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OJ wins James Dyson Award

St John’s is pleased to announce that James Roberts, one of the School’s Old Johnians (West House, left 2010), has won the James Dyson Award. The Award is an international design accolade that celebrates, encourages and inspires the next generation of design engineers.

More than one in ten babies worldwide are born prematurely. According to the World Health Organisation, 75% of deaths resulting from premature birth could be avoided if inexpensive treatments were more readily available across the globe. James, a Loughborough University graduate and now 23 years old, has invented a device to solve this problem – a low cost, inflatable incubator for use in the developing world.

Blown up manually and heated using ceramic heating elements, the device runs off a battery that lasts for 24 hours and can be collapsed for transportation. The incubator also includes controls for custom temperature and humidity, as well as a phototherapy unit for babies who suffer from jaundice.

Winning the award will provide James’ team with £30,000 for further prototyping and testing, with a view ultimately to seeing the device mass produced. Loughborough University will also receive £10,000.

Mr Dyson said: “James’ invention shows the impact design engineering can have on people’s lives. The western world takes incubators for granted – we don’t think about how their inefficient design makes them unusable in developing countries and disaster zones. By bravely challenging convention, James has created something that could save thousands of lives.”

Providing the same performance as a £30,000 modern incubation system, James’ device costs just £250 to manufacture, test and transport to the desired location.

James Roberts said, “I developed my interest in design while studying Design and Technology at St John's”. He added: “I was inspired to tackle this particular problem after watching a documentary on the high death rate among premature babies in refugee camps. It motivated me to use my design engineering skills to make a difference. Like many young inventors, there have been struggles along the way – I had to sell my car to fund my first prototype! The dream would be to meet a child that my incubator has saved – living proof that my design has made a difference.”

St John's School is grateful to the James Dyson Foundation for the information and photograph provided for this article.

Published on 11/11/2014

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