His 100 year old home will be a Smart House: Meet Jesse Lane of NewBoCo

According to NewBoCo Accelerator Program Manager Molly Monk, Jesse Lane always has his hands in new ideas.

Lane runs the rapid prototyping lab space at NewBoCo and is contracted out as a prototyping engineer for startups.

So Clay & Milk reached out to Jesse to hear what he’s seen and find out about the work NewBoCo is doingin Cedar Rapids.

His Q&A is below:

& What is your role with NewBoCo and the Iowa Startup Accelerator?

JL I am the Engineer-in-Residence here at NewBoCo.  My primary role is to run the rapid prototyping lab and the virtual reality lab.  By “run” I mean three main tasks: 1) Manage the equipment and memberships in the labs. 2) Build prototypes for startups and other companies as a contracted service. 3) Develop and run educational programs for children and adults. My role with the Iowa Startup Accelerator consists of vetting the technologies being used by applicants, giving them a “sniff test” if you will.

Each ISA (Iowa Startup Accelerator) team is given a one year membership to the Vault Labs when they are accepted, so I also help them use our lab spaces.  Finally, I also contract out my prototyping services at a discounted price to ISA teams when they have a need.

& How has your career led you to NewBoCo?

JL I grew up in Des Moines, graduating from Roosevelt High School.  I have a B.S. in Computer Science and a B.S. in Mathematics from Iowa State University and was an all-but-dissertation Ph.D. student in the Human Computer Interaction program until 2012.  I moved to Cedar Rapids in 2010 to work as a contract software engineer for Rockwell Collins. I did that for 1.5 years before signing on as a software engineer at Intermec, which was subsequently bought by Honeywell.

In 2013 I started attending Open Coffee meetups organized by some members of what would become NewBoCo.  Open Coffee led to participating in Startup Weekends, then taking a Startup Weekend idea through the 6 week Venture School program at U of I.  Those activities and some additional volunteering put me on NewBoCo’s radar when they decided that the next step was to create Vault Labs.

& As an engineer, what type of work do you do every day?

JL For me there’s no such thing as a typical day.  Some days I’m maintaining the lab equipment or helping out lab members.  Some days I’m building a prototype for a startup.  Some days I’m teaching a workshop or camp.  This past week I taught an afternoon camp to middle and high school kids on how to develop virtual reality applications.  This week I’ll be preparing for another workshop, building a prototype for a medical device, and doing some 3D printing for another company.

& Do you do work outside of NewBoCo?

I definitely don’t have time for that!

& We’ve been told you have your hands in a lot of different ideas, can you share?

JL At the Vault Labs I’m constantly seeing new ideas.  I’ve worked on contracts for a small collectibles shelf, a smart bicycle accessory, and a device for protecting your home network from misuse.  I’m currently working on a prototype for a patent-pending medical device and I’m using 3D printing to create some prototypes for another company before they pay to have injection molds created.  SwineTech, one of the ISA’s 2015 cohort, used the Vault Labs facilities to also prototype their device before spending tens of thousands of dollars on injection molds.  Currently there is another ISA team, GOVRED, using the virtual reality lab to develop training simulations for the military and police.

& What is the tech/startup community like in Iowa? How does it compare, in your opinion, to other states in the Midwest?

JL The tech/startup community in Iowa is very vibrant.

& What is one thing Iowa offers entrepreneurs and startups that make it unique? Is there anything?

JL I think that Iowa’s unique contribution is actually the combination of valuing cooperation as much, or more, than competition and doing it in a place you’d want to raise a family.

& What’s your favorite aspect of technology? Is there something you like working with more, or an aspect that you find easier to work with?

JL My favorite aspect of technology is the power it provides for creating things.  The ability to take any idea from your head to your desktop is magical.  There are many, many technologies that I both like to work with and get to work with.

I’m particularly excited about artificial intelligence and jump at any chance I get to work in that area.  As far as ease of use, I’m astonished at just how many great electronics tools and companies there are now compared to when I started building robots in the 1990s.  Instead of sourcing every tiny component and designing everything from scratch, you can just order the exact module you need and they are so cheap!

& When you aren’t working as an engineer, what is Jesse doing?

JL I’m a single dad of three kids, so they get a fair amount of my leftover time.  I am also in the process of making improvements to my 100-year-old house, including turning it into a smart home.