Ease on the down road

Camas inventor Shane Chen, the man behind the original hoverboard, creates award-winning ‘rideable’ for 21st century commuting

More about Shane Chen: Who: Inventor Shane Chen, 61, founder of the Camas-based Inventist company, and creator of more than 40 consumer gadgets, including the Hovertrax, which later became known as the hoverboard. Camas ties: Chen and his family, including wife Jennifer and daughter, Ywanne, a 2006 Camas High graduate, moved to Camas in 1992, after falling in love with the area’s natural beauty, proximity to the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area and combination of rural living mixed with urban amenities. Latest News: Chen’s latest invention, a self-balancing, electric-powered riding device known as the IOTAtrax, recently took Digital Trends magazine’s “top tech” award for ridables presented at the international CES 2018 consumer technology conference in Las Vegas. Other inventions: Before he became known as “the hoverboard inventor,” Chen had already invented dozens of consumer gadgets, including a water skipper device that allowed people to “wiggle and move over the water;” a device that kept the fizz in people’s unfinished sodas; and an exercise device called the Bodytoner. Ag Research: Before founding Inventist to concentrate on consumer products and rideable technology, Chen, who earned his master’s degree in agricultural meteorology at the China Agricultural University in Beijing before moving to the U.S. in the mid-1980s, owned a company that specialized in agriculture research inventions, such as the wearable photosynthesis analyzing device Chen invented so researchers could learn more about plants and leaves while working in the field. First Invention: Chen’s first invention also was related to agriculture. After high school, Chen moved to a remote, countryside village in China for three years. Here, at the age of 19, Chen created his first invention: a device that remotely linked the village wells and crop-watering systems, making life easier for the villagers who had been monitoring each system individually before Chen’s remote-controlled invention. Hobbies: When he’s not inventing, Chen is an avid outdoorsman and says he often travels to Hood River, Oregon, to windsurf with his family. What’s next: Chen isn’t divulging too many invention secrets, but says he always has several projects going on at one time. Consumers should keep an eye out for more electric-powered rideables — this time to ride over the water instead of the land — coming out of Chen’s Inventist company in the near future.

Digital Trends magazine of Portland recently named Shane Chen's new IOTAtrax the top Rideables invention at the CES convention in Las Vegas, where creators from around the world show off their latest, greatest tech inventions.

Shane Chen, owner of Inventist in Camas, is trying to invent the perfect "rideable" gadget to get commuters from their home to a train or bus station and then to work and back again. His latest invention, the IOTAtrax, is being billed as a top rideable tech of 2018. The portable, 15-pound, electric-powered riding gadget can carry 200 pounds, is self-stabilizing, easy to ride, and goes 10 mph, for up to eight miles, on one charge.

Shane Chen shows how his IOTAtrax invention works: riders pull the "wings" or standing platforms, down on both sides of the double-wheeled, electric-powered and stand on the wings. Leaning forward moves the IOTAtrax forward. Leaning back, slightly, stops the gadget on a dime and leaning to the left or right turns the IOTAtrax.

Camas inventor Shane Chen holds his latest invention, the IOTAtrax, a 15-pound, portable, electric-powered, self-balancing gadget that holds a person weighing 200 pounds or less, goes up to eight miles on a charge, at speeds of up to 10 mph, and recharges in about an hour.

Inventor Shane Chen, unpacks a trophy from Digital Trends magazine at his Camas-based Inventist offices. The tech magazine named Chen's latest invention, a portable, 15-pound electric powered machine as the at the 2018 CES tech conference in Las Vegas.

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.

After inventing the Solowheel, a one-wheeled self-balancing electric riding device (his first attempt at solving the “last mile” of one’s commute challenge), in 2009, he saw his daughter riding two Solowheels at once at a trade show.  That spawned his next idea, the Hovertrax, which was meant as an indoor, fun toy because it was easy and fun to ride.  

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

www.iotatrax.com) — but tech gurus are already going gaga over Chen’s latest creation.

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.”