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News Ad Astra Technology Summit Receives Innovation Award

The Wichita Business Journal honored FlagshipKansas.Tech’s Ad Astra Technology Summit in its Innovation Awards at a ceremony on Thursday, April 6, 2023. FlagshipKansas members Accelerate Venture Partners, Emprise Bank, Greater Wichita Partnership, NXTUS, and Wichita State University also received awards.

The following was printed in the Wichita Business Journal. To read about all the awardees, visit the WBJ website.

Whether it’s positioning for tech industry growth, filling current and future employment gaps, or making sure Kansas students are equipped with knowledge that gives them brighter futures, everyone has a stake in the future of technology in Kansas.

The first Ad Astra Technology Summit, hosted by membership group and technology industry advocates FlagshipKansas.Tech, took place on Sept. 12, 2022, in Wichita. More than 150 industry leaders, startups, government officials, and educators converged to explore current issues in the tech industry. The event featured informative sessions on digital skills development, industry panels, apprenticeship programs, and new/startup business enablement. It showcased premier venues in downtown Wichita, including Riverfront Stadium, Kansas Leadership Center, The Vail, and Distillery 244.

The one-day event was kicked off from home plate at Riverfront Stadium by Mike Zamzrla, deputy state director for the Office of U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, and Luis Rodriguez, president of Keycentrix and 2022 board chair for FlagshipKansas.Tech. Their remarks were followed by keynote speaker Trevor McKeeman, founder & CEO of HitchPin, an agriculture marketplace for farmers and ranchers based in Manhattan.

McKeeman and Rodriguez were joined by representatives from government, workforce development and education to discuss current issues. Panelists included Jade Piros de Carvalho, director of the Kansas Office of Broadband Development; Keith Lawing, CEO of the Workforce Alliance of South Central Kansas; and Callie Harris, assistant principal at Pray-Woodman Elementary, Maize.

Rodriguez, who facilitated the panel, turned up the heat and fired off questions to panelists who ate hot wings before offering a response – an ode to popular celebrity interview show “Hot Ones.”

Event participants took party buses to the breakouts, selecting from three tracks: educators, Workforce Development, and business/entrepreneurs. Educators also had the opportunity to earn continuing education credit through Wichita State University.

All attendees were invited to a post-event celebration and award ceremony at Riverfront Stadium where tech innovators were recognized, including a startup, educator, community innovator, and visionary of the year. Participants took home swag bags with shirts and stickers aimed at creating excitement for the flagship mission to push forward the Kansas tech industry and fostering pride in our state, including the mantras “Kansas Blows Your Mind,” “Kantastic,” “Flyover at Your Loss,” and “Shock the Coasts.”

The first Kansas cross-stakeholder tech sector summit innovated the format of a conference with multiple venues, party bus bumping, a stadium jumbotron keynote, and a multi-track agenda. It was a huge success and something the city and state had never seen before, creating lasting connections between key stakeholders in Kansas tech.