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Aussie young inventors shine at 2011 James Dyson Award

Last year's winners of the Australian leg of the James Dyson Awards went on to claim leading international prizes. This year a new group of design students are fighting to see if they can repeat their success.

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David Braue

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Derek Fung

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1 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Silver prize: 9th Life

Australia's leading design students are recognised annually with the James Dyson Award, an international competition that's held as part of the Australian International Design Awards.

Last year's Australian winners went on to claim leading international prizes and this year a new group of design students are fighting to see if they can repeat their success. The finals for the Australian arm of the awards were held last Friday in Melbourne and all the finalists will take their projects to the UK later this year in the international leg of the competition.

CNET Australia dropped in to see what Australia's young design leaders have come up with this year.

Life jackets may well do as advertised, but they're big, bulky things that get in the way and, well let's face it, aren't much in the looks department. 9th Life seeks to solve both the practical and image issues by looking and feeling like a regular wetsuit.

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2 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Silver prize: 9th Life

According to its designer, Chris Fox, 9th Life features a pulse oximeter that monitors the likelihood of drowning based on the wearer's vital signs, such as his/her oxygen levels and heart rate. If it feels things are going awry, it will inflate the life jacket hidden in the suit, and signal for help and supply GPS coordinates.

The attached watch (above) allows the user to see their heart rate, distance travelled and current speed.

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3 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Highly commended: Airdrop Irrigation

This device harvests moisture out of the air and is designed for agricultural areas that are or may be experiencing drought conditions. A turbine takes air from the surface and drives it underground through metal coils that rapidly cool the air, bringing it to 100 per cent humidity. The water is then stored before being pumped to the plants' roots.

According to the inventor Edward Linacre the scaled down prototype yields about one litre of water a day.

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4 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Ajiro

According to the designer, Alexander Vittouris, Ajiro provides naturally grown urban personal mobility and is made from a fast-growing strain of bamboo. Instead of using energy intensive heat or steam to shape the bamboo after being harvested, the bamboo in the Ajiro is grown over a frame.

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5 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Ajiro

The rider sits towards the rear of the vehicle in order to provide stability at low speeds, with pedal power being transferred to the front wheel, while steering inputs are delivered to the rear wheels.

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6 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

EFD (Emergency Floatation Device)

According to the designer Ben Lau, rock fisherman don't like wearing life jackets because they're, well, bulky, restrictive and not very cool. In many respects they're not too far removed from the watersports enthusiasts that 9th Life strives to cater for.

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7 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

EFD (Emergency Floatation Device)

The EFD is worn on the belt and should the fisherman fall into the water, he/she pulls the red handle which punctures CO2 cartridges to inflate the hook-proof buoyancy device.

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8 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

G-navi

Seeing-eye dogs are invaluable in helping seeing-impaired citizens get where they're going safely, but how does the dog know where it's going? Youndong (Shawn) Kim of University of Technology Sydney has brought technology into the relationship, designing a solar-powered harness that uses GPS navigation and a hands-free control system to steer the guide dog to a waypoint selected by the user.

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9 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Hy-Jack Low profile telescopic hydraulic jack

Emergency services workers in earthquake and similar rescue situations need to quickly move heavy objects that are wedged closely together.

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10 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Hy-Jack Low profile telescopic hydraulic jack

UNSW's Eric Chau designed this collapsible jack to have a thin profile that lets it be inserted into small spaces. A redesigned hydraulic system to exert a strong force that opens up a big enough gap for larger rescue equipment to be brought in.

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11 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Winner: Liquid Nitrogen Carrier

A conversation with a friend and science worker led Joshua Sunghoon Mun, from University of Technology Sydney, to design this re-imagined Liquid Nitrogen Carrier, which was heralded by James Dyson Awards judges as a "standout" that "applied research, design and innovation to provide a sound solution".

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12 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Winner: Liquid Nitrogen Carrier

This device allows researchers to organise, store and transport up to 10 test tubes that need to be immersed in liquid nitrogen. Colour-coded cartridges allow for easier sorting and the plunge system is aimed at reducing the incidence of skin burn from exposure to liquid nitrogen.

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13 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Bronze prize: Mass Rescue Board

Christina Heggie from Monash University envisioned a board that could be equipped to help lifesavers in situations where more than one person needs assistance.

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Bronze prize: Mass Rescue Board

Quick-release, self-inflating life jackets, such as the one above, allow lifesavers to keep many people afloat while triaging them for further attention.

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15 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

OPTImetric

Correctly fitting people for glasses requires precise measurements of the dimensions of their eyes and pupils.

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OPTImetric

The equipment to do this can be expensive and difficult to acquire in developing countries, which led UNW's Berty Bhuruth to design OPTImetric — an inexpensive, head-mounted calliper system that lets optometrists quickly get the measurements they need to correct vision properly.

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17 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Proteus Folding Motorcycle Helmet

You know you have to wear a helmet, but where are you meant to keep it while you're at work? Jessica Lea Dunn of University of Technology Sydney answered this question with a prototype foldable helmet that can fit into your backpack or hobo bag.

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Solarball

A continuous supply of clean and safe water is essential for sustaining life, but many in the world struggle to find it. A trip to Cambodia inspired Jonathan Liow's Solarball, which uses evaporation processes to produce up to three litres of clean drinking water per day. The design optimises the flow of water and the 360-degree collection of sunlight.

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19 of 20 Gavin Owen/CNET Australia

Sonic Scan

To monitor their blood sugar levels, every diabetic must subject themselves to regular finger-prick tests.

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Sonic Scan

Inspired by his diabetic mother, UNSW's Richard Webb has designed a non-invasive alternative that uses near-infrared optical spectroscopy to measure blood glucose as well as reporting blood cholesterol, blood pressure and heartbeat patterns using an on-board ECG.

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