If you ask most people, they'd tell you there's nothing wrong with the standard classroom set-up of a blackboard and chalk, or a whiteboard and dry-erase markers. Nicholas DePorzio isn't most people, though. At Northeastern University's Husky Startup Challenge Demo Day, he took home first prize for KrystalBoard, a liquid crystal-based writing board. His early prototype takes a few cues from Boogie Board's line of scratch pads. Functionally, they're almost identical: use a stylus to scratch your message into the panel then, when you're done, simply press a button to erase it. What DePorzio believes sets his creation apart is the ability to scale to much larger sizes. His first prototype, tossed together in just six weeks, certainly has some rough edges (literally, the stand is made from roughly cut cardboard boxes). But, with a different selection of liquid crystal panels, the hope is that high-contrast classroom-sized KrystalBoards are well within his reach.
The first iteration uses a nine-volt battery to force the crystals to reorient themselves and wipe out any missives, but DePorzio is confident that a small solar panel (like the one on your 99-cent calculator) will have more than enough juice to "power" a much larger model. And "power" is a relative term, since technically there's no electricity coursing through the single-crystal panels. The goal is to save time and money by doing away with erasers, chalk, markers and other disposable supplies. The Northeastern student even believes he can get the cost of materials below that of a standard whiteboard or blackboard, but only time will tell on that one. Though, taking home a large novelty check should give the fledgling company a good head start.
KrystalBoard hands-onSee all photos