In August 2019, Virginia Waddell of Front Royal flew her first solo flight in a balloon, placing her on track to earn her pilot certification and become one of only 5,000 balloon pilots in the US.
As if that weren’t enough to make her stand out among her high school peers, the Randolph-Macon Academy senior also made a bit of history, as she became what just might be the first Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) student to solo in a balloon. While AFJROTC Headquarters could not confirm that, they also couldn’t find a record of an AFJROTC student accomplishing a balloon solo before.
Randolph-Macon Academy has a flight program that focuses on powered flight and drones, and having students solo in a school-owned Cessna 172 is something that typically happens several times each school year. Those students are then given a “wing” pin to wear on their AFJROTC uniform, informing their peers of their accomplishment. When Virginia accomplished her first balloon solo on August 25th, her father, Paul Waddell, obtained a wing pin that had a balloon in the center – all the way back from World War II.
With a work by both Paul and R-MA’s Senior Aerospace Science Instructor, Col Joel Jones, USAF, Retired, AFJROTC Headquarters approved the pin for Virginia to wear on her uniform.
“It’s nice to be recognized for doing something unusual, that some people consider scary,” said Virginia. “When I’m wearing it, people ask questions. It’s a good conversation starter.”
Virginia’s parents got into ballooning when her mother, Mary Kim, bought a balloon ride for their first wedding anniversary. Although Paul initially resisted the idea, once he was up in the air, he was hooked, and he has passed that love of ballooning onto his daughter.
“I like that it’s different. It just makes you unique from a lot of people,” Virginia said. “Going up there, for the most part, it’s rather quiet. I don’t want to say it’s a feeling of freedom, because that’s such a cliche… it’s just really cool. It’s different.”
Virginia also sees it as her responsibility to learn the craft and pass it on to others. “It’s kind of a dying thing, which is a shame,” she said. “I don’t want it to die off.”
It might be surprising that ballooning is a dying form of flight, but it comes with challenges. It is completely weather-dependent, making flights possible only on the best days. A balloon is subject to the whimsy of the wind, and slower than a glider or powered aircraft. In addition, ballooning is a form of flying that takes a collaborative effort. The pilot in the balloon has a radio to communicate with a one- to- two-person crew in a ground vehicle that is “chasing” the balloon. When it is time to land, it is the ground crew’s responsibility to find a field and obtain the owner’s permission to land there. The balloonists do their best to avoid livestock and crops, but some owners are protective of their open fields. If permission is denied, the crew heads off to the next location and the balloon pilot has to gain altitude again.
In spite of those challenges however, ballooning can be a money-earning business – once you get past the expense of taking lessons and purchasing a balloon, of course. Virginia’s parents used the supplemental income to invest in a private school education for their daughter. Virginia even has a potential job offer as a pilot, from a real estate company, once she obtains her commercial pilot certification (an achievement she hopes will come to pass in the summer of 2020). And there is nothing like the peace of floating quietly over the ground, or the challenge of adjusting the flame to control your altitude. It’s the oldest type of flying in the history of mankind, and this special young lady is now a key part of its future.
Computerized shredder of sensitive documents marketed by area lawyer
Local launch of ‘Shred/Cube’ scheduled for March 2020
Fifteen years ago, a Warren County attorney had a dream.
Sometime in the next couple of months, probably the first week of March, the dream will come true.
At that time, Nancie Williams will offer a prototype of her invention, a white, inch-square cube in a small green box, to professional establishments in the Northern Shenandoah Valley to test for its efficacy in totally destroying data that, until now, has been sent to the computers’ Recycling or Trash bin, deleted, and forgotten about.
Unbeknownst to many computer users, files deleted in this manner remain accessible on the hard drive and can be extracted by even lower-skilled hackers. Nancie’s invention, the Shred/Cube, aims to solve this very common issue.
The Shred/Cube is a small device that plugs into a computer’s USB port and requires no installation or external downloads to be used. Once inserted, the device places an icon on your desktop that opens a very simple and user-friendly control panel. Users can drag and drop any files onto this virtual control panel to either “shred” or “disintegrate” them, the former being used for the home and office while the latter meets the Department of Defense’s (DoD) standard for unclassified file disposal. Nancie’s team has tested her product’s usefulness at permanently destroying computer files by using the best-known file recovery methods available on the market, with zero successful recovery attempts.
Nancie, who resides with husband Arnold and their two young children in Middletown, came to the area from Alexandria in 2005. She first joined the Warren County Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office before continuing in private law practice, which she continues to do from her office, Northern Valley Law LLC in Front Royal.
The dream began, and, by and by, she devised a computer attachment, on paper, that became a reality more than a decade later when she sought out a technician who would buy into her model and turn it into a piece of equipment. To turn the dream into reality, in stepped Alex Stieb of Stephens City, founder of Lux Foundation Solutions, a designer building and engineering firm. Alex, a family man with four young children, is a self-taught, from age 10, computer nerd and immediately knew what his new attorney friend was talking about.
Said Nancie, “Up until Alex and I met, folks had routinely pooh pooed my concept … he came along, believed in the product, designed it (along with a core group of a dozen others with varied technical backgrounds) and here we are with a fully functional ‘Shred/Cube’, ready to test market, hopefully on March 1 or thereabouts.”
Around that date, Nancie says, 1,000 Shred/Cubes will be placed on the market locally. The likes of doctors, dentists, hospitals, law firms, government entities including colleges and schools that keep highly confidential records of clients, patients, teachers, students and so on are the targets of this initial marketing effort by Shred/Cube LLC.
Fully patented and tested, the cost of the small, white cube in the Nancie-designed green box, will be $149.99. A Warren County Rotary Club member, Nancie Williams (known prior to her marriage to Arnold Williams as Nancy Kie) will first address her Rotary club on her invention, and be open to invitations to other organizations who want to hear about it. The U.S government, perhaps?
If it is successful, what do Nancie and Alex see for their invention?
“We’ll sell to the highest bidder,” Nancie smiled.
Disposition of Solar Panels
The Front Royal Warren County Economic Development Authority (WCEDA) is advertising for any party interested in purchasing the solar electric system currently stationed on top of the EDA Building at 400 Kendrick Lane, Front Royal.
The system must removed at no cost to the EDA and the roof must be left in good repair. The EDA has a deadline of April 30, 2020 to complete the removal of the system. Details of the solar electric system are available at the WCEDA offices.
Interested parties may inspect the system in person at the WCEDA offices. The successful bidder will hold the WCEDA harmless during the removal process and add the WCEDA as an insured to their insurance policies.
Submit your interest, in writing, no later than Noon Thursday, February 6, 2020.
Front Royal/Warren County EDA
P.O. Box 445
Front Royal, VA 22630
Open Forum from Lord Fairfax Community College and Blue Ridge Community College presidents
According to the Virginia Employment Commission, by 2026, Virginia needs to fill 2.6 million jobs that will require more than a high school diploma, but less than a bachelor’s degree. A proposal currently in the General Assembly, G3 (Get a Skill, Get a Job, Give Back), charts a strategic path toward filling that gap.
G3 addresses the critical workforce shortages many local businesses are currently facing. In fact, our colleges have spent the past year listening to leaders in those businesses to identify what skills they need most. G3 is designed to give more individuals in our area access to career and technical training programs in the following high-demand fields: Healthcare; Information Technology and Computer Science; Manufacturing and Skilled Trades; Early Childhood Education; and Public Safety.
G3 is an enhanced financial aid program that makes higher education more accessible to low- and middle-income individuals. G3 provides financial support for tuition, textbooks and cost of living expenses that will help them enroll and complete career-focused workforce training programs.
G3 would make a big difference for people in our communities, including ALICE families and individuals. The United Way introduced us to ALICE, which means Asset-Limited, Income-Constrained, and Employed. In other words, ALICE is the working poor. Two out of five Virginia households are within the ALICE population. You likely know members of ALICE. They are your neighbors, your coworkers, perhaps you or members of your own family. We’d like to share with you the stories of two of our ALICE students.
Jenny is a single parent of three children and a full-time student in our nursing (RN) program. During the week, she is in class three days a week and at her clinical rotation for two days. She drives one hour each way to train with her nurse preceptor at a hospital. This only leaves the weekend to work, where she spends 15-20 hours as a LPN at a care facility.
Because Jenny has a part-time job, she will receive some federal financial aid to cover tuition and books, but likely not a full Pell grant. She also receives a modest scholarship. Yet, there is still a gap between the funds she receives for college and the costs of rent, utilities, gas, and children. G3 is designed to bridge that funding gap and keep Jenny on the path toward a rewarding career with a good salary in a high-demand area.
Mike has been working for a recycling company, and his wife is employed in a manufacturing plant. His job is being phased out and he needs to find another career, so he enrolled in classes with the goal of becoming a manufacturing technician. This grandfather of four does not qualify for federal aid, but G3 could help support him while he learns a new skill to be employed in an industry desperate for employees.
The Valley needs more nurses. We need people in the trades to fix and build things. We need technicians to protect our data. We need more skilled workers to help recruit and support business and industry in our region. Because graduates from G3 programs will be contributing more in state income taxes as they become higher earners, the Commonwealth will enjoy a tangible return on the investment in G3. We encourage each of you and our state legislators to support G3.
Dr. Kimberly P. Blosser – President, Lord Fairfax Community College
Dr. John A. Downey – President, Blue Ridge Community College
Essay contest open to Warren County and Shenandoah County public high school seniors
Now in its third year, the Shenandoah Area Secular Humanist (SASH) Essay Contest is open to public high school seniors from Warren and Shenandoah Counties, giving them the opportunity to compete for a $500 prize to use as they like following graduation.
Aimed at encouraging students to consider the role and impact of religion in society, this year’s essay topic asks the question “How important is the separation of church and state in a democratic society?” Peter Wilson, Scholarship Coordinator stated, “We do not have a specific correct answer in mind; we want to know what students think and why.”
Applicants must compose an essay of 350-1,000 words that addresses the topic/question in whatever way they see fit. There are no GPA or financial needs requirements for a student to be eligible to compete and the essay is the only required document for submission. Essays will be anonymously reviewed by a SASH committee of judges, who will evaluate and score each based-on command of language, quality of approach to topic, and demonstration of critical thinking skills. As in past years, up to four $500 prizes will be awarded.
High school guidance counselors will assist with the contest by setting a due date for their individual school; collecting, copying, and forwarding essays to SASH by COB, April 3, 2020; and coordinating the notification of winners and presentation of awards at each school’s awards ceremony.
For more information, students should contact their high school guidance office.
About Shenandoah Area Secular Humanists:
SASH is a chapter of the Washington Area Secular Humanists (WASH). Secular Humanists are distinguished by the pursuit of humanist values outside of a religious framework: Critical Thinking, Ethical Development, Peace and Social Justice, Service and Participation, Empathy, Humility, Environmentalism, Global Awareness, Responsibility, and Altruism.
Anyone interested in learning more about secular humanism and SASH is invited to attend a chapter meeting, typically on the third Saturday of each month at Samuels Public Library in Front Royal. More information about SASH can also be found on the Washington Area Secular Humanists website, www.wash.org under “Chapters” on the navigation menu bar.
Rotary Club of Warren County collecting donations for local thermal shelter
Do you have a middle school student at Skyline Middle School? The Skyline Middle School Interact Club is collecting new sheets and blankets for our local thermal shelter. Please make sure all blankets and sheets are still in the new wrappers/containers. White twin sheets and light colored blankets are the best and are easier to clean.
If you are not familiar with our Front Royal Thermal Shelter, here is some information provided to us by Michelle Smeltzer, a member of the Rotary Club of Warren County and Community Liaison for the Department of Social Services:
“The Front Royal Thermal Shelter gives the homeless of Warren County a place to stay warm during the winter months. The shelter is not in a fixed location – rather it is a cooperative effort by eight churches in the area, including New Hope Bible Church, Front Royal United Methodist Church, Front Royal Presbyterian Church, Marlow Heights Baptist Church, Riverton United Methodist Church, Virginia Hills Church, First Baptist Church and Dynamic Life Church. The guests are provided supper at about 7:30 each evening, and the volunteers join them. After supper, the volunteers join them and they play a variety of games, watch TV, or simply lie down on their cots after a tiring day. As the guests noted, this makes them feel as if someone really cares about them. Michelle said this makes a world of difference to them, because they too often feel alone and abandoned, as if the outside world ignores them. The following morning several of the churches provide breakfast, and some provide a bagged lunch when they leave for the day. The guests are assigned a cot when they arrive at the church, and that is their bed for a week. There are separate sleeping areas for men and women, and the program does not allow guests or volunteers with the program until they are at least 18 years of age because they are a no-barrier shelter. This year the shelter has also made arrangements, with the help of the Warren County Humane Society, to provide shelter for homeless pets of the guests.”
Remember – there are still many cold days ahead! Current update: The Front Royal Thermal Shelter’s greatest need is cash donations at this time: Here is an easy PayPal link. You can also visit their website to donate or learn more.
Together we are making a huge difference in this community! Thanks to all!
R-MA J-Term class builds hydroponics lab
On Thursday, January 23, 2020, Randolph-Macon Academy will introduce its new hydroponics lab to the R-MA community during an open house from 3 pm to 4 pm. The lab features five different kinds of hydroponic systems, all of which have been built by students taking the “Hydroponics and the Food We Eat” J-Term (January Term) class. Each system has been built with materials purchased at Lowes or on Amazon – such as gutters, plastic containers, hoses, boards and lights – developing systems the students can later recreate for themselves at home.
“We’ve been kind of hands-off,” commented Lynette Lane, the R-MA science teacher who is leading the project. “Sometimes I have to show them very specific steps or techniques, but then they have to figure out how to get it done. It’s been really great. Students have stepped up to do things that have really surprised me.”
The lab includes various systems, such as a Nutrient Film Technique (NFT), which will allow the students to harvest lettuce weekly. A deep water culture (DWC) is a non-circulating water system in which the students will grow basil, chard, and other greens. The students will grow microgreens in a bottom watered, coco coir system. The R-MA lab’s Dutch buckets will contain strawberries and peppers. The final system the students will build is a flood and drain one used for seedling propagation.
An earthworm composting process has also been created; this will make use of any leftover organic matter from the lab systems. In early May, earthworm castings will be removed from this system to be used as nutrient-dense fertilizer for spring plantings.
“I think it’s so important for kids to see where food comes from, because most of them just don’t know,” said Ms. Lane. “And a lot of these students come to R-MA from countries where growing food is problematic, because they don’t have land, they don’t have water. They can take this back. It uses 95% less water than conventional methods of agriculture.”
Although the J-Term ends January 24th, a hydroponics intramural class and the Environmental Science and Biology classes will continue to grow the plants throughout the spring semester. The lab will start again in the fall, and run through the school year, providing leafy greens and microgreens for the community.