The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (Institute) is pleased to announce Gov. Ralph Northam’s appointment of John E. Mead to the Institute’s board of trustees for a three-year term. As the founder and CEO of Master Gage and Tool Company, Mead will lend keen industry insight to economic transformation efforts. 

“Mr. Mead has served as a tremendous resource to the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research over the past years,” said former Delegate Donald Merricks, chairman of the Institute’s board of trustees and chairman, president and CEO of Virginia Bank and Trust Company. “He brings a robust business background to the board of trustees that will prove valuable as we move forward with more technical programs and partnerships in the future.”

Mead serves currently on the board of trustees as well as the workforce services advisory board at Danville Community College. He helped champion the development of the Pittsylvania County Machine Technology program and the Capstone program, a third-year advanced machining curriculum. In addition, Mead serves on the GENEDGE board of directors.

“Mr. Mead is recognized in our community and throughout the state as a strong leader in technology and economic development,” said Delegate Danny Marshall. “He has contributed significantly to our area through his leadership and never-ending efforts to promote our region across the commonwealth and the country.”

Mead joins the following fellow board members who accepted reappointment for a second term: Charles H. Majors, reappointed by the City of Danville; former Delegate Joe May and Merricks, both reappointed by the House of Delegates; and Joyce Wright, reappointed by Pittsylvania County.

The Institute is governed by a 15-member board of trustees consisting of the presidents or their designees of Averett University, Danville Community College and Virginia Tech; the chairman or his designee of the board of the Future of the Piedmont Foundation; one resident of the City of Danville to be appointed by the Danville City Council; one resident of Pittsylvania County to be appointed by the Pittsylvania County Board of Supervisors; and nine citizens representing business and industry and residing in Southside Virginia, three to be appointed by the governor, three to be appointed by the Senate Committee on Rules and three to be appointed by the speaker of the House of Delegates.

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research serves Virginia as a regional catalyst for economic transformation with applied research, advanced learning, conference center services and economic development efforts. The Institute’s major footprint focuses within Southern Virginia, including the counties of Patrick, Henry, Franklin, Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg along with the cities of Martinsville and Danville.

Six IALR STEM Summer Adventure Camps were held in June featuring topics such as drones, Minecraft, and robotics.  Each camp had 20 available slots and nearly all were filled.  This is the first year that there have been two camps per week for multiple weeks during the summer due to camps filling up very quickly in the past and many students missing the opportunity to attend the camps that were of interest.  

Another change to the Summer STEM Camps has been the addition of combined camps, like Minecraft and Robotics, allowing students to get a variety of experience and ultimately participate in two camps per week.  

Every week there have been camps for different age groups and topics, giving students the opportunity to participate in several camps during the summer.  

Zach Davis (pictured), a rising 7th grader at Dan River Middle School, has participated in all four STEM camps for his age group during the month of June.  When asked about his experience in the Summer STEM Camps he said, “The camps were fun and interesting.  I especially liked learning how to fly drones and code.” 

Americorps members have served as classroom aides for the camps.  AmeriCorps members Mikayla Houghton and Ayesha Khalid agreed they are beneficial for all age groups, observing that the younger kids were engaged and open to learning, while the older kids have some experience and knowledge coming into camp.  “STEM learning is amazing for kids.  It’s a great summer opportunity for them to be able to have fun while learning,” said Khalid.

The Institute continues to build the region’s workforce capacity by providing internship opportunities to high school and college students.  The internships are eight-week opportunities to work with IALR staff in research, advanced learning and economic development.

Sidney Allen (NC State) is working on data asset mapping and labor shed research with Linda Green (SVRA).  Erika Davis (UVA) is providing research on publications for IALR with Daniel Dalton in Marketing and Communications.  Kaitlyn Lipscomb (UVA) is working with Dr.  Julie Brown in Advanced Learning.  Alexandra Booth and Gavin Oaks (AET students) are working on the SMART Table with Daniel Caccavelli.  Berkley Toufas (UVA) is working in precision agriculture with Samantha Smith-Herndon.  Sydney Liles (W&M) is studying the characterization of endophytes with Dr. Mei.  Travis Bowman (VA Tech) is working in robotics and image processing with Dr.  Lowman.  Jen Elliot (Trident Univ) is using image analysis to determine plant health with Dr.  Lowman.  Brad Jones (VA Tech graduate) is working on designing and tuning the universal head for the CNC with Dr.  Lowman.

Front row (left to right): Erika Davis, Sydney Liles, Jen Elliot, Kaitlyn Lipscomb, and Alexandra Booth; Top row: Sidney Allen, Brad Jones, Gavin Oakes, Travis Bowman, and Berkley Toufas

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