Tech Park: Cal Poly’s Silicon Valley
Tucked between rows of corn, tractors tilling up test-irrigation fields and the Cal Poly dairy, sits a modern, steel building that houses technology-based companies: the Tech Park. The building is essentially an incubator — tech companies vie for space in a building that promotes innovation and collaboration with faculty and students…. READ MORE
(Dec 2) – Trust Automation: Local company contributes to international missile defense program
(Nov 27) – EcoPlanners: Work productivity hurt by too much noise
(Nov 19) – Cal Poly forum showcases young innovators
(Nov 14) – A Collection of Beautiful SLO County Photos
(Nov 13) – Hague Quality Water: Municipal water companies change water chemistry to bypass health regulations
(Nov 8) – Kitchen of the Month: Frustrated Baker Finds Freedom
Editor in Chief, Columnist: Rylan Stewart (firstname.lastname@example.org)
We deal in housing, but it takes more than a building to call a place home… it is the people, events, and businesses. So we started the SLO County Locals Blog to explore the spirit of the Central Coast.
The New Times has the most comprehensive events calendar of events on the Central Coast. We will, however, politely point out that each and every day there are about 50 local events listed, and scrolling through all of these to pick out your favorites might give you carpel tunnel.
To help you through the holiday madness, we have listed a few of our favorite local events from around the Central Coast. These are mostly community-based events that involve lights, treats, and hot drinks.
There are countless other opportunities to catch the wonderful sounds of the season (music, concerts), spirit of the season (charity, gift giving), and tastes of the season (restaurants, etc). See them all over at the New Times event guide.
What do missile defense systems, innovative mammogram machines, and luggage scanners have in common? Well, not much. Except that the precise motors controlling the motion of each system are designed and assembled in San Luis Obispo.
Trust Automation, a local engineering and manufacturing company that specializes in motion control, is invested in five different industries: defense, semi-conductor, industrial automation, medical, and green technology.
During my conversation with Chuck Kass, Trust Automation’s Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing, and Marketing Manager Robin Mitchell Hee, the word “proud” was the most oft-repeated word.
The company recently enjoyed news of a successful missile launch to which they contributed precise motor controls that move the radar system used to detect incoming missiles. The Mission Extended Air Defense System (MEADS) is a joint effort military program between the Italian, German, and United States governments. The FT-2 Missile test was conducted during November and displayed the system’s ability to intercept two missiles arriving at the same time from different directions.
During a typical day at the office, the air-conditioning is whirring, fluorescent lights are humming, muzak is playing, conversations are echoing, phones are ringing, the printer is spitting out paper, keyboards are click-clacking, raucous laughter is nearby, drawers are being banged shut, the elevator ding dongs, and a jet roars over head.
Technology has brought us speaker phones, open work stations, video conferencing and voice activated computers. Ah! The “hmmm of the workplace”.
Facebook was born in a dorm room at Harvard, the founder of FedEx wrote about the hypothetical overnight delivery service for a term paper at Yale, and Google, originally named BackRub, got started at Stanford by two computer science students.
What’s the next big idea going to be?
The Cal Poly Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE) hosts a multitude of events geared towards cultivating the innovative spirit on the Central Coast.
The CIE is four-year-old project started by two Cal Poly entrepreneurship professors that aims to give fledgling ideas a solid place to take off.
Programs, Events, & Media coordinator Chelsea Brown said CIE is the place to go to if someone is looking to start a business or market an invention.
“We’re here as a resource for all students and the SLO community,” Brown said.
The CIE has a whole slew of projects. SLO HotHouse is the most well-known; with offices downtown, the Hothouse provides office space for the CIE as well as space for budding businesses. The HotHouse includes the Accelerator program, which is specifically geared towards Cal Poly students and recent grads — the program provides startup businesses or ideas $7,500, among other resources, for a chance to get off the ground during the summer. Once fall rolls around, some of those startups graduate to the Incubator program, which means they receive support and office space in the HotHouse downtown.
In addition to the Accelerator, Incubator and many other programs, the CIE hosts six forums a year, which allow for a deeper connection between the business community and Cal Poly.
“Each are focused on hot topics,” Brown said. “The first one this year was on media, the next one is on commercialization of technologies.”
The next forum, titled Drivers of Innovation: From Invention to Commercialization, will begin with an ice breaker event where the featured inventors get to showcase their inventions, and not only have discussion about what their product does, but about how and where it could be marketed.
Some of the inventions up for discussion at the event is include FarmBot, a precision farming machine that works like a 3-D printer with seed injectors and watering nozzles, and Otto, a surface-climbing robot that can carry heavy loads.
“When you get a diverse group of people in a room you give the inventor an opportunity to see a place or market the product could go that they might have not seen themselves,” Brown said. “It gives them a way to collaborate with people they wouldn’t normally be in a room with.”
After the icebreaker, the forum will transition into a panel discussion on how to best move the inventions to market.
The panel participants have experience marketing their own products or others’ products and includes: Cal Poly Biological Sciences Department Chair Christopher Kitts; Christine Tovee, the Chief Technology Officer of EADS North America; Brian Riley, recent Cal Poly graduate and co-founder and CEO of Slidepad Technologies; and Joe O’Connor, a product and marketing guru.
The forum is Wednesday, Nov. 20 from 4:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. in the Pavilion of the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center.
The event is free and the public is welcome. Those who wish to attend can register beforehand.
Photography is a hobby I’ve kept tucked in my back pocket during my college years. When inspiration strikes or when I need a study break, I often pull my camera out.
The phases of inspiration have certainly been sporadic. Looking back at folders of my photos it’s easy to see that the Central Coast has been a major catalyst for putting my finger on the shutter. That should come at no surprise — it’s hard to pass by the abundant beauty of the area without a second glance.
If you live in Arroyo Grande, Grover Beach, Pismo Beach, Avila Beach, Shell Beach, Morro Bay or Santa Maria (North Side) your water supply is not chlorinated. It’s chloraminated. Chloramine is a mixture of chlorine and ammonia.
By Sarah Day
San Luis Kitchen Co.
This is the story of a tiny kitchen in Lompoc. The homeowner loves to bake for her family but her kitchen was narrow and very poorly laid out, causing immense frustration and upset within the home. So sad!
The homeowners habitually entered their home through the garage door into the kitchen and were immediately greeted by the blank side of the refrigerator and a floor to ceiling broom closet.
As they continued into the narrow kitchen, around the bulky deep refrigerator, they came to the cook top right next to the tall oven cabinet. The cook top was stationed smack dab against the refrigerator on the right and with only an eight-inch counter on the left – no space to work, claustrophobic!
Any takers for vaccines in cookie-form?
The Applied Biotechnology Institute, a company that has made its home in the Tech Park at Cal Poly, is working on developing a way to make vaccines edible, along with other innovative biotechnology projects that improve environmental or human health.
“If we think it’s environmentally better or helps your health in anyway, then we look at it,” Howard said. “If it doesn’t fit that, we don’t look at it.”
The Tech Park is currently at full capacity with 11 companies housed within its walls. If the California Central Coast Research Program (C3RP) continues to see high demand, a second building could be thrown into the works.
See our feature article on Tech Park for more. Here, we have listed some of the most interesting businesses that make Tech Park their home:
Tucked between rows of corn, tractors tilling up test-irrigation fields and the Cal Poly dairy, sits a modern, steel building that houses technology-based companies: the Tech Park. The building is essentially an incubator — tech companies vie for space in a building that promotes innovation and collaboration with faculty and students.
Now that the building has been open for almost three years, it’s at full capacity with mature tech companies that bring in “head of the household” job positions, and a selection of promising start-ups — 11 companies in total. The building is the result of a collaboration between Cal Poly and the California Central Coast Research Partnership (C3RP).
All companies in the park work on cutting-edge research and projects. Cal Poly faculty contribute intellectual property to some of the companies; many of the companies were even founded by faculty.
Jim Dunning, who works for the university as a liaison between the private sector and the academic world, said the private companies benefit from the university and vice versa.
“The main intent of the building is to increase collaboration between the university and private sector,” Dunning said.
Dunning helps coordinate the transfer of intellectual patents from faculty to companies so the patents can be utilized commercially, and works with organizations like the San Luis Obispo Economic Vitality Corporation (EVC) to connect the tech companies to the community.
I spent some time walking around the Tech Park with Dunning on a Friday morning. In one corner an ecological consulting company, H.T. Harvey & Associates, was just moving into their space. Bird feathers and other field specimens lay out on a counter.
Fume hoods were visible through glass doors that look into the space Applied Biotechnology Institute occupies. Fingers tapped keyboards and computer screens filled with code in Couto Solutions. Every now and then doors from the various office spaces would open and students would leave for class.
Maria Fischer, a recent Cal Poly alumna, studied molecular and cellular biology and got a job in the Tech Park right after graduation in June. She works at the Applied Biotechnology Institute, helping the company with various projects, such as developing a sweetener as a sugar alternative and making vaccines into a wafer, instead of a shot.
“There are other grad students and one undergrad working here, too,” she said. “After graduation I was looking for a job and contacted a professor to do research for them, and they ended up connecting me with the job opening here.”
Although Cal Poly students have only been working at the Tech Park for the few years it has been open, plans for this incubator-type space have been in the works since the early ‘90s. Fundraising mostly took place between 2006 and 2008, and the building opened in January 2011.
A $1.8 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration, bond financing from the State of California, and additional funds from the private sector contributed to the $7.5 million project.
The Tech Park is just phase one of a potentially-two-phase project, Dunning said. If there continues to be demand for space in the Tech Park a second building is a possibility.
The building is designed to promote collaboration. The common areas between each company’s offices are large and include ample seating and break rooms — a deliberate move to make it easier for casual sharing of ideas.
“Our students are good, and in all disciplines, and so that’s a big draw,” he said.
Approximately 30 Cal Poly students are employed at the Tech Park through full-time or part-time jobs or internships, Dunning said.
Dunning said part of Cal Poly’s goal with the Tech Park is to increase retention of students in the local workforce after graduation by providing high-income career opportunities.
“The problem is that students don’t know there are these pretty exciting companies in the area so they don’t even look,” he said.
Carole Moore, a career counselor at Cal Poly Career Services, said the idea was EVC’s “brainchild,” but the organizations worked together to make the fair happen.
“We rely on EVC to market it to their employers and invite their employers to participate,” Moore said.
In addition to employers contacted by EVC, all companies at the Tech Park were invited to participate.
Moore said it has helped students to realize there are opportunities in SLO beyond Higuera Street.
“As far as careers go, there are definitely some companies that have big operations here that we don’t even think about,” she said.
Attendees will include some of the tenants of the Tech Park as well as other companies from the SLO-area, including Zurn Industries and Trust Automation — both companies involved in the technology and manufacturing industry and headquartered in San Luis Obispo.