Rev Hardware Accelerator Team Designs Multifunctional Cat Carrier

Rev Hardware Accelerator Team Designs Multifunctional Cat Carrier

It’s no secret that people will go the distance when it comes to pampering their pets — human’s best friends deserve the best, after all. But the pet carrier has lagged in that department, evolving little, if at all, since its inception. Rev Hardware Accelerator team MeWow! is about to change that with its remake of the cat carrier. MeWow! is the pet project of Melissa Shaffmaster, who works as the Manager of Strategic Priority Communications at Cornell University. This summer she has taken on the project outside of her day job, participating in Rev’s Hardware Accelerator to create a multifunctional carrier.

Shaffmaster knew there had to be a better way to transport cats after seeing friends and family struggle. With some research, she discovered that, unlike dogs, who are pack animals, cats’ territorial nature makes them stressed by carrier devices because the unfamiliar boxes are used only for removing them from familiar spaces.

The MeWow! convertible cat carrier allows the cat to treat the carrier as a part of its territory, adjusting the design and incorporating the carrier into a part of the cat’s everyday environment. Since cats tend to utilize all of the spaces available to them, the carrier becomes more of a familiar cave, and less of a foreign object.

For Shaffmaster, developing the carrier was no easy task. It required her to quickly adapt to a new industry and learn new skills. Like other Hardware teams, she had to learn how to laser cut, 3-D print and sew materials.

In the seventh week of the Accelerator, soft materials expert and former Disney Imagineer Liz Woods visited the Hardware Accelerator to give the teams a lesson on using the new, state-of-the-art Toyota sewing machine in the Prototyping Shop. During the visit, Shaffmaster and Woods discussed material choice and integrating IoT with fabric. Woods demonstrated the specialized needles that would accommodate the nylon curve in MeWow’s design.

Sketch of MeWow!’s design and prototype components.

“Throughout the course of the program, my project morphed into something that would require 3D printing and the use of a sewing machine. The mentor team was able to bring in outside expertise to host a sewing workshop and get me [moving forward quickly,] on the right track,” said Shaffmaster.

Cornell staff members have the opportunity to take advantage of degree programs, special training, and other activities because of their positions at the Unviersity. This is the first time a Cornell employee has taken part in the Hardware Accelerator, one of many unique resources in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

Shaffmaster has an interesting perspective on Ithaca’s entrepreneurial ecosystem as both a participant creating MeWow! in the Hardware Accelerator and a storyteller in the communications office at Cornell. She said that working in the Accelerator has enhanced her ability to communicate what entrepreneurial ecosystems at Cornell do and what can come out of them.

“As part of University Communications, I have helped to communicate about Cornell’s many entrepreneurship programs, events and success stories. Having the opportunity to utilize these resources first-hand has given me an even greater appreciation for the many programs that any member of the Cornell or local communities can take advantage of,” said Shaffmaster.

“As a full-time staff member at Cornell, it was challenging to balance work and the Hardware Accelerator, but I’m glad I did it!” said Shaffmaster. “Going from a concept for a business idea to a fully functioning prototype in less than 11 weeks has been an exciting process that would have taken significantly longer without the resources and mentorship provided by the Hardware Accelerator team.”

Shaffmaster will me-wow the audience when she shows her prototype at the Hardware Accelerator Demo Day on August 10th. Her work to create a healthy home for cats will help with the continued creation of Ithaca’s thriving entrepreneurship community.

Natalie Grande