Following the launch of the James Dyson Award in the UAE earlier this year, the first in the Middle East region, the winners of the inaugural edition have been announced. Commercial Interior Design was invited to be a part of the judging panel, alongside leading industry figures.
This year, the UAE’s national James Dyson Award winner attempts to solve the problem of air travel for individuals with disabilities. Their proposal, Air Chair, is a highly evolved wheelchair, which provides ease of access and mobility to physically-challenged air travellers. The Air Chair enables individuals with disabilities to use one wheelchair for the entire journey, from checking in to landing at their destination, providing comfort and mobility during the flight by seamlessly integrating into the aircraft seat.
The Air Chair can be used like any ordinary wheelchair, electrically or manually inside the airport terminal. Once inside the airplane cabin, the Air Chair is designed to fit the existing seat like a glove by sliding onto it using spherical wheels’ and a ‘C’ shaped design. The integrated locking mechanism which links to the metal bar underneath the seat combined with the seatbelt restricts movements and provides stability during the flight. With this solution, the traveller can use one wheelchair for the entire travel journey. The Air Chair design is also foldable, reducing its height by 64%.
Developed by Aamer Siddiqui, 21 and Ali Asgar Salim, 20, engineering students at the American University of Sharjah, the Air Chair was developed with the inspiration of providing people with disabilities with more comfortable and self-reliant travel experiences. Winning the national leg of the James Dyson Award will inject £2,000 (AED9,500) into Siddiqui and Salim’s project which will allow them to run further testing and analyses on their design, leading up to their ambition of building a working prototype and testing it in real time conditions.
Commenting on the award submission, Siddiqui says: “Winning the UAE leg of the James Dyson Award is a huge milestone for us and we are very happy and motivated to be able to invest more time and money into the next phases of our project. Seeing the circumstances in which individuals with disabilities have to travel encouraged us to find a way to give them a more seamless and comfortable experience.”
Salim adds: “In fact, if you pay attention to current disabled travellers, you will notice that they are very limited in mobility and accessibility and that they are forced to shift seats once they arrive in the aircraft since their wheelchair doesn’t fit between the aisles. The Air Chair solves that issue.”
“Seeing the number of submissions and the motivation of young designers and engineers across the UAE is a testament to the investment the UAE is making in the education system. We’ve seen some great solutions addressing global and very relevant problems across different sectors and have been blown away from the creativity and innovation,” says Yousef Mouallem, Managing Director at Dyson MEA.
“The pool of participants is also an indication of the diversity of the UAE with a melting pot of nationalities taking part in the competition from seven UAE-based universities. I am also happy to see more and more young women participate in these types of competitions and pursue a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he adds.
Commenting on how Smart Dubai is supporting the award, Hessa Al Balooshi, Director of Smart Services, who presented the winners with their award, says: “Smart Dubai is actively seeking to support young talent, enhance their capabilities in various fields by fostering creativity and innovation in communities and providing all the needed support to innovators, as youth are the key drivers of the future.”
She continues: "The James Dyson Award comes in line with these goals to support technological development, which is at the heart of the smart transformation of cities and the pillar for adopting the latest technologies to serve humanity and achieve human well-being”.
The Air Chair will progress to the international stage of the James Dyson Award and Aamer and Ali aim to commercialise this product.
The runners-up include a biometric-concept, ThumbFi - a revolutionary ring that aims to simplify control of various devices by bringing control to the user's fingertips.
This technology works by attaching a fingerprint scanner to the user’s thumb which will scan the phalange of the fingers. Each phalange can be assigned to a separate command. Different sections of the finger can perform different tasks with just a touch, eliminating the need to use different accessories for controlling different appliances. There are various applications of this technology such as playing games, controlling wheelchair, or using smartphones for visually-challenged individuals.
The second runners-up position was awarded to Lazar, a machine which combines two significant solar cell manufacturing improvements: A laser cutting technique that minimises potential shunting of solar cells in addition to a corrective step to remove already existing shunts. This improves efficiency while keeping the maintenace costs low.
All the winning entries will now participate on an international level, with submissions from around the world.
The judging panel for the national round of the competition included Mohammad Abdullah, president of Dubai Institute of Innovation, Dr Tadhg O'Donovan, associate head of school – Dubai, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University, and Shweta Parida, editor of Commercial Interior Design, ITP Media Group.