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Oct22

Mobile Warmth: A Closer Look at The Winner of the Terry LeBlanc Innovation Award

We believe inclusive design deserves to be celebrated at the Wilson School of Design. That’s why we’re proud to announce that Emile Routley-Long, Product Design Student at the Wilson School of Design, has won the Terry LeBlanc Innovation Award in the Simon Cox Student Design Competition with Mobile Warmth: a wheelchair friendly insulated blanket.

The Simon Cox Student Design Competition is a province-wide design competition hosted by Technology for Living. For the competition, each team (a student and a person with a disability) must create an assistive technology design solution to enable higher independence for people with physical disabilities in their home. Good craftsmanship and presentation quality are important factors in deciding the winner of the competition. 

 

Nancy (Full-Body)

Emile's partner and Technology for Living member, Nancy, showcasing the final prototype of Mobile Warmth.

We reached out to Emile to learn more about his process for designing Mobile Warmth and his experience during the Simon Cox Student Design Competition: 

When did you first realize you wanted to pursue Product Design? 

I first realized I wanted to study Product Design while in high school. I started skiing in Grade 11, and my desire to shop for quality ski clothing led to doing research on the subject. This has led to a fascination with technical textiles, performance optimized clothing/soft product design, and specialty manufacturing methods that continues to this day.

What appealed to you about the Product Design program at the Wilson School of Design? 

The Product Design program at the Wilson School of Design appealed to me because the school had expertise in textile-based product design, as demonstrated by their Fashion Design program, Post-Baccalaureate Diploma in Technical Apparel, and the professional backgrounds of some of the Product Design Faculty. 

How did you receive the opportunity to participate in the Simon Cox Design Competition? 

A notice for the Simon Cox Design Competition was shared by our program assistant. Once I contacted Technology for Living, who runs the competition, they paired me with a member of their organization. This member shared a challenge in their lives that they are looking for help to solve, and the goal of the competition was to design a solution to that challenge.

What is Mobile Warmth? 

Mobile Warmth is a blanket designed to improve the comfort of the user while they are using a powered wheelchair outside in cold, dry weather. The user has little ability to independently move their limbs. Its form is optimized to fit the form of a wheelchair snugly, and provide warmth via a layer of synthetic insulation sandwiched between 2 layers of lightweight windproof fabric. Among other features, the neck is designed to accommodate the member's breathing tube, and the leg portion of the blanket uses Velcro to provide a warm fit around the legs. The arm that the member uses to control her wheelchair is protected by the insulated Handbag.
 

Nancy (Close-Up)
Mobile Warmth (as seen on Nancy)
Insulated Handbag

 

What was the process like for designing Mobile Warmth? 

The process for designing Mobile Warmth was enjoyable. I started by researching the Technology for Living member's physical disability, and preparing questions to ask her about her specific needs. After an initial interview, sketching of concepts occurred, followed by another feedback session. The remaining time was spent on creating prototype 1, doing a fit session, making pattern revisions, and repeating the entire process a second time, to get the final prototype. 

Mobile Warmth (Prototype)

Final Prototype for Mobile Warmth.

What were the difficulties you encountered in your design process, and how did you solve them? 

A key difficulty was working during a pandemic. This meant moving our initial feedback sessions online. As a result, preparing detailed drawings and questions to clearly communicate with her were essential to the success of those meetings. Another key difficulty was taking the concept sketches that I had created, and turning them into patterns that I could cut and sew. Measurements from my user, supplemented by standardized anthropometric data, were used in the creation of the pattern.  
 

How has the Product Design program at the Wilson School of Design prepared you for this challenge? 

The Product Design program at the Wilson School of Design prepared me for this challenge by introducing me to anthropometry in our second year Human Factors class. I learned how to read and interpret books containing anthropometric data, to aid in the construction of my product's pattern. Furthermore, the first year Visualization for Product Design class taught me some of the sketching skills necessary to communicate my initial ideas with my partner. 
 

What is your favourite part of the Product Design program and why? 

My favourite part of the Product Design program is the students. Being with others who have similar interests, and work on the same class projects is awesome. Furthermore, I always learn a lot from my classmates, as they bring their own perspectives, backgrounds, and experience to the Product Design program. 

 


Register for the Simon Cox Student Design Competition today! 

Feeling inspired? The 7th Simon Cox Student Design Competition is now open to any student currently enrolled in a BC technical college or BC University! This is a great opportunity for students to make substantial contributions to the independence of people living with disabilities, to gain recognition for their work, and to win prize money, if placed! For more information about the competition and how to apply, visit the official Simon Cox Competition website.

Want to learn more about our Product Design program? Read more about how our Product Design program is making a difference in the world here. You can also check out our Product Design page or contact our Future Students’ Office at study@kpu.ca or 604-599-3030.