By Tim Leeds
Business and education groups have joined to hold an exposition of immense size in Havre this month, showcasing use of technology in the classroom and in business, and featuring some internationally known speakers.
The event is Techspo, an exposition lasting two days and bringing presenters and panelists from around the Hi-Line and around the country.
"We've actually created a unique experience here," Jonathan Richter said. "There's nothing like it anywhere."
Richter, coordinator of the Preparing Teachers for Tomorrow's Technology grant at Montana State University-Northern, said the blending of business and education issues is what makes the exposition unique. He said other universities with PT3 programs have held technology expositions and local PT3 participants thought it would be beneficial to the Hi-Line.
Next, he brought the idea up at a Havre Area Chamber of Commerce meeting, where the idea of including business met with unanimous approval.
Techspo will begin at the Northern campus March 22, with events spilling over from Brockmann Center into Cowan Hall and a showcase of the Community Technology Education Center at the Vande Bogart Library. The education center is scheduled to open the week after Techspo.
The event will move to Havre High on March 23, for a day Richter describes as a community celebration of how technology has been incorporated in the area.
Both days will include round-table discussions, hands-on workshops, discussions and technology showcases.
MSU-N Chancellor Alex Capdeville said that holding an event like Techspo fits the mission of Northern perfectly. The university will be open to hosting other events like it in the future.
Capdeville said the enormous cooperation of different groups on and off the Northern campus is evident in the size of Techspo.
"I think it's an example of how we can share resources and get more bang for your buck, if you will," he said. "It's also an opportunity for education to step up to the plate and promote economic development."
Paul Tuss, exectutive director of Bear Paw Development Corp., said the business-technology side of Techspo will be valuable to everyone.
"There are no such things as low-tech industries," he said. "There are only low-tech companies. Anymore, to think that your business in some way is not affected by technology is erroneous."
Speeches by notable technology experts are scheduled for both days as well.
"The speakers alone are phenomenal," Tuss said. "They're bringing in internationally known speakers. Simply coming in for the speakers alone will be worth the price of admission."
The keynote speaker March 22 is Rick Smyre of the Communities of the Future, a network of communities and organizations, including the North American Rural Futures Institute at Northern. It is working to find ways communities can transform themselves to survive in and take advantage of modern technology, political and economic ideas, and social trends.
Saturday's speakers are Andrew Cohill, director of Blacksburg Electronic Village in Virginia, and Jim Salmons and Timlynn Babitsky from SohoDojo.
Blacksburg is the prototype of a modern wired community, with 80 percent of its businesses and residents using Internet and other modern technology for business and general use.
Blacksburg coordinates other communities emulating its attempts to become as completely wired as possible.
Salmons and Babitsky are former IBM employees who formed SohoDojo, and other businesses connected to it, to help small, aggressive businesses succeed in modern society. Their concept is the "nanocorp," a "ruthlessly small" corporation usually containing one person.
Sohodojo helps businesses develop business models and use open-source software technologies. Northern's NARFI is also partnered with SohoDojo.
Techspo will include discussions and exhibits of a variety of concepts and products. On the education side, issues will include technology in teacher education, teaching with the Internet, using technology in specific classes, and using services like Marco Polo and GLOBE.
On the business side, areas covered will include marketing and exporting to Canada, marketing and using the Web, selling products on-line, and integrating the Internet into a daily routine.
Special sections will focus on specific software like Microsoft Excel or Publisher.
Most of the workshops will be one to three hours long, although some will last most of the day. Richter said some of the workshops are full, but others still have space. People who register on the Internet can see which workshops are still open, while those registering by mail will receive packets describing what is available.
Techspo is sponsored by Havre Public Schools, Bear Paw Development, Preparing Teachers for Tomorrow's Technology, Montana Cooperative Development Center, Western Education Inc., Small Business Development Center, Havre Area Chamber of Commerce and Students in Free Enterprise.
The cost of admission is $50 for both days or $30 per day. Other admission options are available. For more information, call the Mirror Center at 265-3578.
On the Net: Mirror Center: www.mirrorcenter.org