Beetle inspires James Dyson winner

A device that extracts water from thin air as a solution to the draught problem has won the 2011 James Dyson Award. Airdrop, designed by Edward Linacre, is a low cost, self powered, and easy to install solution to the problems of growing crops in arid regions.

Linacre has been inspired by Australia’s worst drought in a century. The student, from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, turned to nature to find ways of capturing moisture from air. He studied the Namib beetle, an ingenious species which lives in one of the driest places on earth – with half an inch of rain per year; it can only survive by consuming the dew it collects on the hydrophilic skin of its back in the early mornings.

Airdrop borrows this concept, working on the principle that even the driest air contains water molecules which can be extracted by lowering the air’s temperature to the point of condensation. It pumps air through a network of underground pipes, to cool it to the point at which the water condenses, delivering water directly to the roots of plants.

‘Biomimicry is a powerful weapon in an engineer’s armoury,’ says James Dyson. ‘Airdrop shows how simple, natural principles like the condensation of water, can be applied to good effect through skilled design and robust engineering.’

His research suggests that 11.5 mm of water can be harvested from every cubic meter of air in the driest of deserts. Further developments of his design will increase the yield of Airdrop.

‘Winning the award’s £10,000 prize will mean I can develop and test the Airdrop system,’ says Linacre. ‘It has the potential to help farmers around the world and I’m up for the challenge of rolling it out.’

A further £10,000 has also been awarded to his university department to support other young engineers keen to follow in his footsteps.

Dyson adds: ‘Young designers and engineers like Edward will develop the simple, effective technology of the future – they will tackle the world’s biggest problems and improve lives in the process.’

The winner was chosen from over 500 entries from around the world. Runners up included a portable, retractable room divider developed by Michael Korn, a student at the Royal College of Art in London. The KwickScreen allows healthcare professionals to make the best use of available space; giving maximum privacy, dignity and protection to patients.  (read our preview here)

Also on the runners up list was a device to aid the visually challenged travel around unfamiliar surroundings. Developed by Se Lui Chew from the National University of Singapore, Blindspot informs the user of nearby friends using information from geographical-based social apps such as Foursquare, and communicates with them via a Bluetooth earpiece connected to the cane. The cane guides the user to their friend using a horizontally rolling ball on the cane handle which points in the direction they should walk.

Michal Prywata from Ryerson University in Canada was highly commended for his Amo Arm to overcome the invasive muscle re-innervation surgery required for amputees. It can be strapped on and is controlled using brain signals, avoiding major surgery and the long rehabilitation period after.

Details of all entrants can be found at James Dyson Award.

Guest blogger Sean Jackson

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | | Bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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Room divider wins James Dyson Award

A portable, retractable room divider has won the UK leg of the James Dyson Award. Designed by Michael Korn, KwickScreen helps healthcare professionals make the best use of their often limited available space – allowing for more privacy, dignity and protection to patients.

The student at London’s Royal College of Art has explored the use bistable materials such as slap on bracelets and tape measures. He developed early prototypes drawing on concepts found in nature, including the Venus fly trap and a frog’s tongue.

James Dyson award winner Michael Korn and his KwickScreen

The discovery of RolaTube Technology gave Kom the idea of a retractable room divider. He now has exclusive rights to the use the technology for the production of screens and has a patent on the KwickScreen.

‘This is such a simple idea, using a well-proven mechanical principle in a unique and innovative way, which seems to have endless applications in a variety of different fields – I just wish I’d thought of it,’ says one of the judges Sebastian Conran.

‘Winning the  award will propel us towards our goal of increasing exports,’ says Kom. ‘The money will go directly towards the first pay packet for our new graduate engineer recruit who is working hard on R&D to develop the next iteration of KwickScreen.’

The KwickScreen is manufactured in Corby in the Midlands, using primarily local components. Since its launch eight months ago the device has been sold to over 25 NHS Trusts as well as hospitals in Italy, Canada and UAE.  By next year the designer expects 25% of sales to come from exports.

Runner’s up of the award included Curve, a simple solution to the pain and discomfort most female cyclists currently experience with standard saddle designs. Designed by Katy Korin, Curve’s unique shape compliments the shape of the female pelvis and supports her weight evenly. The torsion springs allow the saddle to tilt forward when there is an increase of pressure at the front of the saddle.

The Curve, shortlisted for the James Dyson Award

This tilting feature reduces the amount of pressure that the cyclist experiences on the pubic rami at the front of the pelvis. Three different stiffness of spring and sizes of saddle mean that a variety of female body shapes can use curve effectively and experience its benefits.

Another shortlisted entry is the Flexi-Pipe Pump by David Hutton, a simple, reliable and low cost water pump designed for the developing world. The pump makes use of commonly found materials: a simple bicycle pump produces the compressed air required.

All the shortlisted entries will now progress to the international stage of the competition – and will be judged by Dyson engineers and ultimately by Sir James Dyson himself.

The UK winning design Kwickscreen will progress to compete against leading innovations from the 18 other participating countries. The international winner will be selected by James Dyson and announced on 8 November 2011. Kom says he will use the £1000 of prize money to help with the further development of his invention.

Watch the video of the prototyping process

Read our previous reports on the James Dyson Award here.

Guest blogger Sean Jackson

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | | Bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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James Dyson challenges young design engineers

Industrial designer James Dyson is challenging young designers and engineers to come up with problem-solving inventions – much like he did with the innovative bagless Dyson vacuum cleaner back in the 1980s – as part of the James Dyson Award.

The competition is open for entries and deadline for submission is 2 August 2011. Those interested should  submit a footage, images and sketches along with a synopsis detailing the design process and inspiration here. The winner will receive £10,000 to develop their invention, and £10,000 for their university.

Dyson has already received some interesting entries from around the world. The Flexi-Pipe Pump, for example, is a simple and low cost water pump proposed for the developing world. The brainchild of a British design engineer, it is powered by compressed air that can be provided by a simple bicycle pump.

In order to pump water, the Flexi-Pipe Pump chamber is submerged underwater, the user can then start operating the bicycle pump and with no priming required water is brought to the surface through the hose pipe. The Pump works by air displacement.

Another applicant from Australia has proposed the Vacuum Bin, a radical redesign of the current knock-out bin which is used in almost every cafe worldwide. It uses a small foot pump to pull the air away from the top unit applying suction and removing all the used coffee beans from the portafilter in one large clump.

The Urban Rock is a single person, collapsible, portable shelter equip with a sleeping pad that can be folded up and packed into a compact shape. Proposed by an entry from the US, when fully collapsed the shelter can be packed away into a backpack container for easy transporting.

Last year’s winner Samuel Adeloju created Longreach, a lifesaving projectile buoyancy aid that uses grenade propulsion technology to fire an emergency buoyancy aid up to 150m out to sea.

The industrial design graduate from University of New South Wales in Sydney is now refining the technology with a view to putting it into commercial production.

In 2009 Yusuf Muhammad and Paul Thomas from London’s Royal College of Art won the award for Automist, a fire extinguisher that can be fitted directly onto a standard kitchen tap now on the market.

‘The award champions the ideas of young designers and engineers – encouraging them to develop inventions, defy their critics, and turn them into commercial successes for themselves and their economy,’ says Dyson. ‘We’re looking for the people who rather than accept a problem and make do, design a simple and effective solution.’

The winner will be announced in November 2011. For more visit James Dyson Award.

Here Samuel Adeloju discusses his design and engineering thinking behind Longreach

What was your inspiration for Longreach?
Military training is about the use of lethal force. But my training with the Army Reserves exposed me to hi-tech grenade propulsion technology, which prompted me to explore the idea of making a life saving flotation device that could be safely fired over a long distance.

Has your invention evolved since winning the James Dyson Award – will it be available commercially?
Longreach has undergone several design changes since winning the James Dyson Award and there’s been lots of interest internationally.  The potential for Longreach to change the way people are rescued at sea is defiantly being realised.

Samuel Adeloju's Longreach 2010 James Dyson Award winner

Have you had a lot of interest in your idea – does anyone want to buy it from you?
Longreach won Silver at the recent Australian Design Awards. My biggest challenge has been converting all the interest into commitment. I’m looking to either license the design or start a company to manufacture and distribute it.

What advice would you give to a student thinking of entering the award?
The reason, I feel that Longreach has been so successful has been the fact that it was novel approach to water rescue, but the research and design considerations that backed it up, made it a very tangible and implementable design.

Make sure you protect your idea. I had a lot of trouble initially protecting my designs because I did not submit provisional patents. It takes a very small amount of time and money to file a provisional patent, but it gives you the opportunity to protect your design if there is interest in it. It is very difficult to do after the event.

What advice would you give a young person considering design or engineering as a career?
Design needs to be a hobby as well as a job – I think about it all the time.  Everywhere I go and everything I do, I am always thinking of new ways to solve the problems I see in everyday life. Most will not be worth looking into, some will be worth implementing personally, and still fewer will be worth taking more seriously.

Where would you like to be in ten years?
I probably need another five years before I could answer that. I am still a junior designer. I have a lot to learn and I’m not sure where my specialization will be. I really like the aesthetic and styling of furniture design, but also the technical nature of product and transportation design also appeals to me.  For now, I would like to see Longreach a success.

What invention do you wish you had though of?
Nacelles on jet engines and air intakes on supercars are some of the greatest examples of form following function and that is the heart of design.

What is your dream job?
I want to change the world – that is what every designer should seek to do. I am not talking about designing an iPod or literally changing a market. It could be something as simple as changing the way a product is made, so that it is cheaper or greener, or better.

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | | Bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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Dyson encourages design engineering

The UK government has just announced its five ‘golden’ subjects for the education curriculum. Sadly engineering doesn’t feature in this. The reality is that the country is suffering from a lack of trained engineers. The figures are quite shocking: the UK produces only 24,000 engineering graduates a year, compared to around 300,000 in China and 450,000 in India.

Students in this field are often lured to work in the finance sector with the offer of better pay. What’s more, foreign engineering students often find that they can’t stay in the UK after they’ve finished their education for visa reasons, forced to work elsewhere and taking their skills with them.

James Dyson is actively trying to change this. The creator of the famous Dyson vacuum cleaner believes the way to encourage students to take up engineering is to induce a love for design and technology at a very young age.


His James Dyson Foundation is offering a donation of £1m over three years to encourage young people to pursue their interest in design and engineering.

In a culture where failure is never encouraged, the learning of design and technology must seem insane where it is completely acceptable to fail projects, to try and try harder in order to discover better solutions. This is after all the whole nature of design engineering.

Dyson, himself a qualified engineer who then went on to do study industrial design at the prestigious Royal College of Art in London, says that on top of this, students are often priced out of postgraduate research posts due to debts accrued as an undergraduate and ongoing cost of living.

‘Studying design and engineering is costly,’ admits Dyson, noting: ‘But it’s vital. We don’t produce enough engineers to get the country out of economic doldrums with new technology. The challenge is ensuring the best don’t drop out in favour of banking careers.’

Four postgraduate bursaries of £25,000 per year will be available to students at the University of Bath, Bristol, Corpus Christie Cambridge, and Imperial College London from September 2011.

They will be awarded to students who show a passion for engineering, accounting for academic excellence and financial need.

Additionally, £60,000 will be available to five institutions this year, including the RCA and Loughborough University, to support specific projects that show technical excellence and creative flair. The foundation gives a further £30,000 per annum to the RCA to promising student ideas.

For more information visit James Dyson.

Nargess Shahmanesh Banks

Design Talks | 5 – 25 Scrutton Street | Old Street | Shoreditch | London | EC2A 4HJ?W | UK | | Bookshop | Published by Banksthomas

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