The James Dyson Award, started by British inventor Sir James Dyson, calls on design and engineering students from 18 countries to create innovative, practical, elegant solutions to some of humanity's greatest challenges. The contest is open to undergraduates, as well to those who graduated in the past four years.
This year's winner is Australian university student Edward Linacre, who took home the $14,000 prize for his Airdrop irrigation device, which turns air into water and delivers it directly to plants' roots. Linacre's school, Melbourne's Swinburne University of Technology, will also receive $14,000.
The judges selected Linacre from among more than 500 entries from designers in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK and USA. Two international runners-up were also chosen, both of whom will receive $3,000. International finalists, national winners and national finalists were also named on Tuesday morning.
The finalists' inventions are diverse and range from an air massager for people with arthritis to a low cost water pump for those with difficulty accessing clean water. But the products share a certain commonality: They are all simple designs that solve real-world problems. According to an article in The Guardian by James Dyson himself, "hi-tech should not be confined to the digital world - our biggest problems require a response grounded not in the cloud but in tangible form."
According to the James Dyson Foundation website, Dyson created the award fund to, "inspire young people about design engineering, to fulfill their potential and become engineers." In The Guardian article, Dyson laments the lack of students, especially female students, who choose to study engineering. He writes:
"[I]t's no surprise that in the UK the top career choice for girls aged seven to 16 is hairdresser or beautician, while only 1% wanted to work in science and engineering. Scientists and engineers are perceived to be "geeks"; this intelligence isn't revered and it's seen as odd."
Dyson, perhaps best known for his high-tech vacuums, recently hosted an event in New York to show off his latest line of cleaners and space heaters. Take a look at his new products (here).
Check out the slideshow (below) to see details and photos of the Dyson Award-winning invention, plus judges' favorites from among the pool of finalists.
Canadian university student Michal Prywata built this bionic arm so that amputees could avoid invasive muscle re-innervation surgery. The arm is strapped on and controlled using brain signals. Images via Dyson
This smart cane for the visually impaired uses location-based social apps to help users find friends when they are out and about. Sei Lui Chew, a student at the National University of Singapore, designed the high-tech walking stick with a Bluetooth earpiece that allows for communication with nearby friends, and a rolling ball on the handle that guides the user toward them. Images via Dyson
Michael Korn, a student at the Royal College of Art in London, took inspiration for his portable, retractable privacy screen from frog tongues, tape measures and the iconic slap bracelets of yore. These screens allow hospitals to maintain a patient's privacy in situations where putting them behind a closed door is not a possibility. Images via Dyson
Edward Linacre's winning design turns air into water for irrigation. Ambient O2 is sucked into the underground pipes where the air is cooled until it condenses into water droplets, at which point the water is delivered directly to the plants' roots. Linacre predicts that every cubic meter of air could yield 11.5 milliliters of water in even the driest climates. He said in a press release, "winning the award's £10,000 prize will mean I can develop and test the Airdrop system. It has the potential to help farmers around the world and I'm up for the challenge of rolling it out". Images via Dyson