DALLAS (SMU) – Raleigh Dewan arrived at SMU weighed by personal experience with neurologic disease progression. After his grandmother was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, Dewan had witnessed the debilitating hand tremors that would not allow her to eat without spilling food everywhere, preventing her from enjoying with family the extravagant Southern dinners she lovingly prepared.
Now, SMU student partners Dewan and Mason Morland, and Emily Javedan, a Johns Hopkins student, are walking a creative and compassionate path as collaborators in a medical-tech startup named for its core product – SteadiSpoon™. It’s a self-stabilizing eating utensil that allows people suffering from disorders that cause shaking – such as Parkinson’s and essential tremors – to regain their ability to feed themselves with ease and dignity.
Their work has earned them thousands of dollars in seed money and invaluable mentoring at SMU, including through participation in 2021/22 Big iDeas Pitch and Business Plan Competitions, events that give undergraduates the opportunity to win financial support for socially conscious, problem-solving ventures.
SteadiSpoon™ was also just awarded a grant for $20,000 from VentureWell, which helps students advance their invention through a combination of funding, training, mentorship, and networking with peers and industry experts.
It is estimated that approximately 11 million Americans and 80 million people globally suffer from Parkinson’s or essential tremors. Disabling hand tremors can lead to depression, poor self-esteem and weight loss, all conditions that contribute to a patient’s decline.
“You know, for our entire team, this is not just an academic challenge, or a venture pushed to see if it could make money,” Morland said. “We really do feel that we are doing something good, and our efforts will change lives for the better. That recognition is a very big motivator – and a reward in itself.”
Dewan had grown up on film sets, watching his two older brothers – one a filmmaker and the other an actor – turn an idea into a script, a storyboard, and then into a movie. There, he’d also developed a fascination for the massive cameras that swung silently on motion-canceling gimbal joints to smoothly capture the exciting action scenes. Contemplating his 95-pound grandmother’s trembling hands, he wondered if this stabilizing film technology on a micro-scale might offer a pathway to create a spoon that stayed steady.
Pursuing marketing and creative writing degrees at SMU, Dewan began to research Parkinson’s disease and available eating-assist devices. He found weighted spoons with heavy handles and some motorized versions already on the market but saw them as prohibitively expensive and of limited efficacy. He began thinking about an affordable, mechanical solution that would solve tremors, and his first ideation of SteadiSpoon™ was developed in the entrepreneurship class of Simon Mak, professor of practice at SMU’s Cox School of Business. READ MORE