Ithaca Teens Create Hydroelectric Cell Phone Chargers

Local News
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Two Ithaca High School grads are gearing up for college, but first, they’re working on a business plan for Hillside Hydro.

Hunter Hartshorne and Jasper White stumbled upon an idea for a small portable generator while building a hunting cabin a few years ago.

“While we were up there, we were doing all this manual labor without any electricity and we thought, man, it would be great if we had power tools or something,” White explained.

A nearby stream of water sparked the idea.

“We thought it would be a cool idea to bring electricity to that cabin, so it started as a little bit larger small-scale hydro-electric project,” Hartshorne added.

The generator became the focus of their capstone project for Project Lead the Way, a national program that develops STEM skills.

This summer, the teen entrepreneurs are working on their product line inside Cornell University’s Hydraulics Lab, which is partnered with Rev Ithaca — a business incubator.

So far, Hillside Hydro has come a long way with several prototypes that were 3D-printed at the lab and tested inside a wave-current flume.

White and Hartshorne have also conducted market research to connect with their audience — hikers and campers.

They say their audience is looking for small and lightweight power generators so they can easily carry them in backpacks.

Hillside Hydro’s main design weighs less than one pound and it has an attached tether that helps it ride the current in a steady stream.

With each turn in the water, more power is generated.

After about eight hours in the stream, the propellers generate enough power to charge your cell phone to full battery three times.

The USB port inside the generator allows you to plug in phones, cameras, GPS devices and other small electronics in need of a charge while you’re in the elements.

Both White and Hartshorne are committed to growing Hillside Hydro even as they work through their freshman year classes at their respective universities.

White will be attending Hobart and William Smith College and Columbia University as part of a five-year dual degree program for science and engineering.

Hartshorne will be attending Carnegie Mellon to study engineering and business.

The Rev Hardware Accelerator Demo Day will run from 6 to 9 p.m. at the university’s Biotechnology Building.

White and Hartshorne will demonstrate Hillside Hydro’s latest design for small portable generators during the Demo Day. They currently have a patent application pending for their hydroelectric generators.

Both will continue to pursue Hillside Hydro even as they work through their freshman year.

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