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Turning Innovation Into Enterprise

2015 Awards Winners & Finalists



J-STAR Team, NASA IV&V Program

JSTAR TeamThe Jon McBride Software Testing and Research (JSTAR) team 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 JSTAR 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.


Thirimachos Bourlai, Ph.D.

Co-founder, CTO & Vice President of Confirmix, a company specializing in biometrics technologies and software security; assistant professor, Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering & Mineral Resources, West Virginia University.

Russ Dean, Inventor

Retired firefighter and apiarist; inventor of tools used in beekeeping.

Shannon Jeffers

As an Instrument Maintenance Technician for West Virginia American Water Co., Jeffers developed technology to remove grit from water treatment equipment, reducing equipment wear and tear, lowering operational costs, and reducing overall amount of sludge requiring disposal.

Houbing Song, Ph.D.

Dr. Song’s work focuses on innovations and applications of cyber-physical systems and the  “Internet of Things” in healthcare and smart cities. He is an assistant professor at the WVU Institute of Technology.

Entrepreneurial Support of the Year


WVU College of Law Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic

SONY DSCThe Entrepreneurship & Innovation Law Clinic (EILC) 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.  Annually, the EILC assists over 55 West Virginia businesses with a variety of legal services, representing nearly 2,000 hours of work by student-attorneys and 2,550 hours of work by supervising attorneys.  The EILC is a member of the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office Trademark Certification Program.


Joseph Kapp

Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Eastern West Virginia Community & Technical College.  In the past two years, Mr. Kapp has become a recognized leader in entrepreneurship in West Virginia.  Starting from nothing, Kapp developed the award winning Institute for Rural Entrepreneurship and Economic Development (IREED).  This program aimed to increase entrepreneurship opportunities in the Potomac Highlands region and across West Virginia.  As a result of Kapp’s work, the program gained over $250,000 in funding and services.  As part of IREED, one of the main areas of focus was the creation of the New Biz Lanchpad (NBL), which has coached numerous entrepreneurs and businesses.

Anthony “Tony” Szwilski

Dr. Tony Szwilski has impacted Marshall University and our community as the guiding hand behind the ideas that make a community and university strong.  From having his own patents, creating the Marshall University 3D Visualization Lab, developing the Heritage Farm Community Forum, coordinating the annual Miners’ Celebration, to supporting cyberinfrastructure, Dr. Szwilski creates the supportive base for ideas to flourish.  The VizLab creates real-world virtual realities for researchers and entrepreneurs to visualize 3D chemical structures, medical devices and mining disasters.  He originated the Marshall University Center for Environmental, Geotechnical and Applied Sciences (CEGAS) and leads the West Virginia Brownfields Assistance Center.

Student Innovator of the Year  


Samantha Melroy

Samantha Melroy HeadshotFounder of Terra Response LLC; West Virginia University.  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.  While initial use would be on Earth, it could also be used in exploring other planets.  Building on lessons learned from the first prototype, she’s working to develop a commercially viable device for manufacture by Terra Response LLC.


Reem Eldawud

Founder of Creative Health LLC; West Virginia University.  Reem Eldawud, an IGERT PhD scholar in chemical engineering at the WVU Benjamin Statler College of Engineering & Mineral Resources, is the founder of Creative Health, LLC.  Creative Health is a startup whose mission is to produce innovative healthcare products to improve the medical experience for both patients and healthcare professionals.  Ms. Eldawud has designed an innovative, patentable syringe product that will lessen or entirely eliminate the anxiety and fear associated with receiving injections.  She is currently working with the WVU College of Law Student Intellectual Property Protection Services Clinic on a patent.

Jordon Masters

Jordon Masters is the CEO and lead horticulturist of Allegheny Genesis LLC, a startup agribusiness focused on the growing of microgreens—the most expensive vegetable crop in today’s market.  He hopes to inspire the consumer and chef to look closer at the world around them in search of new and alternative foods, while promoting a broader horizon of food and agroecology.  Science and research can only do so much to expand our ecosystem and stretch agricultural productivity to its limits.  It is up to consumers and chefs to bridge the gap between the bizarre and the beautiful.  He hopes that with these examples of seasonal, local and unique foods coming from one small area in the world, others will apply this knowledge to their areas.

Emily Wells

Founder of Precision Agriculture Sampling Services LLC; West Virginia University.  Precision Agriculture Sampling Services LLC (PASS), launched by Emily Wells, is a consulting company that utilizes precision agricultural methodology to provide soil sampling and testing services to farmers and environmental companies.  These services allow farmers and watershed managers to accurately and precisely determine optimal application of fertilizers and limestone for maximum crop production and for determining how to best improve water quality.  Precision agriculture is a farm management practice that uses new technology and software in order to better respond to the specific, variable needs of the land and crops.

StartUp Innovation of the Year


CereDx, Inc.

SONY DSCCereDx, Inc. is a West Virginia startup company developing point-of-care diagnostic tests that will aid in the clinical decision making for patients with stroke, the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the U.S.  The firm’s current goal and 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. The company holds a worldwide exclusive license from WVU for a first-in-class approach to stroke diagnosis, and is in negotiation with the National Institutes of Health to license technology developed by Dr. Taura L. Barr as a graduate student on the NIH campus.


EnviroCalc PLLC

EnviroCalc offers specialized consulting services to the chemical, oil, gas, and other industries related to chemical exposure and human health risk.   Dr. David McCready launched EnviroCalc in 2015 after a 29-year career with Union Carbide Corporation.  Spurred by the 2014 MCHM spill into the Elk River, which contaminated the drinking water supply for nearly 300,000 people, he did an innovative study of inhalation exposure during that incident which he presented at the 2015 Water Resources Conference of the Virginias. That work led to the development of a computer model for pollution prevention planning for oil spills, for which he is seeking a Small Business Innovation Research grant from the National Science Foundation.  EnviroCalc is a member of ChemCeption, a business incubator launched by the Chemical Alliance Zone and located in the West Virginia Regional Technology Park.  Dr. McCready serves on the board of directors for the West Virginia Chapter of the Air and Waste Management Association.

Glolympic Sports, LLC

Almost two years ago, a group of West Virginians dedicated to placing solar lights within worldwide communities without electricity were in the Dominican Republic.  Led by Ruston Seaman, they discovered that placing a small solar-lit light on a basketball backboard would enable youth to play at night and could result in enhancing the skills of the players.  Upon returning to West Virginia, the group developed a prototype for the basketball rim clips with help from the Robert C. Byrd Institute for Advanced Flexible Manufacturing at Marshall University and created the entity “Glolympic Sports LLC” to commercialize this “light it up” product.  A provisional patent application was filed in November 2014, and efforts are now underway to file a non-provisional patent application, while also working to obtain financing and investors.

Outstanding Women in Technology


Megan Bacorn & Gabrielle Rhodes

SONY DSCUnion Elementary School, Buckhannon, WV.  Teachers Megan Bacorn and Gabrielle Rhodes have seamlessly integrated technology in their classrooms at Union Elementary School in Buckhannon, and are committed to providing excellence in teaching to their students and sharing strategies and tips with fellow teachers. Ms. Bacorn, who teaches fifth grade, is a facilitator for infusing technology and a key member of her school’s West Virginia Innovation Zone Grant team.  She uses digital story-telling, whiteboard apps and gaming to help students achieve, earning recognition as a Learning Media Digital Innovator by PBS.  In her class, students learn how to code and then put their new skills to work in the community, such as creating QR codes to enhance a visitor’s experience at the West Virginia Wildlife Center in French Creek.

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.   A certified technology integration specialist, she trains fellow teachers on best practices in utilizing technology in the classroom.  Her students apply the knowledge learned to real-world studies, including tracking the path of migrating Monarch butterflies, building and launching rockets, and exploring NASA Space Camp.


Susie Mullens & Teresa Warner

Susie Mullens and Teresa Warner of First Choice Services, Inc., are at the tip of the spear in infusing technology into clinical treatment settings across the state.  As part of the team that runs both the West Virginia Prescription Drug Abuse hotline and the Problem Gamblers Help Network, their work seeks to address some of the most pressing challenges for the state.  By embracing the opportunities afforded by technology, smartphone apps and digital networks, they are making a positive difference in their clients’ lives.  The results are encouraging:  relapse rates are lower, clients are more engaged and have additional modes of support, ranging from discussion boards to instant online chat to a “panic button” for immediate help.