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9/22/11 02:40PM

USF ResearchOne: Skating Into Innovation

Part skateboard, part briefcase, a USF graduate highlights innovation and entrepreneurship with the Skatecase prototype. These and other inventions are part of USF's ResearchOne.

By Vickie Chachere

USF News

TAMPA, Fla. – Like many inventions, the Skatecase started out with an annoyance that needed a remedy.

Alexei Novitzky, then a University of South Florida graduate student and avid skateboarder, was tired of lugging his backpack and skateboard around campus and trying to juggle both to open classroom doors. The solution to this unwieldy problem first appeared to him in a dream: a skateboard that could be opened to reveal an interior capable of carrying a small laptop or other electronics, keys and a wallet.

So Novitzky - who holds an undergraduate degree in astrophysics and geology from the University of Colorado at Boulder and was nearing completion of a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at USF - went to work. A few prototypes and a patent application later, the Skatecase is ready to roll.

Since being granted patent-pending status this spring, the now-graduated Novitzky has been pursuing the development of the Skatecase as a passion. He’s handcrafted scores of copies of the Skatecase and toured the state showing skateboarders his invention.

Each Skatecase is made by hand – a process which take some eight hours each - the art and painting all done by Novitzky in his South Tampa home. But his vision for Skatecase is much bigger: the newest thing in action sports innovation.

The Skatecase will be one of many USF-nurtured inventions on display Thursday at ResearchOne, the university’s annual celebration of discovery and invention. (Click here for all events at ResearchOne). Already garnering attention from television reporters and retailers, the Skatecase project has turned out to be quite a ride for Novitzky.

Supporting himself with earnings working as a martial arts instructor while his invention takes root, Novitzky has a legion of longtime friends and family to help him out. One brother fetches material from a local fabric store for the interiors, while buddies since junior high help him build a half-pipe for a demonstration at ResearchOne.

His friends turned out on a hot day to film the first Skatecase video on campus and at the area’s iconic skate locale, Skatepark of Tampa, and they have appeared at skate events with it and even make their own homemade videos to expand the Skatecase’s exposure as well as his start-up business, Looshes Labs.

The Skatecase was born in Novitzky’s imagination, but it took the recognition of a world-class designer to get it on the road to reality.

In fall 2009, Novitzky was a student in a communication design class taught by visiting instructor Franco Lodato, the chief designer on the team that developed Motorola’s Razr phone who also has created memorable and award-winning designs for Ferrari and even Lego Bionicles.

“I brought the Skatecase to class hoping he would see it and notice it, actually I set it down right where he would walk so he had to notice it,” Novitzky recounts with a sheepish smile.

“He looked down at it, picked it up and said: Do you have a patent on this? Patent it now!”

Working with USF’s Office of Patents & Licensing, Novitzky submitted his patent application and was granted patent-pending status earlier this year. The final patent could take as long as two years to receive.

His mechanical engineering knowledge helped him design the Skatecase to be more than just a novelty: The Skatecase can hold more than 600 pounds and is constructed to withstand blows and protect the delicate contents inside.

Complete with trucks and wheels, the Skatecase sells for about $180. The Skatecase comes as a regular skateboard or as a long board, which are more popular with skaters who use boards to commute.

In the meantime, that allows Novitzky to begin pursuing Skatecase as a potential consumer product. He’s placed Skatecases for sale in local skate shops and has sold some to friends and acquaintances hoping the more they are seen, the more the skate community will want them.

Taking the Skatecase to the next level, though, is a big jump. It will cost an estimated $50,000 to have manufacturing molds made – and that means Novitzky is on the hunt for investors for Looshes Labs.

But everywhere he goes, he gets the same reaction: Skaters stop and stare.

“They want to ride it. They want to look inside it,” he said. “They all say that’s the coolest thing ever.”

Vickie Chachere can be reached at 813-974-6251.

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