30 Under 30: Cody Leuck
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Cody Leuck has already won enough awards to stress a mantelpiece. The 23-year-old has taken First Prize in the Center for Entrepreneurship’s 2010 business concept competition, helped to lead his school—California State University, Chico—SME chapter to Grand Prizes in SME’s Collegiate Manufacturing Challenge at AeroDef in 2011 and at WESTEC in 2012, and won the SME Education Foundation Reality Redesigned contest in 2012. In May he was awarded his diploma from CSU-Chico, where he majored in Sustainable Manufacturing with a minor in Managing for Sustainability.
“What I like about manufacturing is how all of the incremental steps, those small, painstaking efforts, can result in a fantastic finished product,” he said. “It’s very satisfying.”
Cody has a lot of good memories to go with his awards. He served as VP and then president of CSU-Chico’s SME chapter and is proud of those back-to-back Manufacturing Challenge victories. “CSU-Chico doesn’t have as large or as well-known of a program as some of the schools we competed with,” he noted, “so we definitely thought of ourselves as underdogs going in. To be able to score as well as we did both years felt like ‘come-from-behind’ victories.”
His winning Reality Redesigned project, the Thompson-to-I-Beam Adapter, is a bicycle component that combines a Thompson-style seat post with an I-Beam rail system allowing greater adjustability and strength, explained Cody. As shown on Edge Factor, the contest judges liked what they saw. One judge, Mike Montgomery, said that “I would definitely put it on my bike tomorrow.” Another judge, Dennis Paulsen of Straitline Components, called it “a really great idea” that “we could start making almost tomorrow” if it was one of their products.
It’s no accident that the project was a bicycle component: Cody has always been fascinated by bikes, cars, skateboards and “anything with wheels,” and this fascination was one of the things that led him toward a future in manufacturing. As a teenager, Cody and his friend Sven spent most of their free time after school building skateboards. They started with conventional laminated wood materials, but moved to experimenting with different resins and plastics. Years later, in 2010, Sven dug one of these handmade boards out of his garage and used it to get around his school, and its novel design construction drew interest from other skaters. The result: the founding—by Cody, Sven and two others—of Jelly Skateboards, maker of the board designed to combine “the flex of a snowboard with the flow of a surfboard.” The small business continues today, helmed by Sven.
Between the skateboard startup and the award-winning bicycle component, one might guess that Cody’s career goals would have to include making devices with wheels. But that’s not necessarily so. “As an intern for over a year for Swift Engineering (San Clemente, CA), I had the opportunity to do a lot of work with composites for aerospace projects,” Cody explained. “Now I could just as easily imagine myself working in aerospace & defense as in motorsports.” Indeed, given his strong background, it would seem the sky’s the limit for Cody Leuck. ME