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Helping Parkinson’s Patients Write Again

David Schatz-Mizrahi shares how the EDI program prepared him for his summer internship helping startup SteadyScrib develop its product to enable those with Parkinson’s uncontrollable tremors to once again write.

More than 10 million people worldwide struggle with tremors from Parkinson’s disease, yet there is no existing writing tool on the market specifically designed for those with the condition.

A startup created by two Northwestern students is seeking to change that — thanks in part to David Schatz-Mizrahi (EDI ‘24).

David Schatz-MizrahiNorthwestern undergraduate students Alexis Chan and Izzy Mokotoff founded SteadyScrib to design a pen for Parkinson’s patients whose uncontrollable tremors rob them of the ability to write. To help advance their mission, Chan and Mokotoff routinely post job opportunities through The Garage, a hub for emerging entrepreneurs at Northwestern.

That's how Schatz-Mizrahi first learned about the company.

“I had always wanted to be involved with a startup, and I was drawn to the hands-on and meaningful work at SteadyScrib,” he said.

Schatz-Mizrahi began working part-time with SteadyScrib in January 2023. For his summer internship, he shifted to full-time work, becoming the startup's director of design and manufacturing in the process. In that role, he was involved with product iteration and prototyping using computer-aided design (CAD), 3D printing, sheet metal fabrication, and laser cutting.

The opportunity was exactly what he was hoping for when he first chose EDI.

"EDI stood out as a program where you had the opportunity to explore a variety of interests and develop a versatile skill set while still focusing on a specific area for deeper expertise," he said. "My primary interest is physical product design, but I also wanted to expand my overall design knowledge in order to be able to bring diverse skills into my future design work."

Schatz-Mizrahi applied that knowledge to SteadyScrib, where he led a small team of engineers and met regularly with manufacturing and consulting partners to advance the design of the pen.

The pen has a weighted core to facilitate large, intentional movements. It comes with a wide, pliable grip that makes it easier for those with Parkinson’s to hold. The device works with a magnetic clipboard that helps stabilize movement from tremors and allows for legible writing from even those with advanced symptoms.

The plan is for it to launch in early 2024.

Working with SteadyScrib helped Schatz-Mizrahi appreciate design research and the significant role it plays in the design process, a lesson that was ingrained in him throughout his EDI experience.

That wasn't the only EDI lesson he applied at SteadyScrib.

"Many of our EDI projects require working in groups," he said. "One of the most important lessons I have learned is how to leverage the individual strengths of each team member in order to work efficiently and create the best end result possible."

Schatz-Mizrahi is on track to graduate around the same time as the SteadyScrib pen will launch. He was a consulting engineer before starting in EDI, and he's not sure whether he wants to return to consulting or remain working in the startup space. Whichever path he chooses, he knows he'll be better prepared thanks to EDI.

If he does decide to continue working with startups, he'll have valuable knowledge from his work with SteadyScrib.

"Working at a startup requires the ability to take on various roles and step into areas where you may lack knowledge or expertise," he said. "This requires a level of versatility, confidence, and the capacity to learn quickly and independently."  

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