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Marijuana cookies led to a valuable tool to measure THC

Elle Garrison, The Sacramento Bee on

Published in Science & Technology News

Several years ago, a friend with a neurological condition presented the founders of Engineered Medical Technologies with an unusual problem.

She was making marijuana-infused edibles to control her condition, but she only determined how strong they were by taking them. If she made them too strong, the cookies or brownies could affect her for a day or two.

"That's not a good way to figure out how strong your medicine is ... it's like someone giving you a pill but not telling you how strong the stuff is," said Peichen Chang, co-founder of Engineered Medical Technologies.

Their solution was tCheck, a handheld device that uses UV light to measure cannabinoids – think THC – in a material such as olive oil or butter. Turning tCheck from a 3-D printed prototype to a marketable product required a lot of testing, equipment and skill – all of which they found at Rocklin's Hacker Lab.

The original founders, Bryan Cowger and his daughter Dr. Megan Babb, created their prototype in Cowger's garage using pet store UV lights meant for reptile cages. When the device correctly measured cannabinoids in a test sample, they realized they needed more help and brought Chang and Engineered Medical's fourth founder, Mark Falcone, on board to build a company.

Hacker Lab was just launching its Rocklin location at the time after creating a successful midtown Sacramento space for entrepreneurs. Chang discovered Hacker Lab through one of the meet-ups it arranged for coders, developers and engineers.

 

Hacker Lab supplies access to high-end tools for building and designing like 3-D printers, laser cutters and computer-controlled machines to members for a monthly fee. Hacker Lab also offers workspace and a variety of classes in coding and business, as well as tutorials on how to use the equipment.

Engineered Medical moved into Hacker Lab in 2015 and got to work on a more streamlined version of the device.

The latest model of "tCheck" is a little metal box, roughly the size and shape of the original iPod, only thicker, with a touch screen on the front that displays results. It is offered in four colors and will be able to connect to a smartphone app. A dollop of the marijuana-infused compound is placed on a plastic slide that, once prepped, goes into the tCheck device.

Many elements of the device were conceived and designed at Hacker Lab, but the slides required some of the most intensive work.

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