West Virginia's top innovators took center stage at the TechConnectWV Spirit of Innovation Awards Banquet on November 16, 2015 in Charleston, resulting in the presentation of five awards honoring advances in spacecraft flight software, underground detection, stroke diagnostic technology, entrepreneurial assistance, and technology in the classroom.
"The Spirit of Innovation program is an opportunity to spotlight success stories throughout the state, and recognize the people and organizations that support innovation-based economic development," said Anne Barth, executive director of TechConnect. "All of our nominees are doing exceptional things, and our winners represent the cream of the crop of technology innovation in West Virginia. By showcasing these creative efforts and the people behind them, we hope to inspire others who may have an entrepreneurial spirit."
Barth said the innovation economy is not just a concept-it's a reality. "We were thrilled to honor all of them, including the winners and finalists," she added.
Tim Armstead, Speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates and keynote presenter during the awards ceremony, said, "We can make policy at the Legislature but the creativity, ingenuity and entrepreneurial spirit of those being honored is what will truly move our state forward. I applaud what you do and ask that you continue your efforts here at home in West Virginia."
John Maher, chairman of TechConnect's board of directors and the event's master of ceremonies, said, "From universities, laboratories and startup firms across West Virginia, hard-working researchers and entrepreneurs are bringing innovative products, services and technologies to market. These innovations are force multipliers in our state's economy, and help to hone our competitive edge."
Awards were presented to the following:
The Jon McBride Software Testing and Research (J-STAR) team in Fairmont received the Innovator of the Year award. J-STAR is a subgroup within the NASA Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) Program, composed of 15 engineers with TMC Technologies serving as the lead contractor company. The J-STAR team develops software-only, fully-functional, spacecraft simulations to assist with flight software testing, including verification and validation (IV&V) activities. The innovative simulation technologies are used to find and fix significant faults in flight software development on high-profile NASA missions, providing assurance that a single fault won't result in loss of mission. Their development has paved the way for West Virginia's first small spacecraft mission to be designed, built, and tested by West Virginia University students and engineers and launched by NASA in 2017.
Scott Zemerick accepts the award for TMC Technologies.
CereDx, Inc. in Morgantown received the StartUp Innovation of the Year award. The firm's primary focus is to diagnose and improve the treatment of stroke patients through the development of next-generation precision diagnostics and therapeutics. These diagnostic tests include a stroke/no stroke and a stroke time-of-onset blood test that will be optimized for clinical use in a large clinical trial scheduled to begin in the fall of 2015. CereDx's innovative technology was developed at West Virginia University by two West Virginia natives.
Samantha Melroy with Terra Response LLC in Morgantown received the Student Innovator of the Year award. An undergraduate majoring in mechanical engineering at WVU, Samantha's research has led to a patent-pending technology that uses electromagnetic waves to detect underground objects, including utility lines, landmines, or other metallic or non-metallic objects. Building on lessons learned from the first prototype, she's working to develop a commercially viable device for manufacture by Terra Response LLC.
Megan Bacorn and Gabrielle Rhodes, both teachers at Union Elementary School in Buckhannon, received the Outstanding Women in Technology award. Ms. Bacorn, who teaches fifth grade, is a facilitator for infusing technology in the classroom and a key member of her school's West Virginia Innovation Zone Grant team. Ms. Rhodes, who teaches third grade at Union Elementary, uses innovative strategies to teach mathematics and science, earning a Presidential Award for Excellence in the process.
The WVU College of Law Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic was presented with the Entrepreneurial Support of the Year award. The organization gives students the opportunity to provide legal services to start-up companies, small businesses, non-profits, and individuals. The clinic works with clients in counseling for a product plan or business organization; licensing; employee and contractor agreements; intellectual property; financing and venture capital; planning and negotiation; dispute resolution; and generalized assistance in business formation, planning, and strategy.
Maher said, "It takes creative and innovative thinkers and entrepreneurs to keep West Virginia's technology sector moving forward. We congratulate the winners and all of the nominees for their ingenuity and adaptability, as well as for their resilience in a challenging economic climate."