News

Tuesday, 11 Apr 2017

From prototype to product launch

Student creates award-winning lightweight portable charger.

Second year mechatronics student Tor Kaufmann Gjerde is in the process of launching his product to market after winning the InnovationWorks! Prototype competition last year.

He is now launching his product for sale after also being involved with the UOW Pitch and iAccelerate programs.

iAccelerate is a University of Wollongong initiative that is tailored to help build and grow your business. The iAccelerate program is designed around a robust educational program, formalised business acceleration monitoring and one-to-one mentoring.

UOW Pitch targets entrepreneurial-minded people passionate about their ideas but lacking the financial resources to pursue them. It was designed to build on the success of iAccelerate and further promotes student and staff involvement in entrepreneurialism and the commercialisation of ideas, inventions and research outcomes at UOW.

Tor’s prototype, the MOJO+ Portable Compact Charger, offers a compact and lightweight solution allowing users to charge devices such as mobile phones, GPS and batteries using heat from an open flame, such as a campfire or hiking burner. It is designed to be robust and easy to use.

Tor said the ‘MojoFirecharger’ differed from other products in the way it used thermoelectric modules paired with a closed loop liquid cooling system.

“What this means is that you can generate more electricity out of heat available from a typical bonfire/gas-burner all while keeping the charger very light weight – which is a primary goal for backpackers. You most certainly want your backpack to be as light as possible when doing the peaks and summits,” he said.

“Compared to typical traveling solar cell panels, the new charger offered much higher power output for a fraction of the weight.

“I’m launching a crowd-funding campaign on Kickstarter in May and if this succeeds you’ll most likely be able to pick up a charger before December 2017.”

Tor was inspired to make the prototype while hiking around in the mountains in his home country of Norway.

“I was using a lot of electricity to run cameras and small drones for aerial photography. Instead of filling up my backpack with lots of heavy batteries I thought it would be a better solution if you could come up with a little device that enabled you to actually generate the needed electricity while out hiking,” he said.

Innovation has always been part of Tor’s life. He spent a lot of time in his father’s workshop, woodworking, building and prototyping everything from rockets and steam engines.

“When I was still at high school, I started messing around with radio controlled airplanes and built an awesome flying wing with direct video link with parts sourced from all over the world – radios from the US, cameras from China, and carbon fiber custom cut from Japan. If it hadn’t been for the Internet I would have been lost.

“For the plane itself, sadly enough, while 6 kilometers out trying to video some really cool proximity flying down a steep mountain, it crashed due to heavy winds – and that was the end of that story,” Tor said.

InnovationWorks! Competition – purpose

The InnovationWorks! prototype competition is designed to help UOW students turn their ideas into reality. It is also an official UOWx activity.

Selected teams of up to four people were given materials, training and assistance as well as access to space, tools, and the university’s advanced manufacturing facilities (such as 3D printing and laser cutters) to help build a new product prototype.

UOW Mechanical, Materials and Mechatronics Professor, and leader of Global Challenges, Manufacturing and Innovation’s theme, Prof Geoff Spinks said the judges were impressed by the level of detail that had gone into Tor’s prototype.

“He obviously had been brainstorming the idea for some time. InnovationWorks! offered exactly the type of support and access to specialised equipment he needed to get his idea off the ground.

“The competitors had 10-12 weeks to complete their projects. Judging criteria was based on originality in product and concept, performance of working product type at judging, and plans and ideas to take the concept forward.

“We are thrilled that Tor has been able to take his idea directly to market by utilising the assistance on offer by the University at all stages of the process.

“We are looking forward to seeing Tor make his first sale,” Professor Spinks said.

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