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Innovation Celebration 2017 nomination deadline is December 9th

Innovation Celebration 2017 is taking place Friday, March 3rd of 2017, though there's still time to nominate someone for an INNCEL award. Check out all the information below, though the deadline is next Friday, December 9th, so you best get to it if you're interested.

Check out our recap of INNCEL 2016 here.

Know an entrepreneur/innovator in Champaign County who deserves to be recognized?

We are pleased to announce the 12th Annual Innovation Celebration in recognition of those individuals and organizations that have made significant contributions, taken risks, and provided leadership to ensure the continuing economic success of Champaign County, the ongoing success of the University's economic development mission, and the growth of entrepreneurial talent and energy in our community. 

Friday, March 3, 2017
5:30-8:30 pm

Parkland College - Student Union
2400 West Bradley Avenue 
Champaign, IL 61821

The awards have been established to recognize the various ways in which individuals and organizations have utilized innovation, creativity, and leadership for entrepreneurial endeavors and economic development in the community. Please nominate as many people/organizations as you would like. 
Nominations are open to the public and will be accepted through 4 pm on December 9, 2016.
Nominations will be viewed and judged in December 2016 by a panel of past winners, sponsors and community & university leaders. Finalists will be announced in early 2017. 

To learn more about the event, view past award winners, watch our videos, and RSVP, visit our event website

Awards & Descriptions

Innovation Transfer Award-University of Illinois 
Recognizes an individual or group from the University of Illinois whose research has resulted in either a discovery or a work with the potential for significant societal impact.

Alexis Wernsing Innovation Award-University of Illinois
Recognizes an individual or team from the University of Illinois that has channeled their experience living with a disability into positive change through the creation of new products, environments, or protocols that enhance quality of life. 

Innovation in Engagement Award-Parkland College 
Recognizes an individual or group at Parkland College who has shown support of the college's community engagement mission. 

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Social Venture Award
Serve as change agents by creating and implementing sustainable solutions to reshape society, benefit humanity, and address social concerns. 

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Student Startup Award
Formed by students in the last three years and demonstrates a commitment to continuing success through entrepreneurial talent, creativity and energy.

Entrepreneurial Excellence: New Venture Award
Formed in the last three years, and demonstrates a commitment to continuing success through entrepreneurial talent, creativity and energy.

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Advocacy Award
Actively engage, encourage, coach and mentor entrepreneurs in the community, and provide extensive support to help them achieve success.

Innovation: Economic Development Impact Award
Has successfully commercialized innovations while demonstrating a commitment to positive, local, economic impact.

Entrepreneurial Excellence: Management Award
Demonstrates expertise in assembling resources, creating an organization, and working to build and implement effective action plans.

Innovation: Longevity Award
Recognizes those enterprises whose sustained success is the direct result of continued innovation over many years.

Top photo by Sam Logan.


C-U gets shout out in New York Times article about David Foster Wallace

A recent New York Times Travel section article about David Foster Wallace mentions Champaign-Urbana and the ways in which this particular part of the Midwest influenced the writer's work. In the article, author Lynn Freehill-Maye roadtripped to C-U and visited a few local spots, including Urbana's Blair Park: 

For Wallace, life was unstructured. I stopped at placid Blair Park, where he and a high school teammate, John Flygare, taught tennis for five summers. They’d collect cash for the lessons, order pizza out of the proceeds, then turn over whatever was left in the cash box to the Urbana Park District every couple of weeks, Mr. Flygare told me. No one monitored. “I see my kids almost assuming their lives are going to stay structured,” he said. “When we were among ourselves, we were just free.” There were no children in the park that morning, a school day. Soccer nets were up now, signs of an organized sport new to Illinois. An older man walked his dogs alone.

It's a nice article about the peace one can find in Central Illinois. You can read the entire article here

Photo by Jessica Hammie. 


II-VI EpiWorks celebrates groundbreaking for upcoming major expansion

II-VI EpiWorks (fka simply EpiWorks) has recently undergone a major acquisition over the course of the past year, and are clearly one of the best success stories in Champaign-Urbana tech as of late. The work they do is truly mindblowing (they are a leading global provider of compound semiconductor epitaxial wafers) — and they celebrated their groundbreaking ceremony yesterday.

Here's the press release:

II-VI EpiWorks Undergoing Major Expansion

Champaign, IL, November 28, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) – The II-VI EpiWorks Division of II‐VI Incorporated (NASDAQ:IIVI), a leading provider of compound semiconductor epitaxial wafers, today announced that it is breaking ground on a new state-of-the-art production facility in Champaign, Illinois.

The expansion is expected to be complete by mid-2017 and will enable a quadrupling of capacity in Champaign over the next three years. In addition to substantial epitaxial wafer production space, the new cleanroom will house a state-of-the-art wafer characterization and test laboratory. To operate the new facility, EpiWorks is actively recruiting experienced managers, engineers and technicians. This aggressive expansion enhances EpiWorks’ leadership position in the global compound semiconductor industry, supporting the performance and volume requirements for several key components that enable multiple growing markets. These include InP and GaAs-based optoelectronic communication components for cloud computing and datacenters, VCSELs for 3D sensing and next generation wide bandgap devices for 5G wireless infrastructure.

“High-performance compound semiconductors are required to meet the performance needs of modern communication networks, sensors, smartphones, wireless communications networks, and datacenters. Our technology is being adopted in many applications, and we are ensuring that our capacity continues to meet customer demand now and in the future,” said Giovanni Barbarossa, Chief Technical Officer and President of the Laser Solutions Segment. “The new capacity will support our RF and photonics businesses, and we will have more resources to research and develop new materials and products.”

“Immediately after merging with II-VI in February, we ordered three new MOCVD production tools and filled our current cleanroom space. These systems have already been installed, and we have now moved into the next phase of growth by expanding our cleanroom space, launching an aggressive hiring plan, and working to build the industry’s most technologically advanced and efficient manufacturing line.” said Quesnell Hartmann and David Ahmari, co-founders of II-VI EpiWorks.

“It is great to see EpiWorks continue to grow and create jobs in Illinois,” Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said. “This company has a strong Illinois history, having been founded by University of Illinois alumni. EpiWorks’ success in Illinois is a testament to our state’s research universities, the ingenuity of our workforce, and the innovative community in Champaign Urbana. We hope to continue to be a partner with them to help grow their business within our borders and build upon this success.”

About II-VI Incorporated
II-VI Incorporated, a global leader in engineered materials and opto-electronic components, is a vertically integrated manufacturing company that develops innovative products for diversified applications in the industrial, optical communications, military, life sciences, semiconductor equipment, and consumer markets.

About II-VI EpiWorks
II-VI EpiWorks develops and manufactures compound semiconductor epitaxial wafers for application in optical components, wireless devices and high-speed communication systems. The company’s products provide these applications additional performance, such as greater bandwidth, higher power efficiency and better reliability. To learn more about EpiWorks visit

Dawn Sandone


Champaign Central High School hosting madrigal dinner next weekend

If you're familiar with unique holiday traditions, you have probably heard of madrigal singers, the extracurricular activity in high school that focuses on seasonal songs and medieval culture.

Champaign Central High School is no exception to this seasonal trend, and has announced that their 36th annual Madrigal Dinner will be taking place next weekend (December 10th and 11th).

Tickets are available for both the dinner itself and the concert portion by itself. For more information, check out what Unit 4 had to say about it below: 


Our Madrigal dinner is a 21st century reenactment of a baronial feast from the European Renaissance. This family-friendly event, now in its 36th year, is a beloved Central tradition, and all choir students participate. Guests with reservations are treated to a multiple-course dinner featuring a chicken entree or vegetarian option (children’s meals are available), and all guests are entertained by over 50 of Central’s student musicians. Guests not wishing to make dinner reservations may come for the “concert-only.”

Reservation information

Adult meal – $25 (Specify chicken or veggie)

Children’s meal - $10 (Children 12 and under)

Concert-only –$7

Meals are by reservation only, and may be made November 14th – December 5th  by several means:

Phone - Call 779-379-2313

Email -

Online - (Order by check or PayPal)


Hopscotch: Cakes & Confections featured in Feast Magazine

Feast Magazine, the St. Louis-based, Missouri- and Midwest-focused food magazine, has recently featured Champaign's own Hopscotch: Cakes & Confections in an article about éclairs. Congrats, Hopscotch!

You can read the write-up here. In short: Hopscotch makes some delicious éclairs, so get yourself some, pronto. 

Hopscotch is located in Art Mart (1705 S Prospect Ave, Champaign), and is open Monday through Thursday, 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sunday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Photo by Jessica Hammie. 


University of Illinois scientists' study featured in New York Times

A group of University of Illinois researchers and scientists have just uncovered some world-class news: tinkering with a plant's genetic engineering, they can alter photosynthesis to make the plant more productive - 20% more productive, in fact, in tobacco plants (though results on food crops are soon-to-come.)

The study, which was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, could have massive effects on issues like world hunger and climate change, and it truly is amazing that it's happening right here, in our own back yard. 

To read the full story from the New York Times, click here, and check out an excerpt below: 

"URBANA, Ill. — A decade ago, agricultural scientists at the University of Illinois suggested a bold approach to improve the food supply: tinker with photosynthesis, the chemical reaction powering nearly all life on Earth.

The idea was greeted skeptically in scientific circles and ignored by funding agencies. But one outfit with deep pockets, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, eventually paid attention, hoping the research might help alleviate global poverty.

Now, after several years of work funded by the foundation, the scientists are reporting a remarkable result.

Using genetic engineering techniques to alter photosynthesis, they increased the productivity of a test plant — tobacco — by as much as 20 percent, they said Thursday in a study published by the journal Science. That is a huge number, given that plant breeders struggle to eke out gains of 1 or 2 percent with more conventional approaches."

Photo by Haley Ahlers for the University of Illinois. 


In Trump’s America, Champaign County becomes “Champaign Kettle”

Without talking about the election too much, this article came out in the New York Times about what a map of the United States would look like if voter regions were isolated. Which areas voted for Trump and which areas voted for Clinton, in terms of land mass: "The Two Americas of 2016" they called it. Above, you can see what Trump's America looks like, and if you take a closer look — Champaign County becomes a body of water because most humans voted for Clinton around these parts. You can check out Clinton's actual map below as well.

Horray, maps!


Scotty’s Brewhouse opening December 1st

Scotty's Brewhouse is a new restaurant/pub that will be opening on December 1st at 2001 South Neil Street. They announced the opening on their Facebook page, which you can see below. While there aren't a ton of details about the scope of the restaurant (though there is a bunch of information over at their website about history and such), we'll be sure to keep you posted when we get information.

Photo from Scotty's Brewhouse's Facebook page.

Two U of I students helped solve the Facebook fake-news issue in 36 hours

Business Insider has published an article discussing the recent debacle involving Facebook and the fake-news problem that has been talked about at length surrounding the recent election.

From what the article points out, a couple of U of I students were involved in creating a Chrome extension that solved the issue with fake-news getting circulated throughout the social media platform.

Check it out:

During a hackathon at Princeton University, four college students created one in the form of a Chrome browser extension in just 36 hours. They named their project "FiB: Stop living a lie."

The students are Nabanita De, a second-year master's student in computer science student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst; Anant Goel, a freshman at Purdue University; Mark Craft, a sophomore at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; and Qinglin Chen, a sophomore also at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Their News Feed authenticity checker works like this, De tells us:

"It classifies every post, be it pictures (Twitter snapshots), adult content pictures, fake links, malware links, fake news links as verified or non-verified using artificial intelligence.

"For links, we take into account the website's reputation, also query it against malware and phishing websites database and also take the content, search it on Google/Bing, retrieve searches with high confidence and summarize that link and show to the user. For pictures like Twitter snapshots, we convert the image to text, use the usernames mentioned in the tweet, to get all tweets of the user and check if current tweet was ever posted by the user."

The browser plug-in then adds a little tag in the corner that says whether the story is verified.

Crazy. They've also made it open source so other people can help work out the kinks.
h/t to Jon Kjarsgaard