Young Irish inventors make James Dyson award shortlist

Eilis Delaney's 'smart' firefighter helmet, called Sense, is designed to help a firefighter while navigating a burning building.

Inventions from two Irish students have made the shortlist for this year’s prestigious James Dyson award.

The successful entries, from Dublin Institute of Technology’s Eilis Delaney and the University of Limerick’s Cathal Redmond, were selected from more than 600 projects and are listed as being in the top 20 worldwide.

Eilis, a product design student, has designed a potentially life-saving “smart” firefighter helmet, called Sense, which will assist a firefighter while navigating a burning building with poor visibility.

The system fits into firefighters’ helmets, providing the user with an improved perception of their environment and allowing them to navigate dark spaces in a similar manner to bats.

An ultrasonic proximity sensor behind the front plate of the helmet is linked to a vibration motor. If the user encounters an obstacle, it is detected externally by the sensor and triggers the internal vibration motor.

“Firefighters face serious obstacles sensing, predicting and interpreting conditions when navigating their way around a burning building,” said Eilis.

“This is largely down to the thick-layered and heavy uniform they wear, which limits sensory feedback, and suppresses natural instinct at a time when quick decisions based on limited fragments of information are essential.”

Young Irish inventors make James Dyson award shortlist

Cathal Redmond with his invention ‘Express Dive at the Olympicsized pool at the UL’s sports arena. ’ Picture: Marie McCallan/Press 22

Cathal, who also studied product design, created a lightweight underwater breathing system designed to make life easier for snorkelers and divers.

The student won the Irish leg of the James Dyson Award for the Express Dive, which allows the wearer breathe underwater for up to two minutes. Once the air beings to run out, the user simply goes back to the surface and presses a button to refill the one litre tank from the surrounding air.

Cathal said that the idea initially came to him while on a holiday in Crete.

“I was on a boat excursion when I saw a shiny object on the seabed. I wanted to be able to go a little further than I could with just my lungs, but of course I did not have scuba equipment with me.

“I saw a need for something lighter, inexpensive and portable that everyone could use for leisure diving. Scuba equipment is bulky and expensive and the preparation process is rigorous and time-consuming.”

Cathal began to investigate a possible solution and searched for a way to combine the freedom of diving with the convenience of a snorkel. The final prototype features a compact air tank, an air regulator and compressor combination made from high-density foam, aluminium and silicone. An inbuilt battery drives the compressor to capture air and store it in the air tank. The air is then delivered to the diver in the same way as a scuba system, in conjunction with a dive mask.

Both designs will be competing against over 600 students from 20 countries for a prize of €37,500 to help further develop their device.


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