Low-cost baby incubator for Third World wins Dyson award, Canadians runners-up

An incubator for premature babies in developing countries that costs a fraction of traditional devices has won an international design engineering award worth nearly $55,000.

University of Waterloo team among award's runners-up for sunscreen warning marker

James Roberts says he was inspired to design the low-cost incubator after watching a documentary about the high death rate among premature babies in refugee camps. (James Dyson Award)

An incubator for premature babies in developing countries that costs a fraction of traditional devices has won an international design engineering award worth nearly $55,000.

James Roberts, 23, won the 2014 James Dyson Award for an inflatable incubator that costs much less to manufacture, test and transport compared with current incubators.

"I was inspired to tackle this problem after watching a documentary on the high death rate among premature babies in refugee camps," Roberts said on the awards website. "It motivated me to use my design engineering skills to make a difference."

The foundation said Roberts’s incubator, called MOM, costs $400 to manufacture, test and ship compared with $45,000 for conventional systems.

The incubator is made of a sheet of plastic that is manually inflated. The sheet contains panels that are heated by ceramic elements to keep a newborn warm.

Roberts will use the $55,000 award to develop prototypes and tests with the aim of cutting the cost further and allowing mass producing, said Loughborough University, his alma matter in Leicestershire, U.K.

University of Waterloo team runners-up

The award also included three $9,000 international runners-up, including for a liquid that signals when sunscreen is no longer providing protection.

Suncayr, developed by five nanotechnology engineers at the University of Waterloo, is a marker with ink that is designed to change colour to indicate that sunscreen needs to be reapplied to prevent sunburns.

In one prototype, users draw on their skin. The colour is clear or white when sunscreen works and turns blue when exposed to UV, the award’s site said.

The James Dyson Foundation awards are open to students of product design, industrial design or engineering, or recent graduates in 18 countries. Dyson is a British engineer and found of the Dyson vacuum cleaner company.