Joe Carabetta rides his electric skateboard Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2013, through the campus of Purdue University. Carabetta, a senior, and Evan Merz, also a senior, designed the electric skate board, which can travel 8-10 miles on a charge.(Photo: John Terhune, The Lafayette, Ind., Journal & Courier)
(Hayleigh Colombo, The (Lafayette, Ind.) Journal & Courier ) -- Joe Carabetta is used to being stared at as he whizzes on his longboard past throngs of Purdue University students, the speed and noticeable whir of the board's motor attracting attention.
On his ride from his apartment to the School of Nuclear Engineering building, Carabetta is frequently stopped by pedestrians or other skateboarders.
"They hear it coming and they're like, 'What is that?' " said Carabetta, a nuclear engineering student and aspiring entrepreneur. "It's really fast downhill. ... It's like you're surfing."
Carabetta and Evan Merz, another engineering student, have started a business to commercialize their custom-made electric skateboard motors and get the products in the hands of others who want to pick up serious speed.
Kickr is a modular skateboard attachment that has transformed Carabetta's Original carving longboard into an electric board that can reach speeds up to 25 mph. The product name also is the name of the company.
When you step on a custom throttle pad, the device sends a signal to the motor that spins the wheel. The motor assembly employs a truck axle to connect to the skateboard. The device can adjust to multiple wheel sizes.
Carabetta wants the device, which is patent-pending, to be accessible to anyone - physically and financially.
"The whole point was to be able to (attach) it without any tools," Carabetta said.
The custom device was designed to be lower in price than a traditional electric skateboard, some of which are priced upward of $2,000. The student entrepreneurs believe they can sell Kickr for about $400 each.
The desire for speed and power is what led Carabetta, who discovered skateboarding in his hometown of Lake Zurich, Ill., as a high school sophomore, to pursue the possibility of designing an electric board.
"At that time I wasn't really planning on doing anything with it," Carabetta said. "It was just for fun."
Plans to commercialize the idea and follow through on production became serious last year.
Carabetta found his business partner in Merz, who is acting as Kickr's design and parts engineer. They're members of Purdue's Electric Vehicle club, which has designed race-winning electric carts and aims to spur student development and knowledge about electric vehicles.
Through that association, Carabetta and Merz were able to learn what they needed to know to develop the motor and other components.
"They really helped get me familiarized with all the components you need to use - the batteries, the motors and things like that," Carabetta said.
Carabetta and Merz, who are joining scores of other college students pursuing entrepreneurship, have just launched their Kickstarter campaign, which is a crowd-sourced online funding platform.
So far 40 backers have pledged about two-thirds of Kickr's $15,000 goal to start production.
Carabetta is excited to ride through the hills and valleys of where the innovation takes him - on his electric longboard, of course.
"It all depends on how it goes," Carabetta said. "It'd be amazing to do something that I actually enjoy doing."