We really love green cars, but you know what we love even more? Practical green designs that make the world a better place. With the Ideas for Good competition, Toyota has merged the two into one by opening up five of the company’s most innovative technologies to be used by designers to create new products that improve the world we live in. After receiving hundreds of submissions, a panel of experts chose a winning design for each technology. This weekend the winners will convene at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, PA where they will work with CMU engineers and Deeplocal to make their ideas a reality in just two days. We’ll be reporting from CMU to show you the process from start to finish, but in the meantime, jump ahead for the low-down on all the winners!

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A Better Bike Helmet

Stu from Phoenix plans to use Toyota’s THUMS (Total HUman Model for Safety) technology to create a better bike helmet. Stu bikes to work everyday, and he wants to make a helmet that realistically models the head, spine, brain, and neck to provide more comprehensive protection. Because there are no sufficient testing method or technologies designed for bicycle helmets, Stu will use THUMS, an advanced injury-simulation software, to study bike-specific head and neck injuries. He will zero in on specific faults with current helmets and point the way toward new helmets that would protect riders from traumatic brain injuries.

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Power Plant Gym

We’ve heard of exercise equipment generating electricity, but Birken Schimpff from Bozeman, MT wants to take that idea to the next level. Using Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive technology, Birken proposes hooking up cardio equipment to turbines to generate energy. The cords of weight machines would be connected to similar devices to do the same. On a societal level, people who work out at gyms that use the technology would be able to get reimbursed by the power company by putting electricity back into their local grid.

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Pure Air

Many people living in developing countries still cook over indoor fires, which creates unclean air for residents to breathe. While electric stoves are a solution for most, many impoverished areas have no access to the power grid. Using Toyota’s Solar Power Ventilation System, Tim Witmer from Houlton, ME wants to solve this problem. Air could be circulated through the building using a fan powered by the sun. Not only would the design improve the air quality and health of residents, but it would move them toward a lifestyle with more readily available resources.

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Touch Tracer Computer Mouse, Keyboard, & Monitor

Here at Inhabitat, we are all too well-aware of the detrimental side effects of typing on a flat keyboard all day. To rid us of hand cramps and carpal tunnel, David Champion from Naperville, IL plans to design a dome-shaped keyboard with a heads-up monitor display. Using Toyota’s Touch Tracer technology, the dome senses where your fingers are on the customizable QWERTY keyboard and brings up a translucent display on the monitor of a traditional keyboard showing where your fingers are. Voila — no more awkward hand positions and no more staring down at your computer!

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Automated Firefighting Extension Guidance System

In an emergency like a fire, every second counts. Often, mechanical failures or difficulties account for unnecessary delays. To avoid delays for firefighters, Fran O. proposes creating an automated firetruck extension ladder that uses a guidance system similar to Toyota’s Advanced Parking Guidance System. The system would improve accuracy during situations with degraded visibility (extreme smoke, nighttime, water spray). Ultrasonic sensors and cameras would be mounted on the top of the ladder to sense the building, and a computer would automatically adjust for azimuth, elevation, and extension of the ladder, allowing for a faster and more accurate positioning.

“The goal is to inspire the winners to think more broadly about their designs,” says Deeplocal CEO & Creative Engineer Nathan Martin. “We’re starting to embrace as a culture, this idea that hey, we don’t just do things by ourselves, we do things together. That’s where you’re going to learn and that’s where we’re going to innovate.”

It should be an exciting weekend and we can’t wait to bring you all the details!

+ Toyota Ideas for Good

+ Deeplocal