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A Pen for Parkinson’s Patients

Students Izzy Mokotoff and Alexis Chan invented SteadyScrib, a special pen and clipboard set that helps people with Parkinson’s disease write again.

Illustration of Neal “Pops” Charles Andelman using SteadyScrib. Illustration shows the features of SteadyScrib.
Click to interact with the image.Image: Illustration by Jessie Lin

By Diana Babineau
Winter 2023
1 Response

Letter-writing might be a lost art, but for journalism major Izzy Mokotoff, it’s a tradition she shared for many years with her grandpa, Pops, who died in early December 2022.  
While she was growing up in Atlanta, Mokotoff would receive letters from Pops every week. He wrote her from his suburban Boston home, sending recipes and notes on wild animals he’d seen and Mokotoff replied with updates about her studies. The two continued this tradition even when Mokotoff went off to college. 
But near the end of her first year at Northwestern, Pops could no longer write by hand.  
“Ten years ago,” Mokotoff explains, “he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease,” a debilitating central nervous system disorder that causes tremors and loss of motor skills. “Obviously, I missed our tradition. But I also know Pops had a lifelong love of writing. Though he was a veterinarian, he was the editor in chief of his college newspaper and wrote scripts for radio shows. This loss of ability was a knock to his sense of confidence and his sense of self.” 
Eager to find a solution, Mokotoff teamed up with her sorority sister Alexis Chan, a biomedical engineering student. The two spent the fall of 2021 researching Parkinson’s and developing a special pen and clipboard that could help counteract the symptoms. 
With support from The Garage and guidance and mentorship from the Farley Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation, Mokotoff and Chan spent the summer of 2022 iterating on a prototype. Chan, who taught herself metal welding and 3D printing, built each pen set meticulously by hand. 
By summer’s end, SteadyScrib was born. Pops became their first beta tester and loved the pen. He resumed writing his letters. Mokotoff and Chan filed a provisional patent with the U.S. government, and the pen sets are now available for physical and occupational therapeutic use at three Northwestern Medicine locations. 

Editor’s Note: Neal “Pops” Charles Andelman died peacefully on Dec. 4, 2022. It was his wish that, as part of his legacy, SteadyScrib continues to grow and improve the lives of people with Parkinson’s. 


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Reader Responses

  • I saw your feature on today's news in Chicago, and I immediately thought — you should try Michael J. Fox (retired, but might be willing to endorse your invention) or Noah Wyle (played a doctor so well on E.R. for several years AND attended Northwestern's Theater program when he was a young actor, just starting out. He also wrote a play, so is a writer).

    I think getting help from somebody famous such as the above two actors might help you get some wonderful endorsements and perhaps even financial backing. Just an idea!

    Mary Zentmyer Chicago

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