The James Dyson Award for engineering innovation celebrates its 10th birthday today as it opens for entries.
Students from 18 countries around the world will compete for a prize of £30,000 and a further £10,000 for their university out of a total prize fund of more than £100,000 by designing something that solves a world problem.
Last year’s international winners were the Titan Arm team, who created a battery powered robotic exoskeleton arm that augments human weight-lifting strength by 18kg to help with heavy lifting or to rehabilitate people with back injuries by rebuilding muscle and relearning motor control. They used the prize money to patent and prototype their idea.
“A bright idea is just the start. Developing and commercialising patentable technology is the hard part,” said James Dyson, founder of vacuum and fan company Dyson.
“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.”
Since winning last year’s competition the Titan Arm team, from the University of Pennsylvania, have been investigating electromyography by placing sensors within the device that record the electrical activity of the muscles in the users arm.
The hope is that the arm will be able to augment strength based on the user’s reading by amplifying the often weak electrical activity of those with severe injuries to allow the user to command the suit.
The 2013 national winner for the UK was Sam Etherington, who developed Renewable Wave Power – a device for capturing wave energy that did away with the traditional single axis design for a multi axis approach that captures energy from multiple directions rather than simply one.
Since winning the James Dyson Award, Etherington has invested his prize money to develop and test his design at sea and has since attracted funding interest from government grants and angel investors, and has even been invested in SEMTA’s Engineering Hall of Fame.