Staunton Innovation Hub sees potential for economic growth through mobile tech

December 27, 2018

Staunton Innovation League — Tech Lab Feasibility Study

Valley residents could soon pass a school bus equipped with laser cutters, 3D printers and virtual reality stations while cruising down I-81, if a local entrepreneurial group’s hunch about rural technology proves to be right.

With a $23,000 grant from the GO Virginia Region 8 Council, this spring the Staunton Innovation Hub will talk with area educators, government officials and local entrepreneurs about existing technology gaps and determine whether a mobile tech bus and a physical tech lab could meet some of those needs, the Hub announced this week.

“What we need to do is determine whether or not this idea is a good one, and if it is a good one, to determine the size, scope, scale and cost to implement a live tech lab … and a mobile bus,” said Staunton Innovation Hub Executive Director Chris Cain. “We’ve been hearing the need for this kind of combination of technology equipment and the education needed to use it, but without going and talking to folks, it’s just an idea.”

The idea is to have a lab in the Hub — once its space in downtown Staunton is complete in 2019 — that would be open to students and teachers, Cain said, as well as a mobile version on a decommissioned school bus that could bring Wifi and technology to the far reaches of the rural region.

Better access to technology like 3D printers and robotics, along with the lesson plans to use it, could give residents a pathway to start businesses or enter high-paying fields, according to a Hub press release.

The Hub, a co-working and entrepreneurial space in downtown Staunton, has partnered with Mary Baldwin University, James Madison University, Valley Career and Technical Center, the city of Staunton and Page County to explore the concept, the release says.

“At the core mission is reducing barriers to innovation. This study will map the best collaborative path to accomplish this mission for the younger residents of the Shenandoah Valley by complementing the hard work our area schools already put forth,” said Peter Denbigh, catalyst at the Staunton Innovation Hub, according to the release.

The Staunton Innovation Hub LLC was formed by Peter and Alison Denbigh, who are known as the creators of the successful game “Watch Ya Mouth.” The organization purchased the former News Leader building in 2017 with plans to renovate, and unveiled a fixed-up space at 32 N. Augusta St. in April 2018.

The Virginia Initiative for Growth and Opportunity — or GO Virginia — is a “bipartisan, business-led economic development initiative” that “supports programs to create more high-paying jobs through incentivized collaboration between business, education, and government,” according to its website.

Article by Rilyn Eischens, orginally appeared in the Staunton News Leader on December 27, 2018 to view original article click here