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Hampton freshmen market phone accessory

| Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, 3:09 p.m.
Hampton High School freshmen Chris Ference and Joey Cafaro, both 14, started a company called Omnicode and are working to sell their first product, the Smile Stand. The Smile Stand is a portable phone and tablet stand.
Hampton High School freshmen Chris Ference and Joey Cafaro, both 14, started a company called Omnicode and are working to sell their first product, the Smile Stand. The Smile Stand is a portable phone and tablet stand.

If you're tired of expensive phone stands and untangling ear buds, Chris Ference and Joey Cafaro have an answer — the Smile Stand.

The Smile Stand, a portable acrylic phone and tablet stand, is the first product that the pair of Hampton High School freshmen have launched through their new company Omnicode.

“We've put in a lot of work, really since last November when we looked into first prototypes for a phone stand,” he said. “We've probably had hundreds of iterations of the stand and to think that we finally came to one and people like it is pretty amazing.”

Chris, 14, said he came up with the idea in eighth grade in technology teacher Glenn Geary's Automation and Design engineering course. He wanted to make a simple and affordable phone stand that could also hold a person's ear bud headphones without tangling them.

Chris began tinkering with designs last fall and using equipment in Geary's class, he created one of the first Smile Stands. He soon recruited Joey, also 14, to help him further develop his idea and bring it to market.

The acrylic stand comes in three sizes to fit the wide range of cell phones and tablets. It's a quarter-of-an-inch thick and about the size of a credit card, Joey said. A small arm juts out from the rectangular body of the stand to hold the phone while two cut-outs hold ear buds in place. The cord is wrapped around the center of the stand.

“It fits right in your wallet,” Joey said.

Chris said while many phone stands cost up to $60 and only hold the phone, the Smile Stand will cost about $13, hold your phone and keep ear-buds in place.

The boys launched a Kickstarter in October to raise $5,000 to help with start-up costs for making Omnicode a limited liability corporation, pay for manufacturing costs related to producing the Smile Stand and help develop future ideas. They hope to use Omnicode to branch out into three areas of interest: design, apps and robotics.

They were about halfway to their goal when Hampton Alliance for Educational Excellence, or HAEE, heard the boys' story and wanted to help, said HAEE board member Jodi Andrews. HAEE is a nonprofit organization founded in 1992 that funds grants and scholarships in Hampton Township School District.

After Chris and Joey presented their company and product to HAEE at the group's October meeting, the alliance unanimously voted to fund the boys' Kickstarter campaign the rest of the way. In all, HAEE contributed $2,500.

“Everybody was so thrilled,” Andrews said. “We couldn't believe how far these boys had taken it already.”

Without HAEE the Smile Stand may never have found life.

Last school year HAEE gave Geary a grant worth more than $20,000 to purchase a 3D printer, CNC milling machine and camcorder to record work that is produced by the machines, Andrews said.

It was on the CNC milling machine that Chris would make one of the first Smile Stand designs. When Geary updated HAEE recently about the work being done by his students with the new equipment, he mentioned Omnicode and the alliance then invited the boys to present their ideas to the board.

“It's so fulfilling,” Andrews said. “It's exactly why we're doing what we do. It's our vision come to life.”

Chris and Joey now use TechShop, a community-based workshop and protoyping studio in Bakery Square, to create the stands. The stands are cut from a single sheet piece of acrylic that is 12-inches-by-24-inches across.

The boys hope to use Omnicode as a launching point for other ideas and already have a few others in the works. They're excited to use their funding to move onward and upward, they said.

“It's great because we've been putting in months of work. Lots of Facetime calls and business meetings,” Joey said. “And now that we've achieved our goal, we can do what we've been planning, which is to move into other fields.”

“It's all really paying off,” Chris added. “It feels really good.”

For more information on Omnicode and the Smile Stand, visit bit.ly/smilestand.

Rachel Farkas is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6364 or rfarkas@tribweb.com.

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