Could your shoes someday help power your devices? A team of Rice University engineering students think so, thanks to a prototype sneaker that captures pedestrian power.

As their engineering capstone project, Rice University seniors Carlos Armada, Julian Castro, David Morilla, and Tyler Wiest created PediPower shoes. Houston-based company Cameron, which sponsored the team, challenged the foursome to come up with a device that could harness energy based on human movement. There already exists a patented device that captures energy from the movement of the knee, so the team decided to look a little lower. They determined that the heel would be the part of the foot for suited for this type of energy capture—since gravity is doing most of the work—and set to work building a device that would form part of the shoe.

The prototype has a lever attached to the heel. When the wearer steps down on the level, it turns the gears in an attached gearbox; those gears in turn drive a motor, which is attached to a battery.

The team members admit that the prototype is a bit bulky for everyday wear, but they're hoping that another group picks up the project in the fall and finds a way to make the device smaller and more wearable. The hope is that, someday, a wearable device like this could be used to power medical devices, letting the wearers charge their batteries by taking a walk.

Prototype provides pedestrian power [Rice University via Laughing Squid]