How many times have you seen groups of children walking into school hunched over with the weight of an overly heavy backpack and thought, “that can’t be good for their backs”? Or maybe you’ve been heading in to work with a bag packed with a laptop and multiple books and found your posture compromised with weight of the items. This creates a real problem, especially for children’s developing bodies, when they are expected to carry around an average of 18.4 pounds of books and homework in the sixth grade according to a New York Times Article.
Luckily two kids in this exact situation created a solve for this exact problem — saving the backs of other kids and adults with their invention the BackPal. Deja (age 22) and Canyon (age 19) Viau are siblings who began inventing this product when they just 11 and 9 years old. The BackPal is an insert that fits into any existing backpack that manages the weight of books and laptops while also providing organization. It’s perfect for students of any age as well as busy professionals.
Carrying extra weight in a backpack can cause damage to the joints and muscles across the entire back and the hips. These areas work to compensate for that weight, but they can’t sustain that strength over time and begin to degenerate, causing stiffness and loss of range of movement and which can lead to chronic back pain, compressed disks in the spine, neck pain and an altered posture and gait1. How can the BackPal help? It takes the weight of the contents of a backpack and distributes it closer to the center of the gravity and mass of the person wearing the backpack. This creates greater efficiency, which reduces stress on the body, the power required to carry the load, and damage to the body over time. Multiple pockets within the BackPal allow books of all sizes to be stored closer to the student's back, reducing the amount of compensation needed to overcome the addition of the load and stress on the neck and shoulders. The expandable straps on the BackPal create a counterweight and a vector that helps distribute the weight within the BackPal closer to the person’s back and center of mass.
The Viau siblings were surrounded by this problem every day and decided to come up with a solution. They created the prototype of what has now become the BackPal, and secured a utility patent, design patent and U.S. trademark for “BackPal”. They did all this while they were teenagers and were even highlighted in the Wall Street Journal. Their father, Mark, says it has been like an afterschool, teen MBA program for Deja and Canyon, developing skills such as how to pitch an idea to executives, conduct research and development and create marketing and consumer focus groups. Now Deja and Canyon are focused on distributing their products to retailers to get it in the hands of people that need back pain relief. They also enjoy mentoring other young and emerging inventors, helping to get their products and ideas developed and to the market.
The BackPal was discovered as part of the first-ever Staples Connect Breakthrough Project, designed to accelerate the path to market for small businesses and entrepreneurs by providing an opportunity to be featured in Staples Connect stores. Deja and Canyon’s invention advanced to the final stages and their father presented it in a virtual, face-to-face meeting with a Staples Connect buyer. The BackPal is now available at these Staples stores.
Staples will be reviewing products for consideration in their stores year-round that support working and learning.
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