Alumnus invents Skatecase for student commuters
Published: Thursday, September 29, 2011
Updated: Thursday, September 29, 2011 03:09
One night, Alexei Novitzky dreamt he was walking down a street when a man wearing a black suit and sunglasses walked out of a building toward him. The peculiar man presented Novitzky with a contraption that soon became a reality: a skateboard briefcase.
He said he woke up Nov. 7, 2009, and immediately began building and completed the Skatecase that same day, a skateboard someone can put their valuables inside while they ride.
Novitzky, who graduated from USF last fall with a master's degree in engineering, said he was originally designing a folding skateboard to fit inside his backpack, but after this dream, decided a Skatecase would be more efficient for students.
"Skatecase was originally designed for school so you can put items in it — like composition books, pencils, wallet, keys, cell phone — and it has a shock-absorbent interior," he said. "I kept my laptop in it when I was a student and I still have the same laptop today."
Novitzky said he builds each board by hand using skateboard decks, latches, hinges, wood screws and other tools. A regular skateboard deck is made from seven veneers, or thin wood pieces, he said. A Skatecase is made from 28 veneers, which makes it thicker than a normal skateboard, but still allows riders to perform tricks.
Once shaping the wood is complete, Novitzky hand-paints and adds fabric to the interior.
"Each (board) takes about four to five hours (to paint) depending on how intricate I get," he said.
Peter Novitzky, 28, Alexei's brother, said he sees Alexei working on Skatecases every day for hours.
"He even tried to give himself Thursdays off from Skatecase, and I have not seen him take that day off," he said.
Since 2009, Alexei has sold 10 Skatecases, with more than half of his buyers college students, two at USF.
"I am reaching my target market," he said.
After showing Skatecase to his communications design professor, Franco Lodato, Alexei was put in contact with USF's Division of Patents and Licensing.
Thirteen days after his dream, Alexei filed for a non-provisional patent for the Skatecase. The patent is pending, he said, and he hopes to receive approval within three years, which is the usual amount of time to process a patent.
Alexei said he is confident his Skatecase is the first of its kind. When he searched for the idea, he said about 14 skateboards came up, but none could be opened and closed or had the ability to store items.
Alexei sells five different styles of boards — regular and old school skateboards, and three types of longboards. They cost $180.
Peter has helped his brother by promoting Skatecase through Facebook and local skateboarding events, as well as helping him during its initial creation.
"When (Alexei) came to me with the idea of making a Skatecase, I told him I would help him build one," Peter said. "While my brother is on Skatecase (during competitions), showing that you can do tricks on it, I have a table set up passing out fliers about Skatecase and people walking by could take a look at it."
Peter said he has experience in carpentry since he took technical theater classes in high school and college.
"After that first one, we made a couple others together, and then he just started (making) them all by himself," he said.
Peter said one time he encountered a 30-year-old lawyer who asked his wife to buy him a Skatecase for Christmas.
"It's the reactions from other people that make me believe it's a good product," he said.
Alexei said he has been invited to several skateboarding competitions because of Skatecase, like Grind for Life, an organization to help people with cancer, which hosted a competition three months ago in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.
Even though his patent is processing, he still feels discouraged at times.
"There's a moment every day where I ask myself, ‘Am I wasting my time?'" he said. "But you have to look past those feelings and keep trying."
Seeing his product put to use, Alexei often is able to do just that.
"I just think the Skatecase is cool," he said. "You might as well be able to ride a longboard Skatecase and not have a backpack with you."