October 22, 2015 LYNCHBURG, Va. — TechEDGE, the Region 2000 Technology Council’s annual dinner and awards night took place on October 22, 2015 in downtown Lynchburg. TechEDGE is the region’s premiere networking and recognition event for technology professionals.
This year’s theme focused on cybersecurity, highlighted by keynote presenter Rear Admiral Bob Day, retired from the US Coast Guard and current Executive Director of the Virginia Cybersecurity Commission. Day’s presentation focused on the potential threats caused by cyber attacks while also presenting future employment opportunities from an emerging industry. His presentation addressed the positive and negative impacts cybersecurity can have on the global economy.
New this year the 2015 TechEDGE also included a silent auction to benefit the Future Focus Foundation and the regional science, technology, engineering, and math initiatives the foundation supports. The silent auction raised $2,182 to benefit STEM education.
The TechEdge annual awards concluded the evening recognizing excellence in innovation, leadership, and dedication to the technology community. The Region 2000 Technology Council is pleased to share the 2015 award winners as follows:
Innovator of the Year: Adam Spontarelli of Vector Space
Adam Spontarelli is the founder of Vector Space, a community workshop and lab in Lynchburg. During 2015 Adam has led two pilot projects including organizing a team of five engineers to launching a weather balloon into space and a summer project offering opportunities to high school students to build a multicopter. Adam is working closely with regional engineers, economic development, non-profits, and industry to bring a new innovation hub. Vector Space will be a place that makers and innovators of all types can come to be inspired and create the works that interest them.
Entrepreneur of the Year – Tony Erskine
Tony Erskine has been an outstanding leader in Lynchburg’s Tech Community. Tony is CEO of Sharptop Co. a local Lynchburg Software Development Company. Tony has a unique passion for training young professionals in the technology fields. He has pioneered Lynchburg’s first coding bootcamp and is a core partner in Lynchburg’s designation as a TechHIRE community. Tony is not only growing his own technology business in the City of Lynchburg, he is working to train a pipeline of qualified software developers that will benefit many of Lynchburg’s employers.
STEM Educator of the Year: Cindy Watson
When it comes to the personification of STEM educator of the year Cindy Watson is an example in both the formal and informal learning environments. Watson and a dedicated group of volunteer coaches assist, train, and guide the robotics team at Altavista High School from a brand new team to a well-seasoned and award winning team and with her leadership and dedication the team will continue to grow and prosper. In July 2015, Watson and the Altavista High School team helped coach the first ever Campbell County Robotics Academy. This academy included 60 students, representing every elementary and middle school in Campbell County. In addition to her teaching duties, Mrs. Watson also serves as the Chair of the Science Department at Altavista High School and teaches: Biology, Pre-Biology, AP Biology, and Leadership. She also advises the Junior National Honor Society and the SCA. From volunteering with the Girl Scouts, several schools in Campbell County, the Altavista High School Robotics team, to teaching. Mrs. Watson exemplifies dedication and service.
Technology Company of the Year – Trax, LLC.
In 2015 TRAX made contributions as a regional technology leader in the development of groundbreaking technologies to better train existing energy workforce and statewide promotion of the Lynchburg Region as a center of excellence for energy technologies. TRAX is the first global energy company to integrate 3-D virtual training environments with high-fidelity simulation of power plant systems. This year TRAX has established their web-based cloud simulation course as a two-semester foundation for a business major program at Ohio Valley University in addition to two years of online use by Liberty University in an industrial STEM cognate minor. TRAX is currently working with Central Virginia Community College to optimize cloud and 3-D based energy offerings at the community college level. TRAX has forged new technology relationships by organizing a regional alliance of the central Virginia energy companies to participate in the Virginia Energy Workforce Consortium to advance new energy technology careers.
Special recognition for regional technology excellence acknowledged three local initiatives conducted that will have a significant impact on the future of their communities.
Altavista Microsoft TEALS project
Carroll Moon, a senior architect for the Microsoft Corporation and resident of Altavista, had a vision for the Altavista High School. Computer science is such a critical industry with so many job opportunities that small town students should also have access to these courses. Carroll was a member of the Altavista Chamber of Commerce and with the support of Chamber Leadership including CEO Heather Reynolds, the group was successful in bringing Microsoft’s (TEALS) or Technology Education and Literacy in Schools to Altavista. The program is a two-year partnership to help build a sustainable computer science program at the high school. The program pairs local professionals as volunteers with in-service teachers to “team-teach” the courses. The class is open to sophomores, juniors, and seniors and is one of the few schools to offer onsite instruction in a rural setting.
Lynchburg City – Tech Hire Designation
In 2015, Lynchburg City Office of Economic Development and EDA have served as trailblazers to make the City of Lynchburg the first locality in the Commonwealth of Virginia to receive the White House Tech Hire Designation. Lynchburg City staff members Marjette Upshur, Anna Bentson, and Alex Johnston drafted a proposal with a multiple pronged approach for generating the top technical talent using innovative, accelerated learning platforms targeting local industry. They traveled to Washington, DC to make their pitch and became an official Tech-Hire Community declared by the President on August 4th. Lynchburg’s TechHire Designation will make the community eligible for potential future department of labor funds in the future.
Bedford County Montvale Tower Project
The Bedford County Broadband Advisory Committee made a big step forward in addressing the 27% of residential addresses that lack broadband internet service in the county by forming a public-private partnership with Mid-Atlantic Broadband Cooperative to raise a service tower as a pilot project in Montvale were 7,820 residents lack a reliable connection. The county plans to purse towers in the future in other areas lacking access including Big Island and Huddleston.
The Region 2000 Technology Council is a part of the Region 2000 Business and Economic Development Alliance, a member organization of the Region 2000 Partnership.