Weber State University is home to a unique organization currently titled The Concept Center which is designed to assist companies solve a wide array of technical problems.
Created by the Utah State Legislature in 2008, in order to make norther Utah a hub of aviation technology, the Concept Center was originally named the Utah Center for Aeronautical Innovation and Design or UCAID, according to Shayne Chambers, a project manager for the center.
Administratively, the Concept Center is housed in the WSU College of Engineering, Applied Science & Technology, known as EAST, said WSU Marketing Specialist Ivonne Dabb, and has worked on more than 40 large projects and collaborated with more than 100 companies.
Some early projects UCAID undertook included metallurgical analysis and fatigue failure studies for the aerospace industry and building target drones in support of proposals to contract for them for the U.S. Air Force.
At its beginning, UCAID was located on the WSU campus within the EAST facilities. In time, UCAID outgrew its space at the WSU campus and moved to a larger facility in Farmington.
Dabb added that the Concept Center evolved from the Utah Center for Aeronautical Innovation and Design to the Utah Center for Applied Innovation and Design and finally to the Concept Center and that its mission has also evolved.
The Concept Center now focuses on providing a broad range of industry-sponsored projects and on providing students with hands-on learning experiences.
While at the Farmington location, the Concept Center staff worked on a number of unique projects including building drones and, in cooperation with Utah Valley University, designed and constructed an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV hexacopter project for use in command and control services during forest fires.
On that project, the staff took a non-traditional approach to solving flight-time limitations of the traditional battery powered quadcopter.
According to the students working on the project, the barrier to electrically powered UAV platforms has been their limited battery life, which was generally 30 minutes. UCAID students, Alex Hansen and Waynedon Veater, who were seniors in the Department of Electronics Engineering at the time, helped come up with a novel solution.
As work-study interns at UCAID, Alex and Waynedon developed a tethered power cable system, which allows the UAV to stay in the air up to 8 hours at a time.
“It was challenging to make the tether system light yet powerful enough to carry the instrument payload. We were able to engineer a solution that works for the firefighters, and that’s what has made this project fulfilling” said Alex.
Today the Concept Center staff in involved in projects for an Ogden based company that specializes in building high quality products for the bicycle industry. According to the TRP Brakes website, the efforts of the Concept Center staff have been focused on helping TRP make better bicycle equipment more efficiently.
The Concept Center staff is currently working on the design and fabrication of parts for TRP Brakes. Using 3-D scanners and 3-D printers, the staff is designing new and improved parts to help TRP to better serve the bicycling community.
According to Chambers, it does not make sense for every person or company interested in prototyping and R&D to have all the equipment and expertise necessary to develop a successful product.
“We provide the resources, time and experience to minimize the risks of new design,” Chambers said.
Over the years, the Concept Center has taken on an assortment of projects, including the Tethered Autonomous Surveillance Vehicle, an Electronics Enclosure and Board device for consumer electronics, a conceptual design and component sourcing project for an outdoor products manufacturer and a fatigue test machine for a recreational products company.
The center is a nonprofit organization which uses its consulting and project fees to allow it to hire students and staff and to pay for materials and upkeep of specialized equipment.
“Everything we are paid to work on a project is reinvested into student education and training at WSU,” Chambers said.