The role technology has played during the pandemic gave the 2020 AIM Tech Awards special meaning at the AIM Institute’s signature annual event on Thursday, Dec. 3. In a virtual format, the AIM Institute, a nonprofit organization committed to changing lives through technology, celebrated the contributions and dedication of tech leaders, educators, students and businesses to the tech community through the presentation of six awards. Scholarships also were awarded to area college students.
AIM promotes diversity, equity and inclusion in the tech sector by making outstanding educational opportunities and career training accessible to all, from elementary school through adulthood. Proceeds from the event support AIM’s mission to grow, connect, and inspire the tech community in Omaha. Presented by Cox Business, the AIM Tech Awards recognized the following individuals for their impact in the Silicon Prairie’s tech sector:
Tech Leader of the Year: Kim Whittaker, President FNTS
Whittaker is a passionate leader recognized for her continued focus on cloud technology, which is more important than ever as remote working and learning are a necessity due to changes brought on by COVID-19. She leads FNTS’ Women in Technology initiative and events, inspiring youth to consider future careers in technology. Under her leadership, FNTS launched a job shadow program to give students and career-focused professionals opportunities to learn various IT and tech-adjacent roles.
Tech Innovator of the Year: Mike Douglas, Director of Delivery Engineering, Lunavi
Douglas has more than 20 years of experience in leading delivery teams and providing mentorship for multiple client engagements. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience in innovation trends and technologies to Lunavi, a provider of IT consulting, managed services and software development.
Tech Educator of the Year: Rios ‘Tony’ Gunter, Principal, Kennedy Elementary School
Gunter goes above and beyond to provide technology opportunities to his staff and students. He led the implementation of technology upgrades at Kennedy Elementary that included the integration of Promethean boards, iPads and robotics into the classroom.
Tech Student of the Year: David Salazar, University of Nebraska-Omaha
Salazar is completing a doctoral degree in the department of biomechanics at UNO, where he has developed 3D printed anatomical models for surgical planning. These anatomical models are exact replicas of organs or body segments created from CT scans and the latest in additive manufacturing.
Tech Startup of the Year: Retail Aware, accepted by Keith Fix, company founder and CEO
Fix and Retail Aware have combined hardware and software to bring data to the grocery shelf in a way that hasn’t been done before. Retail Aware provides real-time shelf analytics through micro sensors to track product engagement, audience and footfall, dwell time, temperature, motion and alerts for product needs.
Community Builder of the Year: Urban League of Nebraska
In 2019, Urban League of Nebraska began partnering with Heartland Workforce Solutions and the AIM Code School to host the Careers in Tech Bootcamp. Through this class, students gain the specific skills they need to become employable in tech careers. This collaboration is bringing low-income and underrepresented groups into the tech sector. In just under a year, this partnership has helped 11 students graduate with technology skills, and half are now employed in the tech sector.
AIM Institute/ Association of Information Technology Professionals Scholarship recipients:
Each year AIM and the Omaha chapter of the Association of Information Technology Professionals award scholarships to deserving students. The following recipients received their scholarships in fall 2020 and are excelling in their respective studies:
Kaeli Clark, South Dakota School of Mines and Technology
Nathan Perkins, University of Nebraska-Omaha
Pranav Rajan, University of Nebraska-Lincoln Raikes School of Computer Science
Abdulnaser Sheikh, University of Nebraska-Omaha
Chad Nourse Memorial Scholarship recipients:
The Chad Nourse Memorial Scholarship was established to remember and honor a tech champion in the community. Chad Nourse, who worked for TEAM Software, was a dedicated tech professional with more than 20 years of experience in software development with a passion for developing and recruiting talent at TEAM Software. The 2020 Chad Nourse Memorial Scholarship recipients are:
Tessa Brazda, Doane University
Travis Munyer, University of Nebraska-Omaha
Sabaythip Phongsavath, Northeast Community College
“This year’s award winners and scholarship recipients have made a profound impact to strengthen our local tech community and make it more inclusive and accessible for everyone during a challenging year,” said Itzel Lopez, AIM’s Vice President of Advancement and Community Relations. ”AIM Institute is proud to honor and celebrate their achievements and excited to see how these individuals continue to innovate, shape and push the Silicon Prairie tech sector forward.”
For more information about the AIM Tech Awards or how you can support programs that impact thousands of students, job seekers, professionals and companies in the Omaha metro area, please visit https://aiminstitute.org/.
You can watch a recording of the event on AIM’s YouTube channel.