Student innovation facilitates mobility | Pittwire
A multidisciplinary group of Pitt students helps people with reduced mobility live more independently.
Junior Isabella Stash of the College of Business Administration and juniors Grace O’Malley, Melody Whittaker and Joshua Zito of the Swanson School of Engineering invented JacketJoy, a device that makes putting on a jacket faster and easier for people with disabilities. mobility issues. Alums Ravi Gandhi and Amelia Wear (ENGR ’21) complete the team.
Their ingenuity recently led to becoming the first team of Pitt students to win a prize in the ACC InVenture Prize competition – a pitch competition involving teams from the 15 universities making up the Atlantic Coast Conference. JacketJoy won second place and $ 10,000.
The project has its origins in the classroom. In the Art of Making engineering class, students must identify a problem to solve for their synthesis project. With the help of the local Parkinson Foundation, the team at JacketJoy interviewed several people with Parkinson’s disease to learn more about the challenges they face. They found that putting on a jacket was difficult for many of those they interviewed.
A class apart
Discover other inventions with their origins in Joseph Samosky’s Art of Making course.
“We wanted to design a product that would help its users gain confidence and freedom. At the end of the course, we developed a prototype that was easy to use, discreet and effective, ”said Stash, who joined the team through a friendship with Gandhi, one of the co-founders of engineering students.
“Finding solutions to problems and being able to see them directly impacting people is a hard experience to match,” said O’Malley, one of the product designers.
The team also gained Pitt’s support along the way. After a first foray into the Randall Family Big Idea contest at the Big Idea Center with their first prototype, they entered the contest again last year in 2020, winning a prize of $ 15,000.
They then formed a company, Reachable Solutions, and launched their first product, the JacketJoy.
“We are grateful for all the support we have received. It’s hard to believe that this level of support for student entrepreneurs exists in too many universities, ”said O’Malley.
Stash said the Big Idea Center provided assistance to the team every step of the way and was thrilled when Reachable was selected to represent the University in the ACC competition.
“We were very proud to have the chance to represent Pitt among such a talented group of peers,” she said. “The most valuable part of the InVenture Award experience came from interacting with a group of like-minded and passionate people, all of whom are so invested in the work they do.”
The next step for the company is to focus on bringing two more products to market, for which the team has already filed for patent protection.
Reachable is a finalist to receive funding in the inaugural cohort of the Big Idea Advantage Fund. This fund, created with the support of alumni of the Swanson School of Engineering, is designed to help Pitt student innovation teams who are interested in seriously pursuing their ideas to accelerate their time to market.
The Big Idea Advantage Fund will provide investments of $ 10,000 to $ 25,000 for Pitt’s student innovation teams. In the future, similar prizes will be awarded in the fall and spring.
O’Malley said funding for the InVenture Prize competition and the Big Idea Advantage Fund, if selected, will provide capital to accelerate manufacturing and begin marketing efforts to reach caregivers and physiotherapy providers.
Stash said the entire team is committed to growing the business after graduating from Pitt.
“It’s a lot more than what he started out with. We are so passionate about this product because we can change people’s lives because of this product and the ones that are yet to come.