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Madrona Venture Group’s Julie Sandler accepts the Geek of the Year award in 2014.

It’s time for a new category for voting in the GeekWire Awards, and it’s a big one: Geek of the Year. This award is designed for someone who created a technological breakthrough that made the world a better place, or strengthened the community through their work or good deeds.

awards-waveLast year’s honoree, Madrona Venture Group’s Julie Sandler, was recognized for her work 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. The year before, the award was shared by cancer researcher Rebecca Gardner and computer scientist Oren Etzioni.

Those are some very geeky shoes to fill, and this year’s finalists (below) are standouts in their own right. This award is presented by Wave Broadband, the presenting sponsor of the GeekWire Awards.

If you’re just tuning in, over the past few weeks, GeekWire collected hundreds of nominations from the community in 13 categories, ranging from Young Entrepreneur of Year to Next Tech Titan to Geekiest Office Space. In conjunction with our judging panel, we then sifted through the nominations to come up with five finalists in each category.

Over the next two weeks, we will open voting in each of 13 categories, with GeekWire readers choosing their top picks. All of the winners will be revealed at the GeekWire Awards — presented by Wave Broadband — on May 7. Now in its seventh year, the event is a giant party that celebrates innovation and the entrepreneurial spirit in the Pacific Northwest. Tickets are available here or below.

Keep reading for background on the finalists, and vote here.


Jonathan Bricker
Jonathan Bricker

Jonathan Bricker is a behavioral scientist at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center who led the first randomized, controlled trial comparing the effectiveness of smoking cessation apps.

His research is the basis for the smartphone app called “SmartQuit,” developed by Seattle-area startup 2Morrow Inc. under an exclusive licensing agreement with Fred Hutch. The app features step-by-step guides for quitting smoking, personalized plans for quitting and scientifically-based guidelines to help choose a smoking cessation medication that’s best for a given person.

Listen to his past appearance on the GeekWire radio show, and check out his TEDx talk, The Willingness to Crave.

David Harris
David Harris

David Harris, a program manager for STEM integration at the Technology Access Foundation, is the co-organizer of Hack the Central District, the first-ever Startup Weekend in Seattle’s Central District, held for the first time last September.

He has become a leading voice for the benefits of technology access in urban neighborhoods, writing on GeekWire last year that the Central District can “serve as a Motown” to grow and influence young urban technologists.

The idea, he explained, is to “pair young talent with the tools to help them cultivate their ideas, develop their skills and leverage their contributions to shift social outcomes. In short, we must make them contributors—not just consumers and influencers. They are our greatest resource and we would be remiss if we don’t ensure their piece of the technology pie.”

Malorie Catchpole and Jennifer Muhm of buddingSTEM
Malorie Catchpole and Jennifer Muhm of buddingSTEM

Malorie Catchpole and Jennifer Muhm are the team behind buddingSTEM, an apparel startup that makes shirts, leggings, dresses and other clothing featuring astronauts, spaceships, dinosaurs and other science-minded characters and designs for girls.

Catchpole and Muhm raised more than $70,000 on Kickstarter in April, eclipsing their goal with the help of a wave of national media, inspired by the idea of giving young girls an opportunity to move beyond the “princess” stereotype.

Read this GeekWire interview with Muhm and Catchpole about the goals and inspiration for the project.

Paul Allen
Paul Allen

Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder, may be best-known as a technology mogul and owner of the Seattle Seahawks, but he was also a leader in the battle against Ebola over the past year, pledging $100 million to help fight the deadly disease in West Africa. His company, Vulcan Inc., also organized Ebola-related initiatives including an effort to send 8,000 smartphones to community leaders and aid workers.

Meanwhile, Allen funded a new Allen Institute for Cell Science, his latest research effort, expanding beyond the Allen Institutes for Brain Science and Artificial Intelligence.

Cliff Schmidt
Cliff Schmidt

Cliff Schmidt is the founder of Literacy Bridge, a seven-year-old organization that has developed a portable audio computer designed to help educate illiterate populations living in poor areas who don’t have access to knowledge and information.

The “Talking Book,” which does not require Internet or electricity, is used by thousands of people to hear information about everything from medical advice to farming strategies, when and where they need it.

Literacy Bridge in November announced a multi-year partnership with UNICEF, a United Nations program that assists children and mothers in developing countries, and ARM, the microprocessor manufacturer. The three organizations are working together to supply 40,000 people in Ghana with the Talking Books.

Don’t forget to grab your tickets for the GeekWire Awards. This event usually sells out. And this year, things will be especially geeky as we open up the amazing Star Wars costume exhibit at EMP to all GeekWire Awards guests. What better way to get your geek on than go face-to-face with Chewbacca!

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