Into the Shark Tank

May 28th, 2013 Posted in From Our Alumni

by Patty Gelb

Aaron 2You may not think that swimming with sharks is a good idea. But when offered an opportunity to jump into the “Shark Tank,” Aaron LeMieux (BS Mechanical Engineering ‘99) dove right in.

Most people have probably heard of the popular television show “Shark Tank” that airs on Friday nights on ABC. For those that don’t watch this show, “Shark Tank” gives budding entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of investors and possibly make a business deal that will help launch their businesses to a new level. The critically acclaimed show is in its fourth season and continues to make history, with the “sharks” (investors) offering over $6.2 million of their own money in investment deals.  What made the episode that aired on April 26 a little different was that LeMieux, a budding entrepreneur, pitched his product, the nPower® PEG, to the sharks.

Using patented kinetic energy harvesting technology, the nPower® PEG is the world’s first human-powered charger for hand-held electronics. It uses the energy from walking, running or biking to charge smart phones, music players, GPS and other electronic devices. The PEG gives access to backup battery power even when away from a wall outlet. As long as it’s moving, the PEG is charging itself without any additional effort.

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ThenPower® PEG is a hybrid charger, meaning it accepts a charge from a USB computer port, wall charger and from body movement.Once the PEG’s internal battery is fully charged, it holds that charge for up to 100 days sitting still. If it’s in a bag, briefcase or purse moving and harvesting kinetic energy, the PEG will continue to stay charged beyond 100 days. It has an exciting feature for an emergency situation. Vigorously shaking an empty PEG for 10 minutes will give enough charge to make a short phone call from a dead phone.

This incredible and ground-breaking technology was developed by Lemieux and the company that he founded in 2007, Tremont Electric. Aaron’s experience following graduation was in a more corporate world as an applications engineer for Emerson Electric for two years then other companies as well as a stint as an independent contractor. But, the entrepreneurial bug bit Aaron. He remembered going to his wife Jill to talk to her about the plans for his company. After serious soul searching, they decided to go for it. After about a two year quiet phase, they held their first patent on the technology for this new form of portable energy creation and went into the fundraising phase of their business. The first product launched in 2010 as a prototype.

Something very important to Aaron was that his business and product created as little of a carbon footprint as possible. He tried to source as much of the product locally as possible and 80 to 90% of the parts are from Ohio to help give economic impact to our region. The nPower® PEG can be currently purchased online at their website www.npowerpeg.com. It is also sold in several retailers like Valhalla Pure Outfitters, a large outdoor, hiking and mountain climbing Canadian retailer and REI, a large U.S. outdoor retail chain.

“Intimidating and an incredible experience” was how Aaron described his experience on “Shark Tank.” “It was a great experience to get to interact with the sharks. Even though my company and product wasn’t set up for funds, all of the sharks liked and respected my product. The experience provided nPower® PEG world class exposure so that was a strong victory right there.”

To see the Shark Tank episode where the nPower® PEG is pitched to the sharks click here. (This link features the entire episode, including LeMieux. The UT alumnus appears beginning at the 24:15 mark, however, there are a number of commercials prior to his pitch.)

The University of Toledo was very important to LeMieux. He was a legacy student whose brother, John (BA Political Science ’95, BA History ’97), attended earlier. He remembered coming to check out the school “it gave me a very warm feeling of belonging,” he said. He applied to many different engineering schools but the quality of the schooling and the cost were a big part of his selection process and he felt UT was absolutely the right choice for him.

“The University of Toledo is part of who I am. I loved the size of the campus. It feels like a much larger school but is still small enough to tailor your education to your needs. My technical education was world class and the books that I studied in school are still in my lab and referenced to this very day,” he said.

So what is the future for Aaron LeMieux, his company Tremont Electric and his product nPower® PEG? As he describes it, his company is sort of an odd ball. Their focus is kinetic energy harvesting. They are partially a consumer company with sales of products they develop like the nPower® PEG but they are also a technology demonstration vehicle.

“Our overarching goal is to show people what the technology can do,” Aaron said. “For example, we received a request to look into the possibility of our technology to assist with lion tracking collars. Can you picture a worse job than the person who has to change the batteries on lion tracking collars? Well with our technology, the movement of the lion itself will constantly charge the tracking collars so it will never have to be changed again. Something like this becomes more like business development ideas. We will work with companies to figure out how our technology fits with their products and get to a point where we can license the technology to solve problems. We want to make other people’s products better.”

Other future endeavours include working with the military. Developing products that provide energy on the battlefield is where they see our technology applied.

“If we can reduce one battery per soldier, that could mean one less tanker or supply truck going into a war zone just delivering fuel to the battlefield. That means less soldiers being exposed to roadside bombs,” Aaron described of potential future products.

AaronThe other big picture idea is one that could change the way the world generates power. The future of this technology in the mind of LeMieux is developing this product into a wave energy converter. The same technology that creates kinetic energy in the nPower® PEG can be used in an automobile-sized device that captures energy in the ocean.

“I would rather make $20,000 mistakes rather than $20 million mistakes so we are perfecting the technology on a small scale first. But using this same technology and changing the size of the generators could be the most cost effective way of creating energy that can be fed right back into the grid,” said Aaron.

Aaron and Jill and their two dogs, Harvey and Bianca, live in Tremont, Ohio, one of the oldest parts of Cleveland.

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