Brittany Moseley | March 28, 2017
Two Case Western Reserve students took home top honors at this year’s South By Southwest Student Startup Madness competition.
Junior aerospace and mechanical engineering major Xyla Foxlin placed second with her company, Parihug. The company makes teddy bears that allow people to virtually send hugs to others through an app. Reflexion Interactive Technologies, a company co-founded by sophomore computer engineering major Matthew Campagna, took home third place. The company created Reflexion Edge, a device that can screen for a concussion in 30 seconds.
"An athlete stands in front of the Reflexion Edge and simply interacts with light patterns for 30 seconds. This is repeated weekly," Campagna explained. "During these tests, we simultaneously measure many cognitions that have been linked to concussions, and this allows us to detect mild concussions that were not picked up on the field." (Watch a demo of Reflexion Edge below.)
Parihug and Reflexion Interactive Technologies, along with first-place winner Chem 101 from Carnegie Mellon University, were chosen from more than 200 applicants.
Student Startup Madness was a great chance to tell our story on a stage with some great competition, but what we wanted to do was tell our story well and let people know what we are working on," Campagna said. "We did that and we are honored to have had the opportunity."
Campagna and two friends started the company while in high school in Pennsylvania. (The other co-founders, Matthew Roda and Patrick Walsh, attend Penn State University and Cornell University, respectively.) They became interested in concussion-screening technology after Roda suffered a severe concussion while playing ice hockey. The three quickly connected with Roda’s pediatrician, Dr. Harry Bramley of Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center.
After many discussions with Dr. Bramley and hours spent reading literature on traumatic brain injury, the team began work on a prototype. They were connected with Dr. Semyon Slobounov, Director of the Penn State Center for Sport Concussion. "He is a world-leading expert, and that’s kind of how it evolved," Campagna said. "The first prototype that we built is only vaguely reminiscent of what exists now."
When Campagna, Roda, and Walsh began college, their work on Reflexion didn’t stop. "We were in the process of navigating through [Penn State] to find the right principal investigator for our clinical study. We had a working prototype, and we were operating on a grand total of $3,000 in donations and some of our own money," Campagna said. "Since I have enrolled, and thanks in part to my experiences at CWRU and my cofounders’ experiences at their respective universities, we have raised $200,000 for product development and clinical validation. That has allowed to transform our system from a massive 100-pound system with 60 discrete touch sensors and stimuli sources to the system we have now that has over 2,000 stimuli sources, is capable of full video, has touch screen interfaces, collapses into a duffle bag, and deploys in minutes."
Besides SXSW, the company has also exhibited at local competitions PITCH U and the Cleveland Medical Hackathon, as well as CES 2017, the annual Las Vegas trade show that draws companies, manufacturers, developers, and suppliers from around the world. "At CES we met countless parents of young athletes who loved our product, wanted it at their organizations, and gave us us support for our cause," Campagna said. "At SXSW we actually pitched on a stage twice: at Tech.Co's Startup Night and then at [Student Startup Madness]. After these events we met money people—investors and accelerator contacts—and we met people who wanted to join our team, advise us, mentor us, etc. CES was a huge media event for us where SXSW ended with some pretty stellar contacts."
Campagna and his co-founders plan to launch Reflexion into the market by the fall of 2018. As far as Campagna’s future plans, nothing is set in stone, but startups will likely be a part of it.
"I am a founder. I love to start with nothing, talk to as many people as it takes to learn what is necessary to reach an objective, and then just go until the goal is reached—and then keep going," he said. "I love building new technology, and I will undoubtedly work around startups for my entire career. In what capacity? Wherever it takes me."
To see a video of Reflexion Edge in action, click here.