Beloit-based student competes nationally to create affordable eye care

Published: Nov. 1, 2022 at 12:25 PM CDT
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BELOIT, Wis. (WIFR) - Though millions of Americans wear glasses, frames cost a pretty penny. VSP Vision Care, which provides the most vision insurance in the country, reports the average cost of glasses, not including prescription lenses, is $242. A full pair, on average, is $351 without insurance.

For 18-year-old Beloit native Jaidyn Cox, these costs forced him to have the same pair of glasses for years. He’s blind in his right eye and says paying for custom frames was out of the question, so he went about creating a solution.

That solution is Refractical. Cox’s startup 3D prints glasses frames for less than $10. He hopes to one day sell them for a fraction of the cost of market frames. The idea came to Cox in a class at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities where he studies aerospace engineering.

“If you’re running on a budget with $700 a month let’s say and you know your kid breaks their glasses, and they just got them, you don’t have the money to go spend $300 on new ones,” Cox explained. “So with that they could break these and $50, new frames just put the same pair of lenses in. Problem solved.”

His idea punched him a ticket to New York City for the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship’s (NFTE) annual National Youth Entrepreneurship Challenge. There 40 young entrepreneurs, who had passed their regional competition, got to vie for funding in a Shark Tank-esque setting. NFTE Midwest Director Scott Nasatir says ideas like Jaidyn’s are inspiring not just because they’re unique, but because they aim to solve problems.

They’re thinking about the community,” said Nasatir. “And so with Refractical and what Jaidyn’s doing, he’s thinking about the students and the low income communities that don’t have access to eyecare.”

The national competition was held the week of October 13th.