What started as a Yale class project now has the potential to improve athlete training regimens.
Zoe Berg, Senior Photographer
Bulldog Repboxa new venture designed by Yale students to improve the way athletes track their workouts, received its first large-scale shipment of 500 units during the first week of November and is slated for official launch early next semester.
The product is intended to assist trainers by ensuring athletes maintain the correct posture when squatting and performing similar exercises. The original prototype – then called Squatbox – was built in “Introduction to Engineering, Innovation and Design”, a class where students complete projects for University clients.
“One of the clients was the strength coach for fitness, Thomas Newman, and he introduced us to the problem, where the coach needs to identify each time you do a proper squat,” Vincent Wilczynski, Vice Dean of the Yale School of Engineering & Applied Science and the director of the Yale Center for Engineering Innovation & Design, told the News.
With this problem in mind, a group of students designed a sensor that would detect the correct posture. The initial project was promising, and so after the first group of students from the first, Wilczynski asked another group to improve it in the next class.
“It seemed worth the effort, so we 3D printed about 50 here at CEID and, through the coach, sent them to his associates,” Wilczynski, who co-teach the course, told the News.
The group sent boxes to the Massachusetts State Police Academy, the Boston Red Sox, the Boise State football team and the University of Kentucky strength coach for beta testing. Encouraged by a successful first run and after incorporating some feedback, Wilczynski decided to reach out to Yale and CEID alumnus, Gordon McCambridge ’16. McCambridge’s company, Pivot, handles sourcing, design, manufacturing, assembly and small-scale testing. Another group of students worked with Pivot to design the final version of the product using injection molding and eventually shipped the first run of 500 units, which arrived the first week of November.
So far, the project has mainly focused on engineering and product design, but now, with the launch, the group plans to ramp up awareness and sales.
Wilczynski added that they plan to contact previous beta testers to see if they will support the final version, and if the initial run sells well, they plan to increase production to runs of 1,000.2 500 units or more.
The Bulldog Repbox project itself is the flagship project of Projects2Products, an initiative started by Wilczynski to promote engineering innovation at CEID. Its launch also represents part of Yale’s push toward greater support for entrepreneurship.
“This is an important part of the school’s strategic vision to create programs that create support for students to learn to become entrepreneurs. It gives students hands-on training in aspects of industrial design in manufacturing,” Dean Wilczynski told The News.
Anthony Belanger, director of athletic performance and student athlete innovation at Yale Athletics, says he’s been very impressed with the Repbox so far, having used it with a few of his athletes.
He explained that the group might run into challenges because the strength and conditioning field can be a bit skeptical of new products.
“It’s absolutely something that can be a success if you put the right energy into it,” Belanger said. “There’s always a lot of skepticism because a lot of athletics is based on production results. Sometimes there’s a bit of uncertainty until people see the benefits.
Current student team leader Urszula Solarz ’25 said the group is looking to grow its relationship with Yale and then expand to other regional gymnasiums.
“We’re barely in the top 10 schools for the number of startups we’ve started, or the amount of money we’ve raised, but we have to realize that we can define a specific type of Yale entrepreneur who is ready for the creativity of the 21st century and [doesn’t] just follow convention and really [brings] this interdisciplinary and very thoughtful nature that the Yalies have of our liberal arts curriculum,” said Ula.
She also said Yale has been very supportive, but suggested the University do more to provide students on the periphery of computer science and engineering with the tools they need to launch their own projects.