We hope you enjoy our Storytelling Series highlighting the people, places, and organizations positively impacted by Erie’s local share gaming revenue. If you want to learn more about how ECGRA Grant Money Works in Erie County, check out our map here or dive into our annual report. If you are a member of the media and would like to discuss a story, please contact Kate Philips at 215-850-4647. If you have a general question, call 814-897-2690. 

January 6, 2017: ECGRA Grant Money Works for Advanced Manufacturing Collaborations

Posted on January 6th, 2017 at 8:48 AM
January 6, 2017: ECGRA Grant Money Works for Advanced Manufacturing Collaborations


ECGRA Grant Money Works
for Advanced Manufacturing Collaborations
Ignite Erie entrepreneur's invention soon to be in production 
To understand how innovation, collaboration, and advanced manufacturing are tied together in Erie, the LACE-N-LOCK is a good place to begin.
This success story started when Hank Graygo, 68, an Erie civil engineer, sketched out his invention on a restaurant placemat. His device, which has a provisional patent, uses an external key to automatically lace and tie shoes. Graygo drew up his idea after watching his wife, Betty, 67, struggle to tie her shoes after hip replacement surgery.
Soon after, Wesley Hall, 23, who runs the Innovation Commons Lab at Penn State Behrend, designed and produced a prototype for the LACE-N-LOCK on a BoXZY machine--a combination 3D printer, CNC router, and laser engraver. Hall adopted the prototyping for his senior design project.
“I personally made the push to work with Hank’s project because I saw it as an opportunity to really create something. He did not have a design yet and I saw it as a chance to invent something. This was really a rare case of a beginning-to-end project,” says Hall. 
Hall’s project also signals another type of beginning with an exciting end-- an effort to support and bolster advanced manufacturing in the Erie region by introducing high school students to the sophisticated technology of 3D printers. The BoXZY that Hall is using is one of three types of 3D printers that were donated in May to every Erie County high school, thanks to a $70,000 grant from the Ignite Erie Industry+University Business Acceleration Collaborative. The Collaborative’s partners are the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority, Penn State Behrend, and Mercyhurst University.
“My goal is to encourage kids to be innovative,” says Melanie Ford, director of Behrend’s Youth Education Outreach and Engineering K-12 Outreach Center.
Using 3D printing devices, young people can power their imaginations to create inventions like LACE-N-LOCK. But more than that, they can design and produce the prototype, becoming manufacturers of their own concepts as they learn that sharing ideas and working in teams are vital to an advanced culture.
Joel Johnson, 35, who invented the BoXZY with his brother Justin, 30, describes his machine as “an educational device” that not only encourages young people to become their own manufacturers but also inspires them to new levels of creativity.
“Kids are now switching over from the old television generation to the YouTube generation. They are actively creating their own projects and getting more sophisticated than the teachers can keep up with,” says Johnson, whose business is in Pittsburgh.
“The BoXZY can facilitate what they are already doing and bring their creative thoughts to reality," Johnson adds. “The simplest way I know to describe our machine is that it’s a make-anything, anywhere machine. Almost anything you imagine--you design it, you build it,” he says.” 
Up until now, if you chose to start a business, it would likely be one requiring “high effort, low investment,” such as construction, publishing, or a craft, Johnson says. "But manufacturing your own individual products wasn’t an option. Erie students are now learning how the BoXZY fills that gap." 
Meanwhile, Graygo’s goal is to start manufacturing the LACE-N-LOCK, still in the testing phase, in the spring.
"Pennsylvania State government is currently making decisions about the future of the gaming industry without advocacy or input from groups like ours and counties like ours. ECGRA will not stand for Erie County to lose these important economic development dollars. Join our efforts as we work with the Erie County delegation, staffers in Harrisburg, and the Assembly’s leadership to protect local share gaming revenue." 
-Perry Wood, ECGRA Executive Director
If you represent a nonprofit, local government, or economic development project that has received funding or if you are a resident who has attended a special event, enjoyed our Lead Assets, or has benefited from gaming revenue in some way, please message your legislators today. Contact information and template letters can be found at www.ECGRA.org/calltoaction.
 dianek@ECGRA.org | 814-897-2690 | 5340 Fryling Road, Suite 201, Erie, Pa.


An impact investing organization, ECGRA's mission is to empower the nonprofit sector, municipal governments, and economic development agencies to revitalize Erie County.  ECGRA is endowed with local share gaming revenue from the Commonwealth of Pennyslvania via the Horse Race Gaming Act.  Local share gaming revenue is as assessment of the licensed gambling industry in Pennsylvania.