Student Engineers Chase James Dyson Award
Apr 28, 2014
Design and engineering students are chasing the coveted James Dyson Award. The international competition, celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, recently launched at Trinity College Dublin. Irish students will compete against their peers from 18 countries to win the top prize of €36,000 and a further €12,000 for their university. The total prize fund this year is €120,000.
Entrants must come up with better ways to solve common problems before submitting footage, images, sketches and explanations of their ideas to www.jamesdysonaward.org. International finalists will be asked to make a video pitch of their project to James Dyson, who will announce the international winner on 6th November 2014. At the launch, Dyson Engineer Nick Schneider addressed engineering students and conducted a design workshop at the Design Loft, in Trinity’s School of Engineering.
Assistant Professor in Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering at Trinity, Dr Gareth J Bennett, believes that excellence in design innovation is the solution to Ireland’s troubled economy. He said: “Engineering students are naturally creative. Our job is to provide inspiring learning environments to foster and develop their skills. By providing an opportunity to the students for experiential learning while applying academic knowledge we can deliver graduates who can both pioneer new companies to create indigenous employment and help reinvent existing companies to make them more competitive."
In recent years the competition has discovered and supported inventors with ideas such as an upper-body robotic arm and a more efficient device to capture wave power. Last year’s international winners, the Titan Arm team, invented a battery powered upper-body robotic arm, which augments arm strength, to rehabilitate people with back injuries, rebuild muscle, and relearn motor control.
James Dyson added: “Developing and commercialising patentable technology is the hard part. We must encourage and financially support young engineers to solve the problems of today – and tomorrow. I’m looking for people that don’t just have a brilliant idea, but also the burning desire to make it a reality.”
Irish students have performed impressively in the awards over the last decade. Last year Trinity students Aoife Considine and Alberto Cańizares won the Irish leg of the award with 'Boundless', a 360-degree, rotational Snowboard invention. The system enables users to quickly lock, adjust and re-lock the bindings into another position without a screwdriver.
In 2009 a Carlow student made the final stages of the global judging with an hydraulic wheelchair brake invention that aimed to solve the difficulties and embarrassment faced by wheelchair users. In 2004, the winner of the Irish stage of the first award, Paddy Maloney from Carlow IT, invented a lightweight cast for broken limbs after seeing his father face difficulties with the heavy, traditional plaster casts. Moloney is now a Senior Engineer at Dyson.
Trinity’s engineering students are used to thinking creatively and acting on their thoughts to produce prototype devices designed to solve real-world problems. At the recent ‘Universal Design Innovation Student Showcase’, sophister students promoted concept prototypes focused on the theme of making ‘Ageing’ an easier process for older generations.
Among a diverse set of prototypes was an automated response system that is programmed to detect falls and contact emergency services when they occur, a shopping app that enables older people to socialise while someone else picks up and bags the groceries, and a simple system that prevents people from locking themselves out or forgetting their keys.
Dr Bennett added: “I’m very proud that Trinity, being a research-led university, gives students the chance to get hands-on engineering experience. The quality and variety of the ideas and prototype devices put forward was excellent. One of the teams this year has been invited to participate in Launchbox, increasing the likelihood that this prototype will evolve into an end product that will become used by members of the public.”
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