Inventing a Legacy
By Joe Giesy
Since he was a child, the gears inside Mark Jensen’s head have been constantly rotating.
“It was really clear he had an engineering mind,” his father, David Jensen, said of his son who skipped eighth grade and had an associate’s degree before graduating high school.
As an adult, Mark Jensen is using that engineering mind to work with a completely different set of gears.
About 15 years ago, his father invented a lightweight, composite lattice pole structure called IsoTruss and, more recently, Mark Jensen invented a machine to braid and weave fibers into this structure that could potentially take the place of steel and wooden beams.
Mark Jensen said IsoTruss could also be used in the production of motor vehicles and airplanes as a cheaper, greener solution to current models because the design of the composites makes it lightweight and more fuel-efficient.
“It’s going to be lighter weight, it’s going to be stronger [and] the carbon footprint is going to be smaller,” Jensen said. “A lot of people try to pitch ‘green’ or whatever, but the product really is truly greener than a lot of things we use now.”
Along with Aaron Howcraft, co-creator of the machine, Mark Jensen has founded Altus Poles LLC and won many business competitions already. They partnered with a company called Novatek to maintain a home for their company and help buy machining supplies cheaper.
David Jensen, a professor at Brigham Young University, designed the IsoTruss structure when Mark Jensen was a child and now acts as an adviser for him in some of the business and invention competitions he entered before graduating from BYU last April.
“As his adviser, he’s the perfect student to work with because he’s responsible, he’s creative, he’s smart and he gets things done,” David Jensen said. “As his father, I’m very proud, and I’m very excited for what he’s doing with the IsoTruss, which is something I’ve devoted a lot of my life to.”
A deal between Altus Poles, BYU and Novatek allowed David Jensen to become a consultant for his son’s work. He said he enjoys working side-by-side with him and is proud he is the one who will make IsoTruss commercially available after years of frustration trying this same feat himself.
The machine is made up of a series of gears that rotate bobbins around an axis and switches that allow the bobbins to move from gear to gear, braiding them into the composite material that makes up the structure. The whole system is run by computer software Mark Jensen helped to develop.
Howcraft said Mark Jensen’s focus was always to make the business successful and they have both taken big risks to get the machine running and their company off the ground.
David Jensen said he is nervous for his son because he has seen companies fail, but he has high confidence in his son.
“When he says ‘I can do this,’ I know he’ll learn how to do it and do it right,” he said.