Province: SFU student designs insoles that would generate power to charge Vancouver

Jan 28, 2015
Taylor Ward

Taylor Ward, a Beedie School of Business undergraduate with a joint major in SFU’s School of Interactive Arts + Technology, has invented a wearable insole that can transfer kinetic energy into electricity.

Student’s concept of insoles that would store electricity when we walk snares berth in international design competition.

By Nick Eagland.

The following article was published in the Province on January 27, 2015.

Buzz for his electricity-generating shoe concept has landed a North Delta student a spot at a world-class design competition next month.

Taylor Ward, 22, a joint design and marketing major at Simon Fraser University, is behind “Step,” a concept he describes as a “wearable insole that can transfer our kinetic energy into electricity.” The energy would then be redistributed into a city’s power grid through public transfer stations.

His idea is in its conceptual stage, but Ward said Step would use a series of piezoelectric sensors and capacitors to build up and store energy inside a shoe each time its user takes a step.

“It’s definitely plausible,” Ward said.

“I mean, all the components work — it would just come down to how small could a capacitor be, how much resistance could a circuit hold?”

Ward’s concept earned him a spot as a finalist at the 2015 IxDA Student Design Challenge, which tasked competitors with imagining new wearable technology — like the Fitbit and upcoming Apple Watch — that would allow users to connect better with their cities.

Next month, Ward will compete with four other finalists at the Interaction15 conference in San Francisco.

Ward sees public transfer stations as Step’s most prohibitive cost, but in Vancouver, which Walk Score ranked as the most walkable city in Canada last year, the investment could see quick returns.

“A lot of the inspiration came from Vancouver’s 2020 action plan, to be the greenest city, so that’s where it sort of started,” Ward said.

A prototype of Step could come in the future based on demand, Ward said.

He also conceived a companion mobile app that would track the amount of electricity stored and direct users to transfer stations.

Asked if he expects Mayor Gregor Robertson to pump electricity into Vancouver’s grid with Step insoles some day, Ward sounded hopeful.

“Maybe,” he said with a chuckle. “It’d be cool. Or on his bike.”

Read the full article at the Province website.

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