May 24, 2018
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Houlton man finalist in national Toyota technology contest

Courtesy photo | BDN
Courtesy photo | BDN
Tim Witmer of Houlton is one of five finalists in his division for Toyota’s "Ideas for Good" contest. The contest asked individuals to submit new concepts for using Toyota’s existing technology to make a difference in the world.
By Joseph Cyr, Houlton Pioneer Times

HOULTON, Maine — Everyone dreams of winning a new car. For Houlton’s Tim Witmer, that dream soon may become a reality.

Witmer is one of five finalists in his division for the Toyota “Ideas for Good” contest. The contest asked individuals to submit ideas on how Toyota’s current automotive technology could be adapted into everyday situations and put to practical use.

A panel of company officials chose five finalists in each of five categories from thousands submitted. The winners in each category, however, now will be selected by visitors to Toyota’s website on the competition. Individuals can vote once a day at To vote for Witmer, click on “Pure Air, Tim W.” under the category “Solar Powered Ventilation System.” The winners will be announced May 9.

“My parents signed me up for Time magazine, and one of the first issues I got had an article about this contest,” Witmer said. “I don’t like competitions that are left purely to chance. What appealed to me about this particular contest is you had to put some thought into it and come up with an idea.”

Applicants had to put their ideas into an essay 750 characters or less describing how the technology could be used in other ways. There were five categories from which to choose — Total Human Model for Safety, Solar Powered Ventilation Systems, Hybrid Synergy Drive, Advanced Parking Guidance System, and Touch Tracer Display technology.

Witmer chose the Solar Powered Ventilation Systems category for his project. That division asked inventors to come up with a concept that used Toyota’s available system of using the sun’s rays to keep an electric fan running while the car is parked, so that the car’s internal temperature is not hotter than its surrounding exterior temperature.

Witmer said he immediately thought of how the electric fans could be used by people who cook with wood stoves in their homes.


“I am a Maine guide and led a lot of wilderness trips,” he said. “I cook over outdoor fires quite a bit and would always get quite a bit of smoke in my face. So I did a bit of research on the subject. It seems to be quite a problem in some parts of the world.”

In his presentation to Toyota, Witmer stated that “many who live in impoverished areas still cook over indoor fires. The resulting smoke can be highly damaging to the lungs of the occupants in the hut, especially infants and young children.”

He theorized that Toyota’s Solar Powered Ventilation System could be used to draw smoke from huts, which would be “environmentally friendly, would improve the health of individuals who can’t afford health care and move families toward a lifestyle where energy could be collected from sustainable resources.”

Once the overall winners from the five categories are chosen, they will be flown to Pittsburgh, Pa., for a three-day weekend of designing and further developing their concepts with the mechanical masterminds from the engineering firm Deeplocal at Carnegie Mellon University. In addition, they’ll get their pick of a new Prius, Venza or Highlander Hybrid.

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