On March 7th, the Southern Piedmont Technology Council’s Innovation STARS Awards Banquet partnered with the two day Southern Virginia STEM-H Summit at IALR to promote the extraordinary achievements of our region’s educational and industrial leaders. An address by NASA astronaut Leland Melvin punctuated both events.

A former wide receiver for the Detroit Lions, Leland Melvin is an engineer and NASA astronaut who helped build part of the International Space Station, worked at NASA Langley Research and as head of NASA Education, and helped develop the nation’s 5-year STEM education plan.  Melvin was also on the recent TV series Child Genius and BattleBots.

The STEM-H Summit began the festivities with approximately 360 students and educators participating from 8 school districts and 4 private schools. The 13 student workshops were pre-selected to maximize exposure for a student exploring interest in a particular STEM-H field, while the 17 educators’ workshops introduced useful STEM-H tools to take back to their classrooms. On the first day, the students’ exploratory sessions covered fields from coding to nursing to drones to engineering and more, while educators were treated to two panel discussions and workshops in robotics, nurse simulations, avatars and others on the second day. 

With 200 of the area’s most influential in attendance for Wednesday evening’s Awards Banquet, SPTC recognized the Tech Council’s 20 years of advocating the importance of investing in technological fields in both the public and private sectors to meet the adapting demands of economic development in the region.

The Innovation STARS Awards highlighted area industries who go above and beyond to promote the Southern Piedmont Technology Council’s mission to advance technology in the region. The Southern Virginia STEM-H Education & Industry Achievement Awards highlighted innovation and dedication to STEM-H education in our region.

Congratulations to all the educational and industrial Innovation STARS Award and STEM-H Education & Industry Achievement Award winners! Their work is inspiring and motivating the next generation.

left to right: Jill Collins, Tommie Evans, Jacob Taylor, Joan Hendrix (STEM-H Educator of the Year Award Recipient), Ashley Cox, Joel Bunn (Community Champion for STEM-H Education Award Recipient), Phyllis Meade (Innovative STEM-H Program of the Year for Henry County Public Schools STEM Program)

left to right: Anthony Putorek (Microsoft Data Center), Edison Hudson (Panaceutics), Leland Melvin, Samantha Smith-Herndon (Institute for Advanced Learning and Research), Anna Crawley (Noblis), and Troy Simpson (Danville Community College)

February 26th‘s reception kicked off the two-day Industrial Hemp Summit at the IALR with more than 150 people attending from at least 10 states and several foreign countries.

Tuesday’s session featured classes and discussions on the uses for hemp from clothing, automobile panels, building materials, to food or animal feed. Jason Amatucci, founder of Virginia Industrial Hemp Coalition in Nellysford, said chickens fed hemp produce better quality eggs, cost less and reduce the need for antibiotics.

Hosted by IALR, Halifax County Agricultural Development, and sponsored by the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, the event explored the potential for the heavily-regulated agricultural commodity that many look to as a replacement for the downsized tobacco markets.

The entrepreneurial summit focused on assessing potential opportunities for developing the United States’ industrial hemp industry, with a specific focus on building the supply chain for this emerging industry and developing markets for industrial hemp fiber and food. 

The summit also highlighted current innovation in the industry, as well as exploring solutions for resolving resource and infrastructure needs to move the industry forward and the legislative and regulatory changes that are needed to allow the hemp industry to flourish.

The Institute for Advanced Learning and Research (IALR) is now working with CodeVA to provide high quality computer science professional development and opportunities to the Southside Tobacco Commission region. Training will be offered at IALR in the 2018/2019 school year. The summer session will be July 9-13, with Saturday sessions to be announced throughout the 2018/19 school year. 

Additionally, IALR is working with CodeVA on Computer Science District Roadmaps. Through this project, IALR and CodeVA will work with school divisions to uncover internal division assets, identify free tools and resources available, and make recommendations for professional development and curricula to support implementing the new CS SOL standards. The Roadmaps will help school divisions plan for professional development, assess their current technology capabilities, and choose curriculum and resources. 

These efforts are supported by a grant from the Virginia Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission.

“Standing here today I have 36,000 cyber jobs open. I tell (students) the starting pay is $88,000...” 
Terry McAuliffe
72nd Governor of Virginia

Former Governor of Virginia Terry McAuliffe recently signed a bill making Computer Science a part of the core curriculum for K-12 in every school in Virginia. Virginia is the first state in the nation to do so.