Last week, Georgia Tech design, engineering and business students came together to participate in the Next Generation Mobility Challenge run by Toyota and the Toyota Mobility Foundation in partnership with Net Impact. Students were divided into inter-disciplinary teams to formulate a solution that would facilitate more sustainable transportation for elderly, disabled and low-income individuals facing unique transportation challenges.
Each team selected an elderly, disabled or low-income individual profile that most resonated with them and then mapped out the challenges faced by that particular individual. After this, the teams set about framing the question for which they would try to find a solution. Surrounding walls were quickly covered with multi-colored post-it notes describing product ideas, service initiatives and campaign projects brainstormed by team members. Each team then honed in on one idea, developing a prototype and storyboard. Toyota Mobility Foundation representative Julie Ann Burandt and Georgia Tech Professor Karthik Ramachandran moved in and out of the groups throughout the day, giving students feedback on their work.
My team decided to design a solution for Val, an 85-year-old senior citizen who would like to leave her house for errands and social excursions, but who has difficulty driving and using public transportation. We framed our ideas around how to increase community awareness of the difficulties experienced by senior citizens and enlist community assistance.
Devoting the day to brainstorming solutions addressing mobility needs was both practical and fulfilling. Many of us know of someone who struggles getting from one point to another, be it a grandparent, parent, family member or friend. The Mobility Challenge gave me an opportunity to apply the problem-solving, analytical mindset I am presently applying to my MBA courses to key mobility issues that greatly impact members of our community. The challenge was further highlighted by the multi-disciplinary team dynamics, which diversified the range of ideas generated. From team to team, students were excited and thoughtful about resolving issues that are very real to others. These types of events create awareness, but even more importantly, jumpstart the problem-solving process, with students actively working towards resolving mobility obstacles.
At the end of the design sprint, each team pitched their idea in front of the participants, Dr. Ramachandran and Burandt, who questioned the teams about their proposals before selecting the winner.
The winning team will advance to the next round, where they will compete against 14 other teams who advanced from similar competitions from universities across the U.S.
This is the second year that Toyota has run the design challenge. The winners of the final round of the mobility challenge will receive an offer to intern with Toyota during the summer to further develop their mobility innovation solution.
Reemon Silverman is an MBA student at the Scheller College of Business.