Behind closed doors all over Bellingham are bizarre and amazing wonders of science. Thanks to a few people at Western, you can see all these machines in one place.
The Student Technology Center and Associated Students will host the “Tech Tonic” technology expo from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22 in the VU Multipurpose Room and VU 567.
“We try to have it somewhere between a trade show and a carnival,” Academic Technology and User Services (ATUS) applications specialist Kevin Dixey said.
There will be presentations in VU 567 and a trade show in the VU Multipurpose Room. Microsoft, Apple and Adobe all gave presentations at last year's expo, and they will all be returning this year. Western buys products from all of these companies to furnish classrooms and computer labs, Dixey said.
“Basically, all these groups get free access to our students,” Dixey said. “So we started thinking…why don't we ask them to give them something back?”
One of the ways these companies give back is by not only talking about their products at the expo, but also by answering students' questions about what it takes to work in the computer industry.
“I said, ‘If a student comes up to you and asks you what it takes to work in your industry, give them a straight answer,'” Dixey said.
The expo is more than just a job fair. It is an opportunity for Western students and departments to show off their hi-tech toys. The Vehicle Research Institute will display outside the Viking Union some of the cars they have designed. Engineering Technology will be showing their human-powered submarine.
“Our goal is really to boost Western's profile in the technology world,” ATUS applications specialist David Hamiter said.
But it's not just technology departments that will be presenting at the expo. For instance, the Wade King Student Recreation Center will be bringing the Bod Pod, a machine that measures body composition.
“It looks like an alien eject pod from some sort of space ship,” Dixey said.
The Bod Pod uses air displacement to determine how much of your body is fat and how much is muscle and other tissue, fitness coordinator Ron Arnold said. It is more accurate and less painful than being pinched with skin fold calipers and it is used by athletes in the NFL.
“It's just so quick and easy,” Arnold said. “It's really amazing.”
Arnold said there may be opportunities for people to use the Bod Pod at the expo, but the machine is very sensitive to vibrations from sound. It is kept in its own room in the Rec Center so that it can be as accurate as possible.
The American Museum of Radio Electricity appeared at last year's expo with a Tesla coil, a machine that creates bursts of lightning.
“They were used a lot in the old Frankenstein movies,” said T.J. Granack, director of operations at the museum.
Tesla coils create electric energy in the air around them, Granack said. If you held a light bulb in your hand near a Tesla coil, it would light up.
This year, in addition to the Tesla coil, the museum will bring a theremin, an electronic musical instrument that is famous for its use in the Beach Boys song “Good Vibrations.”
The theremin is designed to be played without being touched, Granack said. The museum will bring a newer model to the event, but they also have a model from 1929 at the museum. There are only about ten of these models left in the world, Granack said.
Of course, it wouldn't be a technology expo if it wasn't happening in the cyberspace too. There will be a table at the expo about Second Life—the Internet-based virtual world—and there will be a virtual table in Second Life about the expo.
“So you go to a table and Second Life will be running on a computer,” Dixey said. “And in the computer, there will be a table. So all the people staffing the table will be in Second Life.”
At the end of the day, there will be a moderated forum called “Music Sharing Rights (and Wrongs).” Western professors from the journalism and music departments, representatives from local record labels, and possibly a representative from the Recording Industry Association of America will all be discussing file sharing and copyright laws.
“This is a big issue facing college campuses right now, and I think it needs to be talked about,” Dixey said.
Dixey said he hopes to have as many viewpoints represented as possible. While some people feel strongly about protecting copyright laws, others are concerned about who those laws are benefiting.
“Whose rights are you really protecting?” Hamiter said. “Some big corporation, or the artist that's creating?”
There will be a silent auction during the event to raise money for the Advancing Technology Education Scholarship. Last year the expo raised about $1,350 for the scholarship, Hamiter said.
Dixey said he hopes people who attend the expo will be eager to come back next year.
“A lot of cross-pollination happens,” Dixey said. “You get this nice vibe going between the different groups.”
Granack said the expo is a great demonstration of how technology develops through collaboration and the exchange of ideas.
“Those are our people,” Granack said. “The pocket protector people…that's us.”