keen robot

Benjamin Kolligs, left, talks to Ryan Ritchie about how a robot can make a pair of Keen Uneek sandals on Thursday at USU.

Oregon-based shoe company Keen Footwear visited Utah State University on Thursday with its traveling tour of the Uneekbot, the World’s Smallest Shoe Factory.

“We met representatives from Keen at the outdoor retailer show and they were gracious enough to bring their tour to Utah,” said Chase Anderson, program coordinator for USU’s Outdoor Product Design and Development.

The World’s Smallest Shoe Factory is an attraction from Keen that showcases the company’s ability to make footwear in seven minutes or less.

“We start in Oregon and we’ve traveled all across the country,” said Scott Owen, a representative from Keen who helps manage the tour. “We travel to the top design, engineering and business schools around the country and we plan to start attending music festivals soon.”

Owen said that the purpose of the tour is to meet with the “next generation of innovators” including students in USU’s outdoor product program .

“We wanted to come today to help the students prepare for the world of marketing and see how fun it is to be enveloped in products tailored to the outdoors,” Owen said.

The tour’s trailer parked all day between the Agricultural Science Building and Huntsman Hall for students to see the Uneekbot in action as well as to learn about Keen’s products and take advantage of photo-ops as well.

Later that day Owen dropped in on the college’s OPDD Industry Seminar class in Old Main.

“Our technology can build outdoor water sandals of any color and any size,” Owen said about the factory.

Students were able to watch as the robot-factory’s two “arms” pivoted and swiveled threading the laces through the shoe and attaching it to the sole with the ability to make eight shoes every hour.

Owen told students that Keen’s mission is to “utilize insight, creativity, exhaustive testing, state-of-the-art tools and long nights of hard work to defy convention, solve problems and bring great ideas to life.”

Anderson said he wanted students to have the opportunity to connect with a business that relates to their work.

“This just shows that there marketing is the most important part of selling a product,” said Chance Jensen, a student at USU. “Even if they have to bring the product and the factory to the consumer.”

The Uneekbot will continue with its cross-country tour as USU’s first graduating class of the Outdoor Product Design and Development program graduate.

“It’s pushing the boundaries on same-day manufacturing and production,” Owen said. “There’s jobs with business like this.”