Judging for the Mine for Life RSA design brief starts here!

Today’s the day! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dead excited and it certainly feels like it’s been […]

Today’s the day! I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dead excited and it certainly feels like it’s been a long time coming.

So what’s so important about today, I hear you ask?!? Well, the story starts back in April last year when I received an email out of the blue inviting me to speak at a one day ‘sandpit‘ event at Loughborough University. The aim of the event was to look at how a new and emerging production process called Additive Manufacturing (AM) could be used to change people’s lives and support social and economic development in society. The day would focus on three important themes: energy, education and assisted living. And yes you’ve guessed it, my job was to talk about independent living and how I thought Additive Manufacturing could be harnessed in this area.

Always up for a challenge and armed with a basic knowledge of Additive Manufacturing, I set about reading up on the subject and putting together a presentation for the AM: The Future event on 6 July 2011:

I feel very lucky to have been involved in this event as it gave me the chance to learn about developments that could make a huge real life difference in the field of independent living, as well as meet members of the world-leading Additive Manufacturing Research Group at Loughborough University. I was even given my very own piece that had been additively manufactured to take home with me as a souvenir!

For me the most exciting application for Additive Manufacturing is the potential for products to be customised to make them easier for individuals to use and in turn make them more accessible. I’m extremely passionate about Design for All and feel that this approach can go a long way in addressing people’s needs, but one design can never be truly accessible to everyone. Therefore the scope for Additive Manufacturing to further customise these products could really help us to move closer to my dream of mainstreaming accessibility, but this isn’t the end of the story…

Being a sandpit event, the aim was to focus on the subjects of energy, education and assisted living and explore how Additive Manufacturing could be used to make a positive change in each area. It was fantastic to see such an animated and passionate group of people coming together around the theme of independent living, all working towards a proposal that went on to receive funding to take it forward. Now this is where the RSA (Royal Society for the encouragement of the Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) comes in…

Each year the RSA runs the Student Design Awards programme which asks young designers to demonstrate how the insights and processes of design can increase the resourcefulness of people and communities. Being a well established award scheme working with university students and recent graduates from across the UK, our sandpit group decided to set a brief inviting entrants to:

Design an assistive technology product, service or equivalent that involves additive manufacturing and uses a consumer-driven & people-centred design philosophy.

The result was the Mine for Life brief which was developed and is supported by Enabled by Design and Loughborough University. Back in September 2011, I presented our brief on the Tutor Briefing Day at the RSA and entries closed on 16 March 2012, so all that’s left to do now is the judging! Today is the first meeting of two that I’ll be attending at the RSA with a stellar panel of judges including (in alphabetical order just to be fair! ; )

– Susan Brumpton FRSA, Chief Executive, MERU (Chair)

– Philippa Aldrich, Founder, The Future Perfect Company

– Michael Anastassiades, Designer

– Kenneth Grange RDI, Kenneth Grange Design

– Dr Diane Gyi, Senior Lecturer, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University

– Richard Hague, Professor of Innovative Manufacturing / AMRG (Additive Manufacturing Research Group) Head; Director, EPSRC Centre for Innovative Manufacturing in Additive Manufacturing, Loughborough University

– Dr Samantha Porter, Senior Lecturer, Loughborough Design School, Loughborough University

– Denise Stephens, Co-founder, Enabled by Design

Today will be spent shortlisting the entries for the Mine for Life brief, followed by a day of interviews in May before the overall winner is announced. It certainly has involved a lot of hard work to get this far, but I’m extremely excited to be involved and can’t wait to see what people have been working on in response to the brief!

Watch this space for more details and I promise to report back after the winner has been announced…