WASHINGTON — Few things can squelch a woman’s feelings of romance more than falling into a toilet.
Alex Pai, a doctoral student in Electrical Engineering at California Institute of Technology, realized he’d blown it, when he left the toilet seat up one too many times.
“I’m a pretty forgetful person,” admits Pai. “But I do love my girlfriend.”
Pai’s girlfriend, Betty Wong, is a molecular neuroscience doctoral student at Caltech.
“I go to the bathroom assuming the toilet seat is down,” says Wong. “As a girl, when you sit on a toilet seat for 20-something years you know what it feels like, and what it doesn’t feel like.”
On the evening Wong splashed into the chilly toilet bowl water, she’d had enough.
“I bounced right up, went over to him, woke him up, and made him put the seat down,” Wong says.
Soon after that toilet turmoil, Pai realized he and Wong were on different sides of the seat up/seat down debate.
“She prefers that I leave the toilet seat down,” acknowledged Pai.
Wong says turning on the light as she entered the bathroom, or using nightlights weren’t a great option because of how they affect circadian rhythms and sleep quality.
Pai embraced the challenge.
“I was trying to think of something to do it to make it up, and thought ‘why not solve this so it never happens again,'” said Pai.
He scrawled a message to his girlfriend with a glow-in-the-dark marker, on the underside of the toilet lid, which let her know that the toilet seat was down.
Wong was overwhelmed, and frustration turned to romance.
“It made me really happy that he did something so thoughtful,” recalls Wong. “We had a good night, that night.”
Pai and Wong say they “wanted to share this idea with everyone else.”
The couple has been working to create phosphorescent adhesive strips that are applied to the back of the toilet lid, to ensure nobody tumbles in.
Pai says the Potty Glo strips are not typical glow-in-the-dark stickers, which generally glow for less than one hour.
“These last up to 12 hours,” says Pai. “They’re so bright if you put a book next to it, you can actually read the book by it.”
The strips recharge with both artificial and natural light, says Pai.
Pai and Wong hope to bring their strips to market soon.
“Since we’re poor students, we’re trying to crowdsource funding to bring this to others,” says Pai.
The couple has launched a Kickstarter campaign.
See the teaser video for Potty Glo: