The Energy Institute Climate Change Award, part of Engineering UK’s Big Bang Competition is awarded to projects which focus on creating a lasting reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, as a contribution to the UK’s goal of reaching net zero by 2050.
Gianpaolo Ruju, 17, winner of the 2021 Award discusses his winning entry, HydroCharge…
The bright idea
I designed and built a fully functioning prototype of a product that can charge mobile devices in an eco-friendly way whilst in the countryside and I named it “HydroCharge”.
It uses flowing water and has a high-capacity internal battery that can quickly charge a device whenever needed, even when on the move, and has a versatile anchoring system that allows it to be quickly and securely held in place in a multitude of situations. I was delighted when my project won the Energy Institute Climate Change Special Award as part of the Big Bang Competition.
Inspiration and aim
My initial inspiration came from my love of the outdoors and the many camping and hiking trips I have undertaken both as a Scout and in the Duke of Edinburgh programme.
Hikers, campers, and people living in remote areas frequently find themselves unable to use mobile devices for sustained periods due to lack of charging capabilities. The aim of my project was to enhance a user’s experience in the countryside by providing a charging solution in situations where it was otherwise not possible and to do so in an environmentally friendly way.
Mobile devices allow people in the countryside to benefit from access to emergency services, communication, navigational assistance, and entertainment. These services can improve the safety, practicality and overall enjoyment of a countryside experience. By making the remote outdoor experience more appealing and accessible, it may also attract a greater number and variety of people to discover and enjoy nature.
Developing the idea
I ultimately set out to create an eco-friendly charger that was lightweight, portable, easy-to-use and cost-effective.
I followed a structured process across idea conceptualisation, design, development and testing, with multiple iterations for each key aspect—paddle, gearing, anchoring, and waterproofing—ensuring that they met requirements.
I identified stakeholders and obtained their input throughout the process. I developed the brand name “HydroCharge” and designed a logo to accompany it, as well as a marketing poster.
I identified several ways that HydroCharge could be improved in the future, such as adapting the product to make it possible for it to be charged by solar, wind, or hand power via inexpensive modular add-ons and a second USB port. I plan to call this newer version of the product “EcoCharge”.
Additional modifications could further enhance functionality, such as an LED to indicate battery charge, shorter ropes to make the anchoring system easier to use, and reduced weight and construction cost.
I feel very happy with the outcome of my project, which meets an unmet need, helps people to enjoy the countryside more and showcases the ability to power devices in an eco-friendly way.
From what I have learned through this experience, I would give the following advice to someone undertaking a similar design project:
- Plan work in stages, building in sufficient contingency to provide a cushion for any unforeseen difficulties and allow time for multiple iterations of testing and development. Testing in a real-world environment is especially important.
- Allow ample time and be efficient in early stages; the success of the build is largely dependent on initial idea generation, research, evaluation and design, in order to ensure the best methods are selected before going forward.
Winning the Energy Institute Climate Change Special Award has been very meaningful to me and I learnt a great deal from the process of entering the competition.
Challenging questions from judges inspired me to find ways to improve my project further and, on a personal level, the process has given me the confidence to believe that I can turn my ideas into reality and has inspired me to pursue tackling climate change as a career.
This competition has helped bring awareness to an underused method of sustainable power and, hopefully, it will also help inspire others to make more eco-friendly choices and to find other ways to help tackle climate change.
The 2022 Big Bang Competition is now welcoming entries from students aged 11-19, closing date 20 March.