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Our 5 Favorite Inventions at the Stanford Cool Products Expo

We head down to Startup U. to check out this year's collection of new gadgets, apps, and toys.

The Boosted Board can hit speed of 20 MPH—even uphill.

 The Square by Clean Bottle unscrews at both ends for easy cleaning.

Marcos Alonso and Joseph Vilavomat of Samplr.

 The Click & Grow is computer controlled, for even the most brown-thumbed gardener.

 Tegu blocks, which snap together thanks to hidden magnets, were the hit among the pint-sized set.

Who doesn't want to play with cool stuff? That's the idea behind the Stanford Product Design & Manufacturing Club (PDMC) and the Stanford Graduate School of Business's Cool Product Expo, which was held on the Palo Alto campus yesterday. Exhibitors include some companies featured in our Innovation issue, like Oru, make of the foldable kayak and BRD RedShift, which build's high-performance electric motorcycles. We wandered around the hall to see what else possessed that illusive wow factor. Here's what we found.


1. Boosted Board

What it is: A long skateboard powered by a lightweight electric motor (the whole drive train only weighs 4 pounds). Co-founder Sanjay Dastoor says it can hit 20 mph even going up hill: "We tested it on Russian Hill. We actually limit the speed to 20 mph for safety. Twenty's pretty fast, actually." A hand-held remote controls the accelerator and breaks, and steering works the same as a normal skateboard. The board even recharges its battery when you break, the same way electric cars do.

What it's cooler than: Waiting around for the hoverboards in Back to the Future Part II to be invented.

Where to get it: Their website is taking pre-orders now ($1300)


2. The Square by Clean Bottle

What it is: A rectangular water bottle that opens on both ends for cleaning. Jesse Chabot, Clean Bottle's Director of Operations, assures us it doesn't leak because "the silicone washers at either end expand when you screw them in." It's eco-friendly too: "We can fit way more in a box, so there's a lot less dead space when we ship them."

What it's cooler than: The Nalgene you've been carrying around since freshman year. Seriously, it's getting kind of gross.

Where to get it: ($44.95)

3. Click and Grow

What it is: A computer-controlled, fully-encased, plant-growing system. All you do is plug in the cartridge for the plant (including mini tomatoes, chili peppers, basil, coriander, or Buzzy Lizzy flowers), fill up the water tank, and let the machine do the rest. Click and Grow's "smartpot" controls the water, air, and fertilizer. 

What it's cooler than: Killing your plants because you neglected to water them.

Where to get it: Their website (Starter kit $79, refills $19.99)


4. Samplr

What it is: An app that allows musicians (and the musically inclined) to easily modify recorded sounds and turn them into music. "The learning curve is not very steep," says Joseph Vilavomat, one of the co-founders. "But it’s a serious app. Musicians use it onstage. It’s the same as a guitar. You can play something simple, or you can do more."

What it's cooler than: The last ten years of Moby's recordings.

Where to get it: The App Store. $4.99


5. Tegu

What it is: Wooden blocks that snap together with magnets. You know, for kids. "Our table is very disorganized," confessed Julie Lutz, Senior Analyst at Tegu. "Kids have been playing here all day. It’s a small innovative design on a classic toy. Kids haven’t seen it before, but it expands their creativity and imagination."

What it's cooler than: Anything else at the Stanford Cool Product Expo. To do the interview,  we had to fight through a crowd of little kids trying to play and Stanford undergrads who wanted jobs.

Where to get it: Online (From $12 to $110)


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