May 21, 2020

Capstone engineering student project leads to germ-fighting duffel bag

California-based clean clothing technology got its start at UCalgary

The same pandemic that prevented Schulich School of Engineering students from showing off their final design projects in 2020 may help to shine the spotlight on a germ-killing capstone solution from the past.

It was 2015 when Aram Razouki, BSc (Eng)'15, led his Capstone Design Fair team at the University of Calgary in building the first DRESSFRESH, an appliance with the goal of using “ionic refreshment” to quickly clean dirty clothes without the need for the usual water and detergent.

The engineering students' novel answer to having no clean shirt for class even caught the attention of local media, with Razouki telling the Calgary Herald, “There should be something that makes it easy for you to have your clothing be fresh and ready to go.”

Clean clothes quest continues in 2020

Five years later, Razouki’s goal remains the same — and DRESSFRESH, now based in California, is about to launch an international Kickstarter campaign for a clothes-cleaning duffel bag originally aimed at the sporting set, but now a potential boon to anyone concerned about germs.

“Simply place your items inside the bag, select a cycle from our phone app, and with just the push of a button, our system KILLS viruses, bacteria, fungus and odors on your gear inside, with no water and no chemicals,” reads the company website.

The COVID-19 question

The natural question in 2020: Does that include COVID-19, the virus that’s forced an infection-wary planet into social isolation?

Speaking from his office in San Diego, Razouki admits the company has yet to conduct specific tests for the novel coronavirus, simply because getting laboratory samples of COVID-19 is no easy feat.

But the engineering graduate says he expects the patent-pending technology, where air inside the duffel bag is supercharged with electricity to create an ion-rich environment, will almost completely eradicate the COVID-19 virus in clothing, just as it has in previous tests on other bacteria and viruses.

“Our technology is effective against all types of germs, including viruses, but we haven’t done specific lab testing on COVID-19 simply because we can’t obtain it,” explains Razouki.

Capstone requirement was the inspiration

Five years ago, Razouki saw the device as an interesting way to fulfill his requirement for a capstone project, when Schulich students use four years of accumulated knowledge and skill study to solve an engineering problem before showing off the results to judges at a public design fair.

“It started as my capstone design project, and it’s basically been a continuation of that idea and that technology since I graduated,” says Razouki.

He’s even enlisted a fellow UCalgary graduate as a business partner, with Alan Razoky, BSc‘96, BComm‘99, serving as the company's chief business officer, overseeing financial and marketing activities.

Kickstarter timing taps into germ-wary era

Razouki already had high hopes for the DRESSFRESH duffel bag, when it is launched on Kickstarter next month. And that was before COVID-19 turned most people into overnight germaphobes.

“It’s crazy how the timing of all of this is working out. I couldn’t have imagined any of this,” he says.

Engineering turns dreams into reality

Dr. Hamid Zareipour, PhD, works directly with Schulich engineering students to make their final projects succeed, and he says Razouki's continued research on his vision is exactly what capstone is all about.

"This is the result of hard work and passion for putting engineering knowledge to practical use from the side of the student, and an accommodating environment within the school that gives the students the freedom to pursue their dreams while fulfilling their degree requirement," explains Zareipour, professor of electrical and computer engineering.

"Schulich School of Engineering is committed to support student entrepreneurship through several initiatives, including the capstone course, embedded entrepreneurial training, the Launchpad and entrepreneurial partnerships."