2020 Tech Award Winners Announced

  • Tech Leader of the Year: Rob Coatney, Zepher Flight Labs. Rob is an Aerospace Engineering graduate of the University of Illinois (Champaign/Urbana campus). He has 9 years specific UAV design / build / test experience, and over 25 years designing, building, and flying radio-controlled aircraft.  In addition to engineering and design,  Rob is a licensed Part 107 pilot. In 2015, he joined Zepher after four years at Aerovel. Subsequently, in 2019 Zepher Flight Laboratories (ZFL) was created around the UAV improvement concepts that Rob designed. A sister company to Zepher, ZFL is focused on innovative advancements in UAS performance and utility from the perspective of the modern service member.   Overcoming the military’s technology challenges are at the core of ZFL designs.  As one of the founding employees of ZFL,  Rob is the company’s lead aerospace engineer. The  Award recipient is given an opportunity to direct a $1,000 donation. The donation is given by the GTA on the winner’s behalf to a non-profit of their choosing, and Rob selected the White Salmon Valley Education Foundation as the recipient of his donation.
  • STEM Educator of the Year: Tom Dalbey, May Street Elementary. Tom Dalbey has spearheaded multiple classroom and afterschool initiatives at May Street Elementary School over the past few years. He has written and been awarded several grants, bringing over $4,500 of new STEM resources to the school.  In addition, he has bolstered STEM education by designing and teaching a hands-on class on robotics that incorporates programming to all 4th graders and an additional 25 students in after-school programs. As Tom’s award, the GTA has granted $1,000 to the STEM program at May Street .

2020 Awards

The GTA’s annual awards program is now open for voting!

Most importantly we’d like to thank you for your continued support, and extend our appreciation to all of our educators who are working under particularly trying circumstances. Thanks!

The GTA Board narrowed it down to two finalists from the nominations provided for each of our two categories. Please review the information below on each of the deserving candidates and share your vote here. All employees at our GTA members are encouraged to vote, but please only one vote per person!

The GTA will give the STEM Educator of the Year $1000 for their work and the Tech Leader of the year will have the opportunity to direct a $1000 donation by the GTA on their behalf to a non-profit of their choice.

Thanks again for your time and support. Happy Holidays!

Voting ends Friday, December 11th at 4pm and your votes can be cast here.

The two annual awards categories are:

Tech Leader of the Year

Tech Leader of the Year recognizes the outstanding achievement over the last year on the part of an individual or company that principally provides technology products, services, or support in the Columbia River Gorge. 2020 nominees include:

Rob Coatney, Zepher Flight Labs: Check out this video highlighting Robs’ work and an overview of the great things he’s been doing at Zepher Flight Labs  in his nomination here


Sierra Olympic Technolgoies Check out this video of Sierra Olympic’s work or read their nomination here


STEM Education Leader of the Year

The STEM Educator of the Year Award recognizes an individual for outstanding contributions to STEM (science, tech, engineering and math) education in the Columbia River Gorge over the last year. 2020 Nominees include: 

Ajay Rundell of The Dalles High School and Dry Hollow Elementary School in The Dalles, OR.


Tom Dalbey of May Street Elementary in Hood River, OR.


Please fill out this form to vote! Voting ends on Friday, December 11th at 4pm. 

See past winners below.

2019 GTA Technology Leader of the Year: Mark Zanmiller

Mark Zanmiller received this award for his legacy of leadership in Gorge tech businesses and the community. Mark is currently Business Development Director for Sightline Applications but has held key roles at four different early-stage Gorge tech companies. He has also volunteered innumerable hours on community boards and committees, including years as a Hood River City Councilor, and as an integral part of the Hood River County Christmas Project.

2019 GTA STEM Education Leader of the Year: Patrick Getchis

Patrick Getchis, STEM Teacher at Wy’east Middle School, received the 2019 STEM Education Leader of the Year award for his years of excellence in STEM education. Patrick has led middle-school robotics teams to World Competitions several times. He has an impressive and innovative maker lab, and classes that have opened opportunities especially for Latino students. His classroom is a place where all students are welcome and where all can see himself or herself as tech and STEM leaders. 


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