During last summer’s Invent@SU program, the Sweatration team identified a problem: “80% of NCAA athletes had suffered from dehydration.” Paul Franco ‘22, Zach Stahl ‘23, and Anthony Mazzacane ‘24 put their heads together to come up with a solution. The trio invented a wearable hydration status monitor that can be worn on your wrist, head, or wherever else you sweat, and can notify you when you are becoming dehydrated.
The team comes from different academic backgrounds. Paul is a Physics major in Arts and Sciences; Zach is an Aerospace Engineering major and Computer Science minor in the College of Engineering and Computer Science; and Anthony is a Computer Science and Mathematics dual major in the College of Arts and Sciences and College of Engineering and Computer Science.
Franco recalls the start of the summer Invent@SU accelerator program as going by quickly and being a whirlwind of ideation. The first two days were hectic as students had to come up with their concept to work on prototyping over the next six weeks.
The team initially considered how to tackle heat stroke using just a wearable device on the skin. However, as they researched the science of body heat and dehydration, they realized that tracking internal body temperature wasn’t accurate with a wearable device on the skin. Undaunted, the team did not give up. It took a step back and pivoted – the hallmark of smart innovators.
By narrowing their research and drilling deeper, they realized that dehydration is a symptom of heat stroke and Mazzacane soon found a study which revealed that sodium ion spikes translate to higher levels of dehydration. That finding was the light at the end of the tunnel which they pursued with vigor. If they could invent a way to monitor that spike in sodium ion conductivity, then they knew they were on the right path.
The trio worked with determination and resilience throughout the six-week program. In the program’s fifth week, they competed in a trial presentation run with the opportunity to win a cash prize. The team placed lower than they had hoped, and Stahl said that they felt “a fire was lit under them” to persevere.
The next day, they went right to work and finalized their initial prototype. Prior to the final demonstration, the three students proved that this device could accurately track when an athlete reached levels of dehydration. They continued to research. The listened to feedback by guest evaluators. They worked with peer mentors and staff of the LaunchPad to refine their thought process and focus. They continued to work off hard data to support their findings.
They kept learning and iterating. They welcomed coaching and subject matter expertise. They did user discovery and testing. They fabricated a working prototype that Zach used to test their theories based on solid research. It worked.
Sweatration proceeded to walk away with Invent@SU’s top prize.
While reflecting upon their experience, Franco noted that entrepreneurship is “the best way to reward yourself for having a great idea” and valued the lessons he learned “by seeing it through.” Additionally, entrepreneurship “gives you the opportunity to be your own boss and have a lot of control over your career and the projects you undertake.”
Mazzacane added that compared to working for someone else, entrepreneurship means that “you have to figure out your own direction, which is more work, but you have greater freedom of choice.”
This week, they will be competing again for top prizes in ‘Cuse Tank, sponsored by the Blackstone LaunchPad at Syracuse University. This fall they’ve continued to work on their idea with the LaunchPad staff and its network subject matter experts, alumni and peer mentors, along with the assistance of the LaunchPad’s talented student team. They are working on their IP roadmap and exploring the FDA landscape with the help of the College of Law’s Innovation Law Center. Their goal is creating a more sophisticated working prototype to get to full proof of concept, work with a professional design firm to finalize the hardware, create a functioning iOS app with an experienced UX team, and finalize their patent.
Franco, Stahl, and Mazzacane highly recommends the Invent@SU program and firmly believe that more students should apply for it. Stahl notes that it provides a huge advantage for any engineer with entrepreneurial ambitions by forcing them to step outside of their comfort zone. Public speaking might not always be at the forefront of a STEM education and the opportunity to pitch in front of seasoned industry veterans—such as Bill Allyn, retired CEO of Welch Allyn (now Hillrom / Baxter) —is an incredible opportunity to refine one’s communication skills.
After achieving tech execution during Invent@SU, Sweatration now has a working prototype. They will continue focusing on product refinements in order to bring it to market. Additionally, they will participate in business pitch competitions this year working with the LaunchPad, refine their business model, expand the team, and eventually beta test the device with athletes as the last testing stage prior to a commercial launch. They are currently looking for help with industrial design, graphic design, general business, and intellectual property.
If you’re interested in joining their team, reach out to them through the LaunchPad: LaunchPad@syr.edu or come see them October 8 at ‘Cuse Tank in Bird Library.
Story by LaunchPad Global Fellow Selim Dangoor ’23; photo by LaunchPad staff