Mines News

Release Date Monday, April 23, 2018

SD Mines Associate Professor and VRC Metal Systems Co-Founder Named Entrepreneur of the Year

Governor Dennis Daugaard (left) and Christian Widener, South Dakota Entrepreneur of the Year, at the 2018 South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development annual conference in Sioux Falls.

RAPID CITY, SD (April 23, 2018) – South Dakota School of Mines & Technology associate professor Christian Widener, Ph.D., was awarded Entrepreneur of Year at the 2018 South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) annual conference in Sioux Falls.

Widener is the Chief Technology Officer and co-founder of VRC Metal Systems. The company was started in 2013, with the help of CEO and co-founder Robert Hrabe. VRC designs and manufactures cold spray equipment and advanced manufacturing systems.  

“A nationally recognized expert in cold spray technology, Dr. Widener has more than 60 publications and multiple patents because of his research and development work in advanced materials processing technologies,” said Gov. Dennis Daugaard. “VRC’s successful strategy sets the precedent for all Giant Vision competitors, making Dr. Widener an ideal choice for Entrepreneur of the Year.”

In addition to his associate professor duties at SD Mines, he is director of the Arbegast Materials and Processing (AMP) Laboratory, a cutting-edge research facility for advanced metals processing, joining, cladding and other materials development applications. Widener has led the technology development for seven patent applications and co-authored more than 60 publications since joining SD Mines in 2010, covering topics in friction stir welding, cold spray, advanced manufacturing and nanomaterials. 

“This is well-deserved recognition for Christian Widener. The South Dakota Entrepreneur of the Year award not only highlights his achievements as the co-founder of this very successful high-tech company, it also showcases the vast potential for other start-up businesses that are spinning off from innovation fostered at the School of Mines,” says SD Mines President Jim Rankin.  

VRC Metal Systems is in the process of relocating its headquarters to the Vandenberg Elementary School building in Box Elder.



About South Dakota Mines  

Founded in 1885, South Dakota Mines is one of the nation’s leading engineering, science and technology universities. South Dakota Mines offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees and a best-in-class education at an affordable price. The university enrolls 2,493 students with an average class size of 24. The South Dakota Mines placement rate for graduates is 98 percent, with an average starting salary of more than $70,036. For these reasons  South Dakota Mines is ranked among the best engineering schools in the country for return on investment. Find us online at www.sdsmt.edu and on FacebookTwitter, LinkedInInstagram, and Snapchat.

Contact: Charles Michael Ray, 605-394-6082, charles.ray@sdsmt.edu

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