Stanford’s d.School was packed last Friday, May 18th for the Aspen Ideas Festival. The competition began with over 50 entrants and was whittled down to seven finalists for the presentation night. Of the seven, four teams were selected to go on to Aspen. Despite Stanford being allotted only three spaces for the next phase of the competition, the judges agreed to send four teams due to the high quality of the submissions. The winners were CompactCath, CombatIV, SparkTruck, and SocialTeeth.
CombatIV was a strong contender from the beginning. Their device, an auto-delivering compact IV bag, was built to save lives. One of the team members, a war veteran, said, “anything that's made a little bit more simple in a combat environment saves lives.” Currently, every wounded soldier or Marine requiring an IV must be attended to at all times by another service member. The fluid level of the IV bag must constantly be checked to ensure that the drip is flowing at the correct rate, and the attending service member is unavailable to conduct military operations. CombatIV changes that. With an auto-delivery system, once the IV is attached to the wounded service member, the attending service member can then get back in the fight.
CombatIV can also be used for anyone who is wounded in an area that does not have access to adequate medical care; natural disaster areas would greatly benefit from the availability of such devices. At the same time an audience member raised the point that “it seems a lot more complicated than what we have now, and the cost seems more as well.” CombatIV assured him that the cost would not be much more than the IV bags that are currently being produced, and stated, that while the technology in the device is more complicated than what we currently use, it is simpler to use for the individuals in the battle zone.
CompactCath was another winner at the event. The CompactCath is a catheter the size of a small packet that can easily be concealed. The device is a huge benefit for individuals suffering from urinary incontinence. The first team member opened the talk with a question, “how often do you go to the bathroom [daily]? On average, it's six times.” He pointed out that this is even more frequent for persons that must relieve themselves with the aid of a catheter.
The small size of CompactCath allows for the discreet carrying of multiple catheters, a boon for persons suffering from urinary incontinence that wish to remain discreet. This precludes sufferers of the condition from having to resort to unsafe options such as putting catheters in pill bottles or reusing old ones. Someone in the audience asked what the secret was to making the catheters so small. The explained that CompactCath is designed for mobility from the ground up as opposed to traditional catheters that were designed for the hospitals where larger storage is required because patients are less mobile.
SparkTruck was a smash hit with the audience. Their mobile education building-lab has already served over 300 kids in over a dozen schools, allowing students to create things with their own hands using materials on board the Spark Truck. One of their students sent a video thanking them. She showed off one of her SparkTruck creations and said "I made this, I can make other things too." Spark Truck's main goal is to inspire such enthusiasm and creativity. They got their start through a crowd-sourced Kickstarter campaign where 426 people donated enough money for them to purchase the truck.
Social Teeth is a social media campaigning platform that aims to create a grassroots element to help combat the current lobbyist system in congress. Social Teeth says "we can definitely do better" as a society. In order to cull platform topics for presentation, Social Teeth plans on using larger social media sites to find which topics have the most public support. Their goal is to create an environment where users and everyday citizens believe they have efficacy and ownership in the political process and make them more optimistic about taking on bigger political reforms.
The three other finalists that aren’t moving on to the Aspen phase were REwiRE, Illuminus, and Readimagine. REwiRE plans on creating renewable energy mini-grids across Indonesia to replace the current household electricity dependence on diesel generators, which is only made possible by heavy government subsidies which are currently being phased out of the Indonesian budget. Illuminus is a smart phone application and journalism wire service that aims to connect the modern day journalist with the everyday citizen, getting stories that would otherwise not be told or told in such a way that something would be left out.
Readimagine has the goal of having "parents take away tablets from their children because they're reading." By creating interactive multimedia ebooks aimed at kids just learning to read, Readimagine is trying to get kids to fall in love with reading at a time when kids have more competing distractions than ever before.
In his remarks, event chair George Kembel, Executive Director of the d.school said, All of the teams at the event had “a heart for empathy,” a key component for success in the Aspen Ideas Festival. The teams also “looked for insights,” had an “attitude of experimentation,” and “value the diversity of experience.” All of the teams had mixed academic and professional backgrounds; there were doctors, professors, and others representing just the sort of cross-field collaboration the Stanford d.school promotes.