Roanoke Region Manufacturers Can Benefit from Industry Collaboration with Virginia Tech

virginia tech food science beer

Food and beverage producers take note, the Roanoke Region has every resource you need to produce a world-class product. Plentiful, quality water, natural gas, a significant available sewer capacity and all other utilities are in place. And the Roanoke Region’s location in the Mid-Atlantic has proven itself an advantage for manufacturers of all varieties for decades. But many are simply unaware of the advantages the research assets at Virginia Tech can provide food and beverage manufacturers of all sizes.

The Department of Food Science and Technology in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech is a department that is built on industry collaboration. The department hosts the Food Innovations Program which can provide a variety of technical assistance services including testing food products for safety and quality, provide guidance on reformulation and product design, coordinate training, provide regulatory assistance, and even calculate nutritional labels for new food products. The department has analyzed over 2,500 products and assisted more than 1,000 businesses large and small with challenges unique to their own food-based business.

“I call the pilot plant my engagement space,” said Joe Marcy, head of the Department of Food Science and Technology. “This great room brings all our missions together — research, outreach, and academics — in a way that is beneficial to everyone.”

Department faculty, many of whom have private industry experience, have assisted many large industrial clients evaluate new processes and/or new equipment and its effect on the quality and safety of the food product being produced. 

virginia tech food science beer

The department expanded into the new Human and Agricultural Biosciences Building 1 in 2014 which houses several new laboratory spaces including a new food processing pilot plant facility where manufacturers can utilize their own equipment to test new processes and/or products. The pilot plant facility is complete with many modern features including:

  • pasteurization equipment
  • homogenization equipment
  • spray drying equipment
  • mixers/batching equipment      
  • vacuum packaging, precision oven
  • industrial grade utilities

Most recently, the department has added malting equipment, a new brewhouse and distillery equipment for the burgeoning brewery and distillery industry in Virginia and which augments the departments existing research winery and enology laboratory. 

The department also hosts a sensory evaluation laboratory where data can be collected on individual responses to flavor, ingredients, and even packaging and marketing of products. Each panelist booth is equipped with sensory data collection equipment including automated facial expression analysis software to record and evaluate the user experience. 

There is a wide variety of resources available at Virginia Tech for private industry and the Food Science and Technology Department has experience collaborating with colleagues in the Macromolecules and Interfaces Institute which specializes in research into polymers and has researched applications in food and other consumer product packaging. The Department of Sustainable Biomaterials has recently started a new undergraduate degree in packaging systems and design which is contributing along with the Food Science department freshly trained food and packaging graduates each year. 

Virginia Tech houses the resources that can assist with product conceptualization and process implementation and is another resource that makes the Roanoke Region a better place for food and beverage companies to do business.

2 Roanoke Region Schools Win Top Education Awards

Three cheers for Crystal Spring and Snow Creek elementary schools.

The two Roanoke Region schools are among 12 in the state to earn national Blue Ribbon Awards from the U.S. Department of Education, signifying academic rigor and dramatic gains in student achievement. 

crystal spring top roanoke schoolCrystal Spring Elementary in Roanoke and Snow Creek Elementary in Penhook were each honored as Exemplary High Performing Schools. This designation is for schools that are among their state’s highest performing schools as measured by state assessments or nationally normed tests. Student subgroup performance and high school graduation rates are also at the highest levels.

The recognition of 335 schools was announced by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. They will be recognized at a ceremony in November in Washington, D.C.


From Crystal Spring’s application: “Crystal Spring Elementary is an urban school within a diverse socio-economic community. Ninety-two years old, it includes multi-generational community involvement and serves students from preschool through grade five. CSE is a neighborhood school located in South Roanoke and is rich with traditions. Half of our 350 students walk or ride their bikes to school. Our school culture is greatly enhanced by the trusting relationships we develop with parents and our collaborative work with neighborhood businesses. CSE supports Roanoke City Schools’ philosophy of “Strong Students, Strong Schools, Strong City. Our students are active, engaged, and motivated learners who take advantage of academic and extracurricular opportunities.”


snow creek top roanoke schoolFrom Snow Creek’s application: “Family and cultural roots are strong and deep; many of the students have parents, and even grandparents, who attended the school. This multi-generational connection is one of the key elements to Snow Creek’s success. Many parents and grandparents are closely involved in school activities and serve as a support network. Another key element to Snow Creek’s success is the commitment to fostering collaboration between learners. Students work with their teammates in positive relationships to examine their own thinking and provide evidence in support of their conclusions. Students become stakeholders in their own educations. Faculty and staff are driven by that same collaborate notion.”

  • Crystal Spring Elementary celebrated the honor with a school assembly this week. You can read more about it from The Roanoke Times.
  • Learn more about all the educational opportunities in the Roanoke Region, which is home to top-notch public and private K-12 schools and 25 colleges and universities.

Roanoke Museum Featured in Pinball News

Roanoke Pinball

The newly opened Roanoke Pinball Museum, located inside Center in the Square, is featured in the latest edition of Pinball News.

The trade website features pinball news and information from all around the world, and pinball reviewer Dan Marquardt liked what he saw:

pinball news“It was very nice to see the large number of kids playing their pins. I doubt most of them had ever even seen a pinball machine before. I was happy to see the museum bringing pinball machines to a new generation. …

“I really enjoyed my visit to the museum and hope to visit again to play all their classic pins.”

Roanoke Pinball Museum opened in June and is a hot spot for kids and kids at heart. With more than 50 machines to play, you can easily spend an afternoon – or day – playing classics games.

The museum is open daily (except Mondays) all summer and $10 admission gives you access to all the games. Annual memberships to the museum are also available.

Roanoke Valley Governor’s School Math Madness Gets National Attention

Your shot at Warren Buffet’s billion dollars may be over, but one quest for the perfect, or at least better, bracket is putting the national spotlight on one Roanoke Region school. CBS News featured a math program at the Roanoke Valley Govenor’s School focused on the NCAA March Madness basketball tournament. 

Picking up on a story by local affiliate WDBJ-TV, CBS News ran the story on the homepage of their website. The piece features the unique way the Governor’s School implements the real-world applications of linear algebra using the NCAA tournament as a bracket as a learning tool. 

“I’m not a big basketball fan, but, teaching seniors in the spring, you have to have something that’s exciting that’s also educational to keep them motivated, and this seems to work,” Linda Gooding, the classes instructor told CBS. “It’s really applying math in a fun way for something that they all are interested in – the March Madness”

The students are tasked with picking the best brackets based on mathematical models, the same process students at Davidson, Georgia Tech, and Princeton use to predict their brackets. The brackets are then compared and pitted against the others in the class. The winner is awarded an A, and has bragging rights among their classmates. 

The Roanoke Region is known for its Acclaimed Higher Education with over 25 colleges and universities in the area, but now the high school STEM teachings of the region are also drawing national attention. This innovative way to teach the material, while also keeping it fun to hold students’ attention is what puts the Roanoke Region on the cutting edge of education. 

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