the benchmark of blind design

Photo of Maximillian Shen
3 7

Written by

Are you employed by T-Mobile or related to an employee of T-Mobile?

  • No

Eligibility: Date of Birth

June, 5, 2002

Help us stay in touch!

(650) 522-0065 18 Dockside Circle California: Redwood City(94065)

Website or social media url(s) (optional):

Website: Instagram: teamstria Video:

Date You Started Your Project Started


Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.

  • Established (successfully passed early phases, have a plan for the future)

1. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

What if there was a population of 285 million people that all had the same need? Everyday, blind individuals worldwide are faced with deadly high speed traffic on their morning commute, without a safe way to cross streets. Veering is a problem that many visually impaired individuals face, where because they have no visual point of reference, they can begin to stray off of their intended course or path, potentially into oncoming traffic.

2. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

Our solution, the Stria Band is a low-profile smart waistband designed to make navigating safe and convenient for the blind community. The Stria Band uses an integrated Inertial Measurement Unit, Proprietary Algorithms, and Custom Printed PCB to detect veering, and direct users back towards their intended path via haptic feedback on either side of their waist. Essentially, when the on board sensors detect that a user has made an unintentional turn, or strayed from their path, the band will buzz lightly on either side of the user's waist, guiding them back onto course. Our band measures angular velocity, and if our proprietary algorithms deem a movement in the "veering range," then the users' path will be corrected. Over the past two years, Stria has worked one on one with blind individuals, created strategic relationships with blind centers across the country, and worked with designers at leading technology companies in the country to develop our product.

3. Personal Journey: What’s the story behind why you decided to start this project?

From the perspective of the sighted, the experiences of the blind can be hard to empathize with and understand on the surface. When we first spoke to Jimmy, our first user, more than 2 years ago, we felt daunted by what he had gone through, and by what he faced in his day-to-day life. After talking to to 150 visually impaired individuals, almost a dozen blind centers, and technology experts across the nation to get a true understanding of blindness today, we realized that these problems continue for many across the blind community. Since then, we have dedicated ourselves to providing a solution for Jimmy, and helping to resolve just one of the problems in his day to day life.

4. Selfie Elevator Pitch: Include 1-minute video that answers the following “I am stepping up to make change because...”

We at Stria are stepping up to make change because innovation is needed to take us to the next level of blind accessibility. Everyday, blind individuals face unsafe commutes, as a result of veering, when blind individuals stray from their original path, into oncoming traffic. At Stria, we want to help these people, and we’ve worked with the blind community at every step of the way to create a product that’s best for them. With Stria, blind users can be confident on their daily commute.

5. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of what happens when a person or group gets involved with your project.

Although we have since worked with hundreds of blind individuals and a dozen blind centers, our biggest user since day 1 has always been Jimmy, a 29 year old who has blinded just 2 years ago. Everyday, Jimmy walks 30 minutes from his house to the bus stop, before riding to SFO, where he works as United’s first blind engineer. Right now, Jimmy leaves at 4:45 every morning, because it isn’t safe for him to walk to work during traffic hours. With Stria, Jimmy would be able to get more sleep, and arrive at work faster without having to take detours around busy intersections. Instead of skipping any busy streets, with Stria, Jimmy would simply put on the Stria belt, turn it on, and walk forward, knowing that the band will alert him if he begins to veer. This allows Jimmy to cross streets confidently and safely.

6. The X Factor: What is different about your project compared to other programs or solutions already out there?

Although our product is built from proprietary algorithms, custom high-performance PCB boards, and streamlined design, our user is at the heart of our product. We have worked with the blind community every step of the way to make sure that our product is in line with our users’ needs. We started with a common problem for nearly every blind individual, and built a solution that is exactly what the blind community needs and wants. At the moment, there is simply no other product that addresses this problem feasibly and reliably.

7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?

Through beta testing, we have received feedback such as “veering is such a huge problem in my day to day life, it's amazing that something this small can make such a difference” and “I'm astounded that a team of high school students could make a product as effective as this”. In addition, nearly 100% of those surveyed said that they would purchase Stria and that it would help them in their everyday life. We believe that this product can make a real change and that the population of more than 285 million blind users worldwide will readily adopt it into their day to day lives. After interacting with so many blind individuals, we have seen how strong and supportive they are and we hope that by distributing the Stria Band, we will be able to give back to the community that has facilitated this amazing journey for us.

8. What’s Next: What are your ideas for taking your project to the next level?

We are currently in the beta testing phase and are working with blind individuals to receive more feedback. Funding would help us reach our goal of production by Q2 of 2020. We recently finalized our PCB schematic, successfully reducing our footprint by over 80 percent, leaving our next goal to achieve FCC approval and an NRTL safety marking. Meanwhile, we continue to beta test our product with blind users to make sure Stria and its algorithms are everything they can be. We are working with a local manufacturing firm to begin the production process, and adapt our product to mass production. We know how much of an impact we can make in the blind community, and we want to put Stria in the hands of blind individuals as soon as possible.

9. Which of the following types of expertise would be most useful for you?

  • Legal Services

10. Finances: If applicable, have you mobilized any of the following resources so far?

  • Donations between $100-$1k

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 [optional] Which of the following categories do you identify with?

  • White (for example: German, Irish, English, Italian, Polish, French) (6)
  • Hispanic, Latino/a, or Spanish origin (for example: Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuba, Salvadoran, Dominican, Colombian) (7)
  • Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc) (8)
  • Asian (for example: Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, Japanese, Pakistani) (9)

Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 [optional] Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities?

  • Communities of color
  • Disability community
  • Low-income community
  • LGBTQ community
  • Religious minority (non-Christian)

How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others
  • Participated in previous Ashoka challenges
  • Email

Referral: If you discovered the Challenge thanks to an organization or person other than Ashoka or T-Mobile, who was it?

Connie Liu at Project Invent

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. Overall evaluation

5 - This idea rocked my world. It’s awesome! - 33.3%

4 - This idea seems really exciting. With a little more polishing, it’d be among my favorites. - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 33.3%

1 - It didn’t make my heart beat faster. - 0%

2. Changemaker Quality

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 33.3%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 33.3%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

3. Creativity

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 33.3%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 33.3%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 33.3%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

4. Commitment

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 100%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 50%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer - 0%

5. Connection

5 - Absolutely, 100%! - 66.7%

4 - I feel really good about this - very promising - 0%

3 - This has some good elements and some areas for development - 0%

2 - This doesn’t inspire me so much - 33.3%

1 - This entry is weak here - 0%

No Answer or No Connection - 0%


Join the conversation:

Photo of Peggy Liang

Hey Max, this idea is amazing. I also think it's SO crazy that you've already had about 135 interviews. That's real dedication. I trust you all will see this to the end. I'm looking forward to seeing where Stria goes! One recommendation--is there anyway to prototype this product without having to build this first? Does it have to be something they wear? Can it be on a phone rather than a thing you need to build? What resources do you have currently that can help you build an affordable prototype? Could you partner with Google Maps? These are just ideas.

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