POTALK: Mind Finalist in This Year’s Design Challenge

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.

















Call for Submissions

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


Media Inquiries
Vanessa Camones
theMIX agency for Stanford Center on Longevity Design Challenge
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