Last year Toyota officially announced the Ideas for Good Challenge. Participants in the challenge were tasked with taking one of five Toyota technologies and creating a new non-automotive application that would benefit society. More than 4,000 valid ideas were received and ultimately five winners were chosen, one in each of the technology areas. Last week, the winners gathered in Pittsburgh for a prototyping weekend at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU).

The five winners, who are mentioned only by first name, joined forces with engineers from Deeplocal, CMU staff, Toyota employees and others to take these ideas and turn them into working prototypes, all in a single weekend. I had the opportunity to travel to Pittsburgh and watch these creative geniuses transform their ideas into something tangible.

Congratulations to all of the winners.

Build a Better Bike Helmet by Stu

We all know that a bicycle helmet could save your life in the event of a fall, but what if that helmet could tell you whether or not you need to go to the hospital? That is what Stu (pictured on the right, below) wants the bicycle helmets of the future to do. Using T.H.U.M.S. (Total Human Model for Safety) technology, Stu envisions a bicycle helmet that can gather impact data and determine if the biker needs to seek medical attention based on this data. This same data could also be used to make better bicycle helmets.

Pure Air by Tim

A major health problem in developing nations is smoke-based illnesses caused when biomass is cooked indoors. If you’ve ever cooked over a live campfire, you know that if you are in the path of the smoke, you can end up a coughing mess. Millions of families deal with this issue daily because they have no choice but to use wood and other biomass fuels to cook indoors. Tim's idea (that's him pictured below) takes the solar panel used on the new Toyota Prius and converts it into a power-generating device for an exhaust fan. The fan can help pull the air out during the cooking process and improve the air quality inside the dwelling.

Power Plant Gym by Birken

Birken was the youngest winner in the contest and his idea has been brewing in his head since he was a teenager — taking the energy produced by gym equipment and converting it into usable power. Birken’s prototype used Toyota’s Hybrid Synergy Drive to convert energy into enough power to charge an iPod or even a laptop.

Automated Firefighting Extension Ladder Guidance System by Fran

Fran can thank his 6-year-old for his winning submission. His children were playing fire rescue but there were no firemen around. Fran asked where the missing firefighters were and the children said it was too dangerous for them — and an idea was born. Fran’s idea uses Toyota’s Advanced Parking Guidance System to create a sensor pack that can provide firefighters with real-time data. The data provided helps firefighters make more informed decisions without putting them directly in harm’s way.

Touch Tracer Mouse, Keyboard & Monitor by David

If you’re an avid Internet user like I am then you’ve dealt with painful wrists, elbow and shoulders from typing and using your mouse all day. David’s idea, which uses Toyota’s Touch Tracer technology, could potentially eliminate these repetitive stress injuries. The working prototype allows the user to keep his eyes on the screen and position the input device in a more ergonomically comfortable position.

Each of these five individuals received a new Toyota vehicle for winning the contest. They were given the choice of the Toyota Prius, Toyota Venza or Toyota Highlander Hybrid, and all five winners chose the Highlander Hybrid. Congratulations again to all of you, it was great to meet you this weekend and see your concepts go from idea to working prototype.

Travel and lodging for this event was provided by Toyota.

Meet the Ideas for Good winners
The winners of Toyota's Ideas for Good Challenge gather in Pittsburgh for a fun-filled weekend.