Myrtle Beach-area groups to combine efforts for day of technology on Strand

Two Horry County organizations are joining forces to offer a day of technology aimed at all ages on the Grand Strand.

For the first time, the Horry County Schools Technology Fair and the Grand Strand Technology Expo will be held on the same day and at the same place next year so exhibitors and visitors alike can enjoy work from the youngest elementary school students to the area’s professionals.

This will be the fourth year for both events, which have been closely aligned from their beginnings. The Grand Strand Technology Council, host of the expo, has sponsored the school district’s fair each year along with the Sanders Tech Ed Foundation. The district fair moved to the convention center last year to accommodate its growth, and extra room at the venue physically made the partnership a natural fit, said John Sanders, tech council chairman, but it also offers a chance for valuable exchanges between the participants.

“The thing that intrigued all of us [at the district fair] was the interaction between the students, from the youngest ones up to high school, who were talking to each other about what they were working on, and it was the technology that made them equals,” Sanders said. “We thought that this year, the interaction among attendees would be so great that it would enhance both events.”

The school district fair showcases how students and teachers use technology in the classroom to enhance the learning process. Last year, more than 750 students and teachers competed with almost 300 entries, which were housed in hall B at the convention center.

Thirty-five schools and all grade levels were represented in categories ranging from animated graphic design/3-D modeling to digital photography, along with a teacher category. Hall C held the fair’s first LEGO Robotics Challenge, where 17 teams constructed and programmed their own robots for eight mission-specific challenges.

The tech council expo showcases new technology and collaborations from local technology-based businesses, government and higher education institutions. Sanders said the 2013 event, scheduled for March 27, will feature 75 exhibits and larger booths to fit the electrical layout of the convention center, giving people more room to move around. The expo, which is free and open to the public, will occupy what was extra space at the front of hall A, leaving the back as an area for judging and food service.

“This is going to be great for everybody,” said Ashley Gasperson, coordinator of digital communications for Horry County Schools. “Businesses can see what the kids are doing, the schools can see what businesses have to offer, and the kids can see the businesses and college opportunities for careers down the road.”

Gasperson said she expects this year’s district fair to double the number of robotics teams, which feature middle and upper elementary school students, and for the number of exhibits to reach 350.

“We’re just maxing out on everything, so we’re trying to cut it off at 350,” Gasperson said, although Sanders said he doesn’t want to stem the excitement.

“If we get too many, we’ll go out in the hall,” he said. “We’ll figure it out.”