This year I was delighted to be asked to judge the Mine for Life RSA students awards.
The Mine for Life competition challenged students to design an assistive technology product which could be made through additive manufacturing using a consumer-driven and people-centred design philosophy. The cash award was supported by Enabled by Design and Loughborough University, with the winners being offered the chance to have the winning design additively manufactured.
Additive manufacturing (or 3D printing) has huge potential for the assistive technology sector – allowing products to be quickly and cheaply customised. And it was very exciting to be involved in selecting products to be prototyped in this way.
The winner of the RSA Mine for Life student award was David Emmerson from Loughborough University who focused on the difficult issue of the sexual wellbeing of servicemen who have suffered the effects of improvised explosive devices (IEDs). David, a draughtsman for the Royal Engineers, had taken a year off to study design and engineering. Having seen colleagues and friends suffering the devastating damage caused by IEDs, he was passionate about helping soldiers, typically young men, maintain their sex lives post injury. David had spoken to a range of stakeholders including Headley Court (Defence Medical Rehabilitation Unit) and Lovehoney, the lingerie and sex toy website to come up with his innovative design.
Highly Commended was James Langdon’s project from the University of Nottingham: Gentle Guider – a customised dog harness for guide dogs for the blind. Having previously volunteered for the Guide Dogs charity working with blind and partially sighted people, James became very aware of the close relationship that people develop with their guide dogs and how important they can be in supporting people’s independence. Through shadowing someone living with a visual impairment James realised that the harness used by her guide dog was heavy and ill-fitting. The familiar design for the guide dog harness is around 80 years old and James’ project focused on developing a new smarter, lightweight, glow in the dark harness customised to each individual guide dog.
Three very different designs focussing on three very different areas but all three winners were clearly passionate about their projects and had carried out detailed and sensitive user-centred research. A great result!