Jerry the Bear Goes to Washington

Education Robotics
Jerry the Bear Goes to Washington
The Sproutel Team: Brian Oley (Android Developer), Hannah Chung (Co-founder + CCO), Aaron Horowitz (Co-founder + CEO), Joel Schwartz (VP Of Product), Andrew Berkowitz (VP Of Engineering) image via Sproutel

Sproutel‘s co-founders Hannah Chung and Aaron Horowitz are bringing Jerry the Bear to the White House Maker Faire. Jerry, an adorable teddy bear packed with sensors that uses interactive objects and touch screen games to help kids monitor glucose and use insulin.

Sproutel is also actively pursuing unique user interface approach, as documented in their Manifesto, “Technology should be intuitive, with little departure from how we expect things to work. This can only occur if we build off of existing behaviors. Interfaces should be second nature, not secondary to nature.”

“Food” cards that determine how much insulin Jerry needs for what he’s eaten. See the video at the bottom of the post for more on how to take care of Jerry. Photo  Anna Kaziunas France

When Sproutel participated in the Betaspring’s full immersion 13-week startup accelerator program for technology and design entrepreneurs in 2012 in Providence, RI, Horowitz and Chung and were a team of two. In 2014, they have grown to a rapidly expanding team of five and Chung was named one of “15 Women to Watch” by Inc. Magazine.

Image via Sproutel

Jerry is not just a toy, he is a companion, a personal robot — similar to Intel’s 3D printed robot, Jimmy. As the Sproutel site claims, “We are starting the personal robot revolution”.

At Sproutel we make toys that help children newly diagnosed with a chronic illness learn and cope through play! … We use a combination of embedded hardware, AI, and accompanying software to guide children through the difficult process of mastering their disease.  Our first product Jerry the Bear enables children with diabetes to learn compliant behaviors through play and become empowered throughout their lives. – via Betaspring

Horowitz speaks frequently about Jerry, including at Make‘s Hardware Innovation Workshop, and has been interviewed in numerous publications from the Huffington Post to Sparkfun. Chung also co-founded Design for America, and wants to leverage design to foster creativity in technology.

Initial Production Hardware for Jerry

Jerry and Sproutel’s future looks bright. As reported by DC Dension in the Maker Pro Newsletter on February 28, 2014, “Sproutel has manufactured and sold out its first production run of 250 bears, representing roughly 2% of children diagnosed with type 1 diabetes each year in the US… The next production run, 500 bears, is one month away.” See the newsletter more great tips from Aaron and lessons learned from their rounds of prototyping their first product.

Our East Coast Make: office is in Providence, RI, in the same building as the Sproutel office. Late one night I came in to find Horowitz and Sproutel volunteers assembling the first production run in the common room. Below are the photos I took that night and the subsequent day. There’s also some early Jerry enclosure molds. You can see Make: Books publisher Brian Jepson in one of them! – Anna Kaziunas France

Aaron and Hannah with an early Jerry prototype. Image via the Providence Monthly

“We are thrilled to have been invited to the White House Makerfaire to showcase Jerry the Bear,” says Horowitz. “To us it represents a great deal of validation and honor to be recognized as makers for what we’ve devoted the past 4.5 years of our lives toward.”

To close, I think Bill Robinson of the Huffington post put it best when he said:

Honestly, this is one of the most heart-warming, ‘doing well by doing good’ products I’ve ever encountered. Hannah, Aaron, Jerry and their collective mission simply touch me like very few have. And that makes me feel very good about humanity in general. – Bill Robinson, via The Huffington Post



President Obama is hosting the first-ever White House Maker Faire on June 18 to recognize the contributions of makers who bring creativity and technical ability to a broad range of projects. If you are a maker or a friend of makers, please become an advocate for expanding opportunities for making and makers in your community.

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Anna Kaziunas France is interested practical digital fabrication focused project documentation (anything that turns codes into things), as well as adventures in synthetic biology, biohacking, personal genomics and programmable materials.

She's currently working on the forthcoming book "Design for CNC: Practical Joinery Techniques, Projects, and Tips for CNC-routed Furniture".

She’s also the Academic Dean of the global Fab Academy program, the co-author of Getting Started with MakerBot and compiled the Make: 3D Printing book.

Formerly, she worked as an editor for Make: Books, was digital fabrication editor and skill builder section editor for Make: Magazine, and directed Make:'s 2015 and 2014 3D Printer Shootout testing events.

She likes things that are computer-controlled, parametric, and open— preferably all three.

Find her on her personal site, Twitter and Facebook.

View more articles by Anna Kaziunas France

Nathan Hurst is an editor at Make. He loves anything having to do with science or bicycling. He tweets as @nathanbhurst.

View more articles by Nathan Hurst


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