No sooner had the snow melted into the fertile soil of the Palouse than a vibrant spring of innovation budded and bloomed across Idaho. As a volunteer in Idaho's emerging innovation ecosystem, I can't stress how welcome this dynamic spring of idea-sharing, subject-matter networking and new collaboration in Idaho is.
Three major Idaho events in which the members of the Idaho Technology Council serve as partners give me the sense of confidence and optimism that Idaho not only has what it takes to compete but to distinguish itself in the global marketplace. The events are the Energy Connected Conference ITC co-hosted with the Center for Advanced Energy Studies and other key partners, the Idaho Technology Council Software Alliance's develop.idaho 2014 event in April, and the just-completed Engineering Design EXPO at the University of Idaho.
At develop.idaho 2014, keynote speaker Ryan DeLuca, a founder of Idaho-based Bodybuilding.com, said you never know where or when inspiration will strike. This spring, DeLuca was energized to create something while sitting with his family at a Beatles tribute performance by Cirque de Soleil in Las Vegas. He said he almost got up before the encore because the urge to go build something at that very moment was so powerful. This drive to create something has been demonstrated throughout Ryan's life, as the organization he put together did do something big, creating one of the leading online providers of health and nutrition products, training and solutions in the world.
That urgency for action was also a key theme for keynote futurist Jack Uldrich at Energy Connected.
Designed to foster ideas, networking, innovation and enthusiasm to further develop Idaho's energy economy, the 2014 Energy Connected Conference encompassed energy and technology discussions. The format ranged from multiple five-minute "speed presentations" to panels of experts in Energy Policy, Market Forces Affecting Energy Technology and Energy Information Technology (Smart Grid). The discussions included top energy commercialization opportunities in Idaho, national energy trends, and the effects of public policy on energy technology. Ulrich, an inspiring author, Wall Street Journal and Business Week contributor and renowned global futurist, lit the path for participants.
The University of Idaho Engineering Design Expo is a signature showcase of the innovation of students. Every engineering graduate participates in a senior capstone design course before heading to graduate school or the workforce. This process challenges Idaho engineering graduates to tackle real world issues with the help of industry partners.
In the final sessions of the Expo, where industry leaders were asked to serve as judges for the work product of student teams, the "wow" ideas were well in evidence:
There was an award-winning energy cogeneration design.
There was an emerging method in which ITC member Micron Technology has significant interest that could drive new efficiencies in the way chip flaws are identified and remedied.
And, perhaps the most fun of all for Idahoans who love their snow, is the work that student teams are doing to make snowmobiling a more fuel-efficient, less impactful activity on sensitive landscapes full of wildlife.
I am excited to see the destinations this renewed spirit for innovation creates for Idaho. Getting there will be every bit as exciting as the journey.
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