Article: ‘Polar Case’ is Top Dog
Note: This article appeared in the Ruston Daily Leader on May 10, 2019.
Written by Caleb Daniel
When Carli Whitfield and her team of other Louisiana Tech University students won first place at the Top Dog New Venture Championship for their device that stores diabetes supplements and regulates their temperature, the victory hit close to home for Whitfield.
“My little brother, who’s 10 now, was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes when he was 17 months old,” she said. “Growing up with him having it, I was used to the struggles of carrying around a bag with all the supplies in it and making sure it’s always at the right temperature. I thought, ‘This is very annoying for us; there has to be a better way to do this.’”
So when the senior design class rolled around for Whitfield and fellow mechanical engineering majors Joseph Brunet, Arman Hajiesmaeili and Samuel Haskins, they decided to develop one of Whitfield’s many ideas to improve the lives of diabetics.
Joining with management/entrepreneurship major Brittney Walker, the team began fine-tuning the concept of “Polar Case,” an all-in-one device that holds the most important diabetic supplements in a compact, temperature controlled, inconspicuous unit.
After competing in the Top Dog Idea Pitch in October and a later preliminary round of the New Venture Championship, “Team Polar Case” presented their investment deck and business concept at the final competition on April 26, taking first and winning a total of $12,000.
“Right now there’s nothing on the market that can automatically control the temperature of a diabetic supply case,” Whitfield said. “That’s important because insulin is sensitive to temperature. Once your ice pack melts, if you’re outside, it’s vulnerable.
“Our case is electronically controlled with a temperature control unit we designed, and it takes the burden off the user so they know their supplies are always safe.”
Unlike previous events in which “Polar Case” did not place, the Top Dog New Venture Championship was judged by four regional business officials and did not feature a popular vote portion.
The team won $4,000 from event sponsors like Bulldog Entrepreneurs, the Center for Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, and the Innovation Enterprise Fund. Another $8,000 was invested by JUST BUSINESS, a giving circle comprised of Tech’s College of Business alumni and friends who pool financial resources and jointly decide how funds will be invested.
“Toward the end here we have our business plan together, and we have an initial proof-of-concept prototype,” Whitfield said. “After winning, the next step is patenting and making sure it’s optimized for the market.”
If all goes well, Whitfield said the team could put the “Polar Case” on the market as early as May 2020.
Brunet handled the brunt of the electrical and coding work for the prototype and is currently working on figuring out the best method for temperature regulation in the final model.
“I always wanted to be a business owner and do some kind of innovation,” he said. “But I didn’t know if it was going to happen or not. So this project kind of coming to life is a really exciting process for me.”
For Whitfield, the win was like a stamp of approval on one of the ideas she’s stewed on since childhood.
“I have a notebook full of ideas at home related to diabetes because I’ve experienced that problem firsthand,” she said. “After not placing in the Top Dog (Idea Pitch in the fall), coming to this point and actually winning was a really good feeling for me. The business is viable, and the product is useful.”
For more information on the competition and other winners, visit latech.edu/news.