Kansas Tech Leaders, Educators & Students Recognized in 2023 Ad Astra Technology Awards, Presented by FlagshipKansas.Tech

As a nonprofit helping propel the technology industry forward in Kansas, FlagshipKansas.Tech is celebrating excellence and innovation in the Kansas tech industry with the announcement of its 2023 Ad Astra Technology Awards recipients. 

“We’re challenging Kansas tech leaders and professionals, educators, and government officials to be wildly disruptive when it comes to pushing the industry forward,” said Conner Hampton, FlagshipKansas.Tech executive director. “This year’s honorees have done exactly that, setting an example for us all.”

The 2023 awardees include: 

2023 Kansas Tech Visionary of the Year

Luis Rodriguez, Wichita, Kan.

The highest honor of Kansas Tech Visionary of the Year recognizes an individual or organization driving significant innovation and transformation in Kansas. The 2023 award was presented to Luis Rodriguez, SVP of Mission & Foundation Services at Envision. As a founding member and board member for FlagshipKansas.Tech, his unrelenting drive and dedication to the cause has led the organization to where it is today. It was his vision to establish the award-winning Ad Astra Technology Summit, creating connections among all the key players to help propel the tech industry forward. Rodriguez is a champion for the Kansas tech industry, entrepreneurs, and workforce development. He has also been a steadfast advocate for the advancement of tech education and technology programs in Kansas schools and universities, helping develop the next generation of tech workers, entrepreneurs and leaders.

“Luis has a gift – sharing a big vision so eloquently and precisely, while having the determination and laser focus to execute the vision,” said Amanda Duncan, FlagshipKansas.Tech founding board member and treasurer. “He truly cares about our state and sees great potential in Kansas tech. As a visionary leader, his work has changed countless lives.”

2023 Steve & Janet Wozniak Kansas Tech Teacher of the Year

Christopher Spindler, Dodge City, Kan.

FlagshipKansas.Tech renamed this award in honor of the 2023 Ad Astra Technology Summit keynote, tech icon and Apple Co-founder Steve Wozniak, and his wife, Janet, a Kansas native and educator. The award recognizes educators driving technological innovation, literacy, and diversity in Kansas classrooms. It included a check from the Wozniaks for $1,666, a nod to the Apple 1 computer, which was $666.66. The award and check were presented to Dodge City High School teacher Christopher Spindler. His students currently hold nine State Championships in 3D Visualization/Animation and Interactive Media and Game Design. 

2023 Kansas Tech Startup of the Year

Voltage, Presented to Founder & CEO Graham Krizek, Wichita, Kan.

The Kansas Tech Startup of the Year award honors innovative, disruptive, and rapidly growing tech startups in Kansas. Graham Krizek was raised in McPherson, Kan., and attended Kansas State University. He worked in the Bitcoin industry for over a decade before founding what is now the largest Bitcoin development platform in the country, Voltage. Voltage empowers engineering teams with Bitcoin-centric infrastructure that enables enterprise-grade experiences. Based in Kansas and backed by a global team, Voltage has become the go-to provider for businesses that leverage Bitcoin in their products.

2023 Kansas Tech Community Innovator of the Year

David Cochran, Wichita, Kan.

The Kansas Tech Community Innovator of the Year award recognizes those leveraging technology for social and community development in Kansas. Cochran is dean of the Newman University School of Business & Technology. He founded professional development group Data Professionals of Wichita, which has grown to more than 200 members. Earlier this year, he founded the “Leading the Data Journey” initiative to bring small cohorts of executive leaders together to listen, encourage, and equip each other as they build thriving data cultures in their own organizations. His work with students and businesses has also helped retain many of the state’s best and brightest minds.

2023 Kansas Tech Students of the Year

The Kansas Tech Student of the Year award recognizes exceptional Kansas K-12 and college students excelling and innovating in tech-related fields. 

K-12: Adria Dumler and Evan Rogerson, Maize, Kan.

This year’s K-12 award was given to two students, Adria Dumler and Evan Rogerson, from the Maize school district. They were the first Kansas students to compete and receive an award at the world robotics competition. 

Higher Ed: Sierra Bonn, Wichita, Kan.

This year’s college award recipient is Sierra Bonn. She is a Program Officer through the American Connection Corp, and in that role, she works to close the digital divide that has been created by a lack of broadband access in rural Kansas communities. While pursuing a master’s degree in Innovation Design, she also manages a nonprofit dedicated to creating equity in STEAM. Bonn has donated hundreds of copies of her book “Innovators: Women in History Who Have Made Positive Contributions to STEAM” to Kansas elementary students. She regularly hosts workshops centered on STEAM principals and publishes free online lessons to make STEAM more accessible. Bonn also advocates for tech-related policy at the state level including the implementation of Women in STEAM Week and the addition of Computer Science curriculum in Kansas schools. 

FlagshipKansas.Tech presented the awards at their annual Ad Astra Technology Summit in Wichita. Nominations for the 2024 awards will open in the spring. 

About the Ad Astra Technology Summit

The annual Ad Astra Technology Summit aims to bring together industry leaders, startup entrepreneurs, government officials, and educators to explore and address current technology issues in various informative sessions. In 2023, it was hosted with event partner Barton School of Business at Wichita State University’s iconic Woolsey Hall and Charles Koch Arena.

Co-founder of Apple Inc., Steve Wozniak, was the keynote speaker in an exclusive fireside chat at Koch Arena moderated by FlagshipKansas.Tech Immediate Past Chair Luis Rodriguez. An awards ceremony preceding the chat highlighted leaders and innovators in Kansas tech.