His Gloves Control Your Phone and Music: Meet NJIT Grad Tarik Rodgers

NJIT graduate Tarik Rodgers runs a start-up company that sells gloves through which you can control your phone and music.

Gloves keep us warm.  Music fills our hearts. And phone calls to friends warm our souls. Tarik Rodgers runs a company that invented gloves that let you control your music and phone by simply touching your fingers together.   

Rodgers is Partner and Chief Operating Officer (COO) of Blue Infusion Technologies, the maker of BEARTek Gloves. The Bluetooth-enabled gloves allow skiers and snowboarders to listen to music and talk on the phone without having to stop and remove their gloves. The company also makes gloves for motorcyclists so that they can control their music and  phones without taking their hands off the handlebars. 

The gloves have a removable Bluetooth control modules that work with phone and music devices, allowing skiers and bikers to control their iPhones and Androids.  The gloves are simple to use: you simply tap your thumb to one of the six touch points embedded along the fingers of the glove.  The touch system allows wearers to take incoming phone calls, switch musical playlists or work audio controls.

Blue Infusion launched the BEARTek Gloves in November 2012 on Kickstarter, an online site where people can buy the gloves and invest in the company.  But now the product is listed for sale on their site www.beartekgloves.com.

“We’ve gotten great critical reviews and publicity and we are excited to introduce such a necessary technology to the market,” says Rodgers, who graduated from NJIT in 1996 with a mechanical engineering degree.

Rodgers is partners with Willie Blount, the CEO of Blue Infusion. Blount is a motorcyclist who had problems controlling his music during his rides, while Rodgers is a skier who used to stumble with his cell phone and gloves while skiing. During one ski trip, he missed a call from his ski mates and was separated from them for hours.

The two men are also cousins.  They hadn’t seen in each other for decades, but when Blount’s mother was diagnosed with cancer she contacted her family, including Rodgers.  The two lost cousins reconnected and Blount told Rodgers about his recent invention, the Bluetooth infused gloves. Rodgers the skier saw the need for the gloves and partnered with Blount, investing in and joining the firm as its COO.

In all aspects of his daily work at Blue Infusion, Rodgers calls upon his engineering education. Though he didn’t engineer the gloves, he selected the best materials for them. He also worked on process design and the product development. 

“My engineering background helps me be a good operations manager,” says Rodgers. “Engineering trains you to be a critical thinker and a good project manager and that has helped in all the jobs I’ve had.”

Rodgers was born in Newark and attended Science High School. He came from a family of humble economic means and enrolled in the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) at NJIT, a program designed to help underrepresented students succeed academically. 

And succeed he did. Rodgers excelled academically and athletically.  As a volleyball player, he achieved national records in blocking and hitting. For his last two years, he was captain of the volleyball team, which “first gave me a sense of what it’s like to lead people,” he says.  For his athletic accomplishments, in 2010 Rodgers was inducted into the NJIT Athletic Hall of Fame.

He also worked three internships while he was a student -- internships that taught him invaluable skills and led to a full-time job. He worked two internships at the Ford Motor Company in Edison, N.J., and did a co-op at Datascope, a medical device company in Fairfield, N.J. The Career Development Services office at NJIT has a  staff of career counselors who help students find internships and jobs. One of those counselors, Jo-Ann Raines, helped Rodgers find his internships.  He refers to Raines as “one of the most important people in my life.”

He was also civically engaged in Newark, having worked a summer job at the YMWCA of Newark. As result of his academic, athletic and civil accomplishments, when he was an NJIT senior Rodgers was included in 1994-1995 Who’s Who Among Student in American Universities and Colleges.

After he graduated from NJIT, he worked as a manufacturing engineer for Datascope. He later worked in the same position for Tyco International and later worked a as a production supervisor and sales manager at Ford.  He also worked as a strategy consultant for PwC Consulting and CimQuest Inc. He always had an interest in management -- he minored in business management at NJIT -- and in 2002 he received an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. 

His management and engineering background make him well suited to run Blue Infusion Technologies, but he also runs two medical practices for his wife, Tanya Reddick Rodgers, a successful dermatologist. The couple lives in Dallas with their two sons, Camden and Carter.  

When the two were married, Rodgers was finishing up his MBA and his wife was in medical school. It was hard to plan the wedding around their classes and Rodgers ended up taking a final exam on the morning of his wedding day.

“I got a B on that exam,” recalls Rodgers. “It was really hard to concentrate."

Rodgers also hasn’t forgotten NJIT, and all the opportunities it gave to “a black kid from a humble background,” he says.  He recently endowed a $25,000 scholarship that will be go to a student from Science High School in Newark who majors in engineering at NJIT.

“NJIT taught me engineering and management, gave me a chance to lead the volleyball team and helped me get three internships,” says Rodgers. “Funding a scholarship is was my way of giving back to the university that gave me the best springboard imaginable.”

(By Robert Florida)