2010 Forward under 40 Award Honoree
UW Major: Mechanical Engineering; MBA in Entrepreneurship
Age: 33 | Oregon, Wisconsin
President and Founder, Sologear
"There is nothing more rewarding than working on your own initiative and pursuing a project that you think has a future."
Like other famous inventors, Chad Sorenson's dream began in his garage. His creation, an environmentally friendly alternative to charcoal, makes grilling easier for outdoor-grill enthusiasts and is now being sold nationally and internationally.
Sorenson considered dropping out of UW-Madison during his freshman year to pursue a creative endeavor. "My parents sat me down and advised against it," he recalls. "My dad said I would be in a much better position for success if I got my education behind me first."
Sorenson's aptitude for inventing and marketing his ideas began at a young age. His parents, a biomedical engineer and elementary school teacher, fueled his curious mind by building a workshop bigger than their home in Blaine, Minnesota. "These resources gave me an innovation playground," Sorenson recalls. "I learned how to use a soldering iron before I started preschool, and by third grade I was building gas-powered remote control cars." He also discovered he had a knack for competing in and winning school and district science fairs, where he could wow the judges with his elaborate technical presentations.
Sorenson was equally dogged and innovative as a UW mechanical engineering undergraduate, when he entered the annual Schoofs Prize for Creativity. After winning the $10,000 award and several other competitions, he went on to pursue a master's degree in engineering and an MBA from the Wisconsin School of Business.
Fresh out of graduate school, he founded his first firm, Fluent Systems, and developed a product for agricultural markets. After the company was acquired by a public corporation, Sorenson and some new partners founded a second firm, Sologear, LLC, to develop and market the FlameDisk®. Using a unique solidified ethanol fuel within an aluminum shell, the FlameDisk can be placed at the bottom of any outdoor grill, making it simpler, safer, cleaner and more portable than charcoal.
Sorenson is grateful for the education and support network he found at his alma mater. He is a frequent guest lecturer and mentor for business and engineering students. He also judges the Schoofs competition and sponsors the Sorenson Design Notebook Award to encourage undergraduates to document the development of their inventions.