Girls Shape The World

On International Women In Engineering Day, Parents, Tell Your Girls They Can #ShapeTheWorld.

Meanwhile, we revisit past female winners of the James Dyson Award.

On International Women In Engineering Day, Parents, Tell Your Girls They Can #ShapeTheWorld.
Dr Enass Abo-Hamed co-founded H2GO, an engineering company developing new ways to store clean energy at the age of just 28.This is Engineering/Pixabay

Hedy Lamarr wasn’t just a femme fatale who starred alongside Clark Gable and Spencer Tracy on the big screen. During World War II, she teamed up with her friend George Antheil to invent a way for command signals to jump around on different radio frequencies, preventing enemy spies from listening in. Their underlying method is a precursor to the Wi-Fi we’re so reliant on today.

In 1902, Mary Anderson designed the first hand-operated windscreen wiper for automobiles. In 1917, Charlotte Bridgwood, patented its automatic cousin. Kevlar, the stronger-than-steel fibre that has saved thousands of lives when used in body armour, was invented by Stephanie Kwolek in 1965. Here in Singapore, Jackie Y. Ying is a leader in nanotechnology research with 32 patents licensed to companies for a range of applications from nanomedicine to medical implants.

Discoveries and inventions by women have changed the world. But even in 2020, men continue to dominate the workforce in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

As Ong Soh Khim, one of the top augmented reality researchers in the world, told NUS News: “Women bring diversity to engineering and technology — of experience, ideas and approaches. If we do not engage women in STEM, we are ignoring at least 50 percent of the world’s intellectual talent. Having more women in STEM is a long-term sustainable solution for a greying world population.”

While activities have all gone virtual this year, International Women in Engineering Day 2020 is being marked with a call to all women (and men) around the world to celebrate the good things women engineers do. The idea is to encourage more girls into the field, with the rallying call: Shape the world.

Doing its part, pump manufacture Watson-Marlow, has put together a downloadable at-home activities pack for budding engineers — a good way to spend an afternoon together as you await your next KiwiCo delivery. While the charitable James Dyson Foundation, has issued a reminder that the James Dyson Award — its international design award that celebrates and encourages the next generation of design engineers —  is accepting entries until 16 July.

In the meantime, we revisit James Dyson Award (JDA) recipients who are making planet earth a better, safer, more innovative place to be.

Lucy Hughes

Inventor of MarinaTex; International winner 2019

Tell us about yourself and your invention.

I am the creator of the new material MarinaTex. I graduated in 2019 from Sussex University in Product design and entered the JDA in the same year, after I handed in my final year project. I am inspired to create sustainable circular solutions to unsustainable linear problems. This involves reimagining how we use products, thinking differently about waste and creating solutions that value form, function and footprint at equal importance. 

MarinaTex is made from algae and fish waste. It was designed to provide a home compostable alternative to un-recyclable, un-compostable and unsustainable LDPE plastic film in packaging applications. The project began at a fish processing plant, with the intent of adding value to the existing waste streams. After research and over 100 experiments in my kitchen, the material was transformed from a pungent mess to a consistent and strong material.

Currently, MarinaTex is in the labs for development. This is a very exciting time for the project as it is shedding light on how it could be applied and ultimately manufactured. Material development is notoriously timely so the biggest challenge is creating a solution that was needed yesterday!

What excites you the most?

What excites me about design and mapping out the design process is that you can really make a tangible difference to something you care about. In a world where so often we ask ourselves “what can I do to help?”, engineering and design can provide solace by empowering people to find solutions.

What do you think the future holds for invention?

I think we will see more transparency between companies and consumers regarding the sustainability of their products. Life cycle analyses are a really good way of assessing this and I think it should be part of a product’s description, so consumers can make an informed decision at purchase. Hopefully, in the next 5 years we will address our throwaway culture and see a lot more re-usable products. In the waste hierarchy; refusing, reducing and reusing are top priorities.

Keerthana Janmugam and Sarah Ong

Co-inventors of Wheelson; Singapore National winner 2019

Tell us about yourself and the invention.

We’re final year engineering students from Singapore University of Technology and Design. We are part of a six-person team that invented Wheelson. Wheelson is an intuitive bicycle attachment that improves cyclists’ safety while they are carrying heavy loads, which is common for those doing grocery shopping. In addition, Wheelson features an extra set of wheels that stabilise the bicycle, allowing non-cyclists to pick up cycling as a mode of transportation too. Finally, Wheelson can also be detached and used as a shopping cart.

Where does inspiration come from?

We think that the best inspiration comes from everyday life. Our idea came about when we used to stay in our university dorms. We had to do grocery shopping at a distant market and wanted to come up with an idea to make the experience more effortless and painless. Sometimes, we would rent bicycles but carrying groceries home on them was always a struggle.

Your idea doesn’t have to be a grand one to be good. Look around you; keep your eyes peeled and keep an open mind, and inspiration will hit you.

What do you think the future holds for invention?

The future for invention is exciting and full of possibilities. However, with technology constantly evolving, the earth has been put under a lot of pressure providing people with materials needed for new inventions. We feel that it is crucial for future inventions to stand the test of time, and to use more sustainable resources.

That being said, we cannot wait to see a world where self-driving cars become the norm and we get to take a vacation on the moon. If you can dream it, it might one day become possible.

Maria Yzabell Angel Palma

Inventor of AirDisc Cooling Technologies; Philippines National winner 2019

Tell us about yourself and your invention.

I am a second-year mechanical engineering student at De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines. My invention AirDisc Cooling Technologies is a one-of-a-kind cooling approach which does not use chemical refrigerants but simply uses abundant air molecules as the cooling medium. AirDisc Air Conditioner translates to zero global warming potential, drastically reduced energy costs and better pricing compared to conventional ACs. AirDisc is currently patent pending with the United States Patent and Trademark Office and also pending with the Patent Cooperation Treaty for global protection of intellectual property rights in all countries.

Since winning the national title in the Philippines, we have been in talks with different parties worldwide interested in the technology and have secured pledges for manufacturing. One constraint that we’re currently facing is the adverse effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, as we focus on ensuring the health of our people during development.

What advice would you give to future entrants currently working on their applications?

You have to believe in yourself and your entry. Really take the time to understand the requirements of the James Dyson Award so that your application is informative and considered. Put in as much detail about your idea as possible; this doesn’t have to be technical, but ensure that your invention is well understood.

“People see things as they are and ask why. I dream of impossible things and ask why not.” This is my approach to design and engineering – seeing people create something out of nothing is truly challenging and inspiring. With perseverance and determination, we can really make seismic changes through design engineering, where the theories and principles of science are materialised and put into human use.

What do you think the future holds for invention?

I would love to see new inventions and green technologies that will make our earth a much better place to live in. With the increasing threat of global warming, it is necessary to come up with technical solutions that will directly address the problems accelerating this worldwide issue. I believe that future inventions and technologies will be more considerate of the environment. 

Shubham Issar

Inventor of SoaPen; USA National runner-up 2017

Tell us about yourself and your invention.

I’m an industrial designer and co-founder of SoaPen. Originally from New Delhi, India, I created SoaPen with my co-founder Amanat Anand whom I met while studying at the Parsons School of Design, New York.

SoaPen is a soap-filled pen that allows children to draw on their hands and wash them, providing an alternative to basic hand sanitiser or soaps. We designed SoaPen to address the fact that handwashing with soap can prevent 1 in 3 children from infectious illnesses that lead to high infant mortality rates. With SoaPen, children can draw all over their hands with colourful, berry scented soap sticks that rinse away leaving their hands clean. The fun nature of SoaPen means children don’t complain about having to wash their hands before dinner! For every three pens sold in the US, SoaPen donates one to a school in a low-income community in India. Currently we are selling on soapen.com, Amazon, and in over 200 boutique stores across the USA.

What advice would you give to future entrants to the JDA?

Always keep the user first when designing your ideas and at whatever stage you are currently at in the design process… just submit your application! Your idea is the most important part of the submission. That is what is so exciting about design engineering, being a problem solver. In the very early stages, we submitted a simple sketch of SoaPen to the UNICEF Wearables for Good challenge and went on to win the challenge. This gave us the start-up capital to get our invention off the ground. The world needs change-makers who can lead by doing, so don’t hesitate to get your invention out there and part of the conversation.

What do you think the future holds for invention?

I think we’ll definitely be seeing more inventions in the healthcare and hygiene space, given the global events of recent months. As an entrepreneur myself, I’d really like to see more women of colour across STEM and entrepreneurship over the next few years.