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myPower team.jpg

Jeff Henderson

The myPower team accepts a $75,000 prize.

Two student startups win funding at Clean Energy Challenge

by Will Schutt
April 09, 2014


Ty Benefiel

The MeterGenius team:

(l left to right) Hillary Hass, Yan Man, Yusheng Xie, Ty Benefiel 

At this year's Clean Energy Challenge, two Northwestern University entrepreneur teams took home a collective $100,000 to seed their neophyte businesses and get their inventions to market. 

The teams grew out of a Northwestern University graduate class, “NUvention: Energy,” where students from a array of academic disciplines invent, develop and pitch a new sustainable energy product or service.

The two startups, myPower and MeterGenius, can build momentum on their awards of $75,000 and $25,000, respectively.

myPower is a pocket-sized device that stores the energy generated in daily activities such as walking, running or biking in a lithium ion battery. The energy is then converted into extra charge for smart phones: for every 10,000 steps, a user gets three hours of battery life.

myPower is the brainchild of Mike Geier, Tegas Shastry and Alex Smith, three phD candidates in materials science and engineering.

“We're very excited about this company,” said Smith. “We're excited to turn it into an energy generation and fitness tracking platform.”

With the $75,000 Clean Energy Trust Consumer Favorite Prize, myPower is launching a pilot program and is currently accepting applications for the pre-release product at

MeterGenius was developed to “give homeowners with smart meters the ability to track their electricity consumption,” according to co-founder Ty Benefiel, a graduate student at the Kellogg School of Management. takes advantage of smart meters, which record the exact amount of electricity used in a residence and sends the data back to utility companies at regular intervals, sometimes as often as every 15 minutes, eliminating the need for meter readers to drop by every other month.

“As users become more energy efficient, they earn points that can be redeemed for Amazon gift cards or dollars off their bill,” said Benefiel.

Developed by a diverse group of four graduate students and one undergraduate, the MeterGenius team includes PhD candidates Yan Man (mechanical engineering) and Yusheng Xie (computer science), Fred Thwaites, who has since graduated with a master's degree in mechanical engineering, Hillary Hass, an undergraduate, and Benefiel, who is working toward an MBA.

MeterGenius plans to use the $25,000 McCaffery Interest Prize awarded to develop a mobile app, a recommendation from their first 3,000 customers in Dallas. “We think we can make it a real company,” said Benefiel, “we're all committed to doing this after graduation.”

The Clean Energy Challenge is sponsored by the US Department of Energy and run by the Clean Energy Trust, a Chicago non-profit dedicated to “making the Midwest region a national center of innovation for clean energy.”