President Barack Obama’s been doing some traveling, as presidents are wont to do. Before heading to more exotic or turbulent locales, President Obama hit up the quaint town of Boise, Idaho, taking a trip to Boise State University’s College of Engineering, where the school has recently opened its Product Development Lab. And what’s key to product development these days? You guessed it! 3D printing!
As a joint effort between the University’s College of Engineering and College of Business and Economics, the new lab pairs student employees with local members of industry to co-develop a wide range of designs and products. In this process, mechanical engineering students are able to use 3D printing technologies to prototype and produce items, many of which will actually head to market.
While there, Obama was able to see the Lab’s various 3D printers and 3D printed products, including the SeeMeCNC delta 3D printer, a custom locker handle made for one of the school’s disabled students, and prototype components for Rekluse Motor Sports’ motorcycles. Alongside the the new lab is the school’s Ceramic Micro Electro Mechanical Systems lab. Together the labs give BSU the ability pursue a number of cutting edge projects, including advanced ceramics with embedded electronics for use in nanosatellites, as well as printed graphene electronics, used to create small, inexpensive sensors and resistors to be used for location and even blood sugar monitoring in humans.
Addressing the school, President Obama remarked, “Here at Boise State innovation is a culture that you’re building. 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.”
He later went on to highlight the need for women to enter STEM careers, using mechanical engineering undergrad Camille Eddy as an example. In reference to the college sophomore, President Obama relayed, “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. 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.”
In addition to ranking in the top 10 percent in the country for the proportion of women faculty members, Boise State’s College of Engineering is responsible for a number of startups. BSU boasts that, with their new lab, students may obtain careers through connections to new and established businesses. The Lab works with the school’s TECenter, an incubator that helps students take their product ideas to market. Obama said of the school’s tech reputation, “The work you do here is one of the reasons why Boise is one of our top cities for tech startups. 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.”
Though BSU’s close relationship to local industry is not unique in the country or in the world, it is a prime example of how college programs can be used to create a pipeline from school directly into specific industry sectors. Hopefully, these pipelines can directly contribute to causing communities to thrive, rather than stagnate while tech businesses, universities, and governments reap profits with new technologies.
To see President Obama’s full address to BSU, watch the video below: