ASU project featured in national Best Buy commercials

A group of seven recent graduates from ASU's College of Technology and Innovation (CTI) and their vertical wall-scaling invention recently caught the attention of national electronics retailer Best Buy.

Best Buy has featured them as part of its student innovators web series in this video. A shorter television commercial that includes inventors from other universities has been running nationally and throughout the NBA playoffs.

The former ASU students, all engineering graduates, created a vacuum-powered, one-man climbing system as part of a competition designed by the Air Force Research Laboratory. The device was built to allow a user to climb higher, faster and with less effort than current techniques, while also keeping one hand free for communications equipment. The one-man system had to carry the weight of a soldier wearing a 100-pound backpack and be modular enough to be transported between climbing sites. 

The students and faculty mentors worked throughout the school year to research, design and develop a prototype, and then test the device before competing against 15 other schools from around the country at Wright State University’s Calamityville tactical laboratory in Ohio. 

“We didn’t have any instructions or examples of how to build something like this – just a short list of parameters that the device had to accomplish,” said Kevin Scott, CTI graduate and the designated test climber for SM-7. “The biggest issue was adhesion to the wall, after that we had to reduce the metabolic impact on the soldier in order to make it more viable.”

The SM-7 is built on four positive displacement vacuum pumps that pull enough air out of the surface to create a pressure differential that can hold more than 300 pounds. Each vacuum is wired to a push button that toggles on to turn the suction on and off to release the air and allow the user to climb. 

“The first time we tested it, we set up a safety line just to be sure but I never doubted for a second that it would work,” Scott said. “Once I got up there, I took a couple of steps and got in the flow of climbing. It was the most surreal feeling, to be climbing a vertical wall using a device that our team invented and built from scratch.”

The project was part of CTI’s iProjects program. The CTI mission and the idea behind iProjects is to connect students and the college with industry partners in order to create innovative solutions to real-world problems. 

“We were challenged with finding a solution to a real problem that the Air Force and military personnel face everyday,” Scott said. “We had to use our hands and put engineering theory into practice to build something a soldier could rely on in the field. You can’t gain that experience from a textbook.” 

The SM-7 team members are Kyle Barrette, Scott Goodin, Robert Morales, Rafael Ramirez, Kevin Scott, Zach Wilson and Johnathon Wright. The faculty mentors are Sangram Redkar and Thomas Sugar.