Students from Brunel University London have scooped first and second place in the annual Design Innovation in Plastics (DIP) competition, with the judges praising the multi-functional qualities of their products.
BSc Product Design student, Alex Roquero, was the overall winner after impressing the competition judges with his ‘Hook’ – a cleverly designed shelf which is integrated with a flowerbox, and fits to any kind of railing or balcony – aimed at people who have no garden, or reduced space.
Thanks to its unique shape, it can also carry day-to-day products such as coffee mugs, wine glasses, beer bottles or even books.
In second place was William Oughton, an MSc Integrated Product Design student, with his ‘Bulb – Garden Furniture’, a concept of garden accessories which fit to any type of fence – panel, wire or post-built – and can be used as bird feeders, planters, bird houses or solar outdoor light.
DIP, which is organised by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and the Worshipful Company of Horners, and headline industry sponsored by Covestro, had given students the brief of ‘Branching Out – Design For Garden Innovation’.
They were asked to come up with an innovative product, primarily from plastics, which could be used in a garden, that would better connect people with nature, enhance the pleasure of gardening or leisure activities within the garden, or help sooth mind and body after a long and stressful day.
Left to right: Brunel University London tutor Dr Fabrizio Ceschin; Master of Horners, Gordon Haines; Brunel students William Oughton, Alex Roquero and Zeina Mofti; Bernie Rickinson, CEO of the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining
Chairman of judges, Richard Brown, commented: “It was evident that Alex’s product could become a marketable item, as living spaces become smaller, and more ‘Juliet’ balconies are integrated into new builds, especially in Europe.
"Alex tackled a problem that he was familiar with from the environment in his home country of Spain, and took a holistic approach to provide a multi-purpose solution. We were impressed by the way he took into consideration all the elements of the brief, from initial concept, patent and IP search, manufacturability, point of sale options and sustainability.”
Alex wins a trip to Germany to visit the competition headline industry sponsor, the polymers manufacturer Covestro, and a placement with another competition sponsor, RJG Technology, which provides injection moulding industry support, training and advisory services.
He said taking part in the competition and getting this far had driven him to develop expertise and gain experience in areas he had not studied before, and to be especially aware of considerations such as sustainability, which had influenced even small decisions in the design and production of his balcony shelf.
“Being able to produce a physical working prototype helped me realise how challenging and satisfying it is to make your designs work in real life,” he added.
Meanwhile, William was also praised by the judges for the versatility of his product.
Competition judge, Mike Stuart, a technical service engineer, formerly from Covestro, said: “William did everything a good engineer should in terms of costings, production processes, and material choice, and the fact he’d designed his product down to every last detail. There were four similar-looking products in the set, but fulfilling different functions, and the fence attachment mechanism was innovative.”
William said: “I think this project has been a good opportunity to look further into working with plastics in an industry context. The DIP brief showed the importance of focusing on design for manufacture when efficient processing and costing restrictions are considered.”
Alex with his product, 'Hook'; William with 'Bulb – Garden Furniture'; Zeina with 'G Cycle'
The competition proved a big success for Brunel students, since a third finalist from the university, MSc Integrated Product Design student Zeina Mofti, was awarded highly commended, with ‘G Cycle’ – a product which combines modern indoor gardening with home aquariums. It uses the concept of a rotary hydroponic garden to recycle water between the aquarium and plants.
She said: “I’ve worked hard on the project and this paid off – I felt honoured to reach this stage of the competition.”
All the finalists are being offered a short placement with one of the competition sponsors, Brightworks, HellermannTyton, Innovate Product Design, PDD and RJG Technologies, as part of their prize.
The Design Innovation in Plastics Award is the longest-running student plastics design competition in Europe, having been established in 1985.
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