Anti-drowning device wins 2016 Irish James Dyson award

7 Sep 2016

A device designed to prevent work crews from getting trapped underwater and drowning has been named as this year’s winner of the Irish James Dyson award.

The team of eight students from Cork Institute of Technology (CIT) were inspired to design their device – called the Hydro-FLOcean (H-FLO) – following the tragic drownings of two labourers in Limerick last year.

Following their deaths, it was found that TJ O’Herlihy and Bryan Whelan drowned after their work platform collapsed while they were carrying out maintenance works on Thomond Bridge over the River Shannon.

These platforms are often used when working at heights, with workers typically secured to the work platform via a harness and lanyard.

However, in rare occurrences, a platform collapsing into a large body of water can leave those connected to it vulnerable of being pulled down and drowned, as happened last August.

Using their knowledge of engineering, the team designed the H-FLO device, which overcomes this by separating the user from the work platform when it is submerged in water.

Composed of two cylindrical metal shafts connected via a steel pin, an in-built flotation device – similar to those used in life jackets – activates on impact, forcing the pin out with 10 megapascals of pressure.

This results in the device splitting in two, allowing the labourer to free themselves from the platform.

Led by 27-year-old Arran Coughlan, the team has said the idea came following a brainstorming session last year.

“The Limerick tragedy had only happened a couple of weeks before college started back, so it was pretty fresh in our minds,” Coughlan said.

“We were tasked with coming up with an innovative device, and it all took off from there”, Arran explains.

Aside from taking part in the international edition of the James Dyson award, the team plans to find new markets to bring the H-FLO to, such as the automotive industry and offshore oil rigging.

Four other Irish inventions shortlisted

22 countries will take part in the international James Dyson award on 27 October, with the overall winner receiving €35,000 for their innovation.

Along with the H-FLO, four other Irish student inventions have been shortlisted for the international awards.

A full list of the Irish entrants into this year’s Irish edition of the awards can be found here.

OmniHeater – Mark Boda, University of Limerick

OmniHeater consists of two fans that force air into the core of a dryer. With no clear path for the air to freely flow out of the unit, it is forced to flow through the wet clothes.

The OmniHeater uses 60 times less electricity than a standard tumble dryer, making very little noise in the process.

SI (Safety and Independence) – Matthew Gaughran, Dublin Institute of Technology

SI is a personal alert and emergency alarm watch that allows the user to contact a predetermined contact should they need them.

If, at any point, the user feels he or she needs assistance, they can press a button and an alert will be sent to their contact in the form of a text message.

Orb Induction – Greg Butler, Dublin Institute of Technology

Orb Induction is a station with three shelves, each of which uses induction to power phone cases.

This product means that no wires are needed to charge a phone, and a phone can be charged in a pocket, in a bag, in your hand – anywhere.

Infinite Charge – Philip Campion, Dublin Institute of Technology

Infinite Charge is a gyroscopic portable energy-harvesting charger.

Gyroscopic mechanisms are spinning wheels or discs mounted on an axis. When the inner axis of this device is spun at a certain speed, the outer axis can then be set in motion, and the momentum of these axes turning at such high speed generates enough power to charge a mobile phone.

Person drowning image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic