Research and Entrepreneurship: Developing Wearable Tech at KSU
Dreams of launching a business, researching brand new materials and developing groundbreaking systems have come true for four Kent State undergraduate students. With the support and guidance of dedicated faculty, along with access to state-of-the-art labs and equipment in the Design Innovation Hub, students Garrett Hartley, Lucas Cragel, Ethan Hartley and Brian Courts are taking their studies to the next level by developing their startup company, PolyVolt Technologies. We sat down with Garrett and Lucas to learn more.
Q: What is your name, major and graduating year?
Garrett: My name is Garrett Hartley. I am double majoring in Physics and Computer Science and have concentrations in Chemistry and Robotics and Embedded Systems. I plan to graduate in the fall of 2023.
Lucas: My name is Lucas Cragel. I am pursuing a degree in Mechanical Engineering Technology. I’m graduating in the spring of 2023.
Q: What and who is PolyVolt and what are its goals?
Garrett: The PolyVolt team was put together to develop highly flexible circuits and electronics like never before. We have the goal of integrating these electronics into almost any dynamic material — like textiles or any other flexible mediums — while maintaining full functionality. This would expand the reaches of electronics to a more personal level through the development of new products and wearable devices that keep comfort and style in mind. PolyVolt Technologies is a startup company that myself, Lucas Cragel, Ethan Hartley and Brian Courts are currently developing.
Q: How did the idea for PolyVolt come about?
Garrett: Early in the fall of 2021, I became interested in the idea of flexible electronics. I had a list of flexible devices I wanted to build, but quickly realized that with the current electronics available, these devices would be large, clunky and uncomfortable. The team was then gathered to extend the reaches of electronics to flexible platforms that had not been previously possible.
Q: What tools and resources are you using for PolyVolt?
Garrett: A big resource we were provided by Kent State University was the Marty Erbaugh I3 Lab through LaunchNet. This is a space located in the Design Innovation Hub where students developing companies can gain access to things like conference rooms or office spaces. We used this space to hold weekly meetings this past spring to develop our product. We also were able to use the incredible variety of tools the DI Hub offers, such as 3D printing, electronics labs, textile labs, etc. The DI Hub is a place to let ideas become reality, and PolyVolt is just one example.
Q: How has Kent State supported PolyVolt?
Garrett: A huge advantage to being here at Kent State is the experienced faculty. Each time we mentioned starting a company we were given advice and tons of moral support. Being surrounded by people who have real experience starting a company and maintaining it is an unparalleled advantage.
Q: What is LaunchNet and how has it helped you out?
Garrett: LaunchNet is a new, fantastic organization situated in the DI Hub that helps students get their business ideas off the ground. On top of that, they service many young companies here at Kent State and emphasize collaboration between them. They host events, such as elevator pitches where you can win grant money, help develop business plans, and keep you informed on other events near Kent State through newsletters.
Q: What is the best part of working as a team?
Garrett: The best part of working with this team is being able to explore and push the limits of our abilities with my favorite people. It’s never a dull experience when you surround yourself with friends and family.
Lucas: Working as a team is always the best option to solve a problem. Building off of each other's ideas and enjoying the company is always a great time.
Q: Do you think Kent State can help PolyVolt succeed? In what ways?
Garrett: Absolutely. Kent State provides an open-minded atmosphere and wants students to succeed and develop as individuals. The faculty on campus is filled with bright people who are always willing to help or give advice when asked. The number of resources on campus such as the DI Hub and other similar tools will leave a lasting impact on PolyVolt.
Lucas: Yes, Kent State has provided us with the materials, knowledge and guidance to get our company off the ground. The faculty are always more than willing to offer advice and help as much as possible.
Q: What advice would you give a high school senior coming to Kent State?
Garrett: When you get to college you have the freedom to do and be whoever you want. Take advantage of that opportunity, get out of your comfort zone and don’t be afraid to take a chance.
Lucas: I came to Kent as a transfer student during the second semester of my sophomore year. Coming from a local college, it was good to get to a large college full of opportunities. The more people you connect with, the more opportunities you are presented.