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The brief for the James Dyson Award design competition is deceptively simple: Design something that solves a problem. The winner and nine finalists representing the United States all responded with highly functional designs that could make a positive impact on the way we live, none more so than the U.S. winner, the Copenhagen Wheel, designed by Christine Outram and students in the SENSEable City Lab at MIT. The hybrid battery-powered disk turns any bike into an electric boosted bike, helping cyclists go longer distances and ride up hills.
Like hybrid cars, the wheel generates energy from the brakes and stores them in batteries for later use by the motor, which assists the manual pedals on hills.
All the parts are concealed within the disk. The project was initiated in part by the city government of Copenhagen to further boost the already astonishing 35 percent of the city’s population that bikes daily. The design team is working with an italian company to take the wheels from prototypes into production. Each wheel is expected to cost around $600.
Other U.S. finalists include Empower by Me, a refillable HIV/AIDS medical kit designed by Jamie Perin of Ohio State University.
The kit contains nutritional bars, aspirin, antiretroviral drugs, and a timing device to release pills according to the dosing schedule. The kits can be assembled with inexpensive materials and can cut down on the number of clinic visits.
The Parquinho play equipment, designed by Mariana de Salles Ewell of Metropolitan State College, meets the needs of children with autism as well as those without disabilities, as well as facilitate interaction between both groups. The system includes elements like rollers and stairs that are used by occupational therapists to treat sensory disorders.
Kee to Safe Driving, designed by George Ressler of the University of Kansas, prevents cellphone-related car accidents by requiring the driver to insert the phone into the unit before the ignition will start.
Mantis, by Leah Kenttamaa-Squires, is a portable dental chair that doubles as a dolly, making it ideal for non-profit or disaster-relief settings.
Public Bicycle Security System, by Heman Au of the Academy of Art University in Long Beach, CA, includes a retractable cable lock, alarm, and stand attached to a case. The system is accessed with a pre-registered security card so that the owners contact information and the bike’s serial number is available to the police in case of the theft.
Seakettle, designed by Kimberly Hoffman of the Academy of Art University in Worchester, MA, is a life raft with a built in desalination system. The raft provides shelter and enough water fresh water for five passengers.
Travel Pack, by ChangTing Tsai or the University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign, is a bycicle case for international travel. The case can hold an entire disassbled bike and then when you arrive in you destination can be reconfigured into to small side cases, called panniers.
Guardian, Nick Boyd of Ohio State University, is an easy to use, safe fire extinguisher and case.
Purify, by Gabriel Collins from Metropolitan State College, is a handwashing station for hospitals and clinics. Built up the Dyson Air blade dryer, Purify also includs air driven water systems.
Christine from MIT will travel to the UK to tour the Dyson manufacturing facility. Her designed will be judged against finalists from 18 other countries. The grand prize winner will receive $15,000 and an addition $15,000 will go to the design program at the winning student’s school.