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Ideas at the Intersection

Fire + Light
The world’s most versatile ultra-lightweight lantern

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Stephanie Wiegel, a Northwestern University graduate student who received an MS in Biotechnology in June, is an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys hiking and camping. Working with Dan Brown, a clinical associate professor with the Segal Design Institute at Northwestern Engineering, Wiegel created Fire + Light Multi-Tool, an innovative camping lantern for fellow adventurers.

Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.
Fire + Light, an innovative camping multi-tool and lantern.

Problem

While camping with her husband, Wiegel discovered a ‘pain point’ associated with her headlamp. A headlamp is essential for camping and hiking to ensure safety in the dark, but it has a spotty, harsh light which limits its uses for social lighting. For example, Wiegel wanted to be able to use her headlamp for illumination while socializing or eating a meal. The brightness of the lamp, however, meant that Wiegel had diffuse the light by placing a plastic gallon of water in front of it, which transforms the harsh light from a headlamp into softer social lighting.

Wiegel described the problem succinctly in this way: “conventional lanterns are too big and heavy to bring camping, but there isn’t a good way to covert a headlamp into a lantern.”

While there are some commercially available headlamps with diffuser options, Wiegel knew from firsthand experience that outdoor enthusiasts would not want to purchase a different headlamp than the one they already own and like. So, she focused on designing a device that would work with any headlamp on the market. 

“We are different than the competition because our product is multipurpose. It can also be used as an emergency fire starter, a magnifying glass, and a pocket mirror.”    Stephanie Wiegel, MS in Biotechnology ‘17

Solution

First, Wiegel solved the problem of her headlamp’s too bright and harsh light by a designing a device that transforms a headlamp into a lantern.

“I added Fresnel lenses -- the same lenses used in light houses to project and concentrate the light -- to my design,” said Wiegel.

Wiegel reports that using this device a camper can bring social lighting that is 28 time lighter and 18 times smaller than a conventional lantern. However, Wiegel went beyond that initial solution to offer more utility for potential users of the device.

“We are different than the competition because our product is multipurpose. It can also be used as an emergency fire starter, a magnifying glass, and a pocket mirror,” explains Wiegel.

Fire + Light includes the following functions:

Development Process

“I built a rough prototype and showed it to my outdoorsy friends and people that work at gear shops,” explained Wiegel. “The feedback I received was along the lines of ‘This is cool and it solves a problem for me, but I only put things in my pack that serve multiple purposes.’ Because of this feedback, I changed the design from just a lantern to a multi-tool.”

Wiegel said that she valued the mentorship and insights she received throughout the design process from clinical associate professor Dan Brown. 

“I came at this problem as an engineer, with a list of requirements and a functional design,” said Wiegel. “Dan Brown and his design process got me to start thinking like a designer, and my improved prototype and user feedback reflect that.”  

Current Status

In January 2017, Wiegel was accepted as a resident at The Garage, a hub for innovation and entrepreneurship at Northwestern. She also received support from the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub program, which waives all legal fees associated with drafting a patent application. Wiegel will continue developing Fire + Light at mHUB, a Chicago-based innovation center focused on physical product development and manufacturing.

Wiegel is currently working to translate the prototype design into a leaner design for manufacturing purposes. The crowdfunding launch is planned for 2018 to make the first production round a reality. 

Keep up with Stephanie's progress on the Fire + Light Multi-Tool on her website and Instagram

TeamStephanie Wiegel, MS in Biotechnology ‘17
Faculty AdvisorDan Brown
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