Nine awards handed out at 14th annual Innovation Celebration

Nine awards handed out at 14th annual Innovation Celebration

CHAMPAIGN — Business leaders and entrepreneurs gathered Friday evening at Parkland College for the 14th annual Innovation Celebration, handing out nine awards to innovators in the community.

From a agricultural robot startup to the head of Parkland's dental hygiene program, the award winners were lauded for their contributions to and leadership in the community.

"That's why I'm here today, to recognize the creativity and the innovation and the spirit of our university-research community," said one of the presenters, Susan Martinis, interim vice chancellor for research at the University of Illinois.

The Entrepreneurial Excellence Awards winners:

— The New American Welcome Center at the University YMCA received the Social Venture award for its work to welcome immigrants.

— RingWing, LLC, which invented and sells a catchable toy glider, was honored with the Student Startup award.

— EarthSense Inc., which won the New Venture award, has developed an autonomous robot that gathers data about plant traits and health.

— Roland Garton received the Paul Magelli Advocacy award. He's created two small businesses and consulted dozens of clients through his consulting firm.

— Landon Frye, Jake Kreider and Sophie Roney, with Granular Inc., won the Management award for encouraging the ag-analytics company to open a second office in Champaign, where it now has more than 60 employees.

Other award winners:

— Urbana businessman Matt Cho won the Innovation award for Economic Development Impact. His businesses include [co][lab], Cafeteria & Co., Sipyard and Broadway Food Hall.

— The University of Illinois Innovation Transfer award went to Andrew Alleyne, director of the National Science Foundation-funded Power Optimization of Electro-Thermal Systems center, or POETS, at the University of Illinois. The research center's work is being used by businesses to help them keep various types of electric vehicles from overheating.

— The University of Illinois Alexis Wernsing Innovation Award went to Adam Bleakney, the head coach of the UI Wheelchair Track and Road Racing Team since 2005. He's been named the U.S. Paralympic Coach of the Year three times during his tenure.

— And the Parkland College Innovation in Engagement Award went to Peg Boyce, the director of Parkland's dental hygiene program since 2007. Besides training future dental hygienists, she's helped expand the program's outreach to the community.