GW sponsors technology conference to boost science reputation

Media Credit: File Photo by Graeme Sloan | Contributing Photo Editor

At a Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month, University President Thomas LeBlanc said several groups of GW researchers will travel to the eMerge Americas conference.

The University is sponsoring a technology conference in Miami in the hopes of elevating GW’s stature across the Americas.

The conference, called eMerge Americas, will take place on April 29 and 30 and will host about 15,000 attendees, including representatives from higher education, technology and government fields, according to an eMerge Americas press release Wednesday. Amid an increased focus on science and technology at GW, officials said the conference will help administrators, faculty and students demonstrate their “expertise” in the field.

“Through the eMerge Americas conference, GW will be able to showcase our growing strengths in science, technology and engineering,” University President Thomas LeBlanc said in an email.

At a Board of Trustees meeting earlier this month, LeBlanc said several groups of GW researchers will attend and compete in a “Shark Tank”-style startup business competition. University spokeswoman Lindsay Hamilton said the three startups participating in the contest are KnoNap, a napkin that detects date rape drugs; Nanochon, a 3D-printed device that promotes bone and cartilage growth after knee injuries; and M-Size Me, a tracking device that allows adolescents to monitor their weight goals.

Hamilton said the University will also host an exhibition at the conference featuring faculty research in areas like technology and cybersecurity. She said LeBlanc will lead a keynote presentation at the eGOV portion of the conference, which focuses on technological advancement in urban areas and partnerships between private companies and governments.

She declined to say how much it cost GW to sponsor the conference, though the University is listed as a “global partner” – the sponsorship level with the second-most benefits, like larger exhibit space and a higher number of VIP passes. She also declined to say if this is the first time GW is sponsoring a conference of this nature and which administrators are attending the event.

“Our University has to become more technologically literate across every discipline,” LeBlanc said at the Board of Trustees meeting. “This is an exciting opportunity we are joining in on.”

GW is one of four colleges sponsoring the conference, including the University of Miami, one of GW’s peers and LeBlanc’s former institution, according to the event’s website. Representatives from the University of Miami did not return multiple requests for comment.

John Wensveen, the vice provost of academic schools at Miami Dade College, another sponsor of the conference, said the event has allowed his students to engage with “important” companies in the technology field, like Facebook, Venmo and WeWork.

“It’s an opportunity for GW to raise its platform in the tech environment,” he said. “As we are living in an age of acceleration, academic institutions can benefit from getting a link into the tech industry so that graduates come to the workforce with the skills that are needed for the future.”

Robert Hacker, the co-founder and director of StartUP Florida International University, an entrepreneurship hub that helps students with startups and one of the conference sponsors, said the event will help GW forge partnerships with private and public institutions that could lead to future research funding or corporate sponsorships.

“It is an opportunity for GW to showcase its research-based technology, which is part of what the crowd that is coming to eMerge wants to see,” he said.

Eric Martin, the director of the Galant Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the University of Virginia, said the conference could help GW build its network because the conference attracts a wide array of startups, universities, corporations and investors.

“Participating in and supporting events like eMerge provides schools and students opportunities to interact with people with whom they might otherwise not come in contact,” he said in an email.

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