Asia Pacific University (APU) has done it again by securing another win in the James Dyson Award 2021 after Product Design students Bennie Beh Hue May, Loo Xin Yang and Yap Chun Yoon showcased their innovative brilliance with a sustainable seawater desalination pod, WaterPod.
The creative trio were crowned as National Winner and took home a cash prize of RM10,00 and will represent Malaysia at the international stage of the James Dyson Award where 84 national finalists from around the world will vie for the ultimate global honour at the end of this year.
Run by James Dyson Foundation, the international student design competition challenges aspiring inventors to “design something that solves a problem”. The contest was open to university students and recent graduates in the fields of product design, industrial design and engineering
From the brief, the School of Media, Arts and Design (SoMAD) students undertook a humanitarian mission by designing a sustainable seawater desalination pod that will provide access to drinkable water for the sea nomad community living along the coast.
Mentored by their lecturers, Mr Saifullizan Bin Abdul Wahab and Mr Eekang Ooi, the second year Product Design students learned about the sea nomads’ lifestyle through Ooi who works with an NGO serving the community. Upon learning that the community collects rainwater, the trio decided to tackle the water issue faced by the coastal communities in hopes of improving their living conditions and providng other opportunities such as farming.
In terms of design, the trio used the ‘floatation’ concept as a solution for the WaterPod installation. 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. This allows the accumulated desalinated water to be pumped out for daily consumption.
Co-inventor of the WaterPod, Bennie Beh, expressed his contentment with the invention of WaterPod, hoping that it could improve the lives of the sea nomads. In addition to that, Loo hoped to attract potential industry collaborators, investors and researchers to further develop the WaterPod to commercialisation.
Teammate Yap believed that design skills aren’t just about designing a beautiful product but how it can improve and impact people’s lives.
“As the aim of creating this WaterPod is to provide clean water to the community and to improve their livelihood. Being able to commercialise the unit will be a bonus for the sea nomads as a certain percentage of the profit can then be channelled back to work with the community,” he said.
Apart from crediting their lecturers for the support, the trio also expressed their appreciation to the vast knowledge and professional skills gained at APU.
“APU prepares us through a wide variety of skills. Besides learning the basic skills and tools for design and thinking, we are put through the different types of projects like the electronic and electrical product and furniture design, user experience, user interface and even automotive product design to hone our design skills.”
SoMAD Programme Leader, Ms Christine Lin, was thrilled by the achievement of these young innovators. She highlighted that the James Dyson Award has helped showcase their ideas and works and such competitions like this enables their designs to be production-ready.
In addition to that, the Associate Head of SoMAD Ms Debbie Liew highlighted that the success from the competition was purely from the hard work, persistence and vision from both students and lecturers.
“The success factor of this endeavour is persistence-of-vision from both students and lecturers. Their innate love and drive for wanting to curate world-changing solutions pushed them to improve their technical and communication skills despite the challenging times. The ability to never want to give up and not be fearful of competing nationally will give them great leverage in their careers later.”
As the university was also the Malaysia chapter Champion of the James Dyson Award in 2020, APU Vice-Chancellor Dr Hari Narayanan lauded SoMAD and APU for the major achievements. He added that winning the award twice is a testament to the quality, innovativeness and the depth of experience we have in the areas of industrial design and product design.
Over the years, APU has had an excellent track record of producing highly employable graduates; graduates of SoMAD are no exception. SoMAD is equipped with state-of-art tools and capabilities and its programmes are taught by dedicated and highly passionate staff with industrial experience.