Maine Innovation Expo shows off best of L-A region

By Bill Van Tassel

LEWISTON — The overriding theme of Museum L-A is the story of work and community in Lewiston/Auburn. In keeping with that theme, the second Maine Innovation Expo was held on two floors of the former Bates textile mill recently.

In addition to the floor displays that store the machinery and history of the Bates Mill, there are several, large empty spaces to house exhibitions of various kinds.
The Innovation Expo celebrates creativity, spirit ingenuity and innovation in Maine. Businesses and students set up booths to demonstrate and showcase a wide range of innovative products and talents. Some of the booths are interactive where visitors can stand or sit and experience science, technology, design and manufacturing. They can also leave Expo with sense that one does not have to leave Maine to enter or start a business to do exciting and innovative work.
This year’s Expo featured 56 exhibitors highlighting the work and innovation happening locally in manufacturing, technology, science, health related areas, education and art, not forgetting some new things going on at the local libraries and the police department.
From Drones and Middle School Robotics to Baxter Brewing and Zay Knife Company, and from Welding and Masonry to Bike Part Art and Aquaponics there was plenty to see, question and experience. People of all ages could find out what many local businesses, social organizations and other concerns were doing to do their work in up-to-date fashion.
For example, Officer Joseph Philippon, was giving young people a chance to use the department’s new computer software on Drivers’ Education. Comments like, “It seems like I’m really driving a car,” could be heard as they operated the mouse to go around a corner or park. Springworks Farms from Lisbon was set up with their fish tank and cover of growing lettuce to explain to the curious exactly what the new area of Aquaponics is all about, and how it differs from Hydroponics. Visitors even had a chance to do some brick laying with Ed Hodsdon Masonry, Inc.
The Green Ladle was there to provide food and offering some time to take a seat and be entertained with some juggling and comedy from Buckfield’s Michael Menes and Audio Body. There was a Drone Race, a tour of Baxter Brewing and a talk by Maine’s own spaceman, Ken Hodgkins. Originally from Auburn, Mr. Hodgkins is now the director of the Office of Space and Advanced Technology in the Bureau of Oceans, International Environmental and Scientific Affairs in the U.S. State Department.

EXPO AQUAPONICS – Noelle Reiter of Springworks Aquaponic Farm in Lisbon sets up her fish tank and plant-growing cover used to demonstrate and explain how Aquaponic growing works differently than Hydroponic set ups. The exhibit was part of the Innovation Expo held at the Bates Mill Complex. (Bill Van Tassel photo)