Air-filtering backpack designed by 12-year-old wins national competition
Image credit: Matt Alexander / The IET
Eleanor Wood has won the IET's ‘Backpack to the Future’ competition with a design inspired by her mother's experience with asthma.
Eleanor Wood's winning design features a built-in air filter and fans, powered sustainably by solar panels and a dynamo. The goal of the 12-year-old's design is to filter polluted air, helping the eight million people in the UK who suffer the often-crippling effects of asthma.
Wood entered the 'Backpack To The Future competition' after her mother, who suffers from asthma, put the application form in her room, where she eventually drew up her winning design. She named it the 'Breathe Better Backpack'.
“I was really shocked when I found out I’d won," Wood said. "I thought of my backpack to help clean the air because some of my family and friends have asthma and hayfever and it could help them.
"I’m very happy the judges chose my entry as the winner. I think it’s a great idea to have cleaner air anywhere you like!”
The IET’s ‘Backpack to the Future’ campaign is a national competition that invited five- to 13-year-olds to design their own backpack with STEM-inspired gadgets or capabilities that help them do incredible things.
The competition is a partnership with global fashion brand Hype.
As the winner of the competition, Wood received a working prototype of her design. She will also get to see a backpack inspired by their design displayed in Hype’s flagship London store, allowing anyone to see part of their vision of future fashion brought to life by one of their favourite brands.
The competition's other finalists were 'The Travel Bag' by Maria Hughes, aged 12 from London, which featured handy gadgets to make holidays a breeze, and the 'Candy Creator' by Emelia Fry, aged 11 from Essex, which featured a candy-floss maker powered by a piezoelectric disc.
Wood's entry enthralled judges with its innovative ability to make a positive difference to people’s lives, particularly in light of the increase in respiratory illnesses such as Covid-19 in recent years.
One of the competition's judges, Professor Danielle George MBE commented: “Alongside the more light-hearted ideas entered, it was wonderful to see so many of the kids’ designs featuring technology to make the world a better place.
"There’s so much potential for engineering to help tackle the societal and planetary problems that we face and Eleanor has demonstrated exactly that with her Breathe Better Backpack. Taking an issue close to her heart and engineering a fantastic invention to provide a solution really is inspiring. The future is in good hands with ingenious inventors like Eleanor!”
The judging panel also included Hype's CEO Bav Samani, the IET’s 2021 Young Woman Engineer of the Year Dr Ciara McGrath, and Mira Nameth, founder of sustainable fashion brand Biophilica.
The IET’s competition was launched with the aim to change perceptions, encourage more diversity within engineering and show children how they could combine a passion for fashion with a science, technology, engineering and maths-related career (STEM).
It followed research which revealed that only one in ten children (10 per cent) thought that engineers could work in fashion, while only 16 per cent said they understood how science and fashion are related.
Last year, the IET, Hype and Biophilica unveiled the world’s first biodegradable school backpack, designed to inspire Gen-A fashionistas and spark excitement about how STEM subjects could help make their fashion predictions come true.
Further information about the campaign is available on the IET’s ‘Engineer A Better World’ website. Engineer A Better World is an annual campaign run by the IET that is dedicated to celebrating STEM careers and getting young people passionate about becoming the inventors and creators of the future.
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