Wired In: Ethan Wisniewski

Wired In: Ethan Wisniewski

Each week, staff writer PAUL WOOD chats with a high-tech difference-maker. Meet ETHAN WISNIEWSKI, a student and Medical Device Design Engineer at Cast21. The company makes sleeves to replace traditional fiberglass casts. They are breathable, lightweight and inexpensive. Their open design means you can scratch your itch.

What's new with Cast21?

We are developing an exoskeleton pad to reduce the amount of heat that patients will experience during sleeve placement. Additionally, the pad will make wearing the exoskeleton more comfortable. We are also researching different methods of manufacturing.

What are some of the new ways to manufacture the device? Are you still using 3-D copiers?

We are using a proprietary method for creating the exoskeletons that involves a bag-like layer of stretchy material that slides over a patient's wrist. The bag-like layer is then filled with a liquid that hardens to the shape of the final design in just a few minutes.

How did you become involved with Cast21?

Cast21 was searching for a capable engineering student who could work well in team environments, so they sent out an email to the Materials Science department here at University of Illinois. I was really interested in the innovative approach that the email described, so I applied for the engineering intern position, interviewed, and was offered the position. That was during the fall semester of 2016, and I've been working with them to push the product to launch ever since.

Is the company growing? Does it still have a home at the UI?

The company is still growing. We are looking to hire one more full-time engineer to help finalize the design of the product. We still have a home here at the UI.

Who else is on the team?

Ashley Moy, the CEO; Andrew Steveson, a materials science PhD candidate; and Alex Mills, an advertising student. Andrew and I are working toward making the exoskeleton stronger and more comfortable, while Ashley and Alex are working the business side of the company.

What does Cast21 do that nobody else can do?

We create a breathable, lightweight exoskeleton that can be mass-manufactured, and can replace traditional fiberglass casts without paying more for the luxury. It's a less expensive, more effective product.

What interests you the most right now?

I'm interested in the technology and materials involved in creating more efficient solar cells, as well as the batteries that accompany the cells. The technology gets more mature every day, and it's always exciting to read new literature on the research.

Have you ever make any mistakes you've been able to learn from?

Spring semester, I was tasked with designing and building a prototyping machine. Certain parts of the project took much longer than expected. I quickly learned it's sometimes extremely hard to estimate the time it takes to design and build something.

Has Cast21 talked with any venture capitalists?

All the time. Because we're a startup, we talk with venture capitalists a lot. Before I was a part of the team, Cast21 literally made thousands of calls to venture capitalists.

TECH TIDBITS ... with ETHAN WISNIEWSKI

Do you have a favorite thing to follow on social media, or an app you really love? I like following Elon Musk on social media. His posts are always interesting, whether they are technology innovation updates or funny replies to someone.

Book or Tablet? What are you reading right now? I prefer books, although I tend to read off my iPad because it's more convenient. Right now, I'm reading the "Adventures of Sherlock Holmes."

Do you have any wearable electronics? I wear an Apple Watch.

Do you have an entrepreneur hero? Like many others, my entrepreneurial hero is Elon Musk. I admire that he earned hundreds of millions of dollars through Paypal and spends it to develop advanced technology and make it more accessible to the public.

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