Students spin life-enhancing solutions in washing machine design development

Innovative winners of the challenge will enhance the function and accessibility of the Divya manual crank washing machine, helping to improve lives of low-income communities

Electrocomponents plc, a global omni channel provider of product and service solutions, has announced the winners of the People.Planet.Product student design challenge. 

The programme was launched earlier this year in collaboration with global social enterprise partner The Washing Machine Project, a humanitarian initiative dedicated to supporting low-income and displaced communities through alleviating the burden of hand-washing with innovative product design and distribution. 

A shortlist of six student finalists was whittled down to three winning designs from Joseph Baker, Kai Goodall, and Team Scentury. All six finalists pitched their designs live at a virtual event to a panel of judges from leading industry and humanitarian organisations that shared the common goal of improving lives. 

The Washing Machine Project is such a great engineering initiative to help improve people’s lives, and combining this with the inspirational ideas of student engineers through our DesignSpark community we have the ability to work together to truly make a massive difference to people around the world – Mike Bray, VP Innovation and DesignSpark at Electrocomponents 

The challenge tasked members of the DesignSpark engineering community to apply original and practical technological solutions to the ongoing development of The Washing Machine Project’s first water-saving off-grid manual crank-handle washing machine, the Divya. 

The three focus areas for entries were: 

  • People – empower people to use the Divya by improving the technology of the design 
  • Planet – focus on filtering out greywater or microplastic 
  • Product – enhance features through changes in function, such as weight or portability 


Squeaky-clean solutions 

The winning solutions were: 

Joseph Baker (UK) – Planet 

Joseph’s concept used gravity to move all the water through the whole filtration system, removing the need for mechanical advantage from components such as pumps. 

Not only did this keep the cost down, but it reduced the need for frequent maintenance and the associated knowledge and tools. 

To ensure enough pressure head (height) for the water to travel through the whole system via gravity, a base was required to raise the height of the washing machine’s drain. 

This base is also used to house the low-tech filtration system as well as some potential other items for storage. 

Kai Goodall (South Africa) – Product 

Kai’s ‘Pedal ‘n’ Spin) design was a foot-cranked washing machine that rotated using a combination of the principle of a treadle system and a pedal system. 

A pedal-powered connected rod driven rotating drum system was born, purely mechanical in nature. It improves the user’s posture, ease of use, and sustainability of the machine, allowing for longer-term use, improved hygiene, and increased rotation efficiency. 

Team Scentury (Singapore) – Product 

Team Scentury’s concept connected two Divya washing machines via a bicycle pedal to increase efficiency, allowing two loads to be washed simultaneously.  

The design allowed for easier rotation of the barrels powered by legs, using muscles on both sides of the body. Not only did it reduce time spent on handwashing, but it also improved posture for users. 

With the Electrocomponents Grassroots team, The Washing Machine Project devised the People.Planet.Product student design challenge to inspire students with STEM backgrounds to get involved in our humanitarian initiative,” commented panel judge and founder of The Washing Machine Project, Navjot Sawhney. 

“These are the scientists, engineers, and mathematicians of tomorrow, and the amazing quality of designs we have seen through this challenge is really heart-warming and proof that the younger generation are fully engaged in playing their part in a sustainable future.” 

Each winner received £1000 in RS products or a cash equivalent to support their prototype development, plus access to a business mentor and a knowledge session with The Washing Machine Project founder. 

You might also like: Plymouth locals use digital design skills to protect wildflower meadows

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