The Southern Piedmont Technology Council is pleased to announce the 2021 Innovative Star Awards. The awards were presented to representatives from around the Southern Piedmont who have excelled in technology and innovation fields.
The Student Innovator Award recognizes a high school or full-time college student that has shown leadership in technology. The award recipient, Trent Oswald, is a 2019 graduate of Chatham High School and The Pittsylvania Career and Technical Center. Trent completed the Precision Machine program at PCTC and was a full-time student at Danville Community College, since his graduation he has assumed an instructor role in the program, continuing to share his expertise with peers who know look to him as his students. In the summer of 2020 Trent traveled to Louisville, KY and competed in the National SkillsUSA competition where he won a gold medal, beating out more than 40 students from across the country. In addition, Trent was selected to compete in the World SkillsUSA competition, an event which raises the profile and recognition of skilled individuals, and illustrates how important skills are in achieving economic growth. Trent is a leader within the field who has outperformed and excelled in Machining. This young man is known to be an extremely hard worker who puts the time into learning and mastering his skill. He continues to collaborate with the students at The Career and Tech Center and students look up to Trent as being a leader and innovator.
The second Student Innovator Award recognizes a high school or full-time college student that has shown leadership in technology. The award recipient, Eli Evans, completed the Year 1 Career Tech Academy (CTA) Information Technology Program with a National Career Readiness Certification (silver), CompTIA IT Fundamentals certification, CompTIA A+, CompTIA Server+, Microsoft Technology Associate: Mobility & Device Fundamentals and Microsoft Technology Associate: Windows Operating System Fundamentals as a junior. As a senior, Eli returned to the CTA Level 2: Work-Based Learning Program. He was hired for a paid internship through Propel GPS in South Boston. Eli is worked with the company to enhance the security system within Halifax County Public Schools. He has utilized his expertise in IT, CAD software, and 3D printers to develop a prototype that records those entering into the school when the alarm triggers. Multiple presentations have been made with various stakeholders, school administration, and the local school board. The product developed will be used in 2 schools to demonstrated effectiveness. Eli has managed to take a typically expensive model and reconstruct it to be more cost effective to the schools. His ideas, creativeness, and talents/expertise have also led to a full time job offering after graduation through this same company while he furthers his education. Eli is also held the captain of the Robotics Team at Halifax County High School during his time there.
The Rising Star Award recognizes a young entrepreneur or individual with a new idea or initiative, or a new business that has made a significant impact on our region. The award recipient, Yimeng “Jack” He, has helped position the IALR Analytical Chemistry lab as the regions premier testing lab in the emerging hemp industry. In addition to conducting analytical testing, his ability to develop protocols and test methods in an industry where few exist is a special skill set. His work in determining why lab-to-lab test discrepancies exist has helped to address the problem being experienced by growers, extractors, processors and finished good producers. His test data on chemical concentrations across the plant has been useful for the both the Commonwealth and the USDA for consideration as their guidelines evolve. While not formerly trained in the business arena, Jack’s desire to run the lab in a responsive businesslike fashion has helped IALR’s clientele list grow dramatically in the industry’s beginning years. Jack is presently expanding the testing capabilities have received both Board of Pharmacy and ISO 17025 Accreditations for his revolutionary work.
Innovation in Education and Community Outreach Award
The Innovation in Education or Community Outreach award is presented to an individual or organization that develops innovative uses of technology to promote and enhance educational opportunities or community outreach. The 2021 recipient, GO TEC, was accepted by Program Manager, Dr. Tammy Hurt. GO TEC is a collaborative project that aims to develop the regional workforce in order to meet changing industry demands. The program begins to engage with the student at the middle school level and continues through high school dual enrollment and post-secondary programs. The focus of the project is to further develop the sectors of IT, advanced manufacturing and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) by creating a talent pipeline that begins in K-12. GO TEC uses a hub-and-spoke model to progressively generate the desired robust talent pipeline across Southern and Southwest Virginia. Middle schoolers are introduced early to the occupations and base skill training in Career Connections Labs, an example of a spoke. They are then connected in high school to expanded career and technical courses, industry certification programs and dual-enrollment training opportunities with higher education partners. Finally, they may progress to advanced level training at a hub educational provider. To achieve this, five targeted, in-demand career pathways have been identified. Program goals and curriculum are led by GO TEC staff with the support and guidance of a 21-member GO TEC Advisory Board comprised of businesses, K-12 and higher education—all with equal representation. The Virginia Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees the GO Virginia program, the leading funding partner of GO TEC, recently won the Governor’s Honor Award for the workforce development accomplishments of GO TEC.
The Innovation in Community Award recognizes a non-profit, government organization, individual or team that displays innovative use of technology to deliver services, advance their mission, or impact the community. The award recipient, Ken Larking with the City of Danville, definition of a healthy community is one that is a desirable place to live, a safe community with good schools, opportunities to make a decent living, quality housing at an affordable price, a high quality of life for residence. Under his management Danville has been fortunate enough to check off many of the aforementioned boxes. He continues to utilize innovative approaches to strategically make improvements to the city’s infrastructure. Describing Danville as a Train Barreling down the tracks towards greatness, he invites you to get on board and play a part of Danville’s ever evolving and captivating story. The City of Danville’s innovative solutions serve to engage the public, build awareness, and foster a culture of innovative inclusiveness. These focus areas help further the economic vitality of the Southern Piedmont region by improving quality of life, showcasing the region as a catalyst for technology inclusiveness and by partnering with other organizations to foster technology advancement.
The City has made great strides in their advancements in technology, specifically with community engagement. The City’s social media outlet support over 29 different social media platforms. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube are utilized by most departments to engage, showcase, and promote breaking news in the River City. Followed by over 19,000 friends, Danville’s own River City TV is the City of Danville’s award-winning Government access channel serving the Danville region.
The Small Business Innovation in Technology Award recognizes a company that demonstrates excellence in technological innovation. This award recipient, Circ, accepted by Chief Executive Office, Peter Majeranowksi, works diligently Threading together the future of circular fashion, Circ has created a technology system that returns clothes to the raw materials from which they were made. Using this technology to create a path with the goal of erasing the global fashion footprint. Circ’s mission is to protect the planet from the cost of clothing, with the cotton demand outpacing the supply, landfills overflowing, and elevated deforestation to source other plant-based fabrics – Circ’s goal for 2030 is 10/10/100, aiming to recycle 10 billion garments, representing 10% of the global apparel market, which will save more than 100 million trees. CIRC is on a mission to power the clean closet with patented technology that recycles global fashion waste back into textiles, over and over again. We are protecting our planet by reducing the need and demand for petroleum, trees, and other materials harvested from nature to manufacture clothes. CIRC is building a truly circular eco-economy for the fashion industry. Circ’s senior management team has decades of experience across multiple industries, with a history of building successful companies that have reached valuations in the hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars. Rebranding from Tyton Biosciences to Circ in 2020, and operating out of the Dan River Business Development Center.
The Innovation in Technology Award recognizes a large business that demonstrates excellence in technological innovation. The award recipient, Dewberry (accepted by Vice President Brian Bradner) has a legacy of more than 60 years of excellence, Dewberry is a nationwide firm of planning, design, and construction professionals. Dewberry creates responsible and innovative solutions for those who own, operate, and maintain natural and built environments. They value lasting relationships, achieving clients’ visions, and celebrating in their success. With an invested focus on their clients, assembling a team of highly skilled and hardworking individuals, maintaining an inquisitive and innovative work environment, the Dewberry Way has progressed and taken charge of major projects in the Southern Piedmont, from the Smith River Interceptor Rehabilitation, and the Maple Avenue Wastewater Treatment Plant Expansion, to continued collaboration at the Southern Virginia Megasite at Berry Hill. Their engineering and architectural practices continue to focus on supporting clients with projects that create economic development opportunities. Dewberry – family owned, client centric and community driven. The Dewberry firm has been appraised at Level 3 of the CMMI Institute’s Capability Maturity Model Integration (CMMI) in Services and Development Models. This rating acknowledges solid performance processes in geospatial technologies and corporate IT services. Dewberry is responsible for the cutting-edge medical facility known as the River District Tower, which transformed the Dan River Research Building. With offices across the Commonwealth, Danville is one of the homes of this innovative and highly regarded firm.
The Chairman’s Award for visionary leadership, outstanding leadership and commitment to our region was awarded to Inez Rodenburg, with the City of Danville.
Joining the Southern Piedmont Technology Council Board in 2009, Inez Rodenburg has spent over a decade contributing to the success of technology endeavors for the City of Danville and the Commonwealth of Virginia. A past SPTC President and constant participant in committee, board and program activities, Inez has spearheaded many initiatives that have enriched the membership base and region.
Bringing her expertise as the Chief Information Officer for the City of Danville, the SPTC service region’s largest city, Inez has provided speakers, donors, ideas and vision for programs like the CyberUp Conference with SPTC and Averett University, the Cybersecurity awareness week, a Smart Cities conference and many other initiatives.
She exemplifies the IT professional who contributes to the betterment of the region by efforts that have led Danville to be recognized among the top digital cities for its use of technology by he Center for Digital Government in 2019 and 2020. As the first-place recipient in 2020, Inez’s department used the disruption of COVID-19 to modernize numerous city operations.
Most recently her department launched a mobile app – “Danville, VA” allowing citizens to access city officials and services, report a variety of non-emergency issues, and keep abreast of the latest happenings through social media engagement and tourism information. Habitat for Humanity, Danville Afterhours Rotary where she has served as President and Chair of the Youth Leadership Awards, a Lead Virginia Alumni class of 2016, an original fellow with Middle Border Forward, Career Choice Mentor and Speaker, and numerous others.
Her trademark in her professional career and social and civic involvement is high quality achievement built around fun engagement where everyone can make a positive difference and enjoy every minute of the endeavor.