At the eigth annual Women in the World Summit last week, Toyota honored the Class of 2017 in its Mothers of Invention program, which recognizes female-led organizations and entrepreneurs who have created successful innovations, technologies and products that are transforming society and improving humanity.
This year, the program honored three women: Sarah Evans, founder and executive director of Well Aware, which seeks to provide access to lasting clean water in impoverished communities; Hahna Alexander, chief executive and co-founder of SolePower, which creates self-charging wearables that capture wasted energy from human motion; and Komal Dadlani, chief executive and co-founder of Lab4U, which develops web and mobile technologies to turn smartphones and tablets into science instruments.
Each honoree received a grant of $50,000.
Well Aware has impacted more than 150,000 people and is on track to more than double its impact in 2017 according to Toyota.
Well Aware tackles water scarcity and contamination in Africa. It funds and implements life-saving water systems to drive economic development and build self-sufficient communities. Well Aware has a 100% success rate with the water systems and wells it builds and its partner communities are thriving as a result.
Toyota said SolePower has found a way to harvest the kinetic energy in human footsteps thanks to an engineering class project at Carnegie Mellon University. This, in turn, can be used to charge portable electronics like cell phones, music players and GPS systems, as well as lights and sensors.
In fact, the US Army is testing SolePower’s kinetic charger as a lightweight backup battery for soldiers. Other applications are in development for firefighters and emergency workers.
“They embedded the solution into the sole of a work boot to create self-charging SmartBoots,” the release said. “The boots track location and motion, providing workforces with insights to keep workers safe and alert them when they are in danger.”
Lab4U was founded in 2013 after Komal saw the lack of scientific instruments at her school, the University of Chile.
“Her aim is to democratize science so that more students become scientists, researchers and developers,” said Toyota. “This provides a low-cost solution for science education for schools in emerging markets for underprivileged students who do not have access to scientific instruments.”
For example, the technology uses sensors already in smartphones to measure acceleration, frequency and movement in physics experiments. It also transforms phones into microscopes with a $1 filter attached to the camera. Lab4Physics, the first product, has been tested with more than 2,000 students in Latin America and the US since its launch in May 2016.
Toyota said it collaborated with the editorial team from Tina Brown Live Media, which produces summits, salons, flash forums and debates including the Women in the World event, to identify three women who “affect change throughout the world and have tremendous vision.” The finalists must meet criteria like solving large-scale problems, introducing new product categories, finding solutions to societal issues and providing innovative technologies.
Since its inception in 2012, Toyota said its Mothers of Invention program has recognized 19 women with a total of nearly $1m in grants.
In addition to building cars, Toyota said it is dedicated to improving society and the lives of others.
“We are thrilled to support these remarkable women, whom with their optimism, intelligence and grit are writing bright new endings to stories of people the world often forgets or overlooks,” said Lisa Materazzo, vice president of vehicle marketing and communications at Toyota, in a statement. “By working together to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, the Toyota Mothers of Invention network can grow larger, stronger and make a bigger impact on the lives of others.”
Toyota have been a presenting sponsor for Women in the World since 2013.