SPU graduate’s invention is a smash-hit on Kickstarter
What’s the hardest part of learning to ride a bike? The pavement.
That joke might get a laugh from Peter Clyde ’13, but the SPU engineering graduate would suggest an even harder fact of life cyclists deal with: two tons of SUV with a driver who can’t see you.
There were times when Clyde endured rain, fog, snow, sleet, and dark of night on a three-hour round trip bike commute from Seattle to his day job as an electrical engineer in Bellevue’s tech district. He craved maximum visibility. He had zero desire to die.
Clyde’s friends and family attested to their own harrowing cycling adventures. He tried every top bicycle taillight from the biggest names, but still felt he rode with a target on his back. Those other taillights were bright, but too focused —like flashlights — which made their range of visibility too limited. What to do?
Clyde had an idea. In his SPU engineering classes, professors had challenged him to tackle real-world problems himself. “That gave me confidence in my skills,” he says. “There is a major focus in the electrical engineering program on hands-on problem-solving.”
After work, for seven hours each night, he worked on the problem. It took six months to take his engineering solution from idea to proof of concept.
Imagine a drum roll followed by a sudden and brilliant burst of light. Behold the Orfos Flare!
Made in the USA, the Flare’s red light casts 300 lumens, an amount equal to the intensity and light dispersion of an automobile taillight, and is, by day or by night, visible from all angles.
“Seattle Pacific University taught me that faith and career were really meant to go hand in hand,” Clyde says. He remembers Professor of Engineering Melani Plett emphasizing the broader picture of engineering with a purpose.
For his culminating senior project, Clyde combined the tools from all of his other classes, such as circuitry, microcontrollers, and mechanical engineering principles. “Our team identified a problem and then spent the year designing a solution,” he says.
This hands-on approach gave him confidence when he later created the Orfos Flare. Inspired by the industry experience of his professors, Clyde felt sure that his solution for this cycling problem could actually become a manufactured product.
He credits his wife, Kayla Sanders Clyde ‘11, with providing the business brains behind Orfos by emailing blogs, freelance writers, and news organizations to spark interest in the light. Together, they ran a successful Kickstarter campaign that exceeded the initial goal by nearly eight times, and generated hundreds of inquiries.
So what’s next for the Clydes? The couple will soon welcome their first child, a boy. What’s more, they’re preparing to launch a brand new Kickstarter campaign. With their bicycle light selling on Amazon and through the Orfos website, the experience has sparked more product ideas. For now, they’ll only say that some of the new ideas go beyond the cycling world. For these two, engineering by design knows no bounds.