Reston, VA

Education technology giant Blackboard, which operates its global headquarters in Reston, is a major force in the shift to digital teaching and learning during COVID-19..

The company — which is contracted by Fairfax County Public Schools and many other jurisdictions nationwide — is partnering with K-12 districts and higher education institutions in the region as COVID-19 forces schools to close for the remainder of the school year.

Earlier this week, State Gov. Ralph Northam ordered all schools to close through the academic year. The Fairfax County School Board is expected to release information on online teaching, impact on seniors and grading over the next several days.

We appreciate and support the work that our superintendent and staff have done to set in motion the distance learning initiative. Adjustments will be made over time as we learn from our students and staff. The Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) has provided school districts additional guidance regarding continuity of learning that has an equity focus,” wrote board chairwoman Karen Corbett Sanders on Tuesday.

Classrooms will likely leverage Blackboard Collaborate, an online classroom solution, to complement Blackboard’s existing online communication tools and website.

“We reach over 50 percent of the top 100 U.S. largest school districts with our educational communications and learning management tools,” a Blackboard spokesperson told Reston Now in an interview.

The company is currently working with Amazon Web Services, an Amazon subsidiary that provides cloud computing platforms, to ensure the company can meet increased demand.

The spike in global demand for cloud-based learning solutions like Blackboard due to the coronavirus pandemic is unprecedented. But the company says it can apply lessons learned and best practices from situations like Hurricane Harvey and H1N1.

Blackboard is working with clients to understand how they might use the company’s services in two-week intervals to “improve our own processes and readiness,” the spokesperson said.

“These two-way conversations help us plan so that we can be more proactive with changes to our capacity.”

Photo via Blackboard

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A mini-satellite by a Herndon startup is getting special attention from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

HawkEye360, a data-analytics company that launched in 2015, will partner with the museum in an upcoming exhibit. The company uses satellites to gather data from across the world, the company’s chief operating officer Rob Rainhart told Reston Now.

The group was approached by the Smithsonian representatives after learning about the HawkEye360’s new Pathfinder satellite, which Rainhart said is leading the industry when it comes to small satellite data collection. Pathfinder was officially launched in December 2018 and uses geo-location to collect data.

HawkEye360 has already built the lifesize model and handed it off to the Smithsonian, Rainhart said, adding that he is excited for the company’s work to be included at a permanent exhibition at the museum.

Patrons will be able to visit the exhibit which includes the “microwaved size” model, sometime starting in 2025, according to the press release.

HawyEye360 was partially chosen to be included in the Smithsonian’s new exhibit because of the company’s effort to be a leader in refining the”space 2.0″ revolution, Rainhart said. Currently, the company has three satellites orbiting the earth — all pulling the data that served roughly several dozen customers in both the private and public sectors.

Scientists and engineers at the company use a unique class of radio frequency data to learn about the world, a press release said. Rainhart added that this is what helps to set the company apart from competitors — along with the new data sets that the company brings to the market.

“It’s a really innovative, high-tech startup that’s growing really fast,” Rainhart said. He says that the company also helps to monitor things like illegal fishing or maritime activity, as well as things like providing a visual view of an area after natural disasters.

Going forward, the company wants to launch 18 satellites and are on track to launch three more in September.

With roughly 60 employees, Rainhart said that the company hopes to grow and continue working with clients across the globe.

Photo courtesy HawkEye360

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It’s no secret that Northern Virginia is well-known for being a technology corridor.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn (D) is looking for ways to bring the benefits of emerging technologies to all residents.

In a board matter proposed this week, Alcorn says he wants to find ways to promote innovative and equitable technologic Fairfax County.

Here’s more from the board matter:

Beyond our internal investments in GIS, other examples of our leadership in advancing technology include these initiatives championed through our Economic Advisory Commission (EAC):

  • Our pilot with Dominion Energy is the first state-funded connected autonomous vehicle (CAV) public transportation demonstration in Virginia.
  • Testing of driverless cars, by public and private entities, on our more than 70 miles of “connected corridors” in the county.
  • The county’s state-funded efforts to attract and retain workers for high-demand IT positions, including cybersecurity.   
  • Our partnership with Smart City Works and Refraction utilizing their $750,000 federal grant to increase regional capacity to bring technologies to market and grow innovative companies.

To complement these EAC activities we can also do more to promote innovative and equitable technology in Fairfax County. The Board’s IT Committee, which I now chair, provides an excellent opportunity for board members to explore how we can use technology more efficiently and ensure that our residents also benefit from new technology.

In concert with the efforts by the county’s EAC and the Economic Development Authority (EDA) to encourage emerging technology companies, it is also important that we look to bring the benefits of safe and consumer-friendly emerging technologies to our residents as consumers.  And we should do so with an equity lens in mind so that residents who are in most need of the efficiencies and cost reductions often associated with these innovations actually receive the benefits.

The board is expected to discuss ways to promote emerging technologies at a future IT meeting committee.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Carahsoft, a Reston-based IT company that was founded in 2004, is taking part in the state-based veteran employment program.

State Gov. Ralph Northam announced this week that the company will participate in the Virginia Values Veterans Certification Program, which aims to give veterans more employment opportunities through training and education.

The Reston-based company is the 1,000th to receive certification in the state program.

The program was created in 2012 and is describes the first state-based program dedicated to improving employment opportunities for veterans by training employers on national best practices for recruitment, hiring, and retention.

Northam plans to visit Carahsoft next week to present the certification.

Photo via Unsplash

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A company that specializes in delivering vitamin infusions created by its medical professionals will celebrate its grand opening next week.

Core IV Therapy recently opened at 1900 Campus Commons Drive. It offers “on-demand vitamin IV hydration,” according to its website. Customers request concierge mobile services in Northern Virginia or make an appointment at the Reston location.

Here’s more from the company:

We specialize in providing a fast and effective way to deliver hydration, vitamins, minerals, and electrolytes right into your bloodstream for 100% absorption and bioavailability by one of our experienced and knowledgeable medical professionals.

Our drips are designed to help you achieve increase energy, enhanced mood, improved stamina and muscle recovery, decreased stress and anxiety, better immunity, hydration, improved skin, and overall wellness just to name a few.

A grand opening ceremony with the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce is set for Wednesday, Feb. 12. from 3-5 p.m.

Image via Core IV/YouTube

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A cybersecurity company that was founded in Virginia has announced plans to expand in the Town of Herndon, according to a release by Gov. Ralph Northam.

Expel, Inc. will expand its headquarters at 12950 Worldgate Drive, creating 164 new jobs in engineering, customer experience, IT, marketing and sales team over the next three years.

“There’s a fantastic pool of tech talent location in Northern Virginia, and we have close proximity to strong education institutions and major tech companies,” said Dave Merkel, Expel’s CEO.

The company, which is investing $1.4 million in the expansion, offers managed security on-premises and in the cloud, including 24/7 monitoring through security operations using security tools that customers already have.

The expansion was made possible through the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, which provides consultancy and funding services to help companies create new jobs.

Here’s more from Northam’s office:

“Virginia has emerged as a national leader in cybersecurity and continues to be at the forefront of workforce development in this rapidly-evolving industry, thanks to companies like Expel, Inc.,” said Governor Northam. “We are thrilled to support this homegrown Northern Virginia business as they grow and expand and look forward to their ongoing success in Herndon.”

“Herndon and the 86th District continues to attract tech companies and workers of all backgrounds because we work hard to create economic growth while maintaining an accessible community and excellent quality of life,” said Delegate Ibraheem Samirah. “I’m excited to see the growing tech center in Herndon and hope that it solidifies Herndon’s position as the best place to live and work in the Commonwealth.”

“I am proud to see that the Town of Herndon continues to attract and retain the best and brightest companies like Expel, Inc.,” said Senator Jennifer Boysko. “Working to recruit a diverse and talented workforce continues to strengthen our robust economy. I welcome Expel Inc.’s expansion in the 33rd Senate District.”

Image via Google Maps

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Several Reston-based companies made it to a national list that recognizes employers for dedication to diversity and inclusion.

The yearly list of 500 companies, which is compiled by Forbes magazine, included three Reston-based companies and 13 companies in Fairfax County.

SAIC, an information technology company that stands for Science Applications International Corporation, ranked #91 on the list. Leidos, which is opening up its headquarters in Reston Town Center soon, got the 455th spot while Bechtel, an engineering and construction company, got the 500th spot.

“The workforce today – and the workforce of tomorrow – want to see a commitment to diversity and inclusion by employers, and it is a testament to these Fairfax County companies’ efforts to attract talented employees from all backgrounds and walks of life that they are part of this impressive national ranking,” said Victor Hoskins, president and CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.

Forbes’ list was compiled using survey data from a sample of more than 60,000 U.S. employees. Other factors like diversity levels among executives, leadership positions responsible for diversity, and the presence of a diverse company culture were also considered as part of the determination.

Photo courtesy Boston Properties

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A Reston telecommunications company has announced plans to shut down, according to the company.

NII Holdings, which sold wireless services in Latin America, filed a certificate of dissolution in Delaware, according to a press release. Stocks stopped trading on Jan. 9. Its headquarters were located at 12110 Sunset Hills Road.

The company first formed when mobile phones first hit the market. Here’s more from a recent report by the Washington Business Journal:

Founded in 1995, NII Holdings came of age during the early years of mobile phones, capitalizing on Nextel’s push-to-talk service. At one point, Nextel owned a stake in the company, which had millions of subscribers throughout Latin America and quarterly earnings of more than $1 billion. It was listed on the Forbes 2000. 

But the shifting winds of the wireless business took their toll. Nextel was acquired by Sprint, which disabled the push-to-talk Network in 2013. NII rolled out an iPhone version of the app in 2014, though it never became widely used. 

The company cut more than 1,400 in 2013 after filing for bankruptcy that year.

Image via Google Maps

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A new “memory depot” is available at Reston Regional Library and five other libraries in the county.

The do-it-yourself station allows library patrons to digitize materials.

The following formats are accepted:

  • Photographic prints, negatives and slides
  • Scrapbooks and other documents
  • VHS and VHS-C video cassettes
  • Audio cassettes
  • 3.5″ Floppy disks

The service, which started at the City of Fairfax Regional Library, is also available at  the Centreville Regional LibraryGeorge Mason Regional LibraryPohick Regional Library, and Sherwood Regional Library.

Only Centreville Regional Library allows users to digitize vinyl albums. Patrons must bring the materials and an external hard drive or USB.

Before signing up for a session, residents should consider taking a 30-minute orientation. Reston’s branch does not require registration for the orientation, which is held on Wednesdays. More information is available online.

Photo via Unplash/Fredy Jacob

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Reston Association’s new information technology director says that the association needs to upgrade its technology to prevent issues.

Clara William, who started her new job in September, presented to RA’s Board of Directors on Thursday the issues she’s identified along with RA staff.

“It has challenges and it needs improvement,” William said, listing a variety of issues, older products no longer under warranties, outdated software and slow or no wireless speeds.

“We lack security from the end users point of view,” she said. “There is not a substantial amount of security that is there.”

Crashes can cause problems — which has happened already — because the association is using old software, like financial software from 2013, she said.

“I want to move away from customized programs completely,” she said, adding that the more customized a website is, the harder it is to maintain and update. “We want to move to a more cloud-based solution.”

During the presentation, William laid out the plan for how staff plan to fix the IT issues. “To do all of this work, were going to hire IT consultants,” she said.

William said goals for 2020 include:

  • stabilizing the infrastructure
  • modernizing the technology and security
  • augmenting IT skills gap with professional tech services
  • moving apps to the cloud software as a service
  • building centralized data and business intelligence reporting

People can also expect a new RA website next year, according to William’s presentation.

The work means that the IT budget for next year will increase $413,000 due to infrastructure upgrades, licensing and contract costs and consultants — totaling just over $1 million.

“It is required to take RA IT to the next level otherwise things are going to crash and fall apart,” William said about the high budget amount.

“I had no idea that our IT situation was this bad,” Vice President Julie Bitzer said, asking if the budget increase would be a one-time or continued increase.

William said that some of the costs may “go down or go away” next year, like the professional tech services.

“This budget will not be high next year,” William said.

William said that she will work with RA CEO Hank Lynch to come up with metrics for the project and how often the Board of Directors will receive updates.

“I will make sure there is a progress report,” William said.

Images via Reston Association/YouTube

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An upcoming event in Reston will offer patrons a chance to purchase out-of-the-box holiday gifts.

Artisans from Nova Labs, Inc. will display gifts made from 3d printers and laser cutters at a maker market and artisan fair this weekend.

Nova Labs, Inc. (1916 Isaac Newtown Square West), a nonprofit organization that offers artisans tools and equipment to create items, will display work like glassware, personalized items, vases, cards, and jewelry at the fair, which is set for Saturday, Dec. 7 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The fair will also include blacksmithing demonstrations, tours, a magic sandbox and virtual reality rooms.

The event is free and open to all.

Photo via Unsplash

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Friday Morning Notes

Reston-based company partners with Ford for EV charging network — “Reston-based Electrify America, whose coast-to-coast network already includes more than 120 ultrafast charging stations at Walmart stores in 34 states, will support the FordPass app with a comprehensive data feed that will show real-time locations and charger status data to Ford vehicles’ touch screens.” [WTOP]

Police search for man accused of exposing himself to kids in Fairfax County — “Fairfax County police are searching for a man who they say exposed himself to children on multiple occasions earlier this week. Both incidents are alleged to have happened in the middle of the day on Richmond Highway near Alexandria, about three miles apart.” [FOX 5]

Frost Advisory In Effect Today — A frost advisory is in effect for the region today (Friday) until 9 a.m. Residents are encouraged to take steps to protect outdoor plants from the cold. [National Weather Service]

Photo via Dario Piparo/Flickr

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Two incoming county board members who won the Democratic nomination launched a policy platform on Tuesday (Oct. 1) to attract and increase technology development in the county.

Walter Alcorn, the Democratic nominee for Hunter Mill District Supervisor, and Rodney Lusk, the Democratic nominee for Lee District Supervisor,  pitched the plan at a public event in Tysons.

In their first year of office, both Democrats say they want to establish a technology accelerator on the historic Richmond Highway Corridor that focuses on creating technology for governments and commercial markets.

They also want to forge partnerships with colleges, universities and governmental research firms to identify emerging technology markets.

By doing so, they hope Fairfax County will become a “test bed” for demonstrating new technologies like last mile delivery systems and self-driving cars.

“Over the years we have done a terrific job of diversifying our economy and ensuring that we remain on the cutting edge of innovation. However, as new technologies continue to emerge at an ever-increasing rate, it’s critical that as a county we not only work to keep pace, but also leverage the economic opportunities created by these developments to address the many needs and challenges that still exist in our region,” Alcorn said.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) lauded the incoming supervisors for their work.

“This is an area that’s new, it’s exciting, and my hope is that through partnering with Walter and Rodney my office can help move this forward,” Warner said.

Both Alcorn and Lusk are running unopposed in the Nov. 5 general election. They expect to release more details on their plans early next year.

Photo via Walter Alcorn

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Wednesday Morning Notes

Hidden Histories Exhibit Opens Tomorrow — An opening reception and artist talk by Maremi Andreozzi is set for tomorrow (Thursday) from 6-8 p.m at the Greater Reston Arts Center’s satellite gallery at the Signature, which is located at 11850 Freedom Drive. [Greater Reston Arts Center]

Great Falls Organization to Honor 9/11 Victims — A ceremony at the Great Falls Freedom Memorial will honor 9/11 victims on the 18th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. Six residents of Great Falls were killed in the attacks. The remembrance ceremony starts today at 7 p.m. [Celebrate Great Falls Foundation]

McLean-based Company Acquires Information Technology Services Contractor — “Dovel Technologies has acquired Reston, Va.-based government information technology services contractor Ace Info Solutions for an undisclosed sum in an effort to broaden market capabilities and diversify its client base.” [GovConWire]

The Maturing of Reston Town Center — “How did Reston Town Center, set some 20 miles (32 km) from the nation’s capital in the leafy suburbs of Northern Virginia, generate premium real estate values and become desirable enough to compete for the best tenants? What can be learned from the evolution of a five-block phase in 1990, to what is now over 25 blocks of high-density mixed-use development with a distinctly urban, downtown feel It is a story dating back more than 30 years, the product of critical decisions made by a host of real estate professionals, public officials, planners, and designers.” [Urban Land]

Photo by vantagehill/Flickr

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The Davidson Institute for Talent Development has selected a Neeyanth Kopparapu, 17, of Herndon as a 2019 Davidson Fellows Scholarship winner.

The senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology is one of 20 students across the country selected for the program, which offers scholarships between $10,000 and $50,000 for developing projects that have the potential to benefit society in science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature, and music.

Kopparapu developed what the institute said is the first diagnosis system for early-stage Parkinson’s disease using an MRI scan. The Herndon resident was inspired to create the system — which is accurate nearly 97 percent of the time — after his grandfather was diagnosed with the disease at a late stage and was unable to use commonly-prescribed medication to fight the disease.

“I am incredibly grateful to the Davidson Institute for this recognition of my work in artificial intelligence,” said Kopparapu in a statement. “I am looking forward to meeting other Fellows and becoming part of the Davidson Fellows Scholarship community.”

Siona Prasad, 18, of Vienna, was also selected for the scholarship. Her work to measure and monitor greenhouse gas emissions successfully predicted an emission inventory for Washington, DC. A reception program to honor the fellows is set for Friday, September 27 in the District.

“I am incredibly grateful to the Davidson Institute for this recognition of my work in artificial intelligence,” said Kopparapu, a rising senior at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology in Alexandria. “I am looking forward to meeting other Fellows and becoming part of the Davidson Fellows Scholarship community.”

Photo via Davidson Institute for Talent Development

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