CLINTWOOD — Members of the Ridgeview High School robotics team took a particularly special field trip this summer to Washington, D.C.
Most student field trips are special, true, with a blend of fun and learning in new and interesting places.
The students had plenty of both, visiting notable attractions in the nation’s capital like the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum, the National Gallery of Art, the National Archives and the Thomas Jefferson and other memorials. Among other things, they got to see the Declaration of Independence and The Hope Diamond. On their last day there, they visited the largest satellite company in the world.
They shared the details in a presentation to Dickenson County School Board during its August meeting, telling about interesting and inspiring experiences and meeting new and different people.
But this venture was hosted by newfound friends who also are business people with connections to jobs and a particular interest in Southwest Virginia. So impressed by their introduction to members of the Ridgeview robotics team on a visit here, they wanted to do more.
In addition to hosting the three-day trip and opening his home and the home of friends for the team’s overnight stays, Dr. Vivek Patil has also already offered two students internships.
Students told the board about who made the trip happen, particularly Patil, a colorectal surgeon who has founded two biomedical engineering firms and aims to leave his surgical position in a few years to launch an artificial intelligence startup.
Also key to the trip and hosts were environmental scientist Jan Canterbury and retired NASA engineer Jim Berg and wife Virginia.
Robotics coach Jessie Mullins told the school board that Patil and Canterbury have created a “Building Bridges” program where one of the goals is to bring environmentally friendly jobs to the area. They’ve been asked why go that far when there are other places closer. Canterbury told them they didn’t know exactly what it is was “but something is pulling us there,” Mullins related. “Everything is falling into place.”
This is a partnership is going to continue and hopefully help more than just the robotics team, Mullins said. Hopefully, the new friends and their work will help create jobs and make Dickenson County “more sustainable as a community.”
Patil’s plan is to start two companies in Southwest Virginia, Robotics coach Chris Owens said, and two robotics team members are his intended first new-hires.
Owens explained that Patil had been in the area talking with the Virginia Coalfield Economic Development Authority, where Dickenson County native Charlotte Mullins works. Knowing of the robotics teams’ accomplishments, Mullins urged Patil to meet the students and he did.
By the end of their session, he told the group they should come to Washington. And they did.
He met with Patil on a more recent trip when he visited with Jack Kennedy and officials with the new graphene research and development center in Wise County.
It’s a good partnership and they hope to repeat this trip every year, Owens said.
Robotics team members who took the trip were Jimmy Bowen, Nick Cox, Raegan Lamkin, Grayson Martin, Chad Mullins, Garrett Owens and Amelia Belcher and coaches Chris Owens, Jessie Mullins and Shaun Tiller.