The GTA’s annual awards program recognizes and thanks the many companies, organizations and individuals working to advance the tech industry and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in the Columbia River Gorge. The GTA Technology Leader and Technology Organization of the Year awards were presented to the individual and organization who made the largest positive impact on the technology community of the Columbia River Gorge. Nominations were accepted from across the Gorge and all finalists are celebrated at the annual Winter Party for their leadership and hard work. Nominees were not required to be GTA members.

The GTA honors all of the 2016 winners and finalists:

2016 GTA Technology Leader of the Year: Bill Vaglienti

GTA Executive Director congratulates 2016 Tech Leader of the Year Bill Vaglienti.

Bill Vaglienti has made significant technical contributions, on a multitude of fronts, that have shaped the Unmanned Aerial Systems (or UAS) industry in the Gorge and nationally. His technical leadership and vision have been key to the success of many of the most prominent UAS companies, programs and platforms. His depth of knowledge, expertise and unique ability to quickly drill down to the root of any problem has led to some of the most innovative and successful UAS products in the market today. His depth and breadth of knowledge and real world experience in UAS make him one of the top technical innovators in the industry.  As a few highlights:

  • Bill cofounded Cloud Cap Technology where he led development of new industry standards such as the Piccolo Autopilot and the TASE gimbal. Cloud Cap grew from its two founders into a profitable company with $50M in revenues and 80 employees. Bill fostered a fun work hard/ play hard culture at Cloud Cap and many original employees have now spun out and replicated that environment in their own successful companies.
  • After selling Cloud Cap, Bill cofounded Power4Flight where he continues to innovate on small engine technology for UAS.
  • Bill has also been instrumental in helping Trillium Engineering, a newer Gorge UAS startup. 

2016 GTA Technology Organization of the Year: Trillium Engineering

Jeff Fisher and Gail Dagan of Trillium Engineering accept the 2016 Tech Organization of the Year award from GTA Executive Director Jessica Metta.

The GTA had an unusual situation for our 2016 Tech Organization of the Year. After review of the tech community over the last year, the GTA felt that the award should so overwhelmingly go to one particular business that there were no finalists to mention. Trillium Engineering is the perfect example of a successful Gorge technology startup company. Rob Gilchrist, Gail Dagan and Jeff Fisher truly embody the startup spirit. While working together at Cloud Cap, the three had a great idea and believed in it enough to put it all on the line to follow their dream. Starting in 2013, in just three years they turned their idea into a thriving company of 11 and growing. They were able to organize, maintain focus and execute on their business plan – not an easy thing, especially for three engineers! On top of all that, they did it the old-fashioned way without venture capital or investment banker funding.

In addition to building an amazing company right here in the Gorge, Trillium is developing a game changing product for the UAS industry. Their family of gimbals uniquely delivers the performance and feature sets of larger, heavier gimbals in a much smaller, lighter package. The Trillium team has recently developed and deployed an innovative gimbal/ imaging concept based on a stop motion mapping mode of operation. This concept is a technological breakthrough, enabling high resolution imaging at reasonable altitudes and at speeds that will allow for imaging large geographic areas efficiently. This innovation will enable linear infrastructure monitoring, such as railroads, powerlines and farms, at a scale and price point which until now has not been possible. We are all so impressed and appreciative of what Trillium has been able to do so far and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

2016 GTA Technology Leader of the Year Finalists 

Richard Foster has been working tirelessly to support technology firms in Klickitat County. Through his efforts, a number of companies have received excellent free or discounted training in areas to improve performance and competitiveness, such as leadership development, bid awards and LEAN production. Richard is an Economic Development Specialist for Klickitat County, jumping in with both feet ever since taking the position and moving to the Gorge in February 2016. Since then, Richard has demonstrated his commitment to Klickitat County technology companies by proactively assisting them in scaling up to meet growth demands and improve workforce skills. 

Tod Hilstad is the Director of Information Technology for Hood River County School District, serving nearly 4200 students and their families. Tod is a leader for technological integration and acceleration across the District’s ten educational and administrative facilities. In a time of dwindling resources for public education, Tod has maximized every available dollar to create an efficient, integrated infrastructure to support student learning. In the last four years, Tod has led the District’s efforts to increase its technology footprint exponentially with a one-to-one student-to-machine ratio in many of the schools.

Currently, Tod is leading the District’s efforts to modernize its technology infrastructure and end-user experience. With only a small staff, this requires vision, know-how, commitment, humility, and incredible work ethic.  Tod is also a collaborator and problem-solver in developing integrated and automated systems that help to prioritize teachers’ work on teaching and learning, rather than on technology maintenance and data entry. Tod’s techniques are a model for education systems and have been adopted by many other Oregon school districts. Tod is truly dedicated to our community and its future. He’s positive and creative; once stating, “There are no problems, only opportunities to support.”  

Cory Roeseler strikes the perfect balance between creativity and rigorous engineering, both personally and professionally. Cory is legendary in the Gorge, as he can lay claim with his father Billy to independently inventing kite boarding. He and his father received a patent and marketed the ‘Kite Ski’ in the early 1990’s. Cory has been an engineer with Hood Tech since 1994 where he has been a key contributor to many developments, inventions and patents, including the patented Insitu Skyhook which is the signature recovery system to capture Insitu’s vehicles in flight. Most recently, Cory has led the development project for ‘FLARES,’ the flying launch and recovery system for Insitu’s ScanEagle, which is generating intense interest. Cory also volunteers time around the Gorge promoting STEM education as a mentor and speaker and infusing the next generation with his love of engineering. 

Robert Surton is the entire Computer Science department at Columbia Gorge Community College. He joined the college in 2014 to develop and launch the program. Since then, he has created two degrees and the nine courses he teaches, which were created to allow our students to seamlessly continue on to four-year universities. Robert’s work provides the first opportunity to earn a Computer Science degree in the Gorge and allows high school students to learn programming for credit and follow their interests to more advanced courses. He has given Gorge students a head start on their four-year degrees and the ability to work towards technology careers and get on-the-job training locally.

Robert also looks for unique and collaborative ways to grow the Computer Science program through connections with the regional Gorge community. And he volunteers regularly to support STEM education in the Gorge, like at the GTA’s STEM Career Day and Wind Challenge competition.