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Smart Mail is a tabletop organizer for the kitchen/office designed by 8th grade Chicago Public School students, and built in Chicago.
271 backers pledged $13,519 to help bring this project to life.
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$13,519

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It's amazing!  Thanks to all of your support Smart Mail will be manufactured!  Now you get to decide how many will be made!  All additional funds will fulfill your pledge rewards and support running SEE8 at our school next year, and years to come!

So here's our story...

Lets start at the very beginning. About seven months ago we became part of a team made up of 50 students, the entire eighth grade 2014 class at Nettelhorst Elementary school in Chicago, called SEE8. With the help of professional and Northwestern University mentors, we had a spectacular experience learning and living real-world engineering and entrepreneurship!

To put it simply we were allowed to let our imaginations work together to invent, design, build and fund our own product.

That product is called Smart Mail!

What Is SEE8?

SEE is an acronym for a not-for-profit/volunteer organization called the Science and Entrepreneurship Exchange (SEE). It offers enriched curriculum for elementary and middle school students, focused on exposing young people like us to real-world design process, manufacturing, and entrepreneurship.

The “8” in SEE8 represents our grade, 8th (an awesome one by the way). SEE’s pilot programs have paired elementary and middle school students with university and professional mentors, bringing the real world into the classroom. Through research and teamwork, constructive failure, great mentorship, and pretty much everything else you’d find in a real-world start-up, we gained a basic understanding of some real design/engineering/entrepreneurship skills that will stick with us throughout our lives. Ultimately, our SEE8 experience has shown us that we can turn our ideas into products and be innovators and entrepreneurs!

Professional Mentors from Studio One Eleven kicked off our first SEE8 session.
Professional Mentors from Studio One Eleven kicked off our first SEE8 session.

The SEE8 2014 Challenge

At the beginning of SEE8, we were asked a question: How do you organize kitchen counter clutter? In order to answer this question, we had to pull it apart get to the bottom of what our mentors were asking us to figure out. We started by asking more questions. Some were: Whose problem is this? Whose clutter are we cleaning up? What do people normally use to organize their kitchen clutter? What kind of clutter are we cleaning?

To answer the questions we identified, we started to conduct research. Each team conducted desk and field research to gather as much information about kitchen clutter and other competitors on the market. With the data we gathered, we brainstormed hundreds of products ideas that could organize specific types of kitchen counter clutter. Then, we reviewed our ideas, combined some together, and refined our concepts to create the strongest.

We concluded the concept ideation phase when our entire grade and our mentors voted to narrow the field down to eight individual concepts and assigned a new team to each.

Our student feedback and voting process.
Our student feedback and voting process.

Then at the Beyond Design studios in Chicago, we had the opportunity to work with Professional Designers to further develop our concept ideas. We defined the physical dimensions of the product, created cardboard mock-ups (scale models), determined rough manufacturing costs, and developed customer personas.

We built our business and marketing plans with the help of a few very experienced Chicago entrepreneurs and business leaders including John Hoesley, Joe Born, Chris Bue, and Amanda Young.

Joe Born, CEO, Neuros Labs, and inventor of the SkipDoctor, gave us some great strategic advice.
Joe Born, CEO, Neuros Labs, and inventor of the SkipDoctor, gave us some great strategic advice.
John Hoesley, Silicon Valley Bank's Venture Capital and Private Equity Manager for the Midwest, weighed in on our business plans.
John Hoesley, Silicon Valley Bank's Venture Capital and Private Equity Manager for the Midwest, weighed in on our business plans.

Pitch Day!

By Pitch Day, our product concepts were fully developed and each team answered how their product specifically met the requirements we were given at the beginning of SEE8. We presented before a panel of judges at Catapult Chicago’s headquarters and pitched our product and business plans.

Our panel of judges included some of Chicago's most successful inventors, entrepreneurs, and design practitioners.
Our panel of judges included some of Chicago's most successful inventors, entrepreneurs, and design practitioners.

After careful deliberation, the judges based their decisions on well-made presentations, product design, profitability, target audience and future marketing possibilities. The judges chose Smart Mail as the product that would move forward to our Kickstarter Campaign.  And now, we are bringing it to you!

This was the hard part for the judges...choosing just one concept to move forward!
This was the hard part for the judges...choosing just one concept to move forward!

Smart Mail... Jot it. Dock it. Sort it.

Our original Smart Mail concept board.
Our original Smart Mail concept board.
An early cardboard mockup of Smart Mail helped us understand the size, proportions, and manufacturing processes.
An early cardboard mockup of Smart Mail helped us understand the size, proportions, and manufacturing processes.

If you need a place to see your tablet, organize your important kitchen/office stuff, and you love Chicago, Smart Mail is for you!  This tabletop organizer brings you less stress and Chicago pride.

Dimensions and Details

  • Made out of the sheet metal
  • 15.5 inches long
  • 5.25 inches tall
  • 5 inches in depth
  • The height with the skyline is 9 inches tall
Our cardboard mock-up in action.
Our cardboard mock-up in action.

Benefits of Smart Mail:

  • Props up your tablet for easy access. It can hold any tablet or phone you please to keep your hands free!
  • Organizes envelopes and other kinds of mail, paper, etc. The perfect place to keep all your important items. Less mess, less stress!
  • Holds pens, pencils, post-it notes, etc. This makes easy access for quick notes in the kitchen/office whenever you please.
  • Sleek design looks great on your counter or desk.  The unique Chicago skyline and neutral stainless color makes this perfect for any home or office setting.
  • Strong construction.  Made with durable stainless steel that is easy-to-clean when splatters happen.

We Need Your Support!

Throughout the SEE8 process, we learned teamwork, field and desk research, how to design and make products, how to estimate manufacturing costs, how to develop marketing presentations, how to give a killer pitch with our strong communication skills, and how to build our first Kickstarter campaign!  Plus, we were given something not many kids are able to experience, the chance to manufacture our own invention...but we need your help to make that happen.

SEE8 not only gives students a fun experience, it will help us later in life -- through high school, college and careers.  It gives us the confidence we need as individuals, so we can all become inventors! 

Your pledge will ensure that we will see our invention get manufactured…how cool is that!  All of the funds raised after manufacturing and shipping expenses are covered will go back into the program so the next 8th grade, and hopefully more 8th grades, can share this experience again. 

Please click on the green "Back This Project" button at the top of the page and help make our Smart Mail come to life!

Pledge Level Rewards

Pledge $25 and show your support with this commerative laser cut wooden key chain.
Pledge $25 and show your support with this commerative laser cut wooden key chain.
Your $40 pledge is rewarded with an original Smart Mail in stainless steel. (Prototype shown, actual Smart Mail will have a clean, smooth finish.)
Your $40 pledge is rewarded with an original Smart Mail in stainless steel. (Prototype shown, actual Smart Mail will have a clean, smooth finish.)
Thank you for your support!!! - Nettelhorst 8th Grade Class of 2014
Thank you for your support!!! - Nettelhorst 8th Grade Class of 2014

 Special Thanks To...

Our Design Partners: Studio One Eleven and Streng Design

Our Professional Mentors: Liam Hawry (Studio One Eleven), Dan Schaumann (Streng Design), Jason George (Clarity Consulting), Ross Bartels (Boom Designs), Jean Frater, Katie Ozamiz (Studio One Eleven), Nora Flood (Studio One Eleven), Greg Shanin (Shanin Group), Mike Casper (FLEx Lighting), Julie Casper (Herman Miller), and Tien Nguyen (Studio One Eleven)

Our Guest Professional Mentors: Michael Prince, Chris Stefko, Patrick Nally, & Trevis Kurz (Beyond Design, Inc.), John Bistolfo & Jon Skaggs (Bark Design), John Hoesley (Silicon Valley Bank), Joe Born (Neuros Technology), Chris Bue (MakerBiz), Amanda Young (Simplify Your Marketing), Scott Collins (Freeform), Sydney Minnis (LUNAR), Dana Cott (Studio One Eleven), and Matt Creed (Berlin Packaging)

Our Northwestern University Mentors: Colin Quinn, Jodi Schwartz, Pam Daniels, Kamyin Cheng, Brittany Murphy, Kate DeLaurentis, Olivia Ching, Morgan Williams, Kiley Coombe, and Halle Murray

Our Esteemed Panel of Pitch Day Judges:Joe Born (Founder/Chief Executive Officer, Neuros Labs), Geoff Trukenbrod (Chief Financial Officer, Obama for America; Financial management in biotech and private equity),April Lane (Executive Director, Catapult Chicago; Previously Associate Director, DePaul University Coleman Entrepreneurship Center), Mike Beltran (Co-founder, SEE; Director, Rapid Prototyping Lab; Northwestern University & Lecturer, Mechanical Engineering), and Karli Anderson (Business Development, Studio One Eleven)

Our Nettelhorst Principal: Cindy Wulbert

Our Nettelhorst 8th Grade Teachers: John Nieciak and Josh Marburger

Our Nettelhorst Parent Volunteers: Jessica Schwartz and Julie Lasin

Our SEE Volunteers:  Deb Decker, Melissa Porter, Ted Ganchiff, and Rachel Gross

Risks and challenges

We want to assure you that we have done our due diligence to minimize the engineering and manufacturing risks. We have already completed our prototype with the help of a Northwestern University Professor. We are working with a Chicago-based sheet metal fabrication shop to explore the most efficient production process. The powder coated units will be sent out to third party facility for finishing. Since the fabrication shop is local, we are able to keep a close eye on everything to ensure timely delivery.
The last hurdle is to obtain the funding needed to manufacture Smart Mail. We even have students from the SEE8 program ready to package and ship these products when the time comes!
Thank you so much for taking a look…and for your support!

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Support

  1. Select this reward

    Pledge $1 or more About $1

    Be a part of something truly great. A heartfelt thanks from the entire SEE8 student team…you are helping bring Smart Mail to life!

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    16 backers
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    Pledge $15 or more About $15

    A lovely, personalized “thank you” card from the SEE8 student team.

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    Ships to Only United States
    4 backers
    $

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  3. Select this reward

    Pledge $25 or more About $25

    A limited edition SEE8 2014 key chain, laser cut in wood featuring the Chicago Skyline detail.

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    8 backers
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  4. Select this reward

    Pledge $40 or more About $40

    An original Smart Mail, laser cut in stainless steel featuring the Chicago Skyline detail.

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    Ships to Only United States
    161 backers
    $

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  5. Select this reward

    Pledge $75 or more About $75

    An original Smart Mail (in stainless) for you, as well as one original Smart Mail (in stainless) donated to an 8th grade SEE8 student on your behalf.

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    Ships to Only United States
    42 backers
    $

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  6. Select this reward

    Pledge $100 or more About $100

    An original Smart Mail in your choice of a Nettelhorst school color: RED, BLACK or WHITE powder coated finish. If our project is funded, we will contact you for your selection.

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    19 backers
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Funding period

- (30 days)