The Northwest Arkansas Technology Summit drew a record crowd for its 10th conference last week at the Rogers Convention Center.
More than 2,200 registered to attend the four-day event that organizers called “The Year of the Machines,” and which featured more than 100 sessions and keynote presentations by representatives from Walmart Inc. of Bentonville, the Walton Family Foundation and IBM. The summit benefited, too, from a short jetpack demonstration by Gravity Industries of England in the parking lot of the convention center Tuesday.
“I definitely think the jetpack helped,” said Kris Adams, the director of the summit. “People really wanted to see that. We wanted to celebrate our 10th year. They helped us put a capstone on turning 10. We knew we needed to go big this year.”
Adams said summit organizers worked to expand the technology community of northwest Arkansas and offered free access to some sessions to eliminate financial obstacles for people.
“We stacked the deck in our favor this year,” Adams said. “We outgrew being able to multisite. We couldn’t have done it in the venues we had last year when we knew we were going to have more than 2,000 registrants.”
Ranu Jung, founding executive director of the Integrative & Innovative Research Center on the University of Arkansas campus, was named the Innovator of the Year. Prathibha Rajashekhar, senior vice president of innovation at automation for Walmart U.S., was named Emerging Innovator of the Year.
“I believe in a broad definition of innovation,” Jung said. “A definition that includes innovation in how we think, how we solve problems and the way we work, in addition to the more traditional usage referring to scientific and technological advances. I3R embodies this expansive definition of innovation — we are doing new things, in new ways for the purpose of positive societal impact.”