Innovation That Matters

Student innovation

Gen-I: Innovations for social good and emergency care

Nonprofit & Social Cause

The latest Gen-I feature showcases the best of student innovations seeking to solve some of the most-pressing humanitarian challenges, from helping users in flooding situations to supporting mobility for the ageing population.

Springwise prides itself on staying ahead of the trends in disruptive innovation. Our Gen-I series focuses on students and young innovators bringing fresh ideas to their industries. The James Dyson Awards recognise some of the most exciting creators and designers coming forward. Springwise has handpicked some of our favourites of this year’s entries to showcase the talent of students.

There was a definite trend amongst the entries for 2018 in focusing on social good and emergency care. With today’s world in an almost constant state of flux all over the globe, such innovations are vital to protect people and their interests in the future. For example, this Water Mask Dispenser from students Jaeyeon Kim, Hyunsu Park, Minseop Woo, and Hanna Lee of Kookmin University, South Korea, provides wet masks in case of fire.

The biggest killer during a fire is actually smoke inhalation and covering your mouth and nose with a wet cloth is a recommended safety measure during a fire emergency. Yet that can be difficult to achieve in a burning building; this device provides the same effect with just one swift pulling motion. The product is currently a prototype but the students hope to be referring it to fire stations and other agencies for use in public places.

With a similar focus on emergency situations, students Ferdinand Aichriedler, Patrick Krassnitzer, and Manuel Hess from Umea Institute of Design, Sweden, designed Terra. This early-warning system for earthquakes can be affordably integrated into homes. The device has two modes for two different purposes. The first is a calming sound accompanies with a pulsating light to warn of non-destructive earthquakes. Its aim is to keep the inhabitants calm. The second is a loud alarm sound with a pulsating red light for incoming destructive earthquakes. This alarm seeks to encourage users to take immediate action and get to safety.

Terra was designed specifically for people in less-developed areas, as they often suffer the most from earthquakes every year. Due to lack of suitable infrastructure and warning systems, earthquakes cause far more damage than they need to. These students sought to alleviate that through their innovation. They plan to spread their concept through a crowdfunding campaign.

Kin Pan Lo of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University was also motivated to help those in dire emergency situations. The POD is a piece of multi-functional furniture designed to help users in flooding situations. In daily life, it works as a simply bench. Yet when needed, it can convert to a lifeboat in under a minute. The design is reminiscent of origami in its folding technique. Kin Pan Lo is still testing materials for his product but hopes to finalise this soon.

The lightweight and affordable design make the POD suitable for low-income areas, similar to Terra. These areas often do not have suitable flood protection systems. Emergency services are also often lacking in resources to accommodate all survivors in lifeboats. This means that products like the POD could quite literally be life-savers.

Anna Meddaugh of ArtCenter College of Design, USA, also wanted to help those in need with her design. Refugee camps, while initially intended to be temporary places of habitation, are becoming increasingly permanent. Rape and sexual assault are major health and human rights problems within such camps. Meddaugh’s Night Loo is a measure to reduce such crimes. The most common area for sexual assault in camps is communal bathrooms and so refugee women were avoiding using the toilet at night out of fear. Many resorted to avoiding food and drink in the afternoon and evening or even wearing adult diapers.

The Night Loo is a reusable personal urinal for women that they can use in their own tent. The urinal has pre-portioned packets of super-absorbent plastic (SAP) in dissolving film. When the film dissolves, the SAP absorbs the human waste and creates a hygienic and easily disposable method of relieving one’s self. Meddaugh hopes to work with NGOs in future to spread her product widely.

Aamer Siddiqui and Ali Asgar of the American University of Sharjah, UAE, turned their joint efforts towards helping wheelchair users. The Air-Chair is a unique wheelchair design aiming to provide easier access for wheelchair users when travelling. It integrates into airplane seats and can accomplish all in-flight features. At the moment, wheelchair users have to change chairs between airport and aircraft, and often have to use a different chair when away from home. This product could solve such costly and inconvenient issues.

The chair’s proportions are suitable for an aircraft’s narrow aisles. The locking mechanisms and seat belts also afford stability and safety when in-flight. The students are in the process of developing a working model to show to aircraft companies as prototypes.

Craig Loewen and Lior Lustgarten from the University of Waterloo, Canada, also sought to help those with a physical disability. WatVision is an intelligent device that allows the visually impaired to use any touchscreen. Many public machines are adopting touchscreens without accessible capabilities, such as coffee machines, ticket machines, and other everyday appliances. This creates difficult obstacles for the visually impaired to overcome.

The WatVision system combines an app and a ring. While running the app, the user points their phone at the machine they want to use. They then move the finger wearing the ring around the machine and the app reads out what they are pointing at. There is also the option of a glove that is equipped with a Bluetooth sensor. This device uses vibrations to tell the user how far they are from the screen to better assist them with pressing the desired point. The team are in the process of patenting but hope to sell it both to businesses and directly to consumers in the future.

These innovations all highlight not only the talent of student innovation but also the drive to help others through their skills. Springwise highly values both of these qualities and we are keen to see where this takes the next generation.