Andy Dalman, a 24 year old engineer and North Dakota State University grad, was on the phone with his girlfriend when he opened the e-mail. He stopped talking.
“What’s going on?” she asked over the phone.
“I just got an e-mail from Forbes,” Andy said.
That e-mail is only sent to a handful of applicants. Andy was one of them. He was chosen to be listed in Forbes 30 Under 30 list: 600 of the “brightest young entrepreneurs, breakout talents, and change agents in 2016.”
“After sifting through thousands of nominations and then convening the best panel of judges ever – from Jessica Alba to Steve Ballmer to Laurene Powell-Jobs – I am very pleased to formally inform you that you have been selected to the 2016 Forbes 30 Under 30 list,” wrote Forbes editor Randall Lane, in the e-mail.
“You now join one of the most exclusive clubs in the world,” he continues. “The perks will roll out across the year.”
Some of those perks include the chance to attend a conference in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, featuring 200 members each from the U.S., Europe, and Middle East and Africa 30 Under 30 lists. Andy will also attend a four day Summit in the U.S., which Lane describes as “the most fun and engaging four days of your life.”
Fellow and past honorees include John Boyega, the male lead in the recent Star Wars: The Force Awakens film; Stephen Curry, point guard for the Golden State Warriors; Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy, co-founders of Snapchat; Tumblr founder David Karp; and many more from industries that vary from social entrepreneurship to food and entertainment.
Andy, a quiet guy with blue in his hair and a knack for “self-deprecating humor,” said he still is trying to make sense of the award.
“Honestly it’s still settling in,” he said.
There are 20 different sectors, each with their own top 30. Andy falls under Manufacturing and Industry, for his work on Advanced Bone Technology, aka “The Bone Project”.
The Bone Project
Born out of the Bison Microventure under NDSU professor Dr. Wells teaching, Advanced Bone Technology emerged as a side project, at first.
It was 2012, and Andy’s team was creating dental implants. They began discussing the messiness of testing the implants, and the possibility of other testing methods. What is most commonly used now for testing procedures on bone are cadavers, he said, which are hard to get.
“We settled on the idea that it would be beneficial to create an artificial testing device that would allow us to perform these tests,” Andy said. “Eventually we decided it would be the best for us to recreate the human bone as accurately as possible.”
Since 2012, Andy has been working on the research and development of this project. Currently they are developing a 3D printed material used to create the most accurate replica of human bone material as possible. This can vary between more spongy bone material to the harder bone material.
“What’s important is that it’s the same shape both inside and out,” Andy said. “We’re trying to engineer a composite so that it cuts the same. So it feels the same as cutting a human bone without having to actually cut a human bone.”
Uses for this product will include training medical students in surgery, and creating very exact replicas of specific bone structures for testing. One could also create certain bone attributes that are needed, something that Andy said is currently a very tedious process.
“Right now, if you are looking for a specific attribute, you have to wait for someone with that exact attribute to pass on and donate their body,” he said. “The wait times are unreliable and very high – from many weeks to a half year prep time. There’s no form of agility.”
Last year, Advanced Bone Technology received a large venture grant and Andy was able to employ himself and his teammates, Joel Hedlof and Ben Ferguson, full-time for the project. Due to the large scale of the product, it will be some time until a minimum viable product is ready, he said.
“This is a medical technology and these things are best done right instead of quickly,” he said.
Joining the Forbes 30 Under 30 Club
Making it to Forbes 30 Under 30 list is a big win for Andy, one he hopes to use to promote the Bone Project and Protosthetics – a project in artificial limb creation that he helped start.
“This [the award] is huge for me personally,” he said. “I’m hoping that I can leverage it towards the positive.”
It’s not his first 30 Under 30 list; last year, he made SME’s (formerly known as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers) “30 Under 30” list for his work in manufacturing engineering. He was nominated for that list by his long-time professor and mentor, Dr. David Wells.
“I knew Andy was something special when he came to me after sophomore year, and said, ‘Is it okay if I start my own company?'” Dr. Wells said. “That I get to mentor these youngsters and watch them grow… it’s a pure delight.”
It was after his nomination in this list that Forbes reached out and asked him to apply for their list, last Fall. Andy then underwent a series of interviews, before a long waiting period. In fact it was so long , that the e-mail arriving on Monday, Jan. 4 came as a total surprise.
Dr. Wells and Andy made the announcement together at 1 Million Cups Fargo, on Jan. 7.
While the recognition and credibility-boost of making the list is invaluable, the true victory will come once the Bone Project is completed and in use, Andy said.
“I’ll have a big grin on my face when we get a testimonial that this product helped to save a life,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll be satisfied until then. I got on this list – but I wont be satisfied until I can hold something in my hand and say, you have helped someone.”
Contact Andy at email@example.com.
Photos courtest of Advanced Bone Technology.