FOR the second consecutive year, students at Asia Pacific University of Technology & Innovation (APU) proved their product design prowess by emerging as national winners at an international student design competition.
Bennie Beh Hue May, Loo Xin Yang and Yap Chun Yoon – all of whom are second year product design students at the university’s School of Media, Arts and Design (SoMAD) – showed they were a cut above the rest at the national edition of the James Dyson Award 2021.
Following their success, which saw them being awarded a cash prize worth RM10,000, they will represent Malaysia at the international stage of the competition at the end of the year where 84 national finalists from around the world will vie for the global honour.
Tasked with the challenge to “design something that solves a problem”, the trio – mentored by their lecturers Saifullizan Abdul Wahab and Eekang Ooi – came up with “WaterPod”, a sustainable seawater desalination pod for the sea nomad community who lives along the coast.
It was an idea that was born out of several brainstorming sessions where they learnt about the reality of a sea nomad’s life from Ooi, who is involved in a non-governmental organisation that serves the community.
According to a press release from the university, the sea nomad community collects rainwater or barter for water from the nearest place where tap water is available.
WaterPod would resolve the community’s water problem and help improve their living conditions. With access to a clean source of water, the nomads can also look into the potential farming of fruits and vegetables.
In their design, the university said, the team used the “floatation” concept as a solution for WaterPod’s installation. In addition, a wick system that mimics mangrove roots enables seawater to be absorbed while the shape of the product ensures its buoyancy on the water surface.
The evaporation effects from vapours formed around the semi-spherical cover will eventually turn into water and flow into the storage chamber. The accumulated desalinated water can then be pumped out for daily consumption.
“We’re excited about what WaterPod can do to improve the lives of sea nomads. We look forward to translating the vision of clean water for all into reality,” said Beh.
The students hope their latest achievement will help them “open some doors”, and attract industry collaborators, investors and researchers to further develop WaterPod for commercialisation.
“To be able to commercialise the unit will be a bonus for the sea nomads as a certain percentage of the profit can be channelled to work with the community,” said Yap.
Thanking their lecturers for their support, the students credited their success to the knowledge and skills they have gained at the university.
“APU equips us with various skills. Besides learning the basic skills and tools for design and thinking, we are put through different types of projects including electronic and electrical product and furniture design, user experience, user interface and even automotive product design to hone our design skills,” they said in the press release dated Aug 26.
SoMAD programme leader Christine Lim said the intention for students to participate in the James Dyson Award competition was to showcase their ideas and works.
SoMAD associate head Debbie Liew added that the “persistence of vision” from both students and lecturers had led to the win.
“Their innate drive for wanting to curate world-changing solutions pushed them to improve their technical and communication skills despite the challenging times,” she said.
APU vice-chancellor Dr Hari Narayanan lauded the team for their performance.
“It is a major achievement for the students and more significantly, for SoMAD and APU. Winning this award twice is a testament to our quality, innovativeness and depth of experience in the areas of industrial design and product design,” he said.
Run by the James Dyson Foundation, which is based in Chicago, the United States, the competition is open to university-level students or recent graduates in the fields of product design, industrial design and engineering.