SolePower Aims to Charge Smartphones with Footsteps-Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship - Carnegie Mellon University

Sunday, April 27, 2014

SolePower Aims to Charge Smartphones with Footsteps

In 2013 alone, Carnegie Mellon launched a record 36 startups which, combined, produce everything from 3-D printers, in the case of PieceMaker Technologies, to artificial heart valves, in the case of PECA Labs.

Recently SolePower, a company that makes electricity-generating insoles, has been making headlines by earning a spot on Popular Science’s 2014 Invention Awards List. The SolePower insole, according to the SolePower website, produces electricity when the wearer steps on it, and stores the energy in an external power pack.

SolePower was born when its co-founders, Carnegie Mellon alumni Matt Stanton (CIT ‘13) and Hahna Alexander (CIT ‘13), took inspiration for their senior mechanical engineering capstone project from hand crank-powered flashlights. They wanted to make shoes that lit up when the user stepped on them, with the initial goal of making walking or running at night safer.

“After the class, Matt and Hahna saw greater potential for their product,” business developer for SolePower Davit Davitian, a University of Pittsburgh graduate, said via email. “By storing generated power for later use, they could make a renewable, portable power source for various mobile devices. As a hiker, Matt saw an immediate benefit for outdoor enthusiasts. Both of them also recognized the great social benefits SolePower can have for people living without access to electricity.”

According to Popular Science's article recognizing SolePower, “Instead of using piezoelectric and other inefficient, bulky methods of generating electricity, [Stanton and Alexander] shrunk down components similar to those found in hand-cranked flashlights.”

Although the idea behind SolePower was a direct result of Stanton and Alexander’s classwork, the company grew with the help of Project Olympus, an initiative of the School of Computer Science that fosters student entrepreneurs.

Distinguished career professor of computer science Lenore Blum founded Project Olympus in 2007 after seeing countless Carnegie Mellon students move to California when they graduated to work in Silicon Valley, rather than pursuing their own ideas as entrepreneurs.

“We produce the best technological resources on the planet, namely our students, and as soon as we produce them we export them everywhere but here,” Blum, who has worked at Carnegie Mellon for close to 15 years, said in an interview about her inspiration for founding Project Olympus. “I could understand what’s going on — if you’re getting these great jobs, why even think of starting something yourself? That was the culture...Read more»

By: Brian Trimboli, The Tartan