Disc Jam takes flight

Michael Kiever News Contributor

Students make “World’s First Flying Disc”

Future Oregon State students Alex Dassise and Logan Insinga, seniors in high school at the time, were playing a simple game of catch on the beach. Only they were not using a ball—they were using an expensive Bluetooth speaker.

“We were throwing the speaker back and forth, but not very far because we didn’t want to break it,” Insinga said. “I was spinning it really quickly, and it sounded cool to us. At that point, I was like ‘Alex, dude, we could put the speaker on the Frisbee.’”

“At that moment, the idea of the Disc Jam was born,” Dassise said. “The Disc Jam is the world’s first musical flying disc.”

Now in their last term as freshmen at OSU, the idea for the Disc Jam has turned into a reality. With the help of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program (AEP), the Disc Jam recently sold out all 25 of its beta models, which were put for sale to the public for $25.

“We sold 25, and we’ve got more people asking for more. However, we’re still trying to figure the best way of building those right now. It’s a lot of intensive labor. To build those, it has literally taken blood and sweat,” Dassise said.

While the beta sold out quickly, the final product is still about a year away from being widely available. The Disc Jam team, which now comprises of Insinga, Dassise and junior Spencer Kleweno, has plans of finding a manufacturer to mass produce an injection mold for the disc.

Currently, the Disc Jam is comprised of two parts: the disc and the speaker. The 3D printed injection mold would bring the two together, creating a sleeker look and taking away the need to bolt the speaker onto the disc.

“Right now, we want to get a quote for an injection mold so we could mass produce, but it will be midsummer before we get it,” Kleweno said. “We’d really like to release at the beginning of spring, because that is the prime time for Frisbee buying. Right now is the prime time to start selling, but we just aren’t ready for it. We’ve got next year. “

The speaker for playing music is the main difference between the Disc Jam and other types of flying discs. It comes equipped with Bluetooth capabilities, a USB port with a four-gigabyte drive to download music, and comes with a charger. While all are functioning, Dassise recommends that users of the beta prototype stick to the USB option rather than the Bluetooth. Due to the spinning nature of a flying disc, the Bluetooth capability has proven to be unreliable when playing with the Disc Jam.

“There is Bluetooth on it, but it’s not the strongest way to have a good experience with it,” Dassise said. “I’d say Bluetooth isn’t developed enough yet for this product because the range isn’t there, but also if your phone is connecting to the speaker and the speaker is flying through the air, it’s kind of hard to find the speaker.”

While there is still much work to do, the Disc Jam has already come many miles. According to Insinga, creating the first prototype was the tallest task that the group has faced.

“The first prototype was the biggest step, the process of putting a speaker into a Frisbee,” Insinga said. “Luckily, (Dassise) cut a perfect hole for the size of the first speaker we had, but it was a lot heavier than our current prototype. But it was a big step.”

College of Business Program Manager Dale McCauley has also seen the growth firsthand.

“The first variation was pretty much a MP3 player glued to the center of a Frisbee. It was rough. But that’s how it starts, right?” McCauley said. “It proved his concept and it showed that it could be done.”

McCauley, who works closely with student entrepreneurs through the AEP, has worked in tandem with Dassise since the beginning of the school year. McCauley has played a large role in creating the space in Weatherford Hall where student entrepreneurs can access the tools and resources to advance their businesses.

On any given day, Dassise, Kleunwo and Insinga can be found in that very area. Through McCauley’s interactions with Dassise, he has seen the potential of the Disc Jam.

“I’m a little skeptical whenever I first see a product until I can really see what’s behind it and make sure that the student is actually interested in pushing it forward,” McCauley said. “Alex came in with a huge amount of passion. It was very clear that he was serious.”

The two now work together even more closely this term through a four-credit independent study program. Dassise and McCauley now meet once a week to discuss the state of the product, and where it can go next. They have also worked on pitching their product together, most recently travelling up to Portland to present to the AEP Board.

“A lot of (the AEP board) are successful entrepreneurs or lawyers that graduated from Oregon State,” Dassise said. “The best feedback I got was that the distribution has to be really amazing. Because they said with a product like this, you’re not going to want it to be in WalMart when it first comes out, because they take a huge portion of your sales.”

The future of the Disc Jam may very well be in crowdfunding. McCauley believes that the product is interesting enough and that Dassise’s presentation skills are good enough that using a crowdfunding website could get the product off the ground.

“It’s a good product to do crowd funding on, it’s kind of novel,” McCauley said. “(Dassise) is really good at selling these things. I have no doubt that he could get the Oregon State community behind him if he chooses to launch that way.”

Until then, Disc Jam plans to take feedback from those who bought the beta model and continue to improve the product.

“We’re hoping that everyone who bought the product is very supportive and they want to help us get a better product out to themselves and consumers,” Dassise said.

For Dassise, the Disc Jam represents more than a capitalistic endeavor. His brother Stephen was diagnosed with autism as a young child, and the siblings have often had trouble connecting.

“I would try and play sports or play video games with him, but I wasn’t feeling any brotherly connection,” Dassise said. “When we played with it for the first time, to see him dance around and be able to throw it back and forth with me, that’s when I knew that the Disc Jam was that brotherly connection I had been looking for with him.”

The connection that the brothers have made has motivated Dassise to continue building in hopes of creating that same opportunity for other people in a similar situation.

“Stephen enjoying the Disc Jam has motivated me to keep building it more and more,” Dassise said. “This product creating a new experience and being able to throw music, there’s nothing like that on the market. It really brings a new dimension of social connection between two people.”

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