Summer camp dreams up massaging backpack

Elizabeth Madden

Michael Gromis ’13 embedded a set of massaging motors in a soft pad, attaching the entire piece to a simple Jansport backpack. Putting the hybrid on his back, he activated the motors. The ‘ssage Pack was born.

Gromis worked with four other students from Palo Alto, Kentucky and New York at University of Pennsylvania’s Management and Technology Summer Institute this summer to create what would become a patentable invention geared toward students suffering from stress and back pain caused by lugging heavy backpacks around, Gromis said.

“We realized that we are stressed out all time by [schoolwork],” Gromis said, “We needed to de-stress somehow, [so we thought] a massaging backpack would be awesome.”

The ‘ssage Pack, which was the only gadget created during the program to apply for a patent, was assembled by Gromis, while the other members of his team wrote a business plan for the product, Gromis said.

“We had one week to do all of this while still taking our classes,” Gromis said, “It was really difficult.”

The Management and Technology Summer Institute is a summer program for rising high school juniors and seniors who are interested in the field of engineering and business, according to their website. It is three weeks long, and culminates with the participants creating their own product and making a business model for it. Gromis’ interest in the field of engineering began at a young age, starting with K’nex blocks and Legos, he said.
“I’ve always loved building stuff,” he said, “I loved being able to take small pieces and arrange them to make something greater.”

Now, Gromis and his team have a provisional patent on the ‘ssage Pack, meaning that they have a one year protection their idea, Gromis said. They have one year to decide whether they want to apply for a non-provisional patent, which could be a very expensive process, Gromis said. The University of Pennsylvania is not involved with the patenting process of the ‘ssage Pack. Gromis and his team members pursued the patent independently.

“We are not sure if we are going to pursue it until the end,” he said. “It takes several thousands of dollars to hire a patent attorney to finish [the process], but we will see.”

Gromis hopes to pursue his interest in the engineering and business worlds as a career.

“I’m hoping that this is just the beginning of what is to come,” Gromis said.