by Katie Wheeler
One of my favorite things about Akron right now is the spirit of innovation that is spreading like wildfire throughout the city. There are more and more people stepping up to not only voice their big ideas, but to also have the courage to try them out. Akron needs doers. We need guts. We need people who recognize a need, or a way to make people’s lives better, and not only ask the tough question of “How do we solve this problem?”—but to actually act to make their solution a reality.
Daphne Fecheyr-Lippens, a fellow at the University of Akron, is a great example of a big thinker AND a doer in Akron. She grew up in Belgium in a family that worked primarily in the medical industry, and was pulled towards studying biotechnology because of that tradition. She quickly realized that biotech was too controlled for her, and the design she was learning went against nature instead of learning from it. Daphne was finishing her senior thesis when she heard Janine Benyus give a talk on the emerging field of biomimicry, and knew that it was the fit she had been looking for.
Biomimicry is a revolutionary way of problem-solving, and it’s a frontier on which Akron is at the forefront. The goal is to create a more sustainable way of solving human problems, by taking a look at how nature has been doing it for years, and mimicking it. Daphne is currently studying avian egg shells at the University of Akron to figure out how they reflect ultraviolet rays. By learning the mechanism that nature uses to protect birds developing in shells, she hopes to be able apply the same knowledge to create protection systems from solar radiation.
While working in the lab, Daphne came across another challenge. She was working on a nature-inspired PhD, but most of her time was being spent sitting behind a computer, and she started to develop back and neck pain. She and her boyfriend Mathias Ellegiers, an engineer, started looking into standing desks. After finding out how expensive they were, and how impractical a lot of them were, they decided to build their own. That got Daphne thinking, “Why do we sit to work in the first place?”
She put in some research and decided that the habit of sitting was formed in the classroom as children. After further investigation, she and Mathias learned that having children use a standing desk also improved attention and learning, as well as burn more calories. They decided to dive deeper into these issues. That’s when their company, Jaswig, was born.
Jaswig is less than a year old and is already gaining traction as a start-up company. It has three models of standing desks that can be used for any height allowing use by children as well as adults. Daphne, Mathias, and the rest of the Jaswig team are committed to helping children, but biomimicry has taught them to respect nature, so they are doing it in a sustainable way. The desks are made from natural materials, and they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, reducing the need for fasters and other materials.
Talking to Daphne, you can’t help but be inspired to take a look at your surroundings and make a difference. She says one of her favorite things about this area is that “anyone can be an entrepreneur—you just have to open your eyes.”
Seeing as how Jaswig is about to celebrate its first year and launch its own Kickstarter campaign, and considering how Daphne’s biomimicry research just earned her a speaking spot at TED Cleveland, I would say she would know of which she speaks.
Daphne can be reached at: Daphne@fecheyr.be or you can follow her on Twitter @DaFecheyr
For more information on Jaswig, visit their website jaswig.com or follow them on twitter @jaswighq