Lacrosse is a physically demanding sport under the best conditions, but inclement weather adds frozen hands to the mix. Samantha Wolfe had enough of it and, as a 14-year-old freshman, thought, “why not make a heated stick?” Three years later, her idea has become a reality — the FingerFire lacrosse stick — and is being tested right now by teams in colder climes.
Wolfe goes to school in New York, and explained the rather self-evident problem when I visited her booth at CES.
“It gets so cold that even with gloves, your fingers get numb,” she said. She told her dad (who was also at the booth) at the time, why don’t they make sticks that warm your hands? It would sure make the games a lot more bearable.
Seems logical. But searching found no such thing, and eventually the Wolfes decided to take matters into their own hands, so to speak. They worked with a product design house Enventys Partners to do the engineering and prototyping, and it ended up being a two-year process to make the thing.
“It took us about ten months just to test different heating methodologies and looking at the tradeoffs among weight, heat and duration,” Wolfe explained, writing on the FingerFire site.
All self-funded, of course. VC firms don’t take a lot of meetings from high school kids.
Eventually they arrived at the current version, which keeps two hand-size sections of the stick at a steady 100 degrees F for an hour and a half before needing a recharge via USB. It’s been tested for durability and safety (can’t have sticks blowing up mid-game) and for the ideal temperature (earlier versions weren’t hot enough).
I tried it and, while it wasn’t exactly comfortable in the heat and crush of CES, I can definitely say I wouldn’t mind having it if I were playing in freezing temperatures.
Now the stick is set for testing this season by Division I teams at the University of Maryland, Syracuse and Johns Hopkins. (Don’t worry, there’s no rule against it — the US Lacrosse governing body approves.)
The goal is to get a manufacturing partner or sponsor, perhaps via word of mouth once champion teams see the utility of having a heated stick. Currently each team will have four to test, but a set of a dozen or two wouldn’t be too hard for a sponsor like Adidas or Under Armour to swing.
It’s an inspiring story to see someone pursuing a dream of invention like this from such an early age, especially a young woman, of which there is far too small a number in the worlds of engineering and hardware startups.
“My passion is for all girls to feel that when they are playing lacrosse they have the fire and confidence in them to play their best,” writes Wolfe. On the field and off!