Innovation at work.
President Barack Obama visited Boise State University’s College of Engineering and the New Product Development Lab as part of his visit to campus on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 2015. During his official address, the President identified many of the ways Boise State is adapting educational practices to meet student and employer demands for new and evolving skills and competencies.
“Here at Boise State innovation is a culture that you’re building,” President Obama said. “And you’re also partnering with companies to do two things — you help students graduate with skills that employers are looking for, and you help employees pick up the skills they need to advance on the job … it’s contributing to the economic development of the city and the state, as well as being good for the students.”
Boise State plays a key role in the continued development of Idaho’s high-tech economy in many ways, including through the lab, which works with local industries and entrepreneurs to design and prototype products and components and to help get them to the marketplace.
The New Product Development Lab is housed in the College of Engineering and staffed by many engineering students, in partnership with Boise State’s College of Business and Economics. The lab pairs its student employees with industry innovators in the actual design, development and creation of products and components of all types.
Supporting women in STEM education.
“She’s a great example of why we’re encouraging more women and more minorities to study in high-paying fields that traditionally they haven’t always participated in — in math and science and engineering and technology,” President Obama said. “Camille has done research for NASA. She’s gotten real job experience with industry partners. She’s the leader of your Microgravity Team. And, by the way, she’s a sophomore.”
Boise State’s College of Engineering ranks in the top 10 percent in the country for the proportion of women faculty members — vital in bringing more women and minority students into the industry.
Investing in research and big-thinking.
With 3D printers and other rapid-prototyping equipment, the lab can inexpensively build and test ideas from the first conception to the production line.
Boise State is engaged in multiple kinds of rapid prototyping, ranging from cutting-edge ceramics — they are “co-fired” in a kiln along with embedded conductive and electronic materials to be used as micropropulsion devices that can keep nanosatellites in the correct orbit with microscopic bursts of energy — to “printed electronics” using a light, flexible and conductive nano-material called grapheme that can be “printed” in stacks onto tiny, inexpensive sensors, resistors and other electronics.
These rapidly prototyped and produced chips can be attached to a package to monitor its location, or to human skin to monitor glucose levels.
Preparing for success.
“The work you do here is one of the reasons why Boise is one of our top cities for tech startups,” Obama said. “That means we shouldn’t just be celebrating your work, we should be investing in it. We should make sure our businesses have everything they need to innovate, expand in this 21st century economy.”
Experiences in our research labs or with new product development provide unique opportunities for students while in college. They also can lead to jobs directly, given that many of the students get hired immediately by the companies they have worked with, and indirectly, because of the hands-on experiences so many students receive.
Some of the companies that engage with the New Product Development Lab also work with Boise State’s TECenter, which has incubated more than 100 companies since it was created in 2003, establishing more than 450 full-time jobs, raising more than $20 million in capital and creating more than $80 million in annual revenues.
Often, start-up companies being incubated by the TECenter — funded with a combination of university investments and Economic Development Agency grants — work with the students to launch their product ideas.
A tradition of innovation.
Teams of faculty will cross traditional disciplinary boundaries to create new degrees and certificates, paving ways to learning that are more in sync with employer requirements for the workforce of tomorrow.
Innovation has always been the tradition at Boise State. Our trajectory has been unrivaled, and that has translated into better opportunities and success for students, more of the kinds of research and inquiry that can improve lives and change the world, and an explosion of creativity and advancement on all corners of campus.
Watch President Obama’s complete address below.