ISU alumna creates foot-powered computer mouse
June 11, 2007
Today, Dental R.A.T.s are being used to keep dental patients’ mouths clean; tomorrow foot-operated Remote Access Terminals developed by 1987 Idaho State University dental-hygiene alumna Becky (Friesen) Logue may be used in a variety of settings to improve worker efficiency and maintain cleanliness. By using their feet in a new way, many technicians and workers can become more handy.
Logue, dental hygienist turned inventor and business entrepreneur, had it drilled into her as an undergraduate in ISU’s renowned dental-hygiene program to watch out for cross-contamination when working on a patient’s teeth. Then, she landed a job in a high-tech dental office, which required hygienists to do data entry as they were completing oral exams. This posed a dilemma for hygienists who were busy with both hand, and still needed to enter data into a computer in a timely manner, without bringing germs from a keyboard back to a patient’s mouth.
“Basically, I was working as a hygienist in a really high-tech office, but I had to have somebody help me all the time with data entry so I could keep my hands sterile going back and forth from the mouse to the patient,” said Logue, who now lives in Meridian and operates her business out of the Boise State University Technology and Entrepreneurial Center in Nampa. “I was always frustrated waiting for someone else to come help me. I tried voice-recognition software, but it didn’t work in a dental office, so I tried to think of a way I could do it by myself. We use our feet for everything else in a dental office, so I thought ‘Why not for data entry, too?’”
Most dental patients staring at the ceiling probably don’t notice hygienists using their feet at work, running polishers, water sources, cameras and other devices. Now, in modern offices that employ Logue’s invention, hygienists also use their feet to operate an over-sized computer mouse, with a few added gizmos, to enter and retrieve computer data. Logue had the initial idea for the Dental R.A.T. about 10 years ago, and then started acting on it four years ago. First, she hired a patent attorney “to make sure she wasn’t stepping on anybody’s toes,” and then she took out a patent, domestically and internationally. Next, she hired an engineer to design the Dental R.A.T. The first model was made of clay. The second was a “wood bread-box prototype.” The third was made of metal.
Prototype in hand, Logue and her husband, Mert, bit the bullet and put their own money on the line to initially develop the product, although they now have outside investors
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and the company, Beckmer Products, Inc., has been put up as an Idaho stock offering.
“It was a big risk, but it has been really fun,” Logue said. “I’m learning something new every day. I feel like it took a lot of faith to jump out to say ‘this is going to happen.’”
But, happen it did, and so far hundreds of the Dental R.A.T.s have been sold since the company began selling the units two years ago. Dental R.A.T.s are in use in at least 30 states and are being used in dental schools in 12 states, including by the ISU Dental Hygiene program. The units are manufactured in Boise.
Her product has received a lot of attention. Logue appeared on the cover of Modern Hygienist magazine last spring and was the focus of an article “Spirit of Invention.”
“It’s pretty wild seeing yourself on the cover of a magazine you subscribe to,” Logue said. “The photo shoot was fun. It’s a new world for me. I only had one outfit when I showed up; the others there had a whole bunch of outfits, in this color or that color to match the background.”
She was also featured in the business section of The Idaho Statesman. In 2006, Logue was a finalist in the first annual Stove Rives Idaho Innovation Awards in Boise. She and her product have been featured in other publications as well.
Running and marketing her business is a full-time endeavor, but Logue still works as a dental hygienist a couple of times a mouth to remain connected to her field, patients and friends in the business. In the last few months she “has been all over the place” attending conventions to market the product, including stops in New Orleans, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Idaho, Utah and Oregon.
While launching her new career, Logue has faced substantial challenges, some old, some new.
“There are two things I’ve hated my whole life,” Logue noted. “My public speaking – I used to get so nervous I’d almost pass out – and, my feet. Now pictures of my feet are in a magazine and I have to do all this public speaking to market the product.”
Logue said her company has plans to develop new applications for the R.A.T. outside of a dentist’s office.
“From the food service industry to manufacturing jobs, the Remote Access Terminal can be taken anywhere where workers have both their hands busy and still need to do data entry,” Logue said.
Thus, R.A.T.s may achieve an even bigger footnote in history.
For more information on the Dental R.A.T., visit www.dentalrat.com.