For the first four hours of yesterday morning, August 26, hundreds of people had their minds blown at the fifth annual State of Technology event hosted by Senator John Hoeven and the Chamber of Commerce.

Livewire, killin' it with the blue lighting.

Livewire, killin’ it with the blue lighting. Photo credit: Office of Senator John Hoeven

We could tell you about the nine entrepreneurs who spoke, coming from avionics, drones, 3D printing, biocomposites, education, law – each on the cutting edge of their field and seeing the success to prove it.

We could tell you how Senator John Hoeven reestablished the statewide effort to make the Red River Valley a tech hub, proudly proclaiming that “North Dakota is the state of technology!”

But, what we’d really like to show you, is why North Dakota is so different from the other great tech hubs of this country. Why this really matters. Because if we’re all honest with ourselves, North Dakotans, this state is small. After all, it wasn’t too long ago that people were opting for the state to become stomping grounds for buffalo instead of people.

Not anymore.

The technology presented at this year’s State of Technology displayed much more than the current “state of technology” in North Dakota. It was the voice of the people itself, from the prairie to the city, proclaiming loud and clear:


The Cool Stuff

In a way, it speaks for itself. From the avionics industry, Tony Grindberg, Aerospace Business Manager Appareoat Appareo Systems, announced a recent product they’ve developed as a result of the FAA NEXTGEN initiative. It’s an automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast product that they are submitting to the Federal Aviation Administration this week for certification, with the potential to revolutionize air traffic control in the U.S.

State of TechBotlink leaders Terri Zimmerman and Shawn Muehler are working to develop drone software that will create safer skies. They gave State of Tech attendees a first look at their latest development – a software called XRD, or extended range and data. It makes flying drones like “flying around a smartphone,” as Muehler said.

Intellectual property lawyer Miguel Danielson and North Dakota State University President Dean Bresciani presented together in a unique partnership, showcasing the innovation coming out of universities and how that research and can have sustainable and profitable protection.

During Jake Clark’s talk, a 3D printer was live printing on stage using a sustainable filament made from coffee grounds. The Fargo 3D printing co-founder stated that they are the first in the world to release this type of filament, and have more to come – thanks to a partnership with c2renew.

The c2renew co-founders Chad Ulven and Corey Kratcha were there as well, and even presented Senator Hoeven with their latest creation: a coffee cup made from coffee. Their biocomposite research is currently helping every single one of the other State of Tech presenters, and their ability to create sturdy material that is also 100% sustainable is being used to create everything from prosthetics to toothbrushes.

State of Tech 15

Bierscheid presents the prosthetic arm

Currently, the most affordable prosthetic arms on the market are being engineered by an award-winning team from NDSU called Protosthetics. Cooper Bierscheid, a student at NDSU, showed how 3D printing and biocomposites have come together to provide a 3-year-old client of theirs, born without full length arms, the opportunity to have flexible, affordable prosthetic arms. Rather than the average price of $30,000, Protosthetics has designed 3D printable prosthetic arms for $400.

All of this, and more, coming at ya from North Dakota.

“These are the innovations that people are going to be using across the country and the globe,” Senator John Hoeven said. “And it’s coming right out of here, and it’s exciting.”

Stop. Collaborate, and listen.

The presenters came from industries across the board. Yet, they all knew each other.

All but one of the presenters has spoken at our weekly community event 1 Million Cups. They all expressed current or past partnerships with each other, and how they’ve been able to utilize each other’s expertise to get better.


Photo credit: Office of Senator John Hoeven

“Entrepreneurship is a risk-taking venture,” said Cooper Bierscheid. “With Emerging Prairie and 1 Million Cups, you have a huge support group, you’re not the only one taking a risk. You have all the other entrepreneurs right there with you taking a risk. It gives you more confidence to do what you want to do and take your idea to the next stage.”

This ability to collaborate is a unique advantage for North Dakota, the speakers said. Corey Kratcha pointed out that in bigger cities, it’s not as easy to call up the CEO of another company to “grab lunch and talk about ideas.” Here in Fargo, he does that all the time. This collaboration is a necessity if the state is truly to become recognized as a tech hub.

“Let’s face it, we’re too small not to collaborate,” c2renew co-founder Chad Ulven said, to resounding applause. “If we want North Dakota to be recognized globally, in our technology, and what we do, we have to work together. We’re too small not to.”


Photos courtesy of the Office of Senator John Hoeven.

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Marisa Jackels