Help some young Maine entrepreneurs who want to harness your sneakers’ energy

Here’s a chance to help some young Maine entrepreneurs.

The robotics team at Bonny Eagle High School in Standish has developed an engineering concept for a shoe that would collect and store energy for future use. It has entered its concept into Rockwell Automation’s “Engineering Our Future” contest, and needs your votes to win.

At stake is up to $5,000 in grants that would help the Bonny Eagle Robotics Team (aka BERT) cover the annual costs for its participation in FIRST, a national organization that hosts robotics competitions and encourages students to get more involved in STEM fields. The group’s acronym stands for “For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology”.

To enter the contest, students had to answer this question: “What could your team engineer that would have a positive impact on your community and our world?” And then present their plan with a video. BERT is the only team from Maine that entered the contest.

The team’s concept, which they call “First Foot,” is just that: A concept. But it’s super cool. Picture a shoe with springs in the heel and front of the foot that would capture kinetic energy, which would then be stored using a relatively new nanotechnology called graphene supercapacitors (I know, graphene … what? To be clear, the students developed this concept on their own. Pretty impressive.) Later, after you’ve gone for your run, or walked around all day, your shoes could be plugged into a larger battery and the energy could be used by you or sold into the grid. How cool would that be?

Unfortunately, the BERT students don’t actually have plans to produce such a shoe if they win the contest.

Shana Qualey, one of the group’s advisors, told me on Friday that while engineers have told her it’s a viable idea, the nanotechnology the students have proposed using make such a project cost prohibitive and uneconomical from a commercialization standpoint.

As I write this on Friday afternoon, BERT’s video has 5,669 votes, which places it in second place behind a robotics team from Flushing, N.Y., which has 5,692 votes.

While the first team will receive $5,000, the second and third-place teams will receive $1,000 and $500, respectively.

The money could certainly help. BERT’s annual budget is $32,000, Qualey told me, the majority of which comes from student fundraising efforts, including five bottle drives a year.

“These kids really spend a lot of time raising money, so this would be kind of a relief and they could have more fun,” she said.

Let’s help the future engineers, scientists and entrepreneurs at Bonny Eagle by voting for their video. Voting doesn’t require any sign up or registration, just click the “Vote” button. However, the website isn’t designed very well.

Here’s the link, again. The BERT team’s video is on the 4th page. It’s the video with the green and white coat-of-arms on the righthand side. Voting is open until Nov. 29. You can vote once a day.

Here’s a good question: Why wouldn’t you vote? 

Whit Richardson

About Whit Richardson

Whit Richardson is Business Editor at the Bangor Daily News. He blogs about Maine business, entrepreneurs and the economy.