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Annual James Dyson Award for product design shortlist

8 August 2011

Solar Powered Lawn Mower, Recyclable Shoe and Magnetic Leg Named James Dyson Award Product Design Finalists

A solar powered lawn mower, a recyclable running shoe for barefoot runners, and a prosthetic leg that uses magnets to get people walking, have been announced New Zealand finalist designs in the annual James Dyson Award.

The prestigious design award recognises the next generation of emerging Kiwi product designers who have developed inventions that are innovative and inspire solutions to everyday problems.

Dash, a domestic lawnmower powered by solar panels and a rechargeable battery is designed to be charged in four hours with a 45 minute run time. It includes an internal mulching system to turn clippings into lawn fertilizer.

Its designer, 23 year old Stuart Smith of Dunedin, says his invention is intended to reduce the air pollution that traditional lawnmowers contribute – up to five per cent in the US. The Massey University industrial design student adds that while his design is only at a 3D model stage, he intends to feature ergonomic benefits such as a telescopic handle for height adjustment. Its compact size will also allow for easy use and storage.

David Lovegrove, the Award’s head judge and member of the Designers Institute of NZ, says Dash was an incredibly well presented and researched concept, and the designer showed talent at model making and translating ideas into a well resolved product. He was encouraged to see sustainability had been considered in the product’s development.

A second finalist design – Transition - is a shoe designed for barefoot running. People looking to take up barefoot running must use a changeover shoe to build up muscle strength in the legs and feet. This ensures the training period is smooth and injury free. While changeover shoes are available on the market, Transition is the only sustainable barefoot-style design that features replaceable and recyclable parts.

Aucklander Nicholas Couch, the 23 year old inventor of Transition, says globally 350,000 million sports shoes are purchased and discarded each year. Often, these shoes are discarded when only one part – usually the sole - has worn out while the rest of the shoe remains in good condition but goes to landfill. Made up of only five parts, each part of Transition is designed to be discarded only when required, eliminating the need to discard the entire shoe and extending its usable life. Made without glue adhesives, the discarded part can be broken down into their original material and can be recycled.

Of the Massey University graduate’s entry, David Lovegrove says while Transition focused on a niche sporting application, its design could reduce the carbon footprint of the entire footwear industry.

The third finalist product, Nexstep, is a prosthetic leg that uses powerful magnets to provide amputees with greater flexibility and a more comfortable walking experience. Neodymium magnets are placed behind the knee to create force and movement, allowing the leg to extend, followed by magnets in front of the knee connecting, locking the knee and completing the walking motion. A similar reaction is repeated in the ankle area.

Twenty seven year old Cameron Lightfoot, an Auckland-based engineer and Victoria University industrial design graduate, says he created Nexstep after reading about the frustrations of amputees fitted with prosthetic legs which offer limited movement – usually restricted to the knee. Purchasing an artificial limb can be incredibly expensive - $35,000 for the average prosthetic - so Lightfoot set-out to create one that would resolve both issues.

Says Lovegrove “Judges were intrigued by the idea and how a simple and cost effective solution could improve the life of people with amputations.

“Our three top entries all reflect the philosophy of Dyson; demonstrating a commitment to problem-solving. It’s this ethos that underpins Dyson’s success when its design team invented its revolutionary range of vacuums, bladeless fans or hand dryers.”

The national winner will travel to the UK to visit Dyson, and meet with London’s top product and design companies. They will earn a $3000 cash prize for travel, plus a fee package from the Intellectual Property Office of NZ (IPONZ), $3000 of legal fees from Farry.Co and a Dyson vacuum cleaner.

Now in its eleventh year, the James Dyson Award is open to final year tertiary students studying in the areas of design, technology or engineering, and to graduates in these areas who are in their first four years of work.

Established in 2001 by Avery Robinson, the distributors of Dyson in New Zealand, the James Dyson Award is held in association with British Council New Zealand, the Designers Institute of New Zealand (DINZ), Farry.Co Law, and IPONZ to recognise and reward up and coming Kiwi designers with product design ideas that best demonstrate innovative and inspiring solutions to everyday problems.

Fellow judge, Ingrid Leary from British Council New Zealand, says of a record 30 entries judged, the short listed three are examples of Kiwi ingenuity at its best.

“The finalists have shown great skill at demonstrating their ideas with robust research and realistic models. We hope this will be recognised by industry and investors who may be willing to support these designers in bringing these original products to market.”

Says James Dyson, engineer and inventor of the Dyson vacuum cleaner: “Experimentation and creativity need to be cultivated amongst young designers if we are to see future innovations emerge. This award is about giving the next generation of engineers and designers a head start.”

Ten New Zealand entries, including the three national finalists, will progress to online judging in the international James Dyson Award competition. The global James Dyson Award winner will be announced in November 2011 and together with their university, they will win a total prize fund of £20,000 or local currency equivalent.

The James Dyson Award is supported by the James Dyson Foundation (JDF), a registered charity whose aim is to inspire and excite young people about design engineering.

The winning entry will be unveiled at a ceremony to be held in Auckland on Thursday, 25 August. Entries can be viewed on


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