A team of colleagues from the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT) has received the university’s 2018 Alumni Award for Outreach Excellence.

With support from the Virginia Tech Alumni Association, the Alumni Award for Outreach Excellence is presented annually to recognize outstanding contributions by Virginia Tech faculty members who have extended the university’s outreach mission throughout the commonwealth, the nation, and the world. Recipients are nominated by their peers, receive a $2,000 cash prize, and are inducted into the university’s Academy of Outreach Excellence.

Ben Knapp, Holly Williams, Melissa Wyers, and Donna Raines worked to deliver the first ACCelerate: ACC Smithsonian Creativity and Innovation Festival, held Oct. 13-15, 2017. The three-day outreach event was held at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. More than 36,000 people attended, making it the largest nonathletic event held by the ACC. Due to the outstanding success of the event, the ICAT team will lead it a second time in April 2019.

The purpose of the ACCelerate Festival is to demonstrate the wide range of creative exploration and research happening at the nexus of science, engineering, arts, and design at each of the 15 ACC schools. Forty-seven projects were presented by more than 400 faculty, staff, and students from all schools. There were also 15 performances and nine conversations that included panelists from the schools and the Smithsonian. 

“I have watched this team in action for two years, from the beginning of the planning for the festival, to its first offering, and now as they begin planning for the second offering. It was a difficult challenge to coordinate and deliver an outreach event of this scale, scope, and prestige, at an extraordinarily visible national venue, in addition to maintaining the everyday work of our institute. Ben, Holly, Melissa, and Donna are the reason the light shone so brightly on the festival and Virginia Tech, and they are a large part of the reason that it was flawless to the attendees,” wrote Thomas L. Martin, professor in the Bradley Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, in a letter of nomination.

Virginia Tech was chosen to be the ACC co-host of this inaugural event because of ICAT’s nationally recognized leadership in transdisciplinary research and outreach. The core mission of ICAT is to bring together faculty and students from across campus to do transdisciplinary research and engage the community beyond the university.

Written by Lindsey Grooms, Class of 2019