Inventor Shane Chen is floating down the sidewalk outside his Inventist office in the Camas Meadows Corporate Center, his latest creation — the IOTAtrax, an electric-powered, kettlebell-shaped riding device billed as a creative and practical solution to commuters’ “last mile” problem — tucked between his feet.
He zips past a jogger before turning around and flying back toward his starting point. Leaning back, Chen comes to a sudden, but still smooth, halt and hops off the self-balancing IOTAtrax.
“It is easy to learn,” Chen says of his newest riding creation. “You lean forward to move forward. You lean back to stop. You lean to the side to turn. It’s very natural … like running.”
For commuters, especially those living in regions like Asia and Europe, where public transportation is a more popular option, the IOTAtrax could be a simple solution for maneuvering that “last mile” between home or office and the closest train or bus stop.
“I wanted to help with traffic problems,” says Chen, 61, an environmentalist who drives a fully electric-powered car and has been trying to create an electric-powered device that would be fun to ride and convenient for commuters hoping to ditch their gas-guzzling automobiles. “I wanted to help people ride instead of drive.”
The Chinese-American inventor — who moved to Camas in the early 1990s after falling for the area’s natural beauty, and mix of rural living and urban amenities — had created electric-powered riding devices before.
In fact, the popular hoverboard invention that swept the world a few years ago was all thanks to Chen. Of course, the Camas inventor’s creation, known as the Hovertrax, was sturdier and more durable than the knockoffs that came later. At one point, Chen says, more than 1,000 factories had ripped off his “hoverboard” creation and were pumping out cheaper imitations, some of which were prone to exploding and bursting into flames.
Chen has since sold his Hovertrax technology to Razor, which is producing reputable hoverboards and fighting the copyright infringement on Chen’s behalf throughout China. Nowadays, when he visits his homeland, Chen says, it’s usually to take part in a deposition for an ongoing copyright lawsuit over his Hovertrax technology.
Chen says he understands why Chinese factories, in particular, are likely to “steal” inventions. In Communist China, where Chen spent the first two decades of his life, ideas are not “owned” by one person but, rather, public property that should be shared for the common good.
Although the hoverboard experience taught him a valuable lesson about protecting his work, it wasn’t enough to sway Chen away from his passion for inventing.
When the Solowheel didn’t take off as expected, Chen went back to the drawing board and reconsidered his approach to rideable technology. Users liked the ease of the Hovertrax, which had two wheels — one on either side of the feet — but they couldn’t turn as easily on the Hovertrax as they could on the Solowheel, which had one giant wheel between the feet.
What he really needed to invent, Chen decided, was an electric-powered, self-balancing device with two wheels between the feet — to make riders feel more comfortable — that could turn easily, stop on a dime and be lightweight enough for people to carry once they’d reached their destination.
Enter IOTAtrax. At 15 pounds with folding standing platforms, or “wings,” the riding device is easy to carry. It can hold up to 200 pounds, zips along at 10 miles per hour for up to eight miles on one charge, and has a battery that charges to full capacity in about an hour, making it a convenient option for people who don’t have time to walk that “last mile” from the bus or train stop, and don’t want to deal with the hassle of putting a bicycle on a train or bus.
It is, says Chen, a device that utilizes the best of his Hovertrax and Solowheel technology: easy to use, portable and able to go up to eight miles on just one charge.
“It’s a great Uber alternative, too,” Chen says. “For those short trips you know you shouldn’t be hailing a ride for, but do anyway because, after all, who isn’t running late?”
The Camas inventor hasn’t even put his IOTAtrax on the market yet — he hosted a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter to raise funds for the device’s development phase and will retail the new rideable in late February for $599 (pre-orders are available for $499 at
Last month, Portland-based Digital Trends magazine named the IOTAtrax the best rideable tech shown at the Consumer Technology Association’s international CES 2018 conference in Las Vegas, where inventors unveil their latest, greatest tech in categories that include everything from self-driving vehicles, robotics and artificial intelligence to health hacks, gaming and sports technology.
“It was a great honor,” Chen says of the Digital Trends award. “I enjoy my work. I enjoy inventing. But an award like this … it shows that I’ve made something other people love. That I’ve made something that can help the world.”