Irish anti-drowning device makes global James Dyson award shortlist

28 Sep 2016

H-FLO team from left: Kelly Lane, Shane O' Driscoll, Arran Coughlan, Gerard O' Connell and Kacey Mealy. Image: Gerard McCarthy

A device designed by Cork students that prevents work crews from accidental drownings will now join an illustrious band of 20 finalists for this year’s James Dyson awards on 27 October.

The James Dyson award is one of the most sought after for young engineers, as it offers a potential grand prize of €35,000 to the person who can invent something that could solve major global issues.

In order to have a chance to make it to the final global awards next October, participating teams must first win their own national finals, whereby they qualify to enter into a shortlist of 20 international projects.

Now, having won the national heat in Ireland, the Hydro-FLOcean (H-FLO) from Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) can celebrate the fact they have made this prestigious list.

Led by 27-year-old Arran Coughlan, the H-FLO is an anti-drowning device, which could be provided to crews working on or near large bodies of water, giving them the ability to escape a potentially deadly situation.

Inspired by the tragic deaths of labourers TJ O’Herlihy and Bryan Whelan last year, the H-FLO team has already formulated plans to bring the device to the automotive and offshore oil rigging industries.

Follows a successful 2015

H-FLO was one of four Irish student inventions shortlisted for the international awards, which included a gyroscopic portable energy-harvesting charger and an ultra-efficient tumble dryer.

Ireland has previously fared well with nautical devices at this event. Last year, University of Limerick (UL) graduate Cathal Redmond finished joint runner-up for the James Dyson award with his underwater breathing system, Express Dive.

Picking up €7,000 for his second place finish, Redmond became the first Irish student ever in the history of the international design award to win one of the major honours.

Aside from H-FLO, some of the other 19 competitors include the first ever Braille computer tablet for blind and partially sighted users, invented by a team of students from Austria, and a smart contact lens that monitors glucose levels to assist in diabetes management, invented by a Canadian student.

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic