In 2009, four high school students at High Point Regional High School (Sussex, NJ) created the Pressure Sore Relief System (PSRS) and began an entrepreneurial journey. The PSRS is designed for use by bedridden patients who suffer from the chronic conditions associated with bed sores. The invention won first place at the 2009 national Technology Student Association (TSA) conference in Denver, Colorado in the Electronic Research and Experimentation category. In January 2012, the company founded by the students, No Gadget Too Complicated, learned it will receive a patent for its invention.
A senior TSA member in 2009, Anthony Turo, said the PSRS idea started out as a classroom assignment to use electronics to solve a real world problem. Following the national TSA conference, the volunteer judge for the event, Bob Witkow, a business owner in the Greater Denver area, suggested to them that their idea had the merit and depth deserving of a patent. “He was the one who actually planted the seed, and encouraged us to contact him,” said Brian Drelick, High Point Regional Technology Teacher and TSA advisor. They officially filed their formal patent application on March 31, 2010 with the US Trademark Office.
Mr. Witkow began mentoring the TSA team. With Bob's guidance from 2000 miles away, the group began a grass roots fundraising effort to get things moving. “While travelling on the east coast later that year, I visited Mr. Drelick’s class and did a half-hour presentation on submitting patent applications. The company had raised about $5,000 for expenses and I added $500. That was the best 500 bucks I have ever spent,” Mr. Witkow said.
“TSA student members, Anthony Turo, Kaitlyn Churchman, Brandon Negri and Matthew Garrera formed their own LLC (Limited Liability Company), No Gadget Too Complicated. The company opened bank accounts, and essentially began running a small business,” Mr. Drelick said. He went on to explain the extent of their efforts, “…they met with hospital CEO's, bed sore patients and nurses. They opened a line of networking, which included state senators, one of whom they eventually hired as their patent attorney.” The team made presentations to New Jersey Senators Steven Oroho and Mike Doherty. “Presenting in front of class is nothing compared to speaking in front of hospital administrators and state senators,” TSA student member Brandon Negri said.
The LLC contacted Covidien in the Boston, Massachusetts area to discuss a potential contract for rights to the invention. According to their corporate website, Covidien is a $10 billion global healthcare products leader dedicated to innovation and long-term growth. Now that the patent is approved, Covidien has first rights to purchase the idea for the product.
“This nearly three-year process has been quite difficult given that there is not much guidance available on this front from anywhere. From a teacher's perspective, this process has been terrific in regard to the real life lessons my students learned,” Mr. Drelick said. This experience has really taught me that even high school students can do anything as long as you put your mind to it,” Brandon said.
The No Gadget Too Complicated owners (two are currently sophomores in college and two are college freshman) have accessed the patent documentation via Google patents. “Google patents is great for students researching patents for possible inventions. Although everything must officially go through the US Patent and Trademark Office, Google Patents make relevant information so much easier and quicker to find,” said Mr. Drelick.
“The company owners communicate with each other often via email and they have begun to develop their business plan to get the original idea off the ground,” Mr. Drelick said. No Gadget Too Complicated hopes to scale up the project and work through the details of the business plan over spring break and throughout the summer. They hope have the plan underway by August 2012.
Brian Drelick credits Mr. Witkow with the much of the success of No Gadget Too Complicated. Mr. Witkow had served as a judge for a DECA (a CTSO with a focus on in marketing, finance, hospitality and management in high schools and colleges) conference since his daughter was a member in the Denver area. The local DECA advisor asked if he would be interested in volunteering to judge at the annual national TSA conference.
Witkow is the president of Westwood Marketing, LLC. Westwood studies high tech markets and helps small companies get off the ground and established companies to create new markets or divest in what’s not working. “Our company helped Intel see that they needed to get into the flash drive market. We make businesses succeed in high tech industries,” Mr. Witkow said.
“Within organizations like TSA is where I see kids doing great things. Whether it is DECA or TSA, my view is that activities that go beyond the traditional classroom are tremendous motivators. Participating in STEM competitions and activities outside the classroom is what makes the difference between kids who are motivated to create something like a social network and the kids who drop out of school.”
“Over my career, I’ve made clients billions of dollars. Compared to what these students have done following 5 minutes of my encouragement is many times more fulfilling.”
TSA is a national organization devoted exclusively to the needs of students interested in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). Open to young people enrolled in or who have completed technology education courses, TSA’s membership includes over 150,000 middle and high school students in 2,000 schools spanning 48 states. TSA partners with universities and other organizations to promote a variety of STEM competitions and opportunities for students and teachers. TSA is supported by educators, parents and business leaders who believe in the need for a technologically literate society. From engineers to business managers, our alumni credit TSA with a positive influence in their lives. Please contact Lynda Haitz for more information.