My name is Ethan Bass, I am a senior at Christiansburg High School in Virginia and a student mentor for The Tuxedo Pandas robotics team. I was graciously invited to attend the Virginia Velocity Tour in Roanoke and Blacksburg. My school was kind enough to consider this entrepreneurial advocacy as a field trip. Although I was not in the school building, I would like to share the four core subjects I explored today.
The day started off at CoLab in Roanoke where I received my lesson in social studies and government. A panel of men and women discussed the role of the Virginia government encouraging entrepreneurs to bring economic development to the state. In addition, the panel discussed the role of the government in providing more available internet to key places such as libraries, schools and hospitals. Also, throughout the day many business leaders discussed the advantages of keeping a company in southwest Virginia and not moving to popular startup locations such as Silicon Valley or Boston.
Another stop on the tour was the company TMEiC where I learned a little math. One of the main specialties of TMEiC is making very big things such as motors move shipping containers within five centimeters of accuracy, completely unmanned. TMEiC was running a simulation of an entirely automated shipyard where cranes acted on two simple sets of coordinates. The cranes then decoded the coordinates into very precise movements and encoder counts. The simulation had been running for days without difficulty, and was almost ready to try on real containers.
A company that taught me a lot about science was Aeroprobe. Aeroprobe makes incredibly small, precise probes that use the science of pressure to measure the aerodynamics of a moving object. The company showcased their additive friction stirring machine which essentially is 3D printing with metals. Another science example was at TMEiC where we were given the basics of rolling theory which describes how steel can be rolled with tolerances of thousandths of an inch while being heated to temperatures of 1800 degrees Fahrenheit, all while moving 200 miles per hour!
Throughout the day I used the skills I learned in English class to take many notes on what I saw and what I learned. I saw many great business representatives make fantastic presentations with superb public speaking skills and grammar. I took notes on the presentation of the Tuxedo Pandas robotics team, used as a crowd-pleaser before the pitch competition, so they can know what to improve on before they get judged at future competitions. Many business leaders used large, unfamiliar words that I can now add to my vocabulary after I used context and word structure to determine the meaning. I also used most of my skills learned in English to write this blog you are now reading!
As a bonus lesson, the group got some advice on health and physical fitness from the founder of Torc Robotics. According to Michael Fleming, physical and mental health is absolutely crucial to starting a company. He also mentioned the need of good dietary habits as a way to combat the stress of running a company.
At the end of the day, six entrepreneurs from the energy conservation and renewable energy sectors engaged in a pitch competition where they presented their business projections to estimate their earnings, growth rates, and market size in the next several years, vying for $25,000 in prize money. One startup, Flux Teq, made sensors that measured heat flow rather than just temperature. The main difference between heat and temperature is that temperature is absolute, whereas heat is relative to how we feel the temperature. They wound up winning the cash prize.
What I experienced during the Virginia Velocity Tour has definitely opened doors for me. I have had my eye on the Virginia Tech engineering program for quite some time and thanks to the tour I know that applying will be the right decision. After I get my degree I can be as successful as any of those innovators I met on that bus! I also understand now just how crucial networking is to anything from getting into a college, to starting the next famous American business.