From Prototype to Purpose: ReelFree’s Mission to Enhance Elderly Care

 East Lansing, MI – When Alexander and Austin Pollock were growing up, their grandfather, a Michigan State alum, took them to Grandparents University. Though they could not have known it then, their grandfather was not only steering them towards attending his alma mater but years later, he became the inspiration for a company they created at MSU to help other people.  

Upon entering hospice a few years ago, their grandfather experienced multiple falls, some of which sent him to the hospital. The problem was his oxygen tubing.  

“When he was struggling with his mobility and the long tubing, we wanted to create a solution for him because there wasn’t anything on the market,” Austin said. “Our grandfather used to teach us how to woodwork when we were little kids, so he inspired us to create things from a young age. We started with 3D printing and coming up with different prototypes for him to test and use.”  

Powered by an easy-to-use one-button remote, their device acts similarly to an automated garden hose by reeling in up to 50 feet of oxygen tubing. When the Pollock brothers first started on the project, their goal was simply to help their grandfather. However, after posting a video of their device on LinkedIn, it got 300,000 views in one week.  

“The response kind of blew us out of the water,” Austin said. “We were very surprised by it. We just posted the video to see if anyone had any advice or ideas for making the next prototype.”  

At that point, the brothers realized there was a demand for their medical device, and their company, ReelFree, was born. Convinced that oxygen tubing currently on the market is a fall risk to older adults, the Pollock brothers sought help from MSU’s Burgess Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The Burgess Institute works with students on venture creation programs and has helped create more than 800 startups to date.   

“We have a discovery phase – that’s when students first come to us, just raise their hand and say, ‘I have an idea,’” said Paul Jaques, Managing Director of Venture Creation. “We walk them through the process of building their business plan. When they get into the launch program, we have paid student interns who work with them on graphic design, web design, legal and marketing help — everything they need to get their idea out to market.”  

After helping them build their business model and business plan, Burgess also gave the Pollock brothers several grants to set up their entity and allow them to travel to competitions where they showcased their technology and won additional funds. So far, ReelFree has placed in eight student pitch competitions nationwide and earned about $85,000 in nondilutive winnings and grants.  

The Pollock brothers have also valued the opportunity to work with other young entrepreneurs and share ideas at the Burgess Institute.  

“Being immersed in that community of like-minded thinkers is very helpful because most people don’t really understand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur,” said Austin. “Being with other college students who have the same passion and are willing to take risks is definitely helpful.”  

Austin, who graduated from Michigan State with a degree in Mechanical Engineering in 2022, is now working on the company full-time while Alex finishes his Human Biology degree at MSU. While their grandfather unfortunately passed away in 2022 at the age of 84, the Pollock brothers have devoted themselves to getting their product to market to benefit people who need it. They are seeking FDA registration and hope to implement ReelFree technology in hospitals one day. Both credit the Burgess Institute for helping them launch their company.  

“We didn’t really have any idea how to even get started, and they taught us every single step of the way, from researching, market validation, how to pitch, giving us opportunities to go to different events,” Alex said. “And they continue to help us every single day as we go further and further into this journey.” 

Read more about the 2024 Innovation Celebration Award winners HERE.


About the MSU Innovation Center: 

The MSU Innovation Center is dedicated to fostering innovation, research commercialization, and entrepreneurial activities from the research and discovery happening across our campus every day. We act as the primary interface for researchers aiming to see their research applied to solving real-world problems and making the world a better place to live. We aim to empower faculty, researchers, and students within our community of scholars by providing them with the knowledge, skills, and opportunities to bring their discoveries to the forefront. Through strategic collaborations with the private sector, we aim to amplify the impact of faculty research and drive economic growth while positively impacting society. We foster mutually beneficial, long-term relationships with the private sector through corporate-sponsored research collaborations, technology licensing discussions, and support for faculty entrepreneurs to support the establishment of startup companies.   








Back To Top