Philadelphia playwrights, who developed short plays on Ambler’s past, present, and future. These plays were inspired by interviews Chemical Heritage Foundation staff conducted with Ambler residents, activists, and government officials, and informed by research about Ambler’s history of asbestos production and ensuing environmental effects.  Performed as a sold-out event at Act II Playhouse, The White Mountainsfeatured six actors, live original music, and a post-show conversation among audience members and project participants.  A work of theater, history, and community engagement,The White Mountains is now a model for recording and sharing stories of how a community responds to local environmental issues.

Learn more about it over on the Chemical Heritage Foundation’s website.

Photo by Bill D’Agostino of Act II Playhouse

Visual Artist of the Year: Cory J. Popp

Filmmaker and journalist, this native Philadelphian is known for his three video series, “Philly Makers”, “Wastelands” and “Uncover Philly.” South Philly local, Cory J. Popp has used his passion for storytelling to create visually stunning videos focusing on the fascinating people and places of his hometown. Cory began shooting video for real estate companies, which transitioned into the production of his own videos, including his first Philly seasonal video in 2014, the massively popular “A Philly Christmas”.

While some of his videos involved planning, a majority of Cory’s videos are filmed spontaneously while walking throughout different Philadelphia neighborhoods. Whether it’s to draw new attention to the city’s hidden gems, reigniting interest in city spaces, or remind us why we all love Philadlephia, Cory J. Popp’s work has helped highlight our city in a way that Philadelphian’s young and old can admire. In his latest “Undercover Philly” installment, Cory’s largest project to date “Philadelphia from Above” is the result of 4 weeks, 70 hours, 230 GB, 204 video clips, and 40 timelapses made form 16,288. photographs.

To see more of Cory’s remarkable stories, visit his official website.

Game of the Year: Pretense

With a successfully crowdfunded Kickstarter, Pretense launched with over 1,300 backers excited about this card game that’s high in concept and fun. A game that you play during other games, Pretense is a game night social metagame that is played over the entire course of an evening.

Your job? Fulfill the role you’ve been given on your card. Are you the critic? The bookworm? The glutton? The busybody? If you accomplish the goal of living out this role, you gain a point and get to steal someone else’s role.

Created by the prolific Jason Tagmire (creator of Pixel Lincoln and Storytelling Cards), Pretense is an incredibly unique game for gamers.

Feature-Length Indie Film of the Year: I Am Santa Claus

With a successful Kickstarter campaign that brought in over $50,000, I Am Santa Claus “documented an entire year in the lives of professional Santa Clauses to find out what the rest of the year is like for a man who perpetually looks like Jolly Saint Nick.”

A quirky and unique documentary, viewers get to “see these Santas for who they actually are: flawed, flesh and blood men who feel an overbearing responsibility to protect the integrity of the spotless, untarnished reputation of the Red Suit.”

Watch the trailer for the documentary, here.

Web Project of the Year: Open Data Philly’s Relaunch

OpenDataPhilly is the source for open data in the Philadelphia region. It is a data portal that provides access to more than 300 data sets, applications, and APIs related to the region. Built by Azavea, a Philadelphia-based geospatial software firm, OpenDataPhilly is based on the idea that providing free and easy access to digital information encourages better and more transparent government and a more engaged and knowledgeable citizenry.

OpenDataPhilly differs from most municipal government open data portals. OpenDataPhilly is supported and maintained by a community that includes the City of Philadelphia, Temple University, Azavea, and other organizations. The relaunch underscores a commitment to open source software, as well, as it is built on the Comprehensive Knowledge Archive Network (CKAN).

OpenDataPhilly was primarily a pro bono project by Azavea with additional funding from the William Penn Foundation and the Knight Foundation. It first launched during Philly Tech Week in April 2011, and was relaunched in February 2015.

Comic Creator of the Year: Kelly Phillips and Claire Folkman

An all-girl comic anthology curated by Philadelphia’s own Kelly Phillips and Claire Folkman, Dirty Diamonds strives to give the women of comics a dedicated outlet for telling their stories. Artists from all around the world have contributed their works over the years, and using this outlet, Phillips and Folkman have been able to give numerous women in comics a platform to stand out.

Their fifth issue, an anthology on comics, featured 32 artists from six different countries, all sharing stories about the medium that they hold dear… comics. Their first professionally printed book, Comics is a stunning anthology, featuring a cover by Carey Pietsch (Adventure Time), and raised over $8,000 on Kickstarter to support its printing.

Showing no sign of slowing down, Dirty Diamonds’ latest crowdfund campaign, an anthology on beauty, raised over $17,000 just in June. Learn more about them at

Social Media Project of the Year: Nicole Angemi’s Instagram Account(s)

Nicole Angemi is a pathologist assistant that’s had her Instagram shut down multiple times. Why? She posts autopsy photographs. Her controversial account isn’t there to create controversy though. It’s there to educate and inform. To reveal hard truths about the human body, health, and the causes of death.

Her account boasts over 350,000 followers, and she’s found herself featured locally in Philly Mag, Philly Voice,, and has taken the international spotlight, with pieces on The Sun in the UK, as well as Vice.

Event of the Year: City Council Candidate Convention

On April 2nd, Young Involved Philadelphia hosted the largest event in its 15-year history and one of the largest events in the 2015 primary election season. Hosted by WHYY and in partnership with the Committee of Seventy, this event saw more than 400 young voters converge on WHYY’s studios to meet and engage with 23 candidates for Philadelphia City Council.

The impetus for this event was the growing power of City Council in relation to the mayor — City Council has control over development of neighborhoods; they decide if and where bike lanes can go; they have the power to raise or reduce parking ticket fees; and they even have say over trash collection. At the end of the day, Council decides how to spend $4.5 BILLION every year. And YIP and Seventy recognized that virtually no one, especially young voters, knows anything about who sits on council or who is running.

YIP and the Committee of Seventy thought it’d be cool to have a reverse career fair for the candidates, including both the incumbents and the people running to unseat them. The next thought: “wouldn’t it be cool if we gave all of the attendees a ‘cheat sheet’ about what to ask candidates?” So YIP curated questions from more than a dozen issue-specific organizations, including the Bicycle Coalition, Plan Philly, AL DIA, Philly Core Leaders, and the Urban Affairs Coalition.

The event — which was organized by an entirely volunteer team of more than 35 members of YIP — was a smashing success, providing a unique opportunity for young voters to engage directly with candidates, put a face to a name, and decide if that candidate was worthy of their vote.

Geek of the Year: Ather Sharif

The Founder and Researcher at EvoXLabs, Sharif is a software engineer, a freelance web developer, and a consultant who is constantly researching web accessibility and jQuery tools to make the Internet a more accessible place. His research on accessible graphs won the Delegates Award for the Most Significant Accessibility Research at WWW’15 Conference. EvoXLabs also develops free and accessible websites for non-profits of Philadelphia and organizes evoHaX, which is a Hackathon on Web Accessibility.

As a developer for Unlock Philly, nominated for the Web Project of the Year at the Philadelphia Geek Awards 2014, he also founded the SCI Video Blog, which is full of tutorial videos that help people with spinal cord injuries perform daily activities and is soon to become a video search engine for wheelchair users.

Ather is a Google Scholar and the Team Lead for a nationwide initiative to organize web development workshops for middle school children, as part of the Google Scholar Engagement Program. This initiative is due to launch early September. Ather also serves as a Technical Strategist and Planner for Enhancing Transportation Awareness for Health, which is a project launched to solve transportation problems for the elderly and disabled in Philadelphia


Author Description

Eric spends most of his time writing, reading, and hanging out with his chinchilla and bunny. By day he's a literary agent, by night, he's an author of humor and YA books. His writing has sold into nine languages. His Young Adult series, Inked, is out now with Bloomsbury.

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