Leland Melvin was drafted by the Detroit Lions in 1986, but a hamstring injury thwarted his NFL career. He went on to work at NASA Langley Research Center in the area of nondestructive testing creating optical fiber sensors for measuring damage in aerospace vehicles. Leland recently released the memoir, Chasing Space: An Astronaut’s Story of Grit, Grace, and Second Chances, sharing his personal journey from the gridiron to the stars, and examining the intersecting roles of community, perseverance and grace that align to create the opportunities for success.

After hanging up his space boots he was appointed head of NASA Education and served as the co-chair on the White House’s Federal Coordination in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Task Force. Hear his fascinating story of perseverance and how he ultimately traveled off-planet twice on Space Shuttle Atlantis to help build the International Space Station. 

2018 marks the 6th Annual Southern Virginia STEM-H Summit. This event, hosted by the Southside Higher Education Coalition, brings together ALL regional stakeholders: business & community leaders, teachers & students, around the subject of STEM- H education & workforce development in southern Virginia. The summit leaders seek to foster conversations about high quality STEM-H education, along with the skills required for a truly “STEM-capable” workforce. Leland Melvin will  be the keynote for the student luncheon. 

The Southern Piedmont Technology Council was founded in 1998 and this year the organization celebrates twenty years of advancing technology in the region. The Innovation Stars Awards Banquet will celebrate the technology innovators in our region.

The banquet will include an award ceremony that recognizes leaders in the following categories:  Chairman’s Award, Innovation in Technology, Innovation in Education, Innovation in Education or Community Outreach, Innovation in Community, Rising Star, and Student Innovator. In addition, the Southern Virginia STEM-H Education and Industry Achievement Awardees will be recognized.

God’s Pit Crew held their 8th Annual Benefit Banquet Thursday, January 25th through Saturday, January 27th. This has been a year of catastrophic hurricanes and attendees heard first hand personal testimonies from those affected in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. During 2017 God’s Pit Crew distributed nearly 3 million pounds of relief supplies to disaster victims. 

Over the course of three nights, Sodexo and the IALR Conference Center team, served 550 volunteers and donors each night, representing participation by over 1600 people. Tickets for next year’s banquet went on sale February 8th. If you are interested in reserving a table for 2019, please call their office at 434-836-4472. 

To learn more about God’s Pit Crew work in Disaster Relief, Building Projects and Local Distribution, visit their website www.godspitcrew.org.

Virginia State University (VSU) held their 2018 Small Farm Cut-Flower Growers Conference on January 31st and February 1st.

The 225 attendees participating in the event came from all over the region. This conference served small farm growers interested in beginning or improving their cut-flower businesses. Sessions & demonstrations provided helpful training and advice for best industry practices from growing, producing and marketing. Several nationally recognized speakers participated in the two-day event.

Sponsors included Virginia Cooperative Extension, VSU College of Agriculture, and Farm Credit.

Danville Master Gardeners held their annual Spring to Green – Gardening for Southside on Saturday, February 3rd. 

The day long conference attracted close to 200 people who had an opportunity to gather advice and information from 21 vendors, as well as hearing from a certified arborist whose presentations included Trees & Turf and Progressive Horticulture.

A highlight of the day long event, was a presentation from the lead Horticulturist with the Smithsonian Gardens, who also has the responsibility for year round garden care and plantings in the area surrounding the National Museum of History.

IALR and Virginia Tech officially celebrated the transfer of a robotic growing unit from IALR to Virginia Tech as the start of a long term collaboration.  Executive Director Mark Gignac and Senior Scientist Dr. Scott Lowman have been meeting regularly with Dr. John Wells to explore various ideas, including ways to integrate the two synergistic components of education and research, using science and technology to drive learning through discovery.  Dr. Wells is an associate professor of education specializing in Integrative STEM and Technology education.

The robotic growing unit surfaced as the perfect foundation for an ongoing relationship.  IALR placed this unit on the Virginia Tech campus, where Dr. Wells will be developing a pilot program that will serve as a learning platform, in addition to contributing to research taking place at IALR.  According to Dr. Wells, “Bottom line, ensuring the student research directly contributes to IALR’s research is the critical foundation for future IALR funding proposals where the educational merit component directly aligns with (a) preparing a STEM workforce, (b) improving students’ critical thinking skills (c) supporting undergraduate research, and (d) increasing the P-12 student pipeline for STEM fields”.

PHOTOPictured are Mark Gignac, Dr. Scott Lowman, Dr. Al Wicks, Rick Weaver, Dr. Jerzy Nowak, Dr. John Wells, student team members, and Daniel Caccavelli.

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