Swansea University engineering students help Invent for the Planet

On February 16th-18th Swansea University took part in the Invent for the Planet challenge, helping to solve some of humankind’s most pressing problems.

Held simultaneously in 5 continents, 9 time zones, 10 countries and 14 universities, Swansea was the only British University selected to participate. Teams from around the world−including, Mexico, Brazil, Cambodia, Myanmar, Thailand, Qatar, Egypt and the USA − connected through the challenge, giving Swansea University students an international experience without ever leaving the city. Kicking off in Cambodia at 4 p.m. local time on February 16th, universities joined as the Earth continued to rotate.

In total, 25 students from Swansea University’s College of Engineering − all from a range of disciplines, academic levels and nationalities − took part in the 48-hour Intensive Design Experience (IDE). Each team chose from a list of 15 global needs statements that addressed problems, such as the environment, food security and waste management. 

Invent for the Planet (Swansea University participants)Invent for the Planet Swansea University participants

All participants had access to global mentors via a network developed by lead university, Texas A&M University, as well as local mentors from Swansea University. Students were also able to access prototyping resources such as design software and 3-D printing, as well as being able to draw on staff expertise in product design, video production and marketing.

Invent for the Planet (Elevator pitch training)Elevator pitch training with Dr Mary Gagen showing the students how lego can be used to help them articulate their ideas

Dr Caroline Coleman-Davies, Administrative Head, International Strategic Partnerships: “Texas A&M is an internationally renowned university with whom Swansea has a long-established relationship and I was excited to be able to bring to the College of Engineering their invitation to participate in Invent for the Planet.” 

Students from Swansea University worked together to explore possible solutions, developing a prototype and elevator pitch to present to a panel of judges. The competition was fierce, but after much deliberation the judges− Professor Steve Brown, Dr Chedly Tizaoui and Dr Karin Ennser−selected Smart Technicians as their winners.

Smart Technicians members:

  • Ben Butler (Aerospace Engineering)
  • Joan Ignasi Fontova Saladrigues (Aerospace Engineering)
  • Panagiotis Chatziangelakis (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Houlin Chen ( Electrical and Electronic Engineering)
  • Christine Entwistle (Chemical Engineering)
  • Aseel Al-Riyami (Chemical Engineering)

Invent for the Planet (Smart Technicians- winners)Team Smart Technicians: (L-R) Prof Steve Brown (Head of College of Engineering), Panos Chatziangelakis, Joan Ignasi Fontova Saladrigues, Christine Entwistle, Aseel Al-Riyami, Ben Butler and Houlin Chen

At the end of 2006, the European Union (EU) pledged to cut its annual consumption of primary energy by 20% by 2020. Many individuals around the world are interested in reducing their energy consumption but lack the tools or motivation to do so. Team Smart Technicians were tasked with producing an inexpensive system to help inform households of their energy consumption, incentivizing a reduction of energy use.

The team developed a solution which uses smart plugs, sensors and an app to transmit electricity usage back to consumers, allowing them to track and compare their energy use. ‘ElecSave’ is anticipated to help change consumer habits and reduce energy consumption, which will save consumers money whilst also helping the environment.

Christine Entwistle, who was on the winning team, said: “Invent for the planet was an amazing weekend! I learnt so much from having the chance to work as an interdisciplinary team mastering how to pitch a product we designed in just 48 hours. Everyone in our team had their own skills to bring to the project and made sure they helped where they could, motivating each other and persevering when we were knocked back. We still don't quite believe we won and I'm really looking forward to seeing more projects develop from IFTP.”

Smart Technicians will now be put forward to compete for the grand prize against other winning teams, which includes an invitation to travel to Texas A&M University to continue their work with experts. The winner will also receive an invitation to present their project at the VentureWell OPEN Minds Showcase and Reception on March 24th in Austin, with a chance to win up to $3,000.

Professor Steve Brown, Head of College of Engineering and member of the judging panel, said: “The College of Engineering was delighted to be invited to participate in Invent for the Planet. We pride ourselves on attracting the brightest and the best students to study with us, and Invent for the Planet showed just what they are capable of. The concepts, prototypes and pitches that they developed in just 48 hours were extremely impressive and I'd like to congratulate all of the teams on their achievements."