Our first member highlight of the new year is Innevation Center member Joseph Hill! Joe is the founder of Adaract Technologies, a Reno-based startup focused on developing bio-inspired orthotic devices powered by novel actuators. Recently graduated from UNR with a mechanical engineering degree, Joe decided to take on the entrepreneurial challenge inspired by his academic experience and personal interest. We spoke to Joe about his company and his entrepreneurial experience.
Joe graduated from UNR in May 2021. Prior to devoting full time to Adaract, Joe worked as a production supervisor and gained experience in the design and management of production processes. While working toward his mechanical engineering degree, Joe had two favorite subjects: modeling of dynamic systems and fluid flows. And as a hobby, Joe has a keen interest in improving his physical fitness. Joe wanted to work on projects that combine his technical and personal interests and develop products that could benefit people.
Eventually, Joe gravitated towards designing powered orthotics and prosthetics with a goal of improving their physical performance. Having realized that one of the key limitations of these products was the actuators, Joe decided to focus on the design of a novel actuator with the ultimate goal to provide high performance orthotic and prosthetic products.
For the Adaract team, the biggest challenge has been the development of the actuator technology on a limited budget. Over the last year, they have machined thousands of parts to save on costs while developing prototypes. “I'm happy we were forced to learn how to effectively manufacture the components that we designed,” says Joe. “One of the components required custom fixturing for set-ups on the CNC lathe, manual lathe, and CNC mill before it was finished.” It was a large effort for the small development team, sometimes taking days to complete a handful of parts. But when the components actually worked, it was both relief and joy for the entrepreneur.
Joe believes that his education at UNR prepared him to be an engineer more than it did to be an entrepreneur. “UNR mainly prepared me for the theory-based portion of the design of our hydraulic, mechanical, and electrical systems. I had amazing professors for my fluids, statics, systems, and circuits classes (and many more).” To build a startup team, Joe was happy to have added complementary expertise to help with the business side of things.
Outside of work, Joe enjoys working on the restoration of his “project truck.” Over the past few years, he has been restoring a 1969 Chevy C10 pickup. Many of his relatives have project cars that they race and take to car shows and it is fun for Joe to join them with one of his own. Like a startup, restoring a project truck also has its ups and downs. Recently, he blew up a motor while trying to turbocharge the truck. For now, that project is put on the shelf while he focuses on his company.
You can learn more about Adaract Technologies on their website.