White House Maker Faire

Last week, President Obama hosted the first-ever White House Maker Faire, and Pittsburgh was represented with its share of local talent while also participating virtually in the nationwide Maker event. SolePower, a startup housed in AlphaLab Gear, East Liberty, which has developed a a sole insert that charges smartphones by harnessing walking power, was among the multitude of “Makers,” innovators, and entrepreneurs  invited to the White House that the President said showcases the breadth of a new generation of Americans “that will change the planet because they are makers of things, not just consumers of things.”

Locally, AlphaLab Gear, Pittsburgh’s Hardware and Robotics Startup Accelerator, joined the White House in a nationwide Day of Making on Wednesday. As part of the Maker community across America, AlphaLab Gear shared and celebrated their involvement in this movement showcasing all their start-ups with the rest of the country’s “Makers.”

SolePower, for the last three years has been working on creating the SolePower system, a thin and extremely small gear system that creates a mechanical dynamo in the heel of the sole insert, much like the cranks in novelty toys that created sparks when you ran the toy across the floor, or like those in a hand-cranked flashlight. The friction pressure of your body-step on the surface causes the dynamo to operate with each step creating electrical power.

SolePower’s current version which co-founders Matt Stanton and Hahna Alexander, two Carnegie Mellon mechanical engineering students took to display at the White House, requires a lengthy 15 mile walk to charge a smartphone. But, the company is working on design improvements that should allow full charges in less than five miles of walking.

Frank Sowa

Strategy consultant, writer, business and tech researcher and entrepreneur