Earlier this year we could not have imagined what 2020 held in store for us and what that would mean for member events. Along with an advisory committee comprised of members and government, we decided to convert our annual member meeting to a virtual version due to the pandemic. It’s not what we would have chosen but it’s what we needed to do.
The advisory committee worked hard to transition all event features, including live chat, one-to-one networking, and live Q&A, which were all such an important part of face to face events in the past, into the virtual event.
Attended by over 400 enthusiastic members and government partners, Innovation Days 2020 became a full three-day event held August 4-6. The first day launched with a welcome and highlights overview by Dr. Malcolm Thompson, Executive Director, followed by detailed updates of NextFlex technology programs, engineering and fab operations, and the NextFlex Nodes in Massachusetts and New York. The event featured a keynote by Dr. Robert Irie of OUSD(R&E), 52 member and government FHE demonstrations (via video and GoTo Meeting), and eight Technology Visionary talks. A special “DoD as a Customer” session facilitated by Dr. Ben Leever, Acting Technical Director of the Manufacturing & Industrial Division at AFRL featured Dr. Thomas Cooley, Space Vehicles Directorate, AFRL, Mr. Michael White, Principal Director for Hypersonics in OUSD(R&E), and Dr. Michelle Rozo, Assistant Director for Biotechnology in OUSD(R&E), all of whom explored opportunities for FHE to have an impact in their respective application areas. In addition, there were three panel discussions: “The Ultimate Horizon for FHE,” “Women Transforming Innovation,” and “Next Generation Workforce,” and thorough updates of PC 4.0 and 5.0 projects now underway. Finally, a full day of presentations was devoted to the impact of NextFlex’s Workforce Development activities with commendations from Congressman Ro Khanna (CA-17) who recognized outstanding teachers, student teams, and NextFlex for answering the call to transform FlexFactor® into a virtual program amid the pandemic. The virtual FlexFactor pilot was such a success, it will be continued into the Fall to serve more students around the country.