EDA Grant Funds The South Idaho Design-Prototype Center at Boise State

Pictured above from left to right are New Product Development (NPD) Lab Legends Steve Hatten (NPD Co-founder & now TechHelp Executive Director), Blaise Lawless (Now at Lovevery), and Calvin Allan (Now at DECKED). This tiny lab on the 4th floor of the Micron Engineering Center at Boise State produced a steady stream of talent and served as a model for the new South Idaho Design-Prototype Center at the University. 

TechHelp was recently awarded a $1.5 million grant through the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s national 2020 Venture Challenge Competition to fund the South Idaho Design-Prototype Center (SIPDC). TechHelp was one of 29 organizations selected for this award from a pool of 417 applicants nationwide. The grant was matched by TechHelp collaborators for an additional $1.5 million to expand a much-needed talent pipeline to industries in Idaho, as well as provide a career on-ramp for student employees who manage the center’s projects and operations alongside engineering professionals and entrepreneurs. 

The SIDPC grant process was led by Steve Yano, at left, who came to TechHelp earlier this year to lead just this sort of effort. “We knew Steve had the skills and experience to reinvigorate the NPD Model. His work in creating the SIDPC partnership and securing this grant was remarkable,” said TechHelp Executive Director, Steve Hatten.

The funds will jumpstart the South Idaho Design-Prototype Center (SIDPC) project, a planned three-year collaboration with Boise State’s College of Engineering and College of Business and Economics, Southwest Idaho industry partners, and the Southwest Idaho Manufacturers’ Alliance. The center will scale up the New Product Development (NPD) Lab at the College of Engineering, which has fueled workforce development, entrepreneurship, and economic growth in Idaho since 2001. 

NPD Specialists, Grey Beaudry at left, and Zachariah Vandeventer work on a Lab project.

JoAnn Lighty, Dean of Engineering welcomes this opportunity to work more closely with TecHelp and regional industries. “We’re excited to be a part of this program which will greatly enhance educational opportunities for our students, allowing them to earn job-ready skills.  This is an exciting new chapter in the decades-long partnership between the College of Engineering and TecHelp.”  

The additional funding also will boost recruitment to engage rural students, companies, and first-generation and Idaho vocational technology college students. These students will continue to be trained to move real-world projects from concept through designing, prototyping, and refining product ideas in the newly renovated, larger space. 

The TechHelp 2020 NPD Team includes, from left, Dylan Rolleigh, Grey Beaudry, Zachariah Vandeventer, Jordan Lundgren, Kai Lansdell, Joshua Byers, Caleb Picklesimer, and Steve Yano.

“TechHelp’s positive impact on the manufacturing community of Idaho is very impressive,” said Mark Bannister, dean of College of Business and Economics at Boise State. “Over the past year, TechHelp clients have reported 886 new and retained jobs and over $180 million in sales, savings, and investment economic impacts as a direct result of working with TechHelp. The SIDPC should amplify its impact and assist the state of Idaho in its rapid economic recovery.”

A series of EDA grants in the early 2000s  helped create the NPD Lab in 2001. The Lab continues to give Boise State mechanical engineering students opportunities to gain valuable work experience and employment opportunities in their field of study.

NPD Specialist, Grey Beaudry

 In 2019,  Director Hatten hired Steve Yano and former NPD student employee, Grey Beaudry (at left) to reinvigorate the Lab. Beaudry augmented Yano’s work on the EDA Grant by refurbishing the lab, adding new equipment, solidifying partnerships, and hiring additional student employees. Over the years, Boise State’s top Mechanical Engineering students leveraged their work at the Lab with Idaho companies to secure full-time employment upon graduation. NPD alumni have demonstrated critical influence in building regional and national entrepreneurial companies, such as Rekluse, Lovevery, Melni Connectors, Coyote Design, Rapid Rope, and more. 

 “We are excited and honored to have received this award and look forward to building a showcase innovation partnership that will grow opportunities in product development, advanced manufacturing, education, and entrepreneurship for Idaho companies, students, and faculty, ” said Steve Yano.