Toyota’s Ideas for Good challenge began just seven months ago when the company opened up five of its most innovative technologies and asked people to come up with ways they could be used outside of cars. They received nearly 10,000 submissions, 4,300 of which qualified for the competition. Then the public cast 19,000 votes, and a team of experts chose 25 finalists and five winners. The team of experts included Wired Associate Publisher Keith Grossman; Joel Stitzel, Ph.D., a biomedical engineer at Wake Forest University Biomedical Center; Jacob Ward, the West Coast Bureau Chief at Popular Science; designer and entrepreneur Grace Hawthorne, a consulting associate professor at the Hasso Plattner Institute of Design at Stanford; and Josh Morenstein, the creative director at fuseproject.
Over the weekend, the experts worked with the winners, creative engineers and designers from Deeplocal, and engineers from Toyota to make working prototypes of the the five winning ideas. And the ideas were really just that — ideas. The winners are not designers by trade, so it was amazing to watch the insanely talented team at Deeplocal turn them into reality.
One of the most exciting projects was using the Prius’s solar powered ventilation to create a clean air system for homes in developing countries where people still cook over open fires indoors. While Toyota uses the technology to cool the inside of a car, Tim Witmer came up with the idea to use it to help clean the air inside small homes where people use open fires.
Nearly 2 million people die every year because of indoor air pollution, and Tim’s team created a ventilation system that can be adapted to different homes, climates, and cultures while still being inexpensive to manufacture. To accurately test the system, they built a wooden hut and used the new system while they cooked over a fire inside. They tested the air quality while they cooked, and the results were amazing — the ventilation system made a life-saving difference in the number of particulates in the air. Illah Nourbakhsh, a professor at CMU’s Robotics Institute, who worked on the project, thinks the system has real potential to be rolled out as a large scale prototype within the year. (We’ll be writing a more detailed post about the system, so stay tuned!)