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      Spotlight on Innovation: Blue Sky Designs

      Posted on October 21, 2011 at 2:56 PM

      This is part of a series, “Spotlight on Innovation,” featuring companies who will have exhibits in Innovation Hall at the Governor’s Job Summit next week.

      Dianne Goodwin founded Blue Sky Designs in Minneapolis in 1997, with the goal of designing innovative products to help people with disabilities. For the average Minnesotan, it is easy to take for granted some of the simplest joys of life, such as going camping, taking a fishing trip, or even using a computer. For those with disabilities, these activities pose many challenges. The products designed by Dianne and the team at Blue Sky Designs address these challenges and enable individuals with disabilities to lead rich lives. 

      With a background in rehabilitative engineering and product design prior to founding Blue Sky Designs, Dianne possessed a strong sense of ergonomics and universal design, or more simply put, “how to develop products that help people do what they want to do.” Blue Sky Designs first focused on developing custom designs for disabled individuals. These products were specially designed to serve one person’s very specific needs. In 2002, Blue Sky Designs transitioned into broader product development, shifting their focus to building commercially-available products with commonly sought benefits.

      It was in this time that Blue Sky Designs designed some of its more groundbreaking products.  These include an advanced wheelchair mount for laptops, cameras and reading stands, a wheelchair-accessible camping tent, and new technologies that assist in watercraft boarding. These products break down barriers, and put disabled people on an equal playing field.

      But not all of Blue Sky Design’s projects serve only those faced with disabilities and other restrictions. The Garden Rocker, introduced in 2002, is an ergonomic sitting support that can be used for gardening and other work that often has people bending over or kneeling for long periods of time. Upon its introduction, the product delighted gardeners of all ages for its ability to reduce needless stress on the knees and back.

      The inventive work of Blue Sky Designs has garnered the company numerous awards and grants, which have made its product innovations possible. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) grants from the Department of Education’s National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), The National Institute of Health, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in addition to grants from the Minnesota Inventor’s Network and the State of Minnesota Star Program locally, have given Dianne and her team opportunities to pursue the designs and products they feel passionate about.

      Blue Sky Designs will be present at the Innovation Hall of the Governor’s Job Summit at the St. Paul Crowne Plaza on October 25. With 14 years of experience as a small business in Minnesota, Blue Sky Design can offer invaluable insight in to the question of how to get Minnesota working again.