Virginia Tech graduate students Michelle Pomatto (second from left), Yiqun Fu (third from left) and Daniel Alves Heinze (third from right) accepted their award in May at a major additive manufacturing event known as RAPID + TCT. Image courtesy of Yiqun Fu.

Here’s a roundup of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to

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Virginia Tech grad student team wins award for 3D-printed water filter design

A team of Virginia Tech graduate students has received international recognition for its design of a handheld water filtration device that can be used during natural disasters or other emergencies.

The team — Michelle Pomatto, Yiqun Fu and Daniel Alves Heinze — won the 2023 Society of Manufacturing Engineers Digital Manufacturing Challenge award, according to a news release from the university.

The SME Digital Manufacturing Challenge is an annual international competition that challenges student teams to develop solutions to large, complex problems using additive manufacturing. Students leverage industrial-scale additive manufacturing processes that produce complex products from specialized materials, as is done in today’s aerospace, automotive and medical markets, the release said.

This year’s challenge was to design a solution to a problem caused by natural disasters or emergencies. The team designed a handheld water filtration device that can be quickly made using additive manufacturing techniques and be deployed after natural disasters.

This team is the second macromolecular science and engineering team from Virginia Tech to have won this international prize.

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Governor makes board appointments

Gov. Glenn Youngkin has made additional board appointments, including several residents from Southwest and Southside:

  • Charitable Gaming Board: Tyrone Foster of Bristol, sheriff, Bristol Sheriff’s Office.
  • Tobacco Region Revitalization Commission: Richard Thomas Hite Jr. of Kenbridge, farmer owner/operator, Hite Farming LLC.   
  • Board of Nursing: Victoria Cox of Roanoke, national nurse recruiter consultant, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Board of Social Work: Martha Meadows of Lynchburg, clinical supervisor, Light Counseling.
  • State Water Control Board: Reece Hale Robertson of Grundy, attorney, Reece Hale Robertson PLLC.
  • Commonwealth Transportation Board: Linda Green of Dry Fork, economic development executive director, Southern Virginia Regional Alliance/Institute for Advanced Learning and Research.

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Wireless Zone stores to give away free backpacks, school supplies

A number of Wireless Zone stores in Southwest and Southside will be giving away backpacks filled with school supplies on July 30.

Backpacks will stocked with supplies including pencils, paper, folders, a ruler, glue and a pencil box. The giveaway will start at 1 p.m., with one backpack per child present. Backpacks will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis, and any extras will be donated to local schools.

Stores in Roanoke, Martinsville, Westlake and Rocky Mount are participating in the giveaway; details are available online.

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UVA Wise breaks ground on new turf softball, baseball fields

The University of Virginia’s College at Wise on Monday kicked off construction of new artificial turf baseball and softball fields that are slated for completion for the spring 2024 season.

The estimated $3.8 million project will replace the existing natural grass softball and baseball fields, which were installed in 2005 and 2004, respectively, according to a news release from the school. It also includes the expansion of the softball field.

The existing natural grass baseball and softball fields have faced significant weather challenges in recent years, resulting in both teams playing a majority of games on the road, Kendall Rainey, the school’s athletic director, said in the release.

The new fields will feature athletic logos and replaceable batters’ boxes. The new softball field will also increase from 200 to 220 feet, meeting the required size to host NCAA tournaments.

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Appalachian Power warns of rising river levels

This week’s expected high temperatures could call for increased power generation and higher water levels downstream of Claytor and Leesville dams, Appalachian Power said Monday.

The utility advises boaters, kayakers, tubers and other recreational users downstream of Claytor and Leesville dams that water levels on the New and Roanoke rivers could rise rapidly starting Wednesday and potentially continuing through the weekend.