UND grads make big leap with Boldmethod


David L. Dodds

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UND grads make big leap with Boldmethod

UND alums Colin Cutler and Aleks Udris, both former instructor pilots, are flying high in the aviation industry, but they're doing it with their feet planted firmly on the ground.

How? By changing the way the aviation industry — government and civilian — looks at training, certifying and recertifying the nation's pilots.

They're doing it with computers and software development, working with aviation manufacturers and organizations to create highly interactive, hands-on aviation training equipment. It's an area they admit they were no experts in at the beginning, when they were still students in the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences. Their computer know-how was largely self-taught and more of a hobby.

Cutler, a native of Clairmont, S.D., near Aberdeen; and Udris, from Denver, used an entrepreneurial spirit and inside knowledge of the aviation industry to overcome any tech-savvy shortcomings when they launched their business Boldmethod in early 2006. Today, Boldmethod is providing some of the most interactive, engaging training products in the industry.

And they're doing it from their home office in Grand Forks, inside the renovated downtown Depot Building on DeMers Avenue. Boldmethod also has a second location in Boulder, Colo.

Cutler and two other employees are based in the Grand Forks office, where the emphasis is on educational content and media development of the training products. Udris is a one-man show at the Boulder site, developing computer programming and Web-authoring software as well as collaborating with others in the heart of Boulder's tech-rich business district.

Both agree Grand Forks is a perfect location for Boldmethod with UND Aerospace and so many other local developments in the aviation field, including a burgeoning unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) industry.

In fact, Udris said UAS training software is something that Boldmethod already is involved in.

"Grand Forks has been a really great place for us to get started," he said.

Both Cutler and Udris grew up with aviation in their blood. Some of Cutler's fondest memories of his youth were flying around his native South Dakota with his grandpa pilot in a Piper J-3Cub airplane.

Udris grew up in an Air Force family and always dreamed of flying one day. He was a member of the Civil Air Patrol and was first licensed to fly when he was only 18.

Boldmethod employees have more than 7,000 combined flight hours to their credit.

Cutler and Udris met at UND and developed a friendship that would eventually lead to a business partnership involving their mutual interest in computers. One of their first projects involved creating cockpit training posters for UND Aerospace.

Udris said it grew from there, and eventually they were building modest computer-based training programs.

After short stints in the airline industry right out of UND — Cutler as a pilot and Udris in management — they migrated back to UND and took jobs as flight instructors.

That's when the college buddies once again pooled their collective computer skills and aviation interests to form a business. This time it would be Boldmethod.

But as chance would have it, their first real contract had nothing to do with aviation.

They were hired to develop a Web-based system to remotely monitor the health and integrity of oil pipelines' cathodic protection capabilities that guard against corrosion.

Next, they started working with the UND Aerospace Foundation, which provided valuable support to the fledgling company.

"For the past three years, everything we've done has centered on training," Udris said.

Their new and improved training software allows pilots, no matter the skill level, the ability to practice anytime, anywhere on platforms such as laptops, smart phones, iPads and other computer tablets.

The software mimics the control panels and lets pilots utilize touch-screen technology to press buttons and flip switch just as they would in the cockpit.

It allows pilots to quickly and easily learn new systems, procedures, techniques and changes to an aircraft in a hands-on manner. This kind of training typically has been done by studying two-dimensional schematic drawings.

"We allow students to move at their own speed," Cutler said. "It can be used in a classroom setting, but it doesn't have to happen there."

All of the company's initial success has involved working directly with other businesses and the U.S. Government, but now it's poised for another bold move to an even larger market.

"We are moving into the retail space, selling products that general aviation pilots can purchase and take home," Cutler said.

The Boldmethod proprietors say their time at UND and the support they received from the Aerospace Foundation and the Center of Innovation, in particular, gave them the confidence to push forward with their novel training concept.

"We would not have even gotten it off the ground had we not developed the concept at UND," Cutler said. "Every part of the University was like a great library that we could use to our advantage."

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