FILLanthropy: Mind Finalist in This Year’s Design Challenge

FILLanthropy Stanford Longevity Challenge Website

FILLanthropy (Mind)

Team Lead: Annabel Chen
University: Stanford University

An online volunteer matching service for people of all backgrounds and interests who want to share their time and talent with each other, FILLanthropy emerged from team lead Annabel Chang’s studies at the Stanford Center on Longevity’s practicum course. “I’m writing a paper with Dawn Carr (another researcher at the Center) about the importance of promoting Asian volunteerism in healthy aging,” she explains, “and decided that this would be something worth doing a Design Challenge on.”

Designing FILLanthropy
“We started toying with the idea last Summer, and refined the concept throughout the year. We created about four versions of the concept before settling on the volunteering matching model. We had three versions of the website before we arrived at the one that we submitted.”

FILLanthropy Stanford Longevity Challenge Profile

Lessons Learned Designing FILLanthropy
“The most important thing to keep in mind was that we have to design for everyone, but to address a problem that faces seniors. All research points to the fact that starting volunteering before retirement has the most positive effects. We also learned that there’s a huge gap between what research says is good for aging, and what people actually want to do. Most people/agencies that we talked to agreed that this would be something that’s good for them, but still seemed hesitant about starting volunteering.”

Future Plans for FILLanthropy
“We plan on launching the website and start rallying local retirement homes and non-profits to implement it. Our next big step would also be to expand our design to incorporate other languages.”


Yedi70 Stanford Design Challenge website

Yedi70 (Mind)

Team Lead: Özge Armutcu
University: Koc University at Istanbul

A social network and informational resource for seniors connected to an online marketplace, Yedi70 was partly inspired by attendance at the Global Summit on Aging 2.0 in San Francisco last May, where the team met the managing board of the Stanford Center on Longevity. “We were very inspired by their mission, and we noticed that our vision matched theirs,” says team lead Özge Armutcu. “This was the reason that we decided to pursue this challenge.”

Yedi70 was also motivated by a personal tragedy among the team:

“Fatih, one of our cofounders, lost his grandmother in 2013 due to pancreatic cancer. After this loss, he talked with her friends, now the partners of Yedi70. After further research, we found that there was a reality that we were never aware of: the world is aging drastically. We started thinking about how we could improve quality of life and preventative health among seniors.”

Time Developing Yedi70
“We started the project on July 6th 2015, and the website was launched in October 2015. We are still using the first version of our design; however, day by day we are implementing new features while keeping the core essence of our design. For instance, we launched our personalization technology in February 2016.”

Design Lessons Learned Creating Yedi70
‘From our initial research, we found out that the world population is aging drastically. During our testing period, we noticed that people needed guidance and systematic recommendations along with services that they can easily access through a personalized marketplace.”

Yedi70 mobile Stanford Design Challenge

Future Plans for Yedi70
“By the end of December 2016 we would like to reach 300,000 members in Turkey. We believe that our design is not bound to any location, but on the contrary, can be a global solution for seniors. Starting in 2017, we want to scale our model to the US market, and then expand our model globally.”

Together-Green: Mind Finalist in This Year’s Challenge

Together Green Stanford Design Challenge prototype

Together-Green (Mind)

Team Lead: Carrie Gladstone
University: UC Berkeley

Using pairs of potted plants integrated with Internet-connected sensors, Together-Green enables families separated by distance to help each other monitor and care for their plants as a shared goal. It was inspired, says team lead Carrie Gladstone, by reading A Long Bright Future, from Stanford Center on Longevity’s Founding Director Laura Carstensen.

“The idea of empowering healthy longevity resonated with me, and when I finally returned to grad school, I was excited to participate. With a strong team — Anna with a business background in innovation, Abbey with experience in geriatric social work, and with my work in business and aging — we were excited to create something that could bring joy to older people. We wanted to create something for people — not just for disabled/seniors — and we loved how the Challenge focused on enhancing the positive aspects of an older individual’s life and what remains possible, and then magnified that with a product.”

Together-Green also had a personal source of inspiration: “Carrie’s friend Kisa (now in her mid-eighties) has been an avid gardener for most of her life, but tending a garden has recently become too much for her to manage on her own. We were looking for a way to help people like Kisa continue to experience the joy of gardening, while also nurturing their relationships with family and loved ones. Despite now living far from our grandparents, each of us has had special relationships with them, and wanted to find a way to connect with them beyond just day-to-day phone conversations about our activities and their ailments.”

Together Green Stanford Design Challenge

Click to enlarge

Developing Together-Green
“We went through an intensive three month process of interviewing older adults and their families, gathering insights and testing ideas prior to our submission to the Challenge. In total, we had about four very different versions of the idea that we tested.”

Lessons Learned in Designing Together-Green
“Our biggest learning has been the importance of creating with older adults, not for older adults — and working not to project our own wants and needs onto them. For example, we have read a lot about the value of intergenerational relationships, so our original concept paired older adults with children in a local school to develop a relationship and grow plants together. When we tested this idea with older adults, we found they were very disinterested. While the local schools liked the idea, the older adults did not care about creating new friendships with random children; they would rather use the shared plant-growing experience with people they already know — to deepen their existing relationships.”

Future Plans for Together-Green
“If we win the challenge, we plan to work on our product across the next year, in particular building out the ecosystem around it that will make it successful and deliver real value to our customers and their loved ones.”

PicMemory: Mind Finalist in This Year’s Design Challenge

PicMemory SCL Design

PicMemory (Mind)

Team Lead: Hung-Chi Lee
University: National Taiwan University

A mobile app designed to help people with dementia organize their life stories while facilitating family interaction, PicMemory was inspired by Sha Yao’s Eatwell, winner of 2014’s Design Challenge. “I was a Ph.D. student at that time,” explains team lead Hung-Chi Lee, “my research topic also related to people with dementia, so the news about Sha Yao and the competition encouraged me to think about how can I enter the Challenge with my PicMemory project.”

PicMemory was also inspired by Hung-Chi’s grandmother: “She raised me when I was a kid, so she taught me lots of things about life and family, and loves to share many funny things from daily life, or stories of our family from the past. But I found nothing was recorded whenever my grandmother shared her stories. So that is why I designed PicMemory to pick up our family memories. I’d like to help seniors easily share and collect life stories, and enrich feelings of happiness with their family.”

Designing and Prototyping Pic Memory
“The original idea began in 2014, and has been developed over two years. We revised our design four times, including the user interfaces, functions, and operation methods. Up to now, we have created five different prototypes of Pic Memory.”

PicMemory SCL Design 2

Key Takeaway from Designing PicMemory
“I found that seniors love sharing their wisdom and stories from the past with their family, but that there are few opportunities for them to do so in daily life. For this reason, we would like to provide a platform where they can do so, while also collecting family memories for future generations.”

Future Plans for PicMemory
“If we win the Challenge, we would like to release our service to daycare centers and caring organizations. As a next step, we would like to extend our service to all users, so everyone can use PicMemory to collect and share their life stories with their families.”

Sturdy Swivel: Mobility Finalist in This Year’s Design Challenge

Sturdy Swivel Prototype SCL Design Challenge

Sturdy Swivel (Mobility)

Team Lead: Jessica Hsueh
University: University of California at Berkeley

A device which helps the mobility-impaired enter and exit vehicles while in a seated position, the design was inspired by geriatrician Dr. Janice Schwartz and several of her patients. “Travelling by car allows seniors to expand their horizons and stimulate their mind and body,” explains team lead Jessica Hsueh, “through simple tasks like grocery shopping, visiting friends and family, and attending events in their community, and these needs were emphasized as we met and talked to people.”

Developing Sturdy Swivel
“We had three months to perform needs finding, concept generation, and prototype fabrication. We have created three different prototypes so far.”

Design Lessons Learned Creating Sturdy Swivel
“One of the hardest aspects for us was to keep the design as simple and purposeful as possible, so that seniors can focus on the task at hand, instead of getting confused about what to do. For instance, we needed to make sure any buttons and levers were obvious in design and function, with minimal reliance on written instructions.”

Sturdy Swivel SCL Design Challenge

Future Plans for Sturdy Swivel
“I think it would be amazing if our design could be used to make a positive impact in people’s lives. We might try to license or sell the product so that it can be manufactured.”


Echo 1 SCL Design Challenge

Echo (Mobility)

Team Lead: Yee Jek Khaw
University: National University of Singapore

Echo is a wireless, audio wayfinding kit that helps people who’ve recently become visually impaired to develop awareness of their surroundings. This was a challenge lead designer Yee Jek Khaw experienced first-hand in 2012.

“I experienced recurrent episodes of impaired vision due to a severe case of cornea abrasion,” explains Yee. “This unexpected change kept me homebound initially, as I struggled to find a way to go about once familiar-routines, mentally and physically.”

He found further inspiration from Dialogue in the Dark, in which blind guides lead sighted people through darkened locations. Speaking with the sight-impaired seniors who acted as guides, he learned that “most of the problems they faced during the initial period of blindness were often a result of the impaired mobility that vision loss had brought them.” Many had little or no resources to help them during this crucial time, causing some to just give up on living an independent life at all.

“Through these experiences, I was encouraged to delve deeper into the issue that newly visually impaired faced, with wayfinding.”

Developing Echo
“I started on this project about a year ago, with half the time spent on user research and the remaining half spend on prototype iterations and testing. Interaction with the various stakeholders was important at each stage of the design process. Through interviews, observations, and simulation exercises, I was able to narrow down on key areas of unmet needs and opportunities. After that, I worked towards concept generation and evaluation, with user feedback and reviews to improve on the interaction and use processes.

“From this list of ideas, an audio simulation kit was selected and I went through two iterations and quick user testings of prototypes before finalizing on the medium and method of audio projections.”

Echo 2 SCL Design Challenge

Takeaways from Designing Echo
“Changes are inevitable as we grow and age. Changes can become obstacles if we fail to adapt and improvise. Many seniors succumb to these changes because they feel that they are natural processes of ageing which are unavoidable. How can we redesign that process of change?

“In my project, acquiring independent mobility for the newly visually impaired is significant, as it shapes one’s subsequent attitude towards their disability. Narrowing the learning curve and difficulty experienced when dealing with this change goes a long way to improving their quality of life.”

Future Plans for Echo
“There’s interest in developing Echo as a supplement for current mobility rehabilitation training programs, and as a home-based kit for those who need it. I will be glad if I can get more resources to develop Echo for longer trial period needs, so I can further refine its use processes and technical components. There is also opportunity for Echo to be scaled to include other audio cues, including location cues, or timed cues that provide pertinent information when positioned in specific locations.”


POTALK Stanford Longevity Design Challenge


Team Lead: Cindy Tung
University: National Chiao-Tung University (Taiwan)

POTALK is a potted plant with watering system triggered by a microphone, encouraging isolated people to talk with others. Team members from the Biomechanics department and Medical Application Laboratory at the University were encouraged by their adviser, Professor Bing-Shiang Yang, to enter the Challenge. Says Tung, “He often encourages us to think, ‘What do elders need? What do they really want?’”

Inspiration for POTALK
“It began with a debate between two of our team members, Tony and Cindy. One day, Tony mentioned the difficulty he had when chatting with his grandma, since they speak different dialects and have very different backgrounds. Every week when he went home and tried to chat with her, it was very hard to understand each other, to the point where Tony would sometimes give up trying.

“Cindy, however, had a different experience with her own grandma, whom she met only once per year. Like Tony, she had difficulty understanding her at the beginning of their chats. But then the longer and more frequently they chatted, the better she’d understand her grandmother.

“From these conversations and others, the team agreed that the best way to improve communication between generations was to design an object that reminded families not to give up trying.”

Prototyping POTALK
“It took about half a year, and we are now making the third version of POTALK.”

Lessons Learned from designing POTALK
“We think the best design should touch the users’ hearts and make people want to own it, and fit into their existing lifestyle and daily activities. We think that the needs of seniors are actually not so different from the needs of youths: a social life with family or friends, a chance to share their experiences, and mutual consideration for others.”

Future Plans for POTALK
“We will keep improving POTALK, test our prototypes with more users, modify them based on that feedback, and then select a factory to mass produce the final protect. Whether we win the Challenge or not, we’re dedicated to bringing POTALK to the market.”

Deadline for Design Challenge Submissions: December 11, 2015!


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Solutions must be submitted through the Skipso Labs Competition Management Platform. Submissions will be accepted up until December 11th, 2015 at 5:00 pm Pacific Standard Time.

  • Entrants must answer a series of questions about their designs, including:
  • What specific issue is being addressed
  • The origin of the idea
  • Associations with existing research groups
  • A brief description of the design process
  • Estimated cost
  •  Estimated business impact

Phase I submissions can include any type of documentation needed to describe your design and how it helps address the challenge. You may also submit an optional 2 minute or shorter video.

















Open Call for Submissions in Third Annual Design Challenge “Using Happiness to Optimize Longevity”

Over $50,000 in Prizes, Mentorship & Sponsored Travel to Silicon Valley Will Be Awarded to University Students Who Design New Products, Tools & Services for Living Longer, Fuller Lives

PALO ALTO, CA–(Marketwired – Aug 11, 2015) – The Stanford Center on Longevity today announced the launch of its third annual design challenge, and this year’s theme, “Using Happiness to Optimize Longevity.” The challenge invites university students everywhere to submit designs for new products and services, which encourage everyone to live longer, fuller lives. Finalists will win over $50,000 in prizes, along with sponsored travel to the Stanford campus, where they’ll receive entrepreneurial mentorship and present their designs to renowned industry leaders for final judging.

“The topic of the challenge is particularly intriguing this year,” said Dr. Laura Carstensen, Founding Director of the Stanford Center on Longevity. “We expect to see qualitatively new designs when teams use happiness to change behavior.”

Since entrants retain all rights to their challenge submissions, several past finalists are on their way to turning their designs into full-fledged products and companies. Inspired to help her late grandmother, who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease, San Francisco student Sha Yao created a special tableware set for dementia patients, winning $10,000 in the 2014 Challenge. Ms. Yao subsequently turned her “Eatwell” design into a successfully funded Indiegogo project, and was recently invited to join the selective Amazon Vendor Express program.

“Entering the Stanford Design Challenge changed my life,” said Ms. Yao. “I’m now hopeful that my design can eventually help millions of people in the world like my grandma.”

All details for entering the challenge are available at the Stanford Center on Longevity website:

For updates, follow the Challenge on Twitter @StanfordLngLife.


The Challenge is open to teams of 1-5 students (undergraduate, graduate, medical, and postdoctoral) enrolled at an accredited university or college during the 2015-2016 academic year. Finalists in past challenges have come from as close as San Francisco and Berkeley to as far away as Denmark and Singapore.

This year’s Challenge has three categories: Mind, Mobility, and Financial Fitness, reflecting the Center’s belief that to the extent that people can reach old age mentally sharp, physically fit, and financially secure, that individuals and societies will thrive. Each track will have its own expert judges, award up to $17,000 in total cash prizes and expert mentor support, and offer sponsored travel to Stanford, where finalists will present their designs to renowned industry, academic, and government leaders.


  • Cash prizes: $10,000 (first place), $5,000 (second place), $2,000 (third place)
  • Finalists receive mentorship, $1,000 for prototyping, and personalized coaching from industry experts and researchers
  • Finalists receive airfare and hotel reimbursement for a student to attend the Finals at Stanford University to present their idea to investors and potential customers
  • Finalists attend an entrepreneurial workshop at Stanford and learn how to take their concept into execution.

The mission of the Stanford Center on Longevity is to redesign long life. The Center studies the nature and development of the human life span, looking for innovative ways to use science and technology to solve the problems of people over 50 and improve the well-being of people of all ages. For more information about the Center, visit and follow us on Twitter @longevitycenter


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Vanessa Camones
theMIX agency for Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge
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