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Thinking Ahead winners’ time-telling solutions

Our online design challenge Thinking Ahead once again brought out the best in creativity, engineering and sustainability from a talented group of future problem-solvers. 

Thinking Ahead is designed to give students an intro to the world of engineering. For our February 2024 edition, we teamed up with the National Physical Laboratory (NPL), to deliver a project around ‘Time’ to coincide with British Science Week. The “Time for All” project challenged students to design a unique time-keeping device for a specific user group in a chosen environment, such as a home, business or public space. Whilst the primary function was to display the time, attendees were encouraged to add features that bring joy or convey a meaningful message.

During the programme, over 150 participants from around the world attended online workshops – delivered by TEDI-London team members and the National Physical Laboratory – that provided insights into the role of engineers, and how to effectively communicate their design ideas.

We are excited to announce three winners across different categories. Each winner will receive a TEDI-London letter of recommendation and a coaching session with an industry professional.

 Innovation Award and Panel’s Top Pick

Marne – The Nexus Project

Marne Malan’s “The Nexus Project” tackled the subjective and relational nature of time, particularly for individuals with mental illnesses or neurodivergence. The Time Nexus is designed as a public park installation featuring a tall clock tower that symbolises the cyclical nature of time. The clock face is divided into quadrants, each themed with different plants, creating a natural and interactive map of the area.

Marne’s project integrates a community lounge, dining room and a social prescription room within the clock tower. This room serves as a classroom for teaching gardening skills, where students tend to their plants, learning to perceive time through their growth cycles. The “Time to Grow” app complements this experience by setting reminders for plant care, tracking growth, and fostering a tangible sense of time passing.

Marne’s innovative approach highlights the importance of understanding time in the context of ecosystems and aims to improve mental health through a grounded relationship with nature.

“The Thinking Ahead programme pushed me to view challenges from the perspective of a particular user group. This opened a whole new dimension of problem-solving for me. Understanding the needs and perspectives of user groups, alongside principles of physics, created a dynamic experience.” – Marne 

Engineering Excellence Award

Mrinal  & Franklin  – Prototype Circuit Spark

“Prototype Circuit Spark” won the Engineering Excellence Award for the exemplary design tailored for children in hospitals. The device is a multifunctional clock that integrates both analogue and digital time displays, audio output and tactile features to make it accessible for all children, including those with visual or auditory impairments.

The clock features a solar panel to recharge its batteries, enhancing its self-sufficiency and sustainability. The casing is made from PLA bioplastic, chosen for its ease of manufacturing and environmental benefits. The design includes rounded corners, silicone strips for stability, and an activation button with braille to ensure safety and usability.

This innovative prototype not only helps children tell time but also serves as an educational tool, fostering learning and engagement in a hospital environment. Mrinal and Franklin’s project stands out for its thoughtful integration of user needs and sustainable engineering principles.

“Participating in TEDI-London’s Thinking Ahead challenge was an exhilarating experience that truly pushed the boundaries of our creativity and problem-solving skills. What we enjoyed most was the opportunity to collaborate closely and develop our prototype under intense time constraints. The program provided us with invaluable mentorship and feedback from industry experts, inspiring us to continue pushing the boundaries of innovation in engineering.” – Mrinal and Franklin


Sustainability Award

Selina – Water Clock

Selina Huang’s “Water Clock” project won the Sustainability Award for its unique and environmentally friendly design. Her prototype is a clepsydra, or water clock, inspired by Bernard Gitton’s modern water clocks. The device collects rainwater to power the time-keeping mechanism and provides shelter and clean water for homeless individuals.

The prototype features solar panels for additional power, making it entirely self-sustainable. It serves multiple functions: as a time-keeping device, a shelter, and a water station with filtration systems to ensure the water is clean. The design is intended to be installed in public parks, enhancing the environment while addressing practical needs for the homeless.

Selina’s project impressed the judges with its comprehensive approach to sustainability, user-focused design and its potential positive impact on vulnerable communities.

 “I enjoyed designing the actual prototype and putting the new knowledge into use. It’s always satisfying to see something envisioned in your head become solid and real. I also realised how every detail in a project holds significance and affects the feasibility of the prototype.” – Selina 

Thinking Ahead Recognition Awards

Two additional participants were recognised for their outstanding contributions:

– Jabez: Jabez developed a project aimed at solving problems faced by Maasai farmers and cattle herders in remote areas of Tanzania.

– Victor: Victor’s “UniClock” project is a device that can be used by people to learn how to read and understand the time. It can be useful not only for those who are just beginning to get familiar with reading and understanding it, but also for people with visual impairments.

We are incredibly proud of all our participants and their remarkable achievements. Their innovative solutions and dedication to addressing real world problems embody the spirit of the Thinking Ahead programme. Congratulations to all the winners!

Are you keen to experience a taster version of our project-based teaching approach? Find out how to take part in our next  Thinking Ahead programme.

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