A rocket-propelled life-preserver which can be launched up to 500 feet has won the 2010 James Dyson Award, one of the world's most prestigious student-design awards. Australian student Samuel Adeloju, who invented the so-called Longreach buoy, wins $15,000, as well as $15,000 for the industrial design department at his alma mater, the University of New South Wales.
The news caps a months-long process which began with hundreds of entries, which were winnowed down into country winners and finalists.
The key to the Longreach's design is clever use of foam that expands once it touches water. When dry, the buoy is shaped like a bullet, allowing it to be launched from a bazooka-like device. But when it hits water, the buoy expands to forty times its original size—in just 15 seconds—forming a ring-shaped life-preserver. Adeloju says that he's already in contact with search and rescue groups to mass-produce the invention.
The potential applications are wide: In the U.S. alone, nearly 4,000 people drown each year, and upwards of 150 of those occur in riptides. This invention could reach drowning victims far more quickly than a lifeguard, and it also promises to aid those that fall overboard from boats and end up out of reach of a buoy thrown by hand.
Meanwhile, Kimberley Hoffman, from the Academy of Art University in California, won second place with her design for the SeaKettle, an inflatable life raft that has a built in system for using sunlight to turn sea water into drinkable fresh water:
Finally, Lars Imhof and Marc Binder, of the University of Applied Sciences Northwestern in Switzerland, won third place, with Reax, an automated CPR device which would free-up paramedics at an emergency scene by delivering chest compressions at a regular interval: