In the photo - from left to right...
Fred Jessup ‘05, Erik Cegnar ‘02, David Alexander ’99, ‘02, Mike Maughan ‘05, ‘07
Student Union Building
PO Box 444264
Moscow, ID 83844-4264
1031 N. Academic Way,
Coeur d'Alene, ID 83814
IVUS Energy Innovations
By Ken Kingery
How many Vandals does it take to plug in a light bulb? If the question refers to a highly efficient, white LED plugged into a state-of-the-art ultracapacitor forming a flashlight that can fully charge in 90 seconds, the answer is four.
Over the past three years, a group of University of Idaho alumni developed the technology making this flashlight a reality as members of their own business: IVUS Energy Innovations. Their vision and hard work will be realized fully this February when the “Light for Life” flashlight is released by 5.11 Tactical — a supplier and outfitter to law enforcement, military and firefighting industries — to more than 400 distributors nationwide.
“I think a lot of people will use our flashlights because battery-powered lights degrade over time,” says Erik Cegnar ’02, principal engineer of IVUS, about the flashlight marketed to law enforcement professionals. “A police officer isn’t going out in the field with a gun that holds 10 bullets, but the next time out shoots nine, then eight and so on. Pretty soon, they don’t even know how many bullets are in the gun. That’s ridiculous. It’s a safety issue.”
The new “Light for Life” flashlight is more dependable than current flashlight models and rivals current commercial law enforcement models; it has a rating of 270 lumens of peak output. In standard operation mode, it shines at 90 lumens for one hour. The light then drops to 25 lumens, about the same as a common D-cell flashlight, for a half hour. This drop serves as a warning that the power is running low without danger of running out. And in just 90 seconds, the “Light for Life” is fully charged and ready to go.
The creation and progress of the company is a true Vandal success story. Cegnar and David Alexander ’99, ’02, CEO of IVUS, originally met in a University of Idaho classroom and worked together on hybrid electric vehicles before forming IVUS. And after a few years of hard work, multiple prototypes and even more business pitches, the company needed more engineers to grow.
And who better to add to the growing company than fellow Vandals?
“For a small company, those one or two initial hires are critical,” says Alexander. “You hire the wrong person and it could really be catastrophic. I knew the one person I would be more than confident in hiring was Mike, and Erik felt the same way about Fred.”
Alexander knew Mike Maughan ’05, ’07 from the latter’s undergraduate days at the University of Idaho. Erik met Fred Jessup ’05 in a class in Moscow as well. Soon after their decision to pursue their new hires, both Jessup and Maughan jumped on board.
“I’d always wanted to either go into business for myself or work for a small company,” says Maughan, a mechanical engineer who IVUS successfully lured away from a job at Hewlett-Packard. “Moscow is a nice place to live and I believed in these guys. I felt like there was a really good opportunity here.”
“Erik planted the seed in my head a long time ago,” says Jessup, an electrical engineer who worked for Micron in Boise at the time. “So it wasn’t a terrible surprise when he called me up and asked me if I wanted the job. It was a tough decision, but I’ve always liked Moscow and kind of wanted to come back. I took the job just two weeks later.”
Nearly a year later, the company has added six more patents to their record. The flashlight hits the market in a matter of months and is, in fact, already available for preorder on the 5.11 Tactical web site. The four Vandal alums are currently working hard to produce different lighting products that 5.11 Tactical is interested in seeing produced and beginning to think about what technology to tackle next.
“Almost anything that uses a rechargeable battery is under consideration,” said Alexander. “We’re in the process of developing the strategy for evaluating which ideas make the most sense to go after.”