In society’s next wave of sustainability progress, design skills will need to feature heavily. This year’s top 20 students shortlisted for the James Dyson Award around the world highlight that inventors are no longer just considering the form and function of their designs, they are considering their environmental footprint too. The shortlisted inventors, which for the first time comprises 50% females, continue to show determination to improve lives through genius applications of science and technology, but also capture the notion that impact is two-fold: both social and environmental, and comes from, not just the application of the product, but the way it has been manufactured and the materials used in its design.
The competition is open to student inventors with the ability and ambition to solve the problems of tomorrow. Winning solutions are selected by Sir James Dyson and show ingenuity, iterative development and commercial viability. With students from 27 nations now competing, the award is set to welcome new approaches to a broader range of global social and environmental issues than ever before.
Since the competition first opened fifteen years ago, the iconic inventor has already contributed over £1m to championing boundary-breaking concepts. To help finalists to develop their novel idea, each year the overall winner is awarded £30,000, and winners in each participating region receive £2,000. Unlike other competitions, participants are given full autonomy over their intellectual property. The international prize is £30,000 for the student and £5,000 for the student’s university department. National winners were awarded £2,000 each.
Peter Gammack, VP of Design and New Technology at Dyson said: “The breadth and ambition of the entries we have seen this year is outstanding. Young engineers are restless in the face of global issues, and they see technology as a catalyst for creating a better future. They demonstrate clearly how simple ingenious concepts have the power to revolutionise the way people live.”
Chosen by Dyson engineers from more than four thousand finalists in 27 participating nations, these 20 projects will now be presented to Sir James Dyson who will select the overall winner and two runners-up.
Hannah Tilsley and Chamonix Stuart, Nah, Yeah Buoy – New Zealand
Approximately 80% of Surf Life Saving New Zealand’s 1,000 annual lifesaving rescues are caused by rip currents, and studies show that drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death in New Zealand. These designers, Hannah Tilsley and Chamonix Stuart of Victoria University of Wellington, wanted to design a product that would help detect a rip current to warn beachgoers of the hidden dangers to prevent drownings and rescues due to rip currents. The “Nah, Yeah Buoy” is an adaptive system for water safety designed to identify rip currents near beaches, visualise their locations and movements, and provide interactive alerts and warnings for lifeguards and water users. See a video of their potentially life-saving invention here.
Uma Smith, Cocoon – USA
According to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 3.4 million Americans have active epilepsy. Epileptic seizures can be dangerous for not only an epileptic, but for by-standers as well. Seizure safe spaces are not always easy to locate and by-standers are often uninformed in seizure recognition and first aid. Uma Smith set out to solve this problem.
Cocoon is a smart epileptic seizure protection and alert device. When an epileptic experiences an aura at the beginning of a seizure, they open Cocoon, lie on their side, and slip Cocoon over the top of their head, leaving their face unobstructed. Magnetic sensors detect when the device has been opened and alerts pre-designated caretakers of the epileptic’s GPS coordinates. An accelerometer detects convulsions while a cell-connected chip calls an ambulance if the seizure lasts longer than five minutes.
Frederique Sunstrum, Continuity – Australia
Diabetes is an increasing worldwide epidemic, and impacts 1 in 10 individuals worldwide. The current invasive diabetic devices used to monitor and treat diabetics could be unsafe at times, painful and time consuming.
Continuity challenges the current issues of invasive diabetic devices used today by taking advantage of the newest technology to monitor glucose levels and deliver insulin 'non-invasively'. It is a device which harnesses GlucoWise's technology and applies it in a continuous 24/7 glucose monitoring earring device. One side of the device transmits radio-frequency waves through the earlobe, clearing the skin layers, generating a clear picture of the blood cells for the sensor to read the glucose levels on the other side of the earlobe. The device then vibrates to alert users of change in glucose levels and sends alerts to their phone to initiate action. Furthermore, the insulin delivery device is a non-invasive handheld oral device that is sprayed in the mouth, where the pre-dosed insulin is then absorbed into the inner lining of the cheeks.
MarinaTex – UK
The inspiration for MarinaTex is a genuine belief that we should focus on form, function and footprint when thinking about design and engineering. Lucy, the inventor, solves two problems: the ubiquity of single-use plastic and fish waste.
MarinaTex is a biodegradable alternative to single-use plastic, made of organic fish waste and locally sourced red algae. While it may look and feel like plastic, its similarities end there. It is stronger, safer and much more sustainable than its oil-based counterpart. Using a unique formula of red algae to bind the proteins extracted from fish waste, MarinaTex has strong overlapping bonds giving it strength and flexibility. MarinaTex is home compostable, meaning it will disintegrate in your food waste disposal at home within 4-6 weeks and doesn’t require its own national waste management infrastructure.
Aeroflux Contactless Brake – Canada
Aviation must become more sustainable in order to address the global threat of climate change. Aerospace manufacturers worldwide have committed to reducing aviation carbon emissions by 50% from 2005-2050. One of the most wasteful systems on a modern aircraft is the brakes.
Conventional multiple-disc carbon brakes rely on friction to stop an aircraft. They wear very quickly and need constant replacement. Aeroflux brakes use the principle of ‘eddy current braking’ to stop an aircraft without friction, and therefore without wear. A magnetic field is applied to both sides of two conductive, non-ferromagnetic discs (rotors). The rotors are keyed to the aircraft wheel and rotate through the magnetic field when the wheels are spinning. As the rotors move across the stationary magnetic field, small circular electric currents (eddy currents) are induced in the rotors. The eddy currents generate their own magnetic field in a direction which opposes the stationary magnetic field. The interaction of these fields applies a drag force on the rotors that results in a braking torque.
Sumo – Switzerland
Disposable diapers are the third largest single item contributor to landfills, and take 500 years to decompose. Diapers are an essential item for all babies but we need to find a way of making them more sustainable. Sumo presents a solution as a biodegradable and absorbent diaper made with antibacterial fibers from eucalyptus and algae extracts. Sumo is the very first mono-material diaper, making it ideal for recycling. It minimises waste, handling, time and cost in the recycling process.
Gecko Traxx – Australia
In countries who are able to enjoy a coastline, manual wheelchair users can struggle to make the most of the countries they live in. Gecko Traxx is a portable and affordable manual wheelchair accessory that enables off-road access. The unique tyre cross-section is unobtrusive when fitted to the wheelchair and expands when in contact with the ground, increasing the contact surface area by three times when needed. The simple, integrated clip can be used even with limited dexterity and enables the individual to fit the tyres to their wheelchair independently without the need to transfer out of the wheelchair.
Schistoscope – Netherlands
Schistosomiasis is caused by a parasitic worm which lives in fresh water in subtropical and tropical regions. Schistosomiasis affected about 252 million people worldwide in 2015, and an estimated 4,400 to 200,000 people die from it each year. The disease is most commonly found in Africa, as well as Asia and South America. Around 700 million people, in more than 70 countries, live in areas where the disease is common.
The Schistoscope provides point of care access to Schistosomiasis diagnostics by simplifying the diagnosis process. It captures the urine sample in one picture, created by a new way of filtering and an algorithm detects the level of infection. It is a simple yet smart onsite diagnostic device. Using the Schistoscope, up to 50 tests can be performed in a day, significantly improving the control and elimination of Schistosomiasis in the remote areas by bringing access to affordable diagnosis.
Ubitone – Japan
Whilst there is a tremendous variety in the degrees of vision and hearing loss, across the globe, deaf-blindness is set to increase. In most cases, deaf-blindness develops later in life and so will impact those countries with acute ageing populations the most. Braille, the most common system of reading and writing for the blind and visually impaired was invented in 1821, and has remained virtually unchanged to this day.
Ubitone is a communication device to assist deaf-blind people. By using this invention, the deaf-blind can communicate with people without special knowledge like tactile signing. Simply put, it is an alternative to Braille.
By using vocal recognition as a machine learning technique and the Braille dictionary, Ubitone translate the voice into an understandable form for deaf-blindness. The device uses six rings with vibrators worn on the fingers, and transmits a vibration through to the fingers, similar to Braille. The app on a smartphone performs processing and communicates information by linking with the device via Bluetooth. This could open up a new world for the deaf-blind as they are no longer restricted by Braille. Podcasts, TV shows and radio will be accessible in real-time.