What began as a way of introducing local school kids to technology in the everyday world has blossomed three years later into a significant regional showcase for schools and product vendors–organized and lead by a small school district in Pennsylvania.

It took the Upper St. Clair School District an entire school year of planning, thousands of man-hours, more than 1,000 volunteers, and the assistance of approximately 50 area businesses and government agencies–and one of the area’s most prestigious universities–to present Techno Expo ’98.

The day-long May 30 event drew a record crowd of over 22,000 local school children, parents, teachers and administrators, said Cara Zanella, a spokeswoman for the event.

Zanella said what started as a “little teeny science fair” now aims to help kids, mostly from middle schools, understand the importance of technology in everyday life.

A river rescue show performed by the U.S. Coast Guard showed kids how aerial technology works to save lives. A surgeon from St. Clair Hospital helped attendees perform a mock surgery using the latest video technology, and the University of Pittsburgh put on a pyrotechnic show. Kids also explored high-tech vehicles brought by the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Army Reserves.

Techno Expo featured art exhibits by area students and was supported by more than 100 exhibitor booths. Exhibitors included Sony, Dick Corporation, Huntingdon Learning Center, Coca Cola, and Allegheny Power.

Event organizers were also able to attract contributions from Disney, who supplied a Mickey Mouse to present State Attorney General Mike Fisher with a plaque to commemorate event, and the Lost In Space robot, said Zanella.

Community partnerships

The expo is the brainchild of Thomas Harshman, director of middle level education for Upper St. Clair and co-chair of the event. Harshman sought help to grow the event and was able to attract major sponsorships from the Community Foundation of Upper St. Clair, TCI of Pennsylvania, and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

“The vision of The Community Foundation . . . was to create a partnership between our schools and higher education and businesses,” said Harshman. TCI and Duquesne and all of our sponsors and participating districts have made the vision a reality.”

Event organizers managed to convince lofty Duquesne University to co-host the event on its campus when event organizers realized that the crowd would overrun school grounds. Upper St. Clair is a six-building district just outside of Pittsburgh.

The committee consists of Upper St. Clair School District and Duquesne University representatives, educators, parents, business owners, lawyers, physicians technology and maintenance personnel and consultants.

Lead by Co-chairmen Thomas Harshman, Thomas Labanc and John Dell, the team of 30 people worked together with children at the core to make the event happen.

“Teamwork, cooperation and community volunteerism found a home at the Expo,” said Harshman. “Many business, government, higher education and local school district personnel put aside their individual concerns to help create a wonderful opportunity for Pittsburgh’s children.”

In addition to Fisher, Sen. Tim Murphy and Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy appeared at the expo.

Upper St. Clair School District

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette