A startup that created a desktop laser cutter and a longtime middle school math teacher were among the recipients of this year’s Roanoke-Blacksburg Technology Council’s TechNite awards.
The council’s annual gala, held Thursday night at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, featured remarks by John Newby, CEO of Virginia Bio, and Conaway Haskins, vice president for entrepreneurial ecosystems at the Virginia Innovation Partnership Corporation.
Both lauded the collaboration they said they see in the region among businesses, educational partners and industry groups.
“I don’t know of another combination where you have those kinds of partners working in sync, working across a pretty unique geography, and working in different kinds of economic conditions,” Haskins said. “That’s something neat I’ve observed about this region.”
He also said the region is unique in how it has brought together the biotech and life sciences side of technology with the software and IT side to create a “holistic technology ecosystem.”
Thursday night’s honorees:
The Entrepreneur Award, which recognizes a leader who exemplifies what it means to be a risk-taker, went to Martin Angst, co-founder of Rendyr. The Blacksburg-based company has developed a desktop laser cutter aimed at the maker and do-it-yourself space and has raised more than $738,000 through a Kickstarter campaign.
Kathleen O’Dell, a math teacher at Christiansburg Middle School, received the STEM-H Educator Award, which recognizes an educator who promotes math, science or technology in creative ways. She was named Montgomery County Public Schools’ teacher of the year this year, and in 2018, she was among the recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching.
The Rising Star Award, which recognizes an early-stage technology company, went to Ticket Spicket, which created a digital ticketing platform for schools. In two years, the company has grown to 1.4 million unique users, according to the council.
Robert Gourdie, a researcher at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC, received the Innovator Award. Gourdie has founded or co-founded three startups – Acomhal Research, Tiny Cargo Co. and First String Research – and this spring received the Outstanding Investigator Award from the National Institutes of Health, a seven-year, $6.4 million grant.
Wendi Pannell, a vice president at Ozmo in Blacksburg, received the Regional Leadership Award, which recognizes a member who leads by example. Pannell has helped expand the RBTC’s WoTech (Women in Technology) initiative, the council said.
P1 Technologies received the Leading Tech Company Award, which recognizes a company committed to advancing the region’s technology community. P1, based in Roanoke County (and formerly known as Plastics One), provides cabling and injection molding products as well as custom specialty designs.
Kathy Claytor received the Ruby Award, which recognizes an outstanding RBTC member. Claytor, a vice president at Corvesta, has worked to attract and retain technology talent for the region, the council said, and has been involved with the RBTC and Valleys Innovation Council, as well as on state and national boards.
Also Thursday night, Victor Iannello was named to the RBTC Hall of Fame. Iannello is CEO of Roanoke-based Chorda Pharma and founded Radiant Physics and Synchrony Inc. He has held leadership positions on the boards of the Valleys Innovation Council (now Verge), the Roanoke Regional Partnership and Carilion Clinic.
And Heywood Fralin was recognized as the 2022 Guest of Honor for his support of health science and biotechnology in the region through a $50 million gift to the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC and through his broader “vision and dedication to growing an emerging sector in the region,” the council said.