Posted by William Mullane | June 7, 2017
Graduation day at Boise State can be a mix of good and bad news for the TechHelp New Product Development (NPD) Team at the Boise State College of Engineering. While staff members celebrate the accomplishment of a colleague earning a degree in Mechanical Engineering they also know it may be time to say goodbye to a valued team member and friend. Tyler Dale was the latest TechHelp student employee to follow this well-worn path when he graduated in May of 2017 with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Mechanical Engineering. UPDATE – We recently learned that Tyler followed another recent NPD Grad, Chris Brown, to local robotics firm, The House of Design.
Tyler’s journey to the NPD Lab was unusual and involved a bit of luck. As a freshman at Boise State, he joined the Science Talent Expansion Program (STEP) that used National Science Foundation funding to place freshman into research labs. Tyler’s first project took him to the Department of Chemistry where he worked on cancer cell research. He was later assigned to develop a math video game that was better aligned with his major. After finishing the video game, Tyler was left searching for yet another position. When the STEP Program Coordinator gave Tyler the opportunity to choose his next work assignment, he targeted Boise State’s New Product Development (NPD) Lab.
Located on the fourth floor of the Micron Engineering Center, the NPD Lab is the home of TechHelp’s fee-for-service team that has provided design, engineering and prototyping services since 1999. The team is comprised of full-time mechanical engineers, prototyping specialists, and Boise State mechanical engineering students. Lab staff members work directly with startups, businesses and manufacturers to develop newly manufactured products. Projects in the NPD Lab often include concept development, product design and prototyping, design iteration, engineering analysis, and preparation for manufacturing.
Tyler joined the Lab at the beginning of his third year at Boise State. With little hands-on engineering experience, he had been feeling a bit lost and confused about his career options. Working at the NPD Lab helped Tyler discover a passion for engineering that set him on a path to success. Tyler’s first job in the Lab was to assist NPD Specialist, Blaise Lawless, with the 3D printing/prototyping aspect of the lab. In addition to being the Lab’s Prototyping Master, Lawless is a skilled artist who can turn a rough 3D printed part into a work of art. “It was a really cool learning all the new technology and different ways to prototype,” said Dale.”I learned so many new things including how to manage orders, the pros and cons of different 3D printers, and how to do RTV molding and machining.”
Dale’s time at the Lab wasn’t always easy. The NPD Lab is a real business that works with clients who are trying to get products to market under time and budget constraints. “It was the first time I was treated more like a professional and held accountable for mistakes,” said Dale. “It was all a great learning experience for me.”
Tyler’s most embarrassing moment in the lab occurred when he cleaned the prototype post processing room. He stacked a container of alcohol on top of some unsteady boxes and placed a yardstick (Uh Oh!) in between the stacked boxes. No sooner had he set this inadvertent trap when Lawless walked into the room and bumped the yardstick. This set off a Rube Goldberg effect which rocked the stacked boxes and showered Lawless in Isopropyl Alcohol. “I could see Blaise was very upset, but he held his composure,” said Dale. “I felt terrible but learned to be more careful.”
As Dale gained experience, he was given more independence and the chance to work on the lab’s mechanical design projects. He started out with the simple reverse engineering of parts and assembling Fused Deposition Modeling 3D printers for the College of Engineering. Dale’s work progressed to where he was given the responsibility to work with companies to design and produce full-fledged prototypes and real products for real Idaho companies including Intermountain 3D.
“What I truly valued from my experience in the lab was that I was encouraged to learn,” said Dale. When lab employees are caught up on their design and prototyping work, they are given freedom to learn about different subjects including lean manufacturing, design for manufacturing, and computer assisted design (CAD) modeling. TechHelp gave Dale design projects that helped him develop sophisticated mechanical engineering skills. Dale developed an Impact Testing Apparatus that is still being used in the Material Science Department at Boise State. TechHelp gave Dale the independence to bring all of the pieces of the project together into a finished product. This one project gave Dale the opportunity to:
- Develop a project proposal
- Identify product specifications and design concepts
- Develop CAD drawings
- Work on product modeling
- Create designs for product machining and assembly
- Conduct the actual machining, building, and assembly of the product
- Complete electrical design, electrical wiring, and product testing
When he is not indoors working as an engineer, you can find Tyler in the great outdoors with a rifle, fishing pole, mountain bike, or Great Pyrenees looking for the next great adventure.