Meet John, Mobility Challenge Winner & Intern

By: Net Impact staff | August 2, 2016

StreetSmart won the 2015-2016 Next Generation Mobility Challenge
StreetSmart won the 2015-2016 Next Generation Mobility Challenge

Last year, Net Impact and Toyota’s Mobility Foundation launched the Next Generation Mobility Challenge for students to generate solutions to some of the leading issues in transportation and mobility. The winning concept was a proposed app called StreetSmart that would work in conjunction with Toyota’s Project BLAID, providing real-time audio alerts on street conditions for people who are visually impaired. The students who proposed the solution are spending their summer working with Toyota Mobility Foundation and the Partner Robotics Lab to build out research on their idea. Keep an eye on the Net Impact blog as we spotlight this summer’s interns.

Name: John Mathai    
Major: Mechanical Design 
School: Olin College of Engineering, Needham, MA

How did you hear about the Toyota + Net Impact Next Generation Mobility Challenge?

I found out about the Challenge through a professor -- he announced it to a class I was the class assistant for at the time.

What specific project are you working on this summer?

I am working on Toyota’s Project BLAID, specifically looking at the product’s future as a platform for visually-impaired users.

How does the internship differ from or complement your school coursework?

Much of the schoolwork I had done in my first year revolved around human-centered design and product development. It is fantastic to be able to use those skills in the real world on a product that has such a potential for positive impact.

How has the experience shaped your future plans?

I enjoy dynamic environments; I find them more challenging and more engaging. As such, I am looking into engineering opportunities abroad or in places I think I’d find compelling, such as aboard a ship, for the summers to come.

What do you think is the most critical issue facing the world of mobility and transportation?

I think the most critical issue is energy. Most solutions to any of the mobility/transportation problems rely on power, and finding or generating a sustainable source of energy and creating infrastructure around that is going to be a necessary but massive shift in the way this world works.

What is one of the craziest things you’ve done to date?

I joined 5 students I had never met before in a foreign country where I barely knew the language for a month and a half. We were there for language immersion and some environmental volunteerism and education. I turned out alright (I think)…therein lies my passion for unfamiliar and rapidly changing places!



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