Hahna Alexander of SolePower with her latest product, the smartboot

Hahna Alexander
Co-founder of SolePower

Imagine a day when people power their smart devices simply by walking.

Hahna Alexander did, and that vision led her to create SolePower, a Highland Park tech firm that creates Smart Boots that can charge phones and other devices.

“Energy harvesting is the process of scavenging ‘wasted’ energy from the surrounding environment,” says Alexander, 27, of Squirrel Hill. “We create kinetic chargers that use mechanisms such as gears and links to convert motion. The downward motion in a step is a rotational motion that spins a tiny generator. …

“We’re at a unique moment in time when the Internet of Things (which means devices that connect to the internet) can be powered from walking instead of being limited by battery life. We are excited to be testing SmartBoots this spring with companies in the region.”

SmartBoots also have a safety component with sensors can provide alerts to soldiers, workers or first responders working in dangerous situations.

Originally from Ithaca, New York, Alexander was first drawn to tech “and generally just building stuff” in elementary school.

“I think I’ve always wanted to see the technology from my favorite movies and books become a reality, so there was a natural curiosity to figure out how things work,” she says. “For a while, I couldn’t decide if I wanted to study aerospace engineering, chemistry or even technical writing. I chose mechanical engineering and robotics after competing with my high school’s robotics team. Building the robot required a combination of design, art, physics, materials, science and hands-on building, so it was perfect for me.”

To girls considering a career in tech, she says: “Be adaptable, focus on the process as much as the final result, and don’t fear discomfort.

“It can be scary to walk into a machine shop or lab or presentation where no one looks, acts or dresses like you, but trust that with time, things become familiar and more comfortable,” she says. “No matter what, if you’re passionate about what you’re doing, other people around you will want to help.”

Chris Togneri

Chris Togneri is a freelance writer living in Pittsburgh.