Three Alaskans inducted into the Innovators Hall of Fame

March 18, 2022

Three brilliant Alaskans have been inducted this year into the Innovators Hall of Fame. 

The celebration, co-hosted by University of Alaska Vice President of Academics, Students and Research Dr. Paul Layer and Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer, took place Wednesday in Juneau. 

The three new inductees and their notable achievements are:

  • UAF professor Robert P. Merritt – a Who’s Who of engineering, telecommunications and satellite technology;
  • Dr. Stacy Rasmus – an Indigenous health disparities scientist whose research tackles the issues of suicide and substance abuse in Alaska Native and Native American communities;
  • Piper Wilder – founder of 60Hertz Energy, a firm that developed maintenance software for electricity assets from microgrids, fleets of diesel generators, to portfolios of renewables.

Robert P. Merritt 

Merritt was honored for his dedication to modernizing telecommunications in rural Alaska, which helped healthcare workers and so many more in communicating during times when weather may have disrupted communications before.

Merritt and his wife arrived in Alaska from Oregon in 1949 to both take positions at UAF.

At that time, healthcare in Alaska villages was provided by specially trained health aides who consulted with physicians remotely via shortwave radio. However, active aurora borealis could sever communication for days at a time.

Merritt saw an opportunity to change that when NASA launched a series of experimental communication satellites in 1966 that used VHF radio, which is less sensitive to atmospheric conditions than shortwave. Merritt and his students modified 100-watt taxicab radios to build an experimental health aide communication system, and they also designed a special antenna.

Two years before he died in 1999, Merritt was named Engineer of the Year by the Alaska Section of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. His gold pan plaque reads: “In recognition of outstanding contributions and innovations in the field of telecommunications, extraordinary commitment to the education of electrical engineers, which has profoundly impacted the profession in Alaska, and exemplary dedication to the IEEE of Alaska Section.”

Robert Merritt


Dr. Stacy Rasmus

Rasmus is an Indigenous health disparities scientist whose research tackles the issues of suicide and substance abuse in Alaska communities.

Her approach to the issue of suicide and substance abuse in Alaska Native communities takes a strength based approach, focusing on cultural strength and community partnership.

Rasmus grew up in the Pacific Northwest and attended the Northwest Indian College and Western Washington University, where she obtained her degree in anthropology. Her introduction to the strength-based approach to suicide and substance abuse came when she attended a talk at Northwest Indian College by the late Dr. Gerald V. Mohatt, a professor at UAF. Mohatt presented his “cultural intervention” called The People Awakening Project: Exploring Alaska Native Pathways to Sobriety.

Rasmus arrived in Alaska two decades ago to earn a Ph.D from UAF. 

Rasmus’ work with the People Awakening Project led to development of the Qungasvik (Tools for Life) projects—the beating heart and foundational model for all other projects in her research program at the Center for Alaska Native Health Research at UAF.

Stacy Rasmus

Piper Wilder 

Wilder is a long-time entrepreneur in renewable energy.

While living in Colorado, Wilder served as vice president of Amatis Controls, a state-of-the-art lighting controls company based in Aspen. She also served as board chair of the Colorado Solar and Storage Association.

Upon moving to Alaska in 2015, she soon formed 60Hertz Energy, a small firm that developed maintenance software for electricity assets—from microgrids to fleets of diesel generators and portfolios of renewables. The Computerized Maintenance Management Software is used by, among other utilities, the Alaska Village Electric Cooperative (AVEC), the largest rural Alaska electric cooperative, serving more than fifty remote communities.

60Hertz’s customer base has since expanded to include power and water utilities in Alaska and Canada. Wilder and her team are also working in Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Benin through a contract with the US Department of Defense Office of Naval Research. 

Piper Wilder

The inductees were honored by the Juneau Economic Development Council (JEDC) with the State Committee for Research (SCoR).

“The Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame recognizes individuals who demonstrate innovation in creating or facilitating outstanding inventions,” said Layer. “These nominees have made achievements in their field that have made a tangible impact on quality of life, economic development, the environment, the welfare of the people of Alaska and the globe. These are inventors and innovators in the fields of science, engineering and technology.”

SCoR created the Alaska Innovators Hall of Fame in 2014 to celebrate and honor outstanding individuals who are leaders in innovation and contribute to growing Alaska’s culture of innovation.

Learn more about the IHOF here

Information on the honorees can be credited to Nancy Erickson for Alaska Business.