Dyson International Prizes: Are They Solutions In Search Of A Problem?

The Dyson Award is "an international design award that celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers."

All three of this years prizes go for devices that save lives, and all three are, I think, full of contradictions and raise questions. For instance, Kimberley Hoffman designed the Sea Kettle to distill water, noting: "Inspiration for this project came from the many stories of people suffering from extreme dehydration or death while being stranded in a life raft at sea."

Really, has that happened in the last few years, since the introduction of global phones and emergency systems?

Then there is the third prize, the REAX system from Lars Imhof and Marc Binder. It is an automatic CPR machine.

CPR is physically strenuous and requires the paramedics' full time attention. By the clever use of pneumatic muscle technology the Reax design is able to compress the entire chest at regular intervals, and therefore allows the paramedic to perform more tasks.

Here, I have to wonder if this means people will feel they don't have to learn CPR any more because there is a machine that can do it for them.

But perhaps the strangest is the winner, Samuel Adeloju's LONGREACH Buoyancy Deployment System. It is very clever, shooting a rescue package over 150 meters.

'Longreach' is designed to accommodate a wide range of users from the beach and small fishing boats through to super tankers. It is a man-portable system that allows for the rapid conveyance of temporary, water-activated buoyancy devices to a victim's location in a situation where other forms of rescue and safety devices would fail.

Just as it is now standard operating procedure for construction workers to wear helmets, is it not just as standard for people on supertankers and fishing boats to wear life jackets? Again, it seems to be a device that could undo years of messaging that when you go on the water you should wear a lifejacket when you go on the water.

There is no question, all of these devices are clever. But it seems to me that they are solutions in search of a problem, and they all are expensive alternatives to being properly prepared and trained.

Tags: Design Competitions | Designers

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