Almost as ubiquitous as hiking boots is a hiking stick, an age-old means to steady a climb, keep one’s balance, push aside brush and ease a descent. Now, add one more function: phone charger, thanks to the ingenuity of Western Carolina University engineering student Kyle Monaghan.

Kyle’s “Power Trek,” a hiking stick for the digital age, converts kinetic energy from the motion of walking into a battery-storable charge. A charge that can be used to juice up cellphones and other electronic devices while out on the trail and far away from electrical outlets.

Kyle may be on to something, a commercial blockbuster perhaps, based on the numerous awards he’s received for presentations featuring the prototype, awards that also help to fund prototype development efforts. While there are similar gadgets by others in various stages of availability, Kyle’s has its own unique characteristics and he is pursuing patent information.

Both the idea for the hiking stick and the decision to attend WCU came during a long-distance excursion on the Appalachian Trail. Already holding a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Hunter College in New York City and living and working in Asheville, Kyle was considering what his next steps in life could be.

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Originally published May 1, 2019.