GTA 2016 Award Winners Announced

At the GTA’s December 13, 2016 Winter Party and Awards Ceremony, more than 50 members gathered to honor and celebrate the finalists and winners of the GTA’s 2016 Technology Leader and Technology Organization of the Year Awards. Bill Vaglienti was awarded 2016 Tech Leader of the Year and Trillium Engineering received the 2016 Tech Organization of the Year award for their inestimable positive impact on the technology community of the Gorge. 

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 for more than 20 years. His technical leadership and vision have been key to the success of many of the most prominent UAS companies, programs and platforms.

Trillium Engineering is the perfect example of a successful Gorge technology startup company. Rob Gilchrist, Gail Dagan and Jeff Fisher had a great idea while working together at Cloud Cap Technology 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 are also contributing game-changing innovations to the national UAS industry with their small, powerful gimbals and linear infrastructure monitoring.

The GTA also honored as Tech Leader Finalists Richard Foster of Klickitat County Economic Development; Tod Hilstad, Director of Information Technology for Hood River County School District; Cory Roeseler, Engineer with Hood Tech; and Robert Surton, Computer Science Professor at Columbia Gorge Community College. Read the full description of the incredible work of our finalists and winners at Congratulations and thank you to everyone for your dedication, leadership and hard work! 

Fourteen Gorge Teams Advance to State Robotics Tournament, Some Teams Impacted by Weather

Almost 400 students aged 9 to 14 from schools all around the Gorge showed off their robotic talents over the last two weekends in the Gorge. Sixty-five student teams worked over the past several months as part of the international robotics competition known as FIRST® LEGO® League (FLL) to compete in one of the Columbia Gorge Qualifying Tournaments held Dec. 3 and 4 at The Dalles Middle School or Dec. 10 and 11 at Wy’east Middle School.

Team pfudor from May Street Elementary making quick adjustments to their robot during the robot performance competition part of the tournament.
Team pfudor from May Street Elementary making quick adjustments to their robot during the robot performance competition part of the tournament.

Tournament organizers and teams this year faced a new challenge with the weather conditions over the second weekend. Ultimately, the Dec. 10 event was canceled and the Dec. 11 had a delayed start. While some teams from Dec. 10 were able to come on Dec. 11, 16 teams did not get to compete. “Canceling a tournament is always a hard call,” said Tournament Director Jessica Metta. “The dates are set at a national level and canceled events cannot be rescheduled. That means that months of effort from the students ends without the fun and excitement of a tournament.”

To accommodate those 16 teams affected by the weather, tournament organizers are planning an unofficial scrimmage in January. Those teams will also be placed in a lottery and four or five will be randomly chosen to advance to the State tournament.

The Gorge events are held by the Gorge Technology Alliance (GTA) with support from Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program, North Wasco County School District 21, Hood River County School District, Hood River County Education Foundation and White Salmon Valley Education Foundation. Local event sponsors include Boeing, Google and Insitu. Google also provides significant funding to support the Columbia Gorge robotics teams through Oregon Robotics Tournament and Outreach Program.

At the Gorge FLL tournaments, teams demonstrate their robot’s capabilities on the competition table, are interviewed by a robot design panel, present their Animal Allies research project and are assessed on teamwork skills. The teams impressed the judges, referees and tournament volunteers with their knowledge and teamwork. Each single-day tournament generates its own separate award winners and several teams that advance to the state tournaments.

From the three full days of competition held, the overall top teams were chosen to advance to the Oregon State Tournaments on January 14 or 15 in Hillsboro. The fourteen teams from the Gorge heading to Hillsboro include:

  • Overall 1st Place Champions: Fusion X from The Dalles Middle, BFDs (Big Friendly Dragons) from May Street, The Titans from Hood River Middle.
  • Overall 2nd Place Champions: The Technos from Henkle Middle, The Pandriods from Wy’east Middle, The Meme Team from Hood River Middle.
  • Additional top teams that advanced to the state tournament: Brick Busters from Horizon Christian, Robotic Destroyers from Irrigon, Hillbilly Tech Support from Sherman County, Robo Cheetahs from Colonel Wright, Yello Jackets from Hood River Middle, Tech Rex from Wy’east Middle, P4 from Vancouver and the Electronic Penguins from Little Oak Montessori in White Salmon.

Additional top awards were given to a number of teams for their outstanding performances in specific areas of the competition:

  • Core Values award: Brick Busters from Horizon Christian, Superbots from The Dalles Middle and P4 from Vancouver.
  • Project award: 2% Humans from Trout Lake, SWAG from Hood River and Robotic Acorns from May Street Elementary.
  • Robot Design award: Robo-Bros from Goldendale Middle, Rockin’ Robot Monkeys from May Street and Tech Rex from Wy’east Middle.
  • Robot Performance award: Robotic Catfishes from Westside Elementary, The Pandriods from Wy’east Middle and The Titans from Hood River Middle.
  • Rising Star award: RoboKeepers from Goldendale Middle and Electronic Penguins from Little Oak Montessori.

For more information about youth robotics in the Gorge, visit or contact Jessica Metta with the GTA at 541-296-2266 or

Volunteers Needed for Gorge FLL Tournaments

In crazy, breaking news, there will be four FIRST LEGO League (FLL) Tournaments in the Gorge for the first time ever. The GTA has been hosting these events since 2010 to support youth robotics and STEM education in the region. We have had enough teams over the last few years to require three events, but student participation has risen and this year we need FOUR! That means we need even more volunteers.

Our annual FLL robotics tournaments are fun and inspiring events for hundreds of 9 to 14 year olds from around the Gorge who have been working hard on their robots since September. No experience, engineering background or robotics awards needed: we have roles for people of all backgrounds and training is provided.

Volunteer Options:

  • Saturday, Dec 3, 9am to 3pm at The Dalles Middle School
  • Sunday, Dec 4, 9am to 3pm at The Dalles Middle School
  • Saturday, Dec 10, 9am to 3pm at Wy’east Middle School
  • Sunday, Dec 11, 9am to 3pm at Wy’east Middle School

Volunteer for one or more days. Enjoy the fun, let the students inspire you and eat well! Please let Jessica know if you can help!

Nominations Open for Annual Awards

The Gorge Tech Alliance is seeking nominations for Gorge tech leader and tech organization of the year for our annual awards. These awards honor those who are making great strides in growing the tech industry and/ or STEM education (science, technology, engineering and math) in the five-county Gorge region. Nominees need not be GTA members. Our 2015 winners were Steve Maier of Innovative Composite Engineering for Tech Leader of the Year and Prigel Machine for Tech Organization of the Year. Nominations will be accepted through November 11 and the winner announced at our Winter Party on December 13 at Solstice Pizza.
Download the applications here:

June 30 Fundraising Challenge for GTA College Scholarship

Connor AbbottMeet Connor Abbott. Connor is graduating this week from Goldendale High School with a 3.758 GPA and a passion to save human lives through use of robotics. He excelled on his high school’s VEX robotics team and will be attending Washington State University this fall to focus on Mechanical Engineering. With a single, working mom and a sister close in age preparing for college, Connor needs all the financial help he can get to realize his dreams of developing better bomb disposal robots or interstellar rovers.

Connor is the first-ever recipient of the GTA’s Corwin Hardham Memorial Scholarship to support students from the Columbia Gorge pursuing college degrees in science, technology, engineering and math. This year’s award was made possible by the contributions we received at our big event in July 2015, the Robot Rendezvous. We need your help to keep the fund growing and we need it today.

An anonymous donor has issued a challenge grant so that every dollar you contribute to the Corwin Hardham Memorial Scholarship before June 30 will be equally matched. In other words, your $50 contribution becomes $100 in the fund.

We were overwhelmed by the students that applied to the scholarship this year – fifteen enormously talented, ambitious young women and men from across the region with demonstrated financial need to achieve their dreams. Our goal is to provide larger scholarships to more than one student as the fund grows.  Please help us continue to offer and grow the scholarship.

The scholarship fund is managed by the Gorge Community Foundation, a 501(c)3 organization, so your contribution is fully tax-deductible. Click here to donate now to our scholarship fund. Please click the “Donate Now” button and then enter “Corwin Hardham Memorial Scholarship” when prompted where to direct your donation.

Thank you so much for supporting Connor and students like him through this scholarship!

Congrats to Wind Challenge Winners!

Thanks to Google for sharing this press release about the Wind Challenge event, co-hosted by the GTA:

Winners of the wind: local students take home prizes at Google Wind Challenge

Design competition and fair in The Dalles fosters STEM skills and lots of fun

THE DALLES, Ore. – April 30, 2016 – Earlier today, a fierce competition blew into town as students from around the Gorge took part in the third annual Google Wind Challenge at the Civic Auditorium in The Dalles, Oregon. This year, more than 100 students from 20 local high schools and middle schools competed to build the competition’s top turbines.

Participants, family and friends and community members also had the opportunity to explore science, technology, engineering and math at the adjoining STEM fair, featuring local high school robotics programs, Girls Inc., a traveling exhibit from the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry (with science plexers and puzzles for attendees to solve) and more.

The popular Wind Challenge and fair is sponsored by Google and produced in partnership with Gorge Technology Alliance and Columbia Gorge Community College. The annual event is a culmination of the organizations’ broader efforts to bring hands-on STEM opportunities to area students.

“This day is all about sparking student and community interest in science and technology,” said Dave Karlson, data center operations manager for Google, and former teacher in The Dalles school district. “We’re proud to be a part of this event and a partner supporting learning opportunities in the community.”

During the Wind Challenge, 30 student teams worked together with volunteer mentors to design, build and test their turbines. The colorful, creative machines were then presented to local judges Phil Donovan, Israel Duran, Mary Kramer, Steve Kramer, Tom Lieruance, Dave Mason, Gary McFarlen and Brad Schrick, who selected the winners based on each turbine’s power and efficiency.

This year, three high school division winners and three middle school division winners were selected (see names below). The winning teams received an assortment of prizes, including STEM-related design kits, trips to OMSI, and robots for their efforts. State Representative Huffman, Mayor Lawrence and County Commissioners Kramer, Runyon and Hege were on hand to give out prizes.

High School Winners:

  • 1st: Stevenson High School
  • 2nd: Columbia High School
  • 3rd: Tie between South Wasco County High School and The Dalles High School

Middle School Winners:

  • 1st: Henkle Middle School
  • 2nd: St. Mary’s Academy
  • 3rd: Sherman Jr. Sr. High School

“The students showed creativity and ingenuity in their turbine designs, and from their reactions, I think we are proving that fun and learning can go hand in hand,” said Gorge Technology Alliance Executive Director Jessica Metta. “We can’t wait to do it all again next year!”

For more information about this year’s Wind Challenge, visit

GTA Board President Brad Schrick checks the alignment of a turbine as a judge at the 2016 event.
GTA Board President Brad Schrick checks the alignment of a turbine as a judge at the 2016 event.

Third Annual STEM Career Day A Success

On April 29th, 2016, the Gorge Technology Alliance hosted our third annual STEM Career Day inviting all 7th graders in the Gorge to learn about local career opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math. The 2016 event brought together around 750 students from schools in Hood River, Odell, Klickitat, Mosier, The Dalles, Dufur, Centerville and Stevenson for presentations on The Dalles Campus of Columbia Gorge Community College. “This event is important for inspiring our local students to reach for the wonderful careers in our region, to pursue those college degrees we need and then come to work for our companies,” said Jessica Metta, GTA Executive Director.

The event was sponsored by Columbia River Insurance and organized with help from Columbia Gorge Community College, OSU Open Campus, The Dalles and Hood River Middle Schools. Many thanks also to these presenters who volunteered their time to make the day amazing:

Google IBEW 48 Mid-Columbia Fire and Rescue
Insitu Interfluve Dakine
CGCC Renewable Energy Technology Program Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Light Wave Communications
CGCC Health Sciences Program Sigma Design Integrated 3D
CGCC Computer Science Program Full Sail Cardinal Glass
New Buildings Institute Goldendale Observatory Cascade Mountain School
Googler Adam Gardner shares the many career opportunities with Google.
Googler Adam Gardner shares the many career opportunities with Google.
Students listen to Nichole Smith from Interfluve present about flow dynamics on a stream table.

Hood River Robotics Team Advances to World Competition

Occam’s Razor with Coach Jeff Blackman

Congrats to the FIRST Tech Challenge team from Hood River Valley High School, Occam’s Razor, for an amazing performance at the West Super-Regional Competition! Their work earned them an advancement to the final level of competition, the World competition April 27-30 in St. Louis, Missouri! If you can contribute to their travel and competition expenses, contact coach Jeff Blackman at 541-806-0505.

Internships and Co-Ops: A Win-Win Experience!


What is the difference between an internship and a Co-op?  At the February GTA event, we had the opportunity to meet with university representatives to get these and many other questions answered.   Here’s a bit of what we learned:

Internships are typically a 10-12 week long work experience related to a students’ degree or career goal, often completed in the summer.  They may or may not be paid.  They may or may not include academic credit.

Cooperative work experiences, or Co-ops,  are partnerships between the student, the company and the school or co-op coordinating entity. They are typically longer than internships (3 months to a full semester) and are part of an academic program designed to give students the opportunity to practice what they have learned in the classroom. They are paid positions and generally include course credit.

How can interns and co-op students benefit your company?  They can boost your workforce at less cost to you. They can be particularly helpful for special projects. They are eager, anxious to learn and bring fresh perspectives.  They can reduce  your hiring risks by being  a “trial run” at a job for both you and the student.

With a planning and preparation, hosting an intern or co-operative education student can be a positive experience for both your company and the student.

The GTA has partnered with other local stakeholders  to sponsor the Columbia Gorge Internship Network.  The network can help you connect with potential interns by posting your company and contact information and by making connections to university internship offices.  There are also resources to help you set up an internship or you can contact the network for individual consultation.

Join the Columbia Gorge Internship Network! Many thanks to Ann Harris, OSU Open Campus, for guest contributing this post.