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James Aronson and Robert Treiber, current students in the M.S. in Innovation & Management program, are competing in the Outdoor Weber competition with their new venture, UCharge. As hikers, they realized the need for rechargeable power banks that can restore their energy sources in the wilderness, even without solar or electrical resources. Their goal is to adapt current technologies that translate motion into energy into a weatherproof device designed for use in the great outdoors.

James Aronson, UCharge, uses a device on a hike

Where did the idea for UCharge originate? Aronson, an avid hiker, grew up hiking in the New England area and even as far as Mount Kilimanjaro through his participation in “Choose a Challenge”. “Choose a Challenge” is an organization that encourages university students to get involved fundraising for philanthropic causes nationwide. In return for their efforts, students are rewarded with affordable global adventures. Aronson’s philanthropy of choice is Big Brothers, Big Sisters which has even allowed him to be selected as a camp leader for an expedition to Mount Everest base camp this summer with 12 other Tufts students.

Throughout all of his adventures, Aronson found one draining common experience – Keeping your phone charged is next to impossible, especially if using it for trail guidance and photography. This can ultimately be dangerous in case of emergencies, leaving you without a way to call for help. Portable power banks, including external “back-up” batteries or solar chargers, currently available on the market tend to lose charge during cold weather or even take full days to replenish their available energy source. “Hikers are people in motion, so we’re trying to develop a technology that can actually capture motion and turn it into energy – giving you power wherever you go,” explained Aronson. James Aronson & Robert Treiber work on their UCharge technology

Treiber is the team’s resident electrical engineer and has a deep interest in sustainable energy, while Aronson provides years of experience working in Tufts’ Mechanical Engineering department’s fabrication space. The UCharge team has already gotten great responses from others in the hiking community about their product concept, including many requests for beta testing. In addition to the Outdoor Weber competition, the team’s next steps are to continue developing their technology and to pursue IP. If all continues going well, Aronson might even have a product prototype to test out on Everest!

UCharge moved forward in the Outdoor Weber competition as a semi-finalist, chosen as the Northeast Judge’s Selection.