2017 Student Keynote

Rory Aronson

Social Entrepreneur & Innovator

Rory grew up in Leucadia, CA riding bikes, surfing, building things, and tinkering with radio controlled cars, Legos, Rokenbok, and K'Nex. He went on to study mechanical engineering at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. Both his entrepreneurial and community spirit led him to his most recent project: Farmbot.

FarmBot is humanity’s open-source precision farming machine and software suite designed for small scale automated food production. The vision is to create an open and accessible technology aiding anyone to grow food and to grow food for everyone. The mission is to grow a community that produces free and open-source hardware plans, software, data, and documentation enabling everyone to build and operate a farming machine. (You can see him present his early ideas on the project in this TEDxUCLA talk.)

Additionally Rory serves on the board of directors of the SLO MakerSpace, an open, collaborative machine/wood/electronics shop and craft center where one can build projects; teach and take classes; and build networks connecting with local people and resources.

Rory is using his engineering education to help solve big challenges.

You can check out some of Rory's other projects including OpenFarm at his website.

We are thrilled to have Rory participating in this year's Summit not only as our Student Keynote speaker, but helping to get IALR's Farmbot up and running (with the help of student Summit attendees), and kickstarting our regional Farmbot initiative by visiting with some of our regional schools.



2017 Educator & Community/Industry Leader Keynote

The Honorable Dr. Dietra Trent

Secretary of Education, Commonwealth of Virginia

"Implications of the Profile of a Virginia Graduate & the SOL Innovation Committee"

Dr. Dietra Trent was recently appointed Secretary of Education for the Commonwealth of Virginia by Governor Terry McAuliffe. Previously, she served as Deputy Secretary of Education. She joined the Administration of Governor Terry McAuliffe in January 2014. 

As Secretary of Education, Dr. Trent is tasked with promoting and implementing the Governor’s education agenda. This includes eradicating the Achievement Gap, promoting great teaching and learning, and working with agencies, stakeholders and other partners to strengthen educational pathways to the new Virginia Economy.

Prior to joining the McAuliffe Administration, Dr. Trent served as Deputy State Director for Senator Mark Warner, and also served in the administrations of Governors Warner and Kaine, where she served as Deputy Secretary of Education. She worked in the Office of Congressman Bobby Scott and in the President’s office at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Secretary Trent currently serves as Chair of the Minority Political Leadership Institute’s (MPLI) advisory board. MPLI is a program which supports leadership development for individuals focused on addressing and studying issues of importance to minority populations. She also serves on the Board for Higher Achievement – a nonprofit which aims to close the opportunity gap for middle school youth in at-risk communities through the promotion of rigorous afterschool and summer programs.

A native of Halifax County, Virginia, Dr. Trent earned a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Criminal Justice from Hampton University, and completed her master’s and Ph.D degrees in Public Administration and Policy from Virginia Commonwealth University.


Are you a K-12 STEM-H educator? Are you an employer with a need for a STEM-skilled workforce? Please consider joining us for the 5th Annual SOVA STEM-H Summit, March 2, 2017. We'll be recognizing exemplary partnerships and efforts being made in STEM-H education in our region and providing educators and community & industry members an opportunity to discuss possible collaborations. 

(Community and/or industry attendee registration helps subsidize the cost for teacher attendees!)



The Southern Virginia STEM-H Education & Industry Achievement Awards will be presented on March 2. We will recognize all award nominees and announce the award recipients in four categories:

  • Community Champion for STEM-H Education
  • STEM-H Educator of the Year
  • Innovative STEM-H Program of the Year
  • Elite STEM-H Education & Industry Partnership Award

Please consider submitting a nomination.

Sponsors & Exhibitors

This event would be impossible without the generosity & support of our sponsors. Sponsorship donations allow us to offer this wonderful program to our regional students completely free of charge. Please consider showing your support of STEM-H education by becoming a sponsor of the 2017 Summit.

If your organization supports students or educators in STEM-H we hope you'll consider participating in this year's event as an Exhibitor. Exhibitors are welcome to exhibit for one or both days of the Summit and are highly encouraged to present.