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Invention Designed By Penn State Students Aims to Protect THON Dancers From Dehydration

by on February 21, 2014 12:00 PM

Dancing for 46-hours straight can be thirsty business.

Thousands of bodies moving and swaying to the beat in a warm, humid arena can be a nightmare - just ask somebody who recently saw their favorite performer in concert at the Bryce Jordan Center.

That's why Penn State electrical engineering student Matej Marjanovič, a co-founder of the first "smart" water bottle along with his brother Igor, is using THON as a test subject for the device he helped develop.

H2O-Pal monitors water intake through a non-intrusive device that attaches to the bottom of almost any size bottle. Utilizing Bluetooth, the puck-shaped device connects wirelessly to a smartphone where it keeps track of daily water intake and alerts the user when they need to drink water the most.

"A couple of weeks ago we spoke with a dancer at last year's THON and she told us that it can be very easy to forget to stay hydrated during the 46," says Marjanovič, who came to Penn State last year as an international student from Brezje, Slovenia, a small, rural town with fewer than 500 residents. "That's when we saw that H2O-Pal could really help the dancers."

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During THON, an emergency room and a training room staffed by a mix of volunteers and EMS personnel treat dancers suffering from dehydration and exhaustion, says public relations director Dana Giacobello.

To help alleviate the threat of dehydration and test H2O-Pal's use, Marjanovič says they are planning to hand out about 10 prototypes to dancers, and monitor their hydration throughout the event.

"Our goal is to help people build hydration habits that improve their health and overall physical and mental performance," says Marjanovič. "Since I started working on the project, I've heard many stories about dehydration and I've seen that it truly affects a broad range of people."

About a year and a half ago, Marjanovič experienced the problem firsthand. His mother came home after a full day of meetings one evening, and immediately passed out. She was quickly taken to a hospital, where she was treated for a case of severe dehydration.

"I saw that work and stress can make us forget to take proper care of ourselves so I started to look for a solution," Marjanovič says. "That is when the idea for H2O-Pal was born."

In addition to testing prototypes, anyone who pre-orders H2O-Pal at THON will receive a special offer, and 10% of all revenue will be donated to the Four Diamonds Fund.

"We feel strongly connected to other organizations whose purpose is increase the quality of life and bring joy to others," says Marjanovič.

C.J. Doon is a frequent contributor to Onward State and is a former intern. A Long Island native, Doon is studying print journalism at Penn State.
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