When the DMBA chapter of Net Impact was first approached to host the Toyota + Net Impact mobility challenge this fall, there was overall excitement in the opportunity of not only designing for social impact, but also for the collaboration with other students that seemed possible. As planning instilled, the excitement grew, and when the day of the event finally arrived everyone was ready to dive in. The event hosted 10 groups with three people each, with at least one DMBA student and making appearances on each team. A number of other schools were represented, including UC Davis, Stanford, UC Berkeley, and University of San Francisco.
The Toyota + Net Impact Next Generation Mobility Challenge is an event series that, “inspires young people to leverage the power of design and collaboration to generate solutions for critical mobility and transportation needs. This year, Net Impact partnered with Toyota and the Toyota Mobility Foundation to lead teams of students across the United States in design sprint workshops to imagine solutions around community, connectivity, and sustainability in transportation. Interdisciplinary groups of students used a human-centered design process and leveraged the expertise of Toyota mentors to dream up products, services, and technologies that better serve society and the environment.”
Each team in the sprint was proposed with the question, “How might we change the future of mobility for people with disabilities through innovation.” And with that, the sprint began and each team jumped into the design thinking process. This process, foreign to some, and familiar with others, immediately charged the group with the questions and research that was going to lead them to their final pitches. The teams were able to tap into different skill sets from their previous educational and professional background, and bring this forth throughout the day. Experiences ranged from product design, to engineering, to corporate business, to filmmaking, and more.
The final pitches of the day displayed the success of this process and the collaboration between groups, most of which had never met before. Each pitch had a specific stakeholder in mind solution designed for the stakeholder. The panel of judges, which consisted of both educators as well as Toyota professionals, chose a winner for the day, and well as three wildcard groups. The winning group was forwarded to the next round of judging which will be held in the spring. Each wildcard group was also given feedback and time to refine their pitch for the next round of judging as well.
Not only was this an opportunity for students to pitch to and participate in a challenge with such an influential and innovative company such as Toyota, but the connections that were made were also substantial. Many groups were able to continue this inter-educational collaboration past the event, and hope to keep that connection as they become professionals.