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The University of Alabama

UA Engineering Students Recognized for Smart Shoe Insole

UA engineering students were recognized for their design of an activity tracker at the

UA engineering students Nagaraj Hegde, left, and Matthew Bries were recognized for their design of an activity tracker at the TI Innovation Challenge Design Contest in North America. Photo courtesy of Texas Instruments.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Two students studying electrical engineering at The University of Alabama were recognized recently for designing and crafting a wireless shoe insole that monitors activity users can track on a mobile phone app.

Nagaraj Hegde and Matthew Bries placed third for their device at the TI Innovation Challenge Design Contest in North America, in partnership with Mouser Electronics. The contest challenged future engineers to use technology from Texas Instruments to create solutions tackling challenges facing society.

Hedge is a graduate student from Bangalore, India, and Bries is a senior from St. Charles, Missouri.

Of the nearly 180 teams entering technology solutions, three final teams were recognized at the annual award ceremony earlier in July at the TI Engineering and Innovation Hall at the Perot Museum of Nature and Science in Dallas.

Winning projects were selected for their use of engineering practices and were judged on industry-ready standards, such as quality of the design and written documentation and effective use of TI technology. Cash prizes were awarded to the top three winners to help further the development of their design or to go toward academic pursuits. The UA engineering students won $5,000 along with the recognition.


The SmartStep is a shoe insole that tracks activity more accurately than currently-available activity trackers, using wireless technology to charge, update and communicate with a smartphone app. Photo courtesy of Texas Instruments.

The device, called SmartStep, uses a Bluetooth platform developed by TI to monitor a user’s activity wirelessly through the insole of their shoes. The activity is displayed to the user through a smartphone app the team developed. The SmartStep is 99 percent accurate in detecting when a user is sitting or standing — two activities difficult for many commercially available activity trackers to distinguish. It recharges wirelessly by placement on a shoe rack  and also receives firmware updates wirelessly.

SmartStep is based off technology developed by Dr. Edward Sazonov, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering, who studies wearable sensors and technology and was the team adviser for the competition.

“Matthew and Nagaraj did an excellent job in developing the next generation of the SmartStep monitor,” Sazonov said. “Their work relies on complex interaction between the hardware and software in the insole and the software in the phone to achieve reliable and user-friendly operation of the device.”

The University of Alabama, a student-centered research university, is experiencing significant growth in both enrollment and academic quality. This growth, which is positively impacting the campus and the state's economy, is in keeping with UA's vision to be the university of choice for the best and brightest students. UA, the state's flagship university, is an academic community united in its commitment to enhancing the quality of life for all Alabamians.