Innovation is the new frontier in West Virginia
By Anne Barth
It is often said that the American frontier was settled by brave men and women who set out on a journey to unknown parts armed only with a Bible and an ax.
And that is true. But they also traveled with wagonloads of American ingenuity, and it was this combination of imagination, innovation and hard work that made the U.S. into the world’s greatest superpower.
Innovation is in our country’s DNA, rising from a richly diverse mix of people — from scientists and researchers to blue-collar workers and bicycle shop owners.
Abraham Lincoln said, “The best way to predict the future is to create it.” We can confidently predict a bright future for our state as West Virginia is fortunate to have excellent innovators who are changing the way we live, make things, work, learn and more.
Right now those innovators are finding new ways to detect disease, address challenges faced by industry, ensure the reliability of NASA software, infuse technology into the classroom to enhance STEM education and more.
To recognize the products and technologies of their creative imaginations and scientific research, TechConnect hosted the Spirit of Innovation Awards Monday evening in an effort to showcase and celebrate their groundbreaking work.
CereDx, Inc., a spinout from West Virginia University, won the StartUp Innovation of the Year Award for its pioneering work in early detection of stroke, the third leading cause of death and the leading cause of disability in the nation.
The firm’s goal and primary focus is to diagnose and improve the treatment of stroke patients through the development of next-generation precision diagnostics and therapeutics. CereDx’s innovative technology is changing the landscape of stroke diagnosis, care and, ultimately, patient recovery.
Samantha Melroy was recognized as the Student Innovator of the Year for her startup company, Terra Response LLC. 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 nonmetallic 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.
A team working with the NASA IV&V Center won the Innovator of the Year Award for their work in validating and verifying software used by NASA. The J-Star Team, led by TMC2 Technologies of Fairmont, uses innovative simulation technologies to ensure that software used by NASA will be faultless. Their work is paving 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.
Innovation in the classroom was also recognized, with a team of energetic Upshur County elementary teachers honored as Outstanding Women in Technology. Megan Bacorn and Gabrielle Rhodes have seamlessly integrated technology in their classrooms at Union Elementary School in Buckhannon, and they are committed to providing excellence in teaching to their students and sharing strategies and tips with fellow teachers.
Their students are learning to code, using technology to track the path of migrating Monarch butterflies and launching rockets. They even put their new skills to work in the community, creating QR codes to enhance a visitor’s experience at the West Virginia Wildlife Center in French Creek.
Successful entrepreneurs need a wide range of supportive services and specialized technical assistance. The WVU College of Law Entrepreneurship and Innovation Law Clinic was honored with the Entrepreneur Support of the Year Award for its long track record of success in providing legal services to start-up companies, small businesses, nonprofits and individuals.
From intellectual property protection to advising clients on business formation, licensing or financing, the Clinic assists more than 55 West Virginia businesses annually, representing more than 4,500 hours of work by law students and their supervising attorneys.
TechConnect salutes these West Virginia innovators who are exploring new frontiers and creating the future while advancing opportunities for growth and development. Let’s celebrate their achievements and encourage others to keep working on their own innovations!
Anne Barth is executive director of TechConnect West Virginia, a nonprofit organization working to advance innovation-based economic development and growth in West Virginia. Learn more at www.tech connectwv.org.