ITHACA, N.Y. — A tool to help people avoid falling when they’ve lost sensation below their ankles, an easier way to pasteurize breast milk, and a way to make applying eye drops a pleasant experience. These were among the unique and innovative prototypes displayed at Rev: Ithaca Startup Works hardware showcase.

Rev: Ithaca Startup Works, located at 314 E. State St. in Downtown Ithaca, hosted its 5th annual Hardware Accelerator Demo Day on Thursday evening. The event featured 10 different prototypes designed for audiences ranging from people with peripheral neuropathy (weakness or numbness in the hands and feet), to mothers with young children, to people who need fresh water in foggy areas. About 50 people came to the open house and explored the array of invention prototypes on display.   

Ken Rother, director of the Hardware Accelerator program, said the program focuses on providing aspiring entrepreneurs with the resources necessary to transform their ideas for solving real-world problems into real-world solutions, prototypes, and then eventually successful products on the market. 

“We call it ‘from napkin to prototype’ because some people actually do start out with just a napkin,” Rother said. 

About 50 guests explored prototypes created by the summer accelerator teams. (J.T. Stone/Ithaca Voice)

Participants have access to Rev: Ithaca Startup Works’ state-of-the-art prototyping lab, which includes 3D printers, laser cutters and engravers, as well as bench and hand power tools. Throughout the 10-week summer program teams also listen to guest speakers and work with mentors who provide guidance in the areas of business and entrepreneurship including marketing research, designing and building a functioning and feasible prototype, and pitching product ideas to investors. Rother added that Demo Day gives participants the perfect opportunity to pitch their product ideas to people in the local market and to network with locals who may be interested in joining their startup.

“Rev’s Hardware Accelerator is a distinctive program, helping individuals empower not only themselves but their ideas through mentorship. Using the different practices and connections to develop their prototypes focused around customer needs, the program takes an initial thought and works to transform it into a desirable product,” Rother said.

This year the teams were comprised mostly of college students along with some graduates and graduate students, but the program also accepts high school students. Rother said the program is open to anyone interested in turning their ideas into innovative inventions to compete in the real-world market, but that there is an application process and everyone cannot always be admitted. He said this year they had the most submissions yet and decided to admit 10 total teams, the most the program has ever accepted. Rother added that those with an idea about the problem they want to help solve and who already have possible product solutions in mind are more likely to be selected.

The prototypes created by this year’s teams were diverse. One team realized vertical mesh can collect water from the air and are now turning it into an innovative method for producing fresh water in areas with limited resources. Another team questioned why equestrians have protections for their head and legs but not the spine, especially when falling off horses can lead to an emergency trip to the hospital, and molded a spinal cord protector that utilizes a combination of biomechanics and cutting-edge impact absorbing materials. 

Other teams this year focused on health and hygienics, including one that designed a toothbrush that would effectively brush and floss at the same time by using a small hole to squirt out water and push food from between teeth. Another developed a device to convert over-the-counter eye drops into a gentle mist that’s easier to apply, saving time and energy for parents and making applying eye drops a more relaxed experience.   

Until the products pitched Thursday become a reality, check out each team’s prototypes on Rev’s website. 

Featured image: Visitors viewing the prototype from the startup Mistifye, which converts over-the-counter eye drops into a gentle mist for easier application. Prototype developed by Reagan Jung, Jai Karnik, and Phoenix Romero. (J.T. Stone/Ithaca Voice)

J.T. Stone

J.T. Stone is a contributor for The Ithaca Voice and a 2020 graduate of Ithaca High School. Questions? Story tips? Email him at jt22stone@gmail.com.