For weight-​​conscious Amer­i­cans who are con­stantly on the go, accu­rately tracking body weight can be a tricky task given the lack of con­sis­tency between scales avail­able at home, at the gym, at the doctor’s office and on vaca­tion. They need a truly portable scale—just the solu­tion that a team of North­eastern stu­dent researchers explored for their engi­neering cap­stone project, and one the project’s sponsor is now seeking to bring to the marketplace.

The stu­dent team—John Cogswell, Tom Pea­cock, Mike Api­cella, Kareem Gho­brial, and Sean Kelly—was charged with devising a light, thin, flex­ible scale. They began work on the project last fall and pre­sented their cap­stone in the spring.

See a video of the stu­dents’ project here.

Building off of the progress of a pre­vious cap­stone project, the stu­dents devel­oped a pro­to­type uti­lizing sen­sors encased within a sil­i­cone mold. When someone steps on the scale, the sen­sors indi­vid­u­ally cal­cu­late voltage out­puts that are then con­verted into weight based on spe­cific cal­i­bra­tions for each sensor. The total weight is dis­played on an LCD screen.

The battery-​​powered scale ide­ally could be recharged via a USB con­nec­tion, which also allows for users to down­load and track weight data to their computers.

If you could export the data to the com­puter, you could look at mul­tiple users,” Api­cella said.

The project’s sponsor, Louisa Serene, is a young entre­pre­neur who started her own online clothing busi­ness. Serene orig­i­nally con­ceived the idea for the portable scale when she was a busi­ness school stu­dent at Columbia Uni­ver­sity in 2006. She later brought it to Northeastern’s Col­lege of Engi­neering, based on the cap­stone program’s strong rep­u­ta­tion for solid research and devel­op­ment work.

Fac­ulty advisor Sinan Muftu, an asso­ciate pro­fessor in the mechan­ical and indus­trial engi­neering depart­ment, was imme­di­ately intrigued by the project, due to his interest in the mechanics of flex­ible mate­rials. It started as a cap­stone project in 2008 for another group of seniors, and Cogswell, Pea­cock, Api­cella, Gho­brial and Kelly con­tinued the work as part of a second phase.

Muftu said both groups made sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to the scale’s devel­op­ment, and he and Serene believe the pro­to­type is ready to take to the next step—into the marketplace.

I think the coolest part about it is, for all of us as engi­neers, we are problem solvers,” Gho­brial said. “So to be able to come up with a product that allows you to mea­sure your weight con­sis­tently with the same device each time, it really addresses an issue—especially with growing health con­cerns in America—that people are going to have a better under­standing of what their true weight is.”