Illinois Tech Awards First-Ever Grainger Computing Innovation Prize

Illinois Institute of Technology’s College of Computing awards the inaugural Grainger Computing Innovation Prize to a student team project that has designed a more energy-efficient and sustainable digital currency.


Illinois Tech Awards First-Ever Grainger Computing Innovation Prize to Team GiGi (Green lightnInG coIn) for its design of a more energy-efficient and sustainable digital currency.

CHICAGO—The inaugural Grainger Computing Innovation Prize culminated in a grand finale event, with the grand prize awarded to Team GiGi (Green lightnInG coin) for its design of a more energy-efficient and sustainable digital currency.

Illinois Tech student teams pitched their prototypes to a panel of esteemed judges, the Illinois Tech community, and invited guests as part of the finals of the Grainger Computing Innovation Prize, which calls on Illinois Tech students to discover creative technology solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges facing the world today: health disparities, climate change, and the need for sustainable smart infrastructure. 

Digital currency is one of the most disrupting technologies of the current era, yet these decentralized currencies are orders of magnitude slower and less energy efficient than existing centralized payment processing approaches such as credit cards. 

“Digital currencies like BitCoin are here to stay, but they currently have a disproportionate carbon footprint and slow transaction speeds,” says Grainger Computing Innovation Prize winning team leader Gabriel Bryk, a third-year student majoring in computer science at Illinois Tech. “Our new digital currency GiGi, Green lightnInG coIn, increases transaction throughput through larger blocks with smaller block times and achieves energy efficiency on par with centralized solutions using an improved proof-of-space algorithm leveraging XSearch to secure the digital currency.” 

“All of the projects that we saw in the finals of the Grainger Computing Innovation Prize were outstanding and demonstrate the innovative thinking and talent among the Illinois Tech students,” says Brian Walker, Illinois Tech trustee and vice president and chief product officer at Grainger. “What really stood out to us about GiGi in addition to its energy efficiency and speed was its accessibility: moving from a GPU to hard drives opens up digital currency for a much wider market.” 

The esteemed panel of judges also included Jonny LeRoy, member of the Illinois Tech College of Computing Board of Advisors and VP and chief technology officer at Grainger, North America's leading broadline supplier of maintenance, repair, and operating (MRO) products, Trenton Dunn, program manager at ThinkChicago,  a national STEM talent attraction and retention program led by World Business Chicago, and  Illinois Tech trustees Amanda Lannert—the CEO of Jellyvision, a multimillion-dollar software-as-a-service company—and Karen Klein (LAW ‘95) chair of the Chicago-Kent Board of Advisors and chief legal officer and corporate secretary at Relativity, a global, secure, end-to-end legal and compliance software as a service leader. Institute of Design Associate Professor Anijo Mathew, whose research evaluates new models of innovation enabled by technology and media convergence through the lenses of design fiction, design-led innovation, and entrepreneurship, and Calvin Nobles, chair of Department of Information Technology and Management in the College of Computing, lent their considerable expertise to evaluating this year’s Grainger Computing Innovation Prize projects.

A highly competitive field with a truly exciting range of projects composed the finalists in the inaugural competition, with projects ranging from smart devices to help make recycling easier and more accurate and technology addressing mental health access disparities for sexual violence survivors to modularized workplace safety implementation and a smart waste compressor that aims to improve the quality of life of citizens in developing countries.

“At Illinois Tech, students are called  to be purpose-driven citizens. Our university was born to liberate the collective power of difference to drive innovation for all,” says Illinois Tech President Raj Echambadi. “The Grainger Computing Innovation Prize reflects this purpose by encouraging students to bring different ways of thinking to tackling some of the world’s most critical challenges.”

In conjunction with Illinois Tech’s newly established College of Computing, teams were composed of students from across different fields of study and from various backgrounds, with the goal of encouraging diversity of thought, unique solutions, and cross-disciplinary collaborations.

“Computing naturally sits at the heart of solutions to today’s global problems,” says Lance Fortnow, dean of Illinois Tech’s College of Computing. “Placing computing at the center of the solution to these pressing problems represents a core goal of the establishment of the College of Computing here at Illinois Tech: computing and data infused into the core of our educational approach, across each discipline.”

A generous endowed gift funded by The Grainger Foundation supports the Grainger Computing Innovation Prize annually, with student teams receiving $15,000, $10,000, and $5,000 prizes for finishing in first, second, or third place, respectively.

“The Grainger Computing Innovation Prize is a perfect example of what philanthropy does to make a difference at Illinois Tech,” says Ernie Iseminger, vice president of advancement at Illinois Tech. 

“The Grainger Computing Innovation Prize provides an outstanding opportunity for our students to utilize what they’ve learned inside the classroom and to directly apply their skills to the challenges that our society faces today,” adds Illinois Tech Provost Peter Kilpatrick. “The Grainger Foundation, in generously supporting this competition, is empowering Illinois Tech students with authentic experiences to help them forge pathways into meaningful work and lifelong learning.” 

Learn more about the Grainger Computing Innovation Prize and this year’s winning projects by visiting 

Photo: Grainger Computing Innovation Prize winning team GiGi from left to right: Jacklyn McAninch, Mahad Haider, Ryan McPhail, Neil John, and Gabriel Bryk

Illinois Institute of Technology

Illinois Institute of Technology, also known as Illinois Tech, is a private, technology-focused research university. Illinois Tech is the only university of its kind in Chicago, and its Chicago location offers students access to the world-class resources of a great global metropolis. It offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in engineering, computing, architecture, business, design, science and human sciences, and law. One of 22 institutions that comprise the Association of Independent Technological Universities, Illinois Tech provides an exceptional education centered on active learning, and its graduates lead the state and much of the nation in economic prosperity. Illinois Tech uniquely prepares students to succeed in professions that require technological sophistication, an innovative mindset, and an entrepreneurial spirit.  Visit

College of Computing

Illinois Tech created the College of Computing in 2020 as part of an effort to drive Chicago’s thriving tech ecosystem by educating a future diverse workforce that is rigorously trained in data and computation. Illinois Tech is home to the Midwest's only Bachelor of Science in Artificial Intelligence degree, and the numerous cybersecurity and intelligence pathways at Illinois Tech explore not only the deep foundations of fast-growing fields of computer science, but also emphasize societal ethics in developing this technology. The United States Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency have designated Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech) as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. The university’s Center for Cyber Security and Forensics Education (C2SAFE) is at the core of Illinois Tech’s designation. Additionally, the center is a member of the United States Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) Academic Alliance and North American Defense and Security Academic Alliance (NADSAA).

The Grainger Foundation

The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation based in Lake Forest, Illinois, was established in 1949 by William W. Grainger, founder of W.W. Grainger, Inc.  The Grainger Foundation provides substantive support to a broad range of organizations, including educational, medical, cultural, and human services institutions.

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