It’s time to kick off the voting in another key GeekWire Awards category — Geek of the Year.
This is a special award, designed to recognize not just technical prowess but also efforts to strengthen the broader technology community. Reflecting that spirit, the voting in this category last year resulted in a rare tie, with computer scientist Oren Etzioni and cancer researcher Rebecca Gardner sharing the “Geek of the Year” honors.
This year’s finalists have all made significant contributions to the community through their work in technology, startups and science.
The finalists are Seaton Gras of SURF Incubator; Dr. Jim Olson of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Hadi Partovi of Code.org; Julie Sandler of Madrona Venture Group and Seattle Entrepreneurial Women’s Network; and serial entrepreneur Dan Shapiro, creator of the Robot Turtles board game.
A big thanks to GeekWire Awards presenting sponsor Wave Business Solutions for making the Geek of the Year category possible.
As with each of our categories, the five finalists below were nominated by the community and then selected with the input of our panel of judges. The winners will be announced May 8th at the GeekWire Awards, taking place at the EMP Museum in Seattle.
Cast your ballot below for Geek of the Year, continue reading for more background on each finalist, and sign up below to join us on May 8 to see who wins. Also check out the special Haiku Deck for this category.
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Seaton Gras, SURF Incubator: The brainchild of Seaton Gras, SURF Incubator stands for “Start Up Really Fast.” It’s an appropriate moniker given the growth SURF has been experiencing. Hosting nearly 70 companies and organizations who pay a monthly fee to be a part of the community, SURF outgrew its original location at the Exchange Building and is moving to the Wells Fargo building across the street in downtown Seattle.
Dr. Jim Olson, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center: Olson is pediatric brain cancer specialist based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who also works at Seattle Children’s. He spends time not only in the clinic but also in the lab — not just treating patients but also leading efforts to find more effective treatments through cutting-edge research.
His work has spawned two biotech companies, Presage Biosciences and Blaze Bioscience, and his “Project Violet” gives the public the opportunity to “adopt” drug candidates for $100 each to help fund the development of new cancer treatments derived from natural organisms.
Hadi Partovi, Code.org: Led by Hadi Partovi and his brother, Ali, the non-profit group Code.org made huge strides in the past year to put the issue of computer science education on the minds of the nation’s kids, adults and educators.
Leveraging the power of celebrities, including Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, Code.org introduced millions of students to the basics of computer science through initiatives including “Hour of Code.”
Julie Sandler, Madrona Venture Group and Seattle Entrepreneurial Women’s Network: Julie Sandler, one of the top women in Seattle’s venture capital community, has emerged as a leading voice for women in technology as a founding member of the Seattle Entrepreneurial Women’s Network and leader of Startup Weekend Women’s Edition.
She’s also a regular speaker and leader of events that encourage young girls to explore potential careers in technology and computer science.
A former member of Amazon’s Kindle team, Sandler is also an adjunct faculty member at the University of Washington, teaching a course on Entrepreneurship at the Foster School of Business.
Dan Shapiro, Robot Turtles: Dan Shapiro has made his mark as a Seattle software entrepreneur, creating startups such as Ontela and Sparkbuy. But he’s also the father of young twins, and his most recent project is targeted to his kids and their peers — with an eye toward alleviating one of the technology industry’s biggest long-term challenges.
It’s a board game, Robot Turtles, that “sneakily” teaches the fundamentals of computer programming to kids between the ages of three to eight. The project blew past its fundraising goals on Kickstarter and shipped on time to backers.