STUDENT TEAM FROM BABSON, OLIN COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING, AND RHODE ISLAND SCHOOL OF DESIGN CREATE CONCEPT APP FOR THE BLIND, WIN NATIONAL CHALLENGE FROM TOYOTA AND NET IMPACT
Babson graduate students Ayush Singhal MBA’17 and Niklaus Sugiri MSEL’16 worked alongside Esther Kim of the Rhode Island School of Design and John Mathai of Olin College of Engineering to win first prize in the Next Generation Mobility Challenge—a new competition to inspire millennials to address critical mobility needs from Net Impact, Toyota, and the Toyota Mobility Foundation.
The team’s winning concept, StreetSmart, is an app that would help people who are blind or visually impaired navigate their surroundings with greater confidence. It beat out more than 150 other ideas from nearly 670 students from 60 colleges and universities nationwide.
Activated by voice command, the StreetSmart app would provide users with audio alerts about upcoming hazards or changes to their commute, such as broken escalators, bus service changes, and construction sites. It would rely on existing GPS location services, crowd-sourcing traffic technologies, and real-time updates from users on routes’ conditions.
The team envisions that the app would work in tandem with Project BLAID, a wearable device in development by Toyota that also works to improve the mobility of people who are blind and visually impaired.
“Toyota launched the Next Generation Mobility Challenge with Net Impact because we want to inspire millennials to join us in solving the most critical mobility issues facing us all,” said Latondra Newton, Chief Program Officer, Toyota Mobility Foundation. “We loved the StreetSmart concept because it builds on our work to help communities with limited mobility do more so they can go more places and live better lives. We congratulate the winners and thank them for their creativity, smarts, and hard work!”
“We are thrilled that Toyota is leveraging the talents and passions of young people through this challenge,” says Liz Maw, CEO, Net Impact. “We applaud the StreetSmart team for designing a solution with an eye towards scaling for social impact.”
A panel of judges from Toyota and Net Impact selected StreetSmart’s winning concept from three finalist teams, based on the clarity of goal, project design, social impact, feasibility, creativity, and the results of a public vote. StreetSmart’s video pitch garnered 63.6 percent of the public vote.
The winning team has been offered internships to delve into a deeper understanding of the mobility needs of the blind community, build the business case for the StreetSmart app, and support Toyota’s Partner Robotics work to advance the freedom of mobility for all. Singhal, Sugiri, Kim, and Mathai– along with two finalist teams – will have the opportunity to attend the 2016 Net Impact Conference in Philadelphia this November on behalf of Toyota.
Babson College maintains an innovative relationship with Toyota, collaboratively working towards social change with students, faculty, and staff. In 2010, Toyota provided Babson with funding to create The Babson Social Innovation Lab, an action tank that brings together a global, interdisciplinary community of students, mentors, and business partners dedicated to building a better world. An undergraduate-level course—Lean for Social Innovation, has also been implemented, which applies principles of 'lean thinking' and the Toyota Production System (TPS) to the social sector. Through this course, students have impacted operational efficiencies with nonprofits such as The Greater Boston Food Bank, The Salvation Army, and the VA.
About the Next Generation Mobility Challenge
Launched in 2015, The Next Generation Mobility Challenge is a competition from Toyota and Net Impact to inspire millennials to develop solutions for critical mobility needs in local communities and around the world. Held at fifteen university campuses across the country, the challenge invites multi-disciplinary teams of students to participate in half-day design sprints to develop solutions for mobility issues that address community, connectivity, or sustainability. Local transportation and technology experts from Toyota and universities provided feedback and real-world perspective to the students’ concepts.
Toyota is executing the challenge through Toyota Motor North America and the Toyota Mobility Foundation (TMF), which was created by Toyota in 2014 to help more people go more places – safely, easily and sustainably – so they can live better lives no matter where they are.
Toyota (NYSE:TM), the world's top automaker and creator of the Prius and the Mirai fuel cell vehicle, is committed to building vehicles for the way people live through our Toyota, Lexus and Scion brands. Over the past 50 years, we’ve built more than 30 million cars and trucks in North America, where we operate 14 manufacturing plants (10 in the U.S.) and directly employ more than 44,000 people (more than 34,000 in the U.S.). Our 1,800 North American dealerships (1,500 in the U.S.) sold more than 2.8 million cars and trucks (nearly 2.5 million in the U.S.) in 2015 – and about 80 percent of all Toyota vehicles sold over the past 20 years are still on the road today.
Toyota partners with philanthropic organizations across the country. As part of this commitment, we share the company’s extensive know-how garnered from building great cars and trucks to help community organizations and other nonprofits expand their ability to do good.
About Toyota Mobility Foundation
The Toyota Mobility Foundation was established in August 2014 to support the development of a more mobile society. The Foundation aims to support strong mobility systems while eliminating disparities in mobility. It utilizes Toyota's expertise in technology, safety, and the environment, working in partnership with universities, governments, non-profit organizations, research institutions and other organizations to address mobility issues around the world. Programs include resolving urban transportation problems, expanding the utilization of personal mobility, and developing solutions for next generation mobility.
About Net Impact
Net Impact is the world’s best training ground for the next generation of change agents. Our programs—delivered from our headquarters in Oakland, CA, as well as globally through our 300+ chapters—connect our members to the skills, experiences and people that will allow them to have the greatest impact. With over 100,000 members, Net Impact takes on social challenges, protects the environment, invents new products and orients business toward the greater good. In short, we help our members turn their passions into a lifetime of world-changing action.
About Babson College
Babson College is the educator, convener, and thought leader for Entrepreneurship of All Kinds®. The top-rankedcollege for entrepreneurship education, Babson is a dynamic living and learning laboratory where students, faculty, and staff work together to address the real-world problems of business and society. We prepare the entrepreneurial leaders our world needs most: those with strong functional knowledge and the skills and vision to navigate change, accommodate ambiguity, surmount complexity, and motivate teams in a common purpose to make a difference in the world, and have an impact on organizations of all sizes and types. As we have for nearly a half-century, Babson continues to advance Entrepreneurial Thought & Action® as the most positive force on the planet for generating sustainable economic and social value.