Rev’s summer Hardware Accelerator is in the middle of Sprint 3, the phase in which member teams work towards prototyping their product ideas. Teams are engaging in one-on-one work with mentors and technical instructors, as well as collecting insight from successful local hardware-based startups. As the teams work toward their final product concepts and prepare for Demo Day on August 11th, we’ll be sharing profiles of them and the story of their progress.
As September and the start of school approaches, parents across the nation will struggle to rouse their children and motivate them to carry out daily tasks in a timely manner. Hair will go unbrushed. Shoes will go untied. Beds will go unmade. It can be a real race against the clock – but no more.
In April 2016, MBA Candidate Zach Leidig heard his wife talk about the problems her niece had with time management, and he began to form an idea. He knew parents struggled to corral their children into chores, and he decided to create something that would make the process simpler: an smart clock that would allow parents to color parts of the clock to represent certain activities, which children and parents could also manage together. “The simplest explanation is that telling a child what to do and when to do it is actually pretty inefficient,” explains Zach. Young children can have difficulty wrapping their heads around abstract concepts of time. “But when you take those instructions and turn them into something concrete and visual, there’s some magic that happens.”
The team found that parents are currently combatting this problem through homemade, DIY crafts. “They take clocks and dismantle them and color in wedges of time, they do visual schedules and all sorts of things,” recalls Zach. “What we found was that there was this problem that exists for which parents were making their own solutions, and we thought we could make something better.”
Zach’s team mate is Kevin O’Brian, a Mechanical Engineering PhD student at Cornell whose engineering prowess complements Zach’s business acumen nicely. The two were introduced at Rev by Hardware Accelerator Program Director Ken Rother, who thought their respective skills set might make for an efficient business. The design of their product, which they’ve dubbed “Koala,” was inspired by Kevin’s work in the Organic Robotics Lab at Cornell. Working with Dr. Robert Shepherd, who runs the lab, introduced Kevin to the kinds of silicone rubber and foam that the Koala team uses in their product. “The materials we’re using are great for children, because instead of just looking at the clock, they can touch it,” says Kevin. “It’s a more tactile experience as they learn about time management and scheduling.”
The team has sent their summer designing the prototype and talking to potential customers, which they say has narrowed their target market to parents of children ages seven to thirteen. The Koala prototype will be introduced to customers in the coming months. “We couldn’t have done this with the Hardware Accelerator,” says Zach of his summer spent at Rev. “I could do customer development all day long on my own, but when it comes time to actually design something and make improvements on that design, that’s where the mentorship and tech instructors are critical.”
What’s scheduled for tomorrow? Zach and Kevin are looking to get into eLab at Cornell to continue developing their prototype. To see Koala in action, join us on August 11th for Demo Day. For more information about the Hardware Accelerator Program and its 2016 teams, click here.