THE beginnings of an innovation is mainly the desire to provide a solution to a problem. This is something familiar to Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM) mechanical engineering student Mark Selvan.
Born and raised in Ipoh, Perak, the 23-year-old was curious about how things work even as a child — he was always pulling something apart to understand them better and getting involved in DIY (do-it-yourself) projects.
“It was during secondary school (SMK Anderson Ipoh) where I started gaining interest in the latest technology and innovations — and I have not looked back since. It only seemed natural to become an engineer at that point. I’m in the fourth year of my Bachelor in Mechanical Engineering degree in USM, and I’m excited for what lies ahead,” said Mark.
And his interest and enthusiasm in technology and innovations is proven through his achievement at the James Dyson Award last year. An international search for problem-solvers with big ideas from around the world, the contest runs in 23 countries annually and is open to university level students (and recent graduates) studying product design, industrial design and engineering. Mark did Malaysia proud by making it into the International Top 20 last year for his entry: the Intelligent View System (IVS).
“The IVS was inspired from the increasing rate of motor accidents caused by blind spots — and it is believed that this number will grow each year. Current technology addressing blind zones involve live interactions with motorists, which may cause disorientation because it is distracting.
“IVS overcomes this based on the principle that blind spots can be effectively reduced by adjusting the rear mirrors without any external stimuli. It is an easily installed hardware that employs automated adjustment of the rear mirrors relative to the head position of the motorist. With the hardware consisting of a camera and microcontrollers, our rear-view mirrors are automatically adjusted by the microcontrollers based on the change in positions of our head as detected by the camera,” he explained.
Mark said the IVS hardware is composed of a microcontroller and a camera that are easily installed into the car. The IVS is initiated once the car is started. The camera is then turned on. The frames captured by the camera is processed by the microcontroller. If there is no face detected, the camera keeps relaying the frames to the microcontroller until the motorist’s face is detected.
“Once the motorist’s face is detected, a comfort zone area is automatically set up. This is to ensure slight changes of the motorist’s head would not affect the rear mirrors. There are conditions which must be met before the rear mirrors are recalibrated,” Mark elaborated.
The IVS is a cheap and effective blind-spot elimination solution that provides the motorist the best possible rear view all the time.
Mark revealed that it took him countless weeks to come up with the IVS. “But I’m happy with my final product and its reception in last year’s JDA competition.” On his experience in making it to the International Top 20, Mark said he was overcome with emotions upon hearing the news.
“Shocked, delighted, excited — I was over the moon. I believe that every entry in the International Top 20 serve specific purposes, but share one thing in common — they address universal problems faced by people on a daily basis. As engineers, it is important to develop solutions to everyday problems and frustrations using clever engineering,” he said.
As for his plans for the IVS, Mark said he wants to make the system widely available and accessible to the general public.
“Once I’ve completed my degree, I’ll begin looking for opportunities in R&D that will allow me to uncover my potential as an inventor/innovator. As far as studies go, I will consider pursuing my masters in the years to come,” he said. On words of advice for those wanting to enter the James Dyson Award contest or other similar competitions, Mark has this to say: “Always seek to solve everyday problems. Don’t doubt yourself and don’t stop pushing yourself to greater heights because your invention might be the next big thing.”
The James Dyson Award is run by the James Dyson Foundation, a registered charity set up in 2002 which exists to inspire and support the next generation of engineers.
The award encourages ideas that challenge convention, lean engineering — less is more, and design with the environment in mind. The best inventions are simple and practical yet provide a solution to a real world problem. A national winner is selected for every country the award runs in, before going through to the final phase where the international winner is chosen by James Dyson. Last year’s International Winner was EcoHelmet, a foldable bike helmet which uses a unique honeycomb paper configuration to protect the head from impact; folds flat when not in use and is made from 100 per cent recyclable materials. With bike share programmes on the rise around the world, EcoHelmet’s lightweight and practical design makes it an attractive option for city cyclists, where road accidents are frequent and head injuries could be fatal.
The US-based designer of EcoHelmet, Isis Shiffer, said: “The financial support and exposure from winning the James Dyson Award has allowed me to fully commercialise EcoHelmet. I cannot wait to see my fully-fledged design roll off the production line this year.”
The James Dyson Award 2017 is open for entries and will be closed on July 20. National winners and finalists will be announced on Sept 7. The international prize is £30,000 (RM165,400) for the student and £5,000 for the student’s university department while there will be two International Runners-up who will get £5,000 each. National Winners will get £2,000 each. For more information, follow the James Dyson Foundation on Facebook and Twitter.