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Leading-edge tech company plants flag at ASU Polytechnic campus

April 9, 2021

3D printing materials manufacturer MECHnano is the first to move to Innovation Zone in Mesa

An advanced technology lab has moved its headquarters to the Innovation Zone at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa.

MECHnano, a manufacturer of advanced chemistry and materials that improve the performance of 3D-printing ingredients, is the first company to move to the district, one of seven ASU Innovation Zones across the Valley.

MECHnano CEO Steve Lowder said the move was locked in by the opportunity to work closely with students and the university.

“When I saw the plans for the innovation district I became extremely excited,” Lowder said. “It's something that I've thought about for a long time with respect to industry and education working together. … One of my startups was based out of the U.K. We were right there with universities in the U.K. … I've seen the benefits that come out of it and that's what we were looking for.”

Mechnano’s co-founder and chairman Steve Lowder takes measurements on carbon nanotube clusters

MECHnano’s co-founder and chairman Steve Lowder takes measurements on carbon nanotube clusters in the company's fabrication facility in an old life sciences lab on the Polytechnic campus in Mesa, on March 31, 2021. The nanotubes naturally are attracted to each other and form blobs or clumps. MECHnano is developing technology to minimize the clumping, which makes them more useful for adding lightweight strength, magnetic or conductive properties. The small company holds patents in additive manufacturing with carbon nanotubes, allowing substantial benefits for precision, strength, flexibility and other material properties. The company is part of the new Innovation Zone at the Polytechnic campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Lowder has also worked with universities in Colorado, Louisiana and Georgia.

“I've always had good experiences,” he said. “I saw a mutual benefit to those when we began this startup. … It became obvious that a relationship with the local university and specifically ASU would be very beneficial to us. That is augmented by the fact that ASU reached out to us a little bit as well after our first contact.”

The small company holds patents in additive manufacturing with carbon nanotubes. MECHnano’s technology enhances the material at the nano level allowing substantial benefits for precision, strength, flexibility and other material properties. The nanotubes, which are about 1/10,000 the diameter of a human hair, are as strong as steel, as hard as diamond and as conductive as copper.

An array of test specimens fabricated using Mechnano’s radiation curable resins

An array of test specimens fabricated using MECHnano’s radiation curable resins modified with carbon nanotubes. Parts were fabricated via vat photopolymerization technique, and taken out of the build chamber. Photo by Olga Ivanov/MECHnano

Students will benefit from working at the very cutting edge of technology. MECHnano is the only 3D-printing materials company in the world to have unlocked the potential of carbon nanotubes. ASU students will have a unique and real-world learning experience. The company will benefit from the student perspective, Lowder said. 

“Some of the benefits that we get are we're able to move the company forward with high-caliber young minds and very innovative minds because ASU is just probably the most innovative school that I've seen in all the workings that I've had with universities,” he said.

“The student's going to learn a lot — just magnitudes over what you would learn by education itself.”

Company researchers will benefit by rubbing shoulders with scientists working in the same fields only steps away.

Olga Ivanova, the director of technology, goes over calculations at Mechnano’s headquarters

Olga Ivanova, the director of technology, goes over calculations at MECHnano’s headquarters.

“Sometimes (research and development) groups can be so corporate-focused that you start to lose a step,” Lowder said. “And then education sometimes is so educationally focused that they don't think about commercialization as much as they need to. For us being located here at ASU and having some of the best scientists in the world on our side really is a good balance between those things.”

The company’s move to the Polytechnic campus is a big win for ASU and Mesa, said Duane Roen, vice provost and dean of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.

“We've been working at getting businesses and industry interested in the Polytechnic campus and to start working on the innovation district,” Roen said. “And so we're thrilled about this. MECHnano is just the exact kind of company that we would love to see there. It's a company that works on nanotechnology and we are so interested in companies that do work that relates to the work that occurs at ASU, particularly the Polytechnic campus, so that students have opportunities for internships and for research and faculty can work on research projects as well.”

Aric Bopp, executive director of economic development at ASU Knowledge Enterprise, was instrumental in landing the company. Bopp leads the university’s economic development efforts, with a specific focus on development of the NOVUS Innovation Corridor and other ASU Innovation Zones.

“I'm personally amazed that more companies don't locate closer to campuses,” Bopp said. “It doesn't have to be just ASU, but so many companies struggle with talent acquisition and talent development, and then you ask them, ‘Oh, what relationship do you have with such and such college, a university?’ And they really haven't taken the time. It is a dedicated strategy that they have to implement, but it amazes me that not more companies set up some sort of development center or some sort of lab or some sort of facility closer to campuses.”

Top image: An array of test specimens fabricated using MECHnano’s radiation curable resins modified with carbon nanotubes. Parts were fabricated via vat photopolymerization technique. Photo by Olga Ivanov/MECHnano

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

480-727-4502

 
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ASU to host public vaccination site in Desert Financial Arena

April 9, 2021

Encroaching summer heat prompts state site that was at Phoenix Municipal Stadium to move indoors

Arizona State University has announced that it will host and coordinate a new indoor public COVID-19 vaccination site on its Tempe campus at Desert Financial Arena, opening Monday, April 12.  

The new point of distribution is a transfer of the state’s previous site, operated by ASU, at Phoenix Municipal Stadium, also an ASU property. People who have already been scheduled for second-dose appointments at Phoenix Municipal Stadium for Monday, April 12, and later are being informed of the new location for their second doses.

Higher temperatures and the beginning of summer weather prompted the change, both for the benefit and safety of health professionals and volunteers, and for members of the public. 

“The public distribution sites are the work of a tremendous community partnership, a mix of some very talented professionals and a very dedicated cadre of volunteers,” said David Thomas, chief executive officer of Arizona State University Research Enterprise and the lead member of ASU’s vaccination site team. “Moving indoors will enable us to keep getting vaccines in arms at the fastest rate possible; the Arizona heat was already starting to work against us.” 

The Desert Financial Arena vaccination point of distribution will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Vaccinations will be provided on the main concourse of Desert Financial Arena, and arena seating will be available for the required 15 or 30 minutes of observation after vaccination. Appointments will continue to be required and can be accessed through the ADHS website at azhealth.gov/findvaccine.

“ASU has been a leader in the fight against COVID-19, from its work with the saliva test to staffing test and vaccine sites,” said Tempe Mayor Corey D. Woods. “Now, ASU is housing the new indoor vaccine center inside Desert Financial Arena. We thank ASU for all its efforts and for providing a vaccine center in our city. This will be a tremendous asset to our community and the region.”

In addition to being indoors, the Desert Financial Arena site is also located along the Valley Metro light rail line, giving those who rely on public transportation a convenient way to travel. Located at 600 E. Veterans Way, Desert Financial Arena is adjacent to the Veterans Way/College Avenue station, Stop #10022.  

For those who plan to drive to the site, plenty of free parking will be available north of the arena; the public entrance to the vaccination POD also will be on the north side of the arena. Due to construction around the university and near the site, the university strongly recommends that drivers use Rio Salado Parkway and arrive from the north. 

“Arizona State University is now operating and managing four of the state’s seven public points of distribution for the COVID-19 vaccine, and we are very happy that university property can be of service to the public for this important community activity,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “It is important for as many people as possible to be vaccinated for COVID-19 as soon as possible, and we have many people around the university working to help make it happen.” 

ADHS and ASU organizers say the first priority at the Desert Financial Arena site is to ensure that all scheduled second-dose appointments are successfully relocated while maintaining focus on continuing to maximize the number of first doses available to the public. The goal is to meet or exceed the capacity of the Phoenix Municipal site, which vaccinated approximately 3,500 people a day. 

According to the state’s vaccination dashboard, nearly 2.5 million people in Arizona have received at least one dose of the vaccine, with more than 1.5 million fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

On-campus vaccination distribution

While the Desert Financial Arena will be serving the public, the university continues to work to get its students and staff vaccinated as well. 

ASU opened an on-campus vaccine distribution site in late January, focusing on health/lab workers, older employees and those in high-public-contact positions on campus. That has since been expanded to all employees, and beginning in early April, the university has opened vaccination appointments to all immersion (on-campus) students. The student appointments are available on all four campuses in metro Phoenix.

Staff, faculty and students can sign up for an appointment via My Health Portal; they are also welcome to sign up for vaccination through the county or state (including appointments at the Desert Financial Arena location).

All employees are asked to upload a copy of their vaccination card after they receive the vaccine.

Volunteering

Vaccination sites depend on the work of hundreds of volunteers each day, working to get people registered, checked in, vaccinated and observed afterward. Employees and students alike have volunteered at both ASU and county/state locations. In addition to the gratification of helping others, most volunteers are able to receive a vaccination as a perk.

RELATED: Listen to the stories from the vaccination front line

Eligible ASU employees have an annual eight-hour volunteer benefit through which they can have up to eight hours of paid time off from regularly scheduled work to volunteer at charitable organizations or government agencies, and they are encouraged to make use of that benefit.

Volunteer shifts at the state-run sites are listed on the HandsOn Greater Phoenix site; those slots are open to anyone in the public, and HandsOn has temporarily turned off the $25 sign-up fee for new volunteers. 

Members of the ASU community who wish to volunteer at the on-campus Tempe Sun Devil Fitness Center site may do so through https://www.signupgenius.com/go/10c0c4ca9a722a2fec70-asucovid.

More questions, lots of answers

How do the vaccines work? What’s in them? Were the clinical trials large and long enough to ensure safety? Can I use sick time if I experience side effects?

These and many other questions are answered on ASU’s COVID-19 vaccine FAQ page. The information was compiled with the help of health experts across the university, including the Biodesign Institute, the College of Health Solutions and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

The FAQ page also features the latest vaccine news from both the university and outside media sources, as well as a roundup of #ForksUpSleevesUp social media posts of Sun Devils sharing their vaccination moment.

The page is part of ASU’s larger COVID-19 communication webpages, which include an extensive coronavirus FAQ, the university’s latest updates and the data page with the current positive case counts and testing numbers.

Top image by Charlie Leight/ASU News