This year, NASA celebrates a rather momentous achievement in space travel with the 50th anniversary of the first person that opened the door of a spaceship and walked into the vastness of space.
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Irish student Ronan Leahy, who made the top 15 global shortlist in the 2011 James Dyson Award for his invention ‘MediMover’, a device to aid in the transfer of patients from hospital beds to other beds, trolleys or surgical tables
The 2012 James Dyson Award is now inviting applications from inventive young designers and engineers, hailing from 18 countries, including Ireland. And the brief? You’ve got to develop a problem-solving invention.
The ultimate winner will receive stg£10,000 to develop his or her invention and an additional stg£10,000 will go to his or her university department.
Two international runners-up get stg£2,000 each, while national winners get £1,000 each. There are also nine national finalists from each country.
The awards are open to any university-level student of product design, industrial design or engineering (or graduate within four years of graduation), who is studying, or who has studied, in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Japan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Singapore, Spain, Switzerland, UK and the US.
And here's a few words from the man himself, James Dyson, on why the awards seek out fresh talent each year to come up with original ideas, challenging students to "think big".
"Young people have an unsullied view of the world. Budding engineers and designers can use their fresh perspective to develop wonderfully simple solutions to baffling problems. Original ideas and rigorously engineered projects will attract the attention of the judges. I challenge applicants to think big and use the award as a springboard for your idea."
To give you a flavour of the type of inventions that have won in the past, last year's winner was Edward Linacre from Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne. Linacre invented Airdrop, a device that aims to tackle the problem of drought. Airdrop was developed as a low-cost, self-powered solution to the problems of growing crops in arid regions.
At the time, Linacre said he was inspired by Australia's worst drought in a century.
He set about reproducing a desert beetle's technique of capturing moisture from air. Linacre said he based his invention on the principle that even the driest air contains water molecules. Airdrop works by pumping air through a network of underground pipes and cools the air to the point of condensation. Water is then delivered to the roots of plants.
"Winning the award's £10,000 prize has allowed me to develop and test the Airdrop system. It has the potential to help farmers around the world and I'm up for the challenge of rolling it out," said Linacre this week.
University of Limerick graduates Chris Murphy and Ronan Leahy. Murphy won Best of Irish in the 2011 James Dyson Award for his 'Open Pool Transfer' invention. Leahy made the top 15 global shortlist in the 2011 James Dyson Award for his invention 'MediMover'
In terms of Ireland, last year 23-year-old Chris Murphy won Best of Irish in the 2011 James Dyson Award for his 'Open Pool Transfer invention, which aims to help swimmers with limited mobility. Ronan Leahy from Croom in Co Limerick made the top 15 global shortlist in the 2011 James Dyson Award for his invention 'MediMover', a device to aid in the transfer of patients from hospital beds to other beds, trolleys or surgical tables.
Entrants can apply for the 2012 awards by submitting submit footage, images and sketches to Jamesdysonaward.org, along with stories detailing their design process and inspiration.
The entries will be scrutinised by judges around the world and Dyson engineers before James Dyson announces the international winner on 8 November 2012.