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Meet the James Dyson Award 2021 Southeast Asia Winners

Inspiring the next generation of inventors and design engineers

25 August 2021

The James Dyson Award is an international design award that celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers. Each year, we challenge students and recent graduates from across 28 countries to design something that solves a problem, and create the next innovative and ingenious invention to be awarded £30,000.

2021 has been a record-breaking year for the James Dyson Award in Southeast Asia. A total of 172 entries were received from across Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines. Young inventors and design engineers across the region tackled a range of problems across topics spanning sustainability, health, lifestyle, technology and beyond.

Following regional judging in July, nine entries emerged at the top. Read on to learn about the national winners and runners-up from Southeast Asia who will now progress on to the international phase of the competition.

International Top 20 entries will be announced on 13th October 2021, and the International and Sustainability Winners will be announced on 17th November 2021.

National Winner – Singapore: HOPES

  • The Problem: In Singapore, approximately three per cent of people over the age of 50 have glaucoma. This percentage increases with age and reaches almost 10 per cent for those over the age of 70. Because it is largely symptom-free, more than 80 per cent of people with glaucoma are unaware of it at time of diagnosis, hence the condition’s other name – “silent thief of sight” . There is no cure but, if diagnosed and treated early, blindness can be prevented. Today, regular IOP monitoring is a critical tool in helping clinicians determine long-term treatment plans and goals. This is achieved through the Goldmann Applanation Tonometry – regarded as the gold standard for the measurement of IOP. It is however an uncomfortable and inconvenient experience that needs to be done in a clinical setting; this involves the numbing of the eyes and the direct application of a probe onto the patient’s cornea.

    The Solution: HOPES, the Home Eye Pressure E-skin Sensor is invented by Kelu Yu, Si Li and David Lee from the National University of Singapore. It is a is a wearable biomedical device for pain-free, low cost, at-home intraocular pressure (IOP) testing, and allows users to test their IOP regularly and conveniently at home. After putting on the glove, the user will simply need to apply a specially shaped fingertip sensor onto their eyelid. Data gathered by on-board sensors is then processed using Artificial Intelligence models to deliver an accurate eye pressure measurement.

    Ye Kelu, co-inventor of HOPES, said: “My father was diagnosed with glaucoma last year and suffered from constant eye pain and headache. This personal experience motivated me to delve deeper into the disease and treatments. It is my hope that HOPES will empower patients like my father to actively manage their conditions from the comfort of home in a reliable and effortless manner.”

Runner-Up - Singapore: CurrentPlex

  • The Problem: As avid supporters of electric vehicles, a team of four students from NUS & NTU realised that despite numerous governments providing benefits to electric vehicle owners, gasoline-powered cars remains the more popular choice. Through researching the phenomenon, they found three key limiting factors: (1) Limited availability of electric vehicle chargers (2) Burdening of the power grid and (3) Inconvenience of charging and electric vehicles.

    The Solution: Invented by Yi Zheng Teoh, Isaac Lim, Jing Siang Lam and Roydan Yow from the National University of Singapore, CurrentPlex is a car charging system that addresses the three aforementioned problems. The system comprises two components. First, the power supply is connected to multiple cars charging plugs via a multiplexer. This allows the power to be directed to any plug at a given time enabling multiple cars to be charged one after the other without moving the car. The second component is an automated charging connector housed within a parking curb. When a car is parked, an infrared dot projector and sensor which are nested in the curb identifies the position of the charging port on the car and automatically attaches the charging connector to it. CurrentPlex is more cost and space effective than conventional car charging systems, and can be easily installed and integrated into the wheel stops of existing car parking lots.

Runner-Up - Singapore: LOTA+| Locally Optimised Toilet for All

  • The Problem: As environmental engineering and architecture graduates, a group of students from NUS discovered the huge sanitation gap while working in slums, peri-urban and rural communities in India. The problem is complex, involving inter-related issues of public health, infrastructure and waste management. As designers, they were inspired to develop a product based on understanding the user-pain points, existing inadequate centralised facilities and lack of financial resources for the Base of the Pyramid (BoP) community.

    The Solution: LOTA+, invented by Kiruthika A. Palanisami, Eingeel Khan and Ankit Satifrom the National University of Singapore, is a sustainable sanitation solution that leverages upcycled waste for constructing toilets, reduces the use of freshwater, and features the recycling of black-grey water for groundwater recharge. The self-assembly of the system provides a sense of attachment to the people, encouraging good maintenance by the local community. The entire system is off-grid and self-sufficient reducing dependency on centralised infrastructure.

Winner - Malaysia: WaterPod

  • The Problem: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), one in three people globally – including sea nomads – still do not have access to safe drinking water . Contaminated water poses a health risk – with the potential to cause diseases such as diarhhoea, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis A, trachoma, intestinal worms and schistosomiasis. Further complicating the problem are the great distances people have to travel just to obtain drinkable water.

    The Solution: In a bid to address this problem, the winner of this year’s Malaysia National James Dyson Award Winner decided to engineer a sustainable desalination pod.

    WaterPod, invented by Bennie Beh Hue May, Yap Chun Yoon, Loo Xin Yang from the Asia Pacific Institute of Information Technology, is a sustainable and cost-effective water desalination pod that harnesses basic science, and the energy of the sun to convert sea water to drinkable water. It is designed to be placed on sea water – an abundant natural resource, and provide sea nomads with easy access to drinkable water. Additionally, it is a much less costly and environmentally taxing technology than conventional desalination technology.

    WaterPod works on a self-cleaning solar desalination system. A salt-rejecting wick below the device absorbs seawater, and transports it to the black fabric that placed on top of a semi-spherical aluminium plate. Sunlight passes through transparent cover, causing the seawater in the chamber to evaporate, leaving its contaminants behind. Ambient air around the cover causes condensation to take place, and the clean water droplets generated then efficiently into a storage chamber below, ready for retrieval.

Runner-Up - Malaysia: Citra

  • The Problem: It has been estimated that 40 per cent of plastic produced is one-time-use packaging. This has contributed to the problem of ocean pollution; about 18 billion pounds of plastic waste finds its way into the world’s oceans every year. Additionally, less than 20% of plastic is recycled globally . Meanwhile, useful bio-materials in the form of fruits and vegetables produced globally are being wasted each year .

    The Solution: Citra, invented by Menlin Ng Aniathul Fitria Ismail Ng Abdullah from Universiti Sains Malaysia, is a sustainable alternative to plastic packaging, using discarded citrus peels as a bio leather. Discarded citrus peels are collected from restaurants, and are transformed into a leather-like material using organic binders. Bees wax as a natural polymer is then applied onto the material to strengthen the bio-leather and to prolong its lifespan.

Runner-Up - Malaysia: No Residue Bottle

  • The Problem: Conventional pump-action bottles, while convenient, are ineffective in getting every last drop of solution out of the container. Towards the end of use, there is typically a layer of usable solution lying at the base of the container, or coating its sides. This results in usable solution being wastefully discarded when users find that the pump system can no longer extract any contents.

    The Solution: No Residue Bottle, invented by Huang Yu Tian from the Limkokwing University of Creative Technology, is a revolutionary redesigning of conventional pump mechanisms in shampoo and soap bottles. Through the use of a glass ball valve, the system leverages changes in atmospheric pressure in the bottle to drive a rubber pad that cleanly scrapes any remaining content of the sides of the bottle and into the pump head for extrusion.

Winner - Philippines: Pili Seal

  • The Problem: One of the most common sealing materials used in aviation commercial end-user industry is polysulfide-based sealant. It is the first aerospace sealant used by the aircraft industry for over 50 years and continues to be used by aircraft manufacturers that serves as resistant to aviation fuels and are therefore useful for sealing fuel tanks . However, due to the composition and chemically produced materials, the sealant has an offensive odour and causes varying degrees of hazards .

    The Solution: Pili Seal, invented by Mark Kennedy Bantugon from the Philippine State College of Aeronautics, is a sustainable sealant for aircraft integral fuel tank to prevent fuel leakages. Unlike commercially available aviation sealants, Pili Seal is made from the waste material particularly the waste of Pili Tree Resin which is otherwise known as “spent resin” or “de-oiled resin”.

    Pili Seal is a two-component sealant. The waste of Pili Tree Resin acts as the base material for aircraft integral fuel tank sealant production. Through the mixing of the base and a hardener material, the sealant can properly function as a sealing material and is applicable for aircraft parts such as the integral fuel tank and components that are subjected to contact with aircraft fuels, lubricants, oils, water, and weathering.

    In terms of application, performance and efficacy, Pili Seal is found to have exceeded data results of commercial sealants from over 20 property tests ranging from physical, chemical, mechanical, thermal to rheological. Apart from its exceptional property results, and unlike commercial sealants, Pili Seal also offers safe and non-toxic effects to day-to-day users like aircraft mechanics and technicians.

Runner-Up - Philippines: ReConnect

  • The Problem: The Philippines is a country prone to tropical cyclones, resulting in heavy rainfall and flooding in large areas. As a result, those affected seeking shelter in evacuation centres often find themselves with limited access to food, water, electricity, and the internet. In times of crisis, stable online communications can make all the difference in disaster management and recovery efforts.

    The Solution: ReConnect, invented by Kaye Mangaoang, Paolo Luis Perez and Ralph Danielle De Rojas from De La Salle University Manila, is a portable and compact device that temporarily restores internet connectivity in disaster-stricken areas. This empowers them to access critical information, and to communicate with rescue efforts. ReConnect is equipped with a built-in satellite dish that connects users to the nearest Internet Service Provider (ISP) and appropriate emergency devices. This satellite dish functions both as a transmitter and receiver, which contain components such as the modulator, IF and RF Amplifiers, and a Mixer/Converter. These transmission lines are made up of coaxial cables and waveguides, to help connect the antennas to the router. With this, the router with high gain antennas enables users to access information using WiFi.

Runner-Up - Philippines: Non-invasive Bacteria Detector on Wounds

  • The Problem: Between 15.5% and 17.5% of Filipinos today live under the poverty line and lack access to proper healthcare. As a result, many resort to self-medication, or alternative medical practices such as folk healing which can be detrimental to health. Against an overloaded Filipino public healthcare system, and the growth of antimicrobial resistance globally, two students from Technological Institute of the Philippines-Manila sought to invent an accessible and medically safe solution for the treatment of wounds.

    The Solution: Non-invasive Bacteria Detector on Wounds, invented by Angelica Moneth Lozano and Shania Xylene Miguel from the Technological Institute of the Philippines-Manila, is a portable, sensor-based device that detects gas emitted by an open wound through an electrochemical gas sensor. Signals picked up from the sensor enables patients to understand their injury site, and to administer appropriate medication safely. Apart from detecting bacteria in wounds, the detector serves as a cost and time-effective alternative to laboratory tests at local public hospitals. It can also be used by non-medical staff, and purchased over the counter.

About the James Dyson Award

  • The James Dyson Award forms part of a wider commitment by Sir James Dyson, to demonstrate the power of engineers to change the world. The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, the James Dyson Foundation and James Dyson Award encourage aspiring engineers, to apply their knowledge and discover new ways to improve lives through technology. Since the Award first opened in 2005, James Dyson has contributed over £100m to boundary-breaking concepts in education and other charitable causes. The competition has supported nearly 250 inventions with prize money, and is run by the James Dyson Foundation, an engineering-education charity funded by Dyson profits.

    The award runs in 28 countries and regions worldwide. These are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, Hong Kong, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Philippines, Poland, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, UAE, UK, and USA. The Award launches for the first time in Poland in 2021. Entrants must be, or have been within the last four years, enrolled for at least one semester in an undergraduate or graduate engineering/design related course. This course must be at a university in a country or region chosen to participate in the James Dyson Award.

    For more information and regular updates on the progress of the James Dyson Award, check out the Award’s website, Facebook, and Instagram.

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