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Icy cold, right now

ice cubes with mint leaves

Photo: matteodestefano

In this day and age, when we want something, we want it now.

When I want to talk to my parents, I grab my iPhone and give them a call. When I want to find information, I type a search into Google. When I want to heat something up, I put it in the microwave.

When I want a cold drink, however, the solution is less clear. Unless I've taken the anticipatory steps to cool my desired drink in advance, I'm left with something lukewarm.

This is what inspired my team to develop the Polar Chiller. The concept - a device that uses proprietary technology to cool any canned or bottled beverage in less than a minute without water or ice - will save users time, money and space. And most importantly, it chills your drink of choice at the touch of a button.

Bryan Dunn, Willie Mendelson, Kelsey Kruse and Kevin Kreher

From left, Bryan Dunn '14, business lead for the Polar Chiller team; Willie Mendelson '14, engineering lead; Kelsey Kruse '16, marketing lead; and Kevin Kreher '16, electrical lead. Photo: University Communications Marketing. See larger image

The concept has come a long way since its birth as our team's engineering lead Willie Mendelson's class project for assistant professor Robert Shepard's Innovative Product Design course last fall. When our team first assembled in February, the vision was to create a device that would precisely cool and aerate wine poured by the glass. After debate, we strategically pivoted our idea to use similar technology with broader applications and quickly evolved into the Polar Chiller.

Our team pitched this new concept to a panel of judges at the Cornell Big Idea Competition. We were awarded first place in the for-profit track of the competition, providing us valuable exposure to potential investors in addition to further validation of our idea.

While we plan to market our device as a countertop appliance for consumers, we've leveraged the School of Hotel Administration's network to collaborate with professors and alumni to identify a number of commercial uses for rapid cooling technology. Whether it's for restaurants, hotels, catering services or supermarkets, our product has the potential to increase operational efficiency, expand beverage offerings and deliver energy savings, which could result in a quick return on investment. We're currently completing a case study with The Establishment, the student-run restaurant in Statler Hall, to prove the concept. At this stage, our team's priorities include perfecting our technology, securing patents and continuing the customer discovery process.

rendering of the Polar Chiller

A rendering of the Polar Chiller. Image: Provided.

As the business lead for the project, I've had the opportunity to collaborate with an impressive team of engineers: Willie Mendelson '14, Kelsey Kruse '16 and Kevin Kreher '16. Given my undergrad business background, it's been incredibly engaging to apply a layman's perspective to working through complex engineering challenges. Further, I've gained exposure to methodologies such as design thinking. This experience has been beneficial for my teammates, whose exposure to the hospitality applications for this product will continue to influence their development efforts.

As of mid May, our engineering team is focused on finalizing our first prototype, using $7,000 in grant and prize money we received after placing second in the School of Materials Science & Engineering's Advanced Materials Enabled Innovation Competition. Our goal is to develop a prototype by the end of the summer that matches our calculations to cool a beverage to near freezing in under 60 seconds.

Should all go as planned, you can expect to see our product on crowdfunding websites early next year.

Bryan Dunn '14 is a student in the School of Hotel Administration.

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