Sanjay Puri, an 18-year old student at Nottingham High School, has won the Young Engineers’ Duke of York Award (Rose Bowl) and £1,000 prize money for ‘Creative Use of Technology’. Sanjay received the Award in March at the Young Engineers National Final held at The Big Bang UK Young Scientists & Engineers Fair at the NEC, Birmingham (11–14 March 2015) – the largest celebration of science, technology, engineering and maths for young people in the UK. Sanjay’s winning project – a fall detection and alert system for residents in care homes – is both innovative and marketable, with potentially huge social benefits to the care industry.
As Sanjay comments: “When care home residents go to the bathroom alone, particularly at night, there are very few safeguards in place if a resident falls over to ensure an immediate and effective response from staff. Many products that try to solve this problem can be restrictive to residents or require conscious interaction post-fall.
“Therefore, I developed a proof-of-concept flooring that overcomes these issues by looking at the distribution patterns on the floor, analysing these and sending the data to a separate terminal where an alert can be triggered.”
The prototype system operates by essentially counting the number of floor sensors (membrane switches) triggered by a fall and displaying these on a separate panel, which shows whether the bathroom is safely occupied, empty, or occupied with a fall. In the case of the latter, this triggers an alarm or siren. The system is currently patent-pending, although Sanjay says as he goes through the product design process, the engineering behind the system will be much developed upon. Recently, Sanjay has partnered with the Cambridge Design Partnership, who will be helping him to commercialise the idea.
Sanjay’s system tries to maintain the dignity and independence of residents for as long as reasonably possible, by enabling them to safely pursue going to the bathroom alone without the need for dedicated assistance or devices that may cause discomfort or anxiety, such as wearable devices or pendants. He does emphasise though that the staff will still have to check on residents (albeit with something of a safety net) as, like with almost all clinical safety devices, the system is an aid to staff only and not a substitute for active staff involvement.
Furthermore, many devices require interaction from the resident, such as the pulling of a cord, which also requires the person to be conscious and of sound mind. Some residents may forget to put on their wearable device or may deliberately not wear a device that feels restrictive or uncomfortable. Sanjay says: “With my system, errors associated with residents having to trigger some sort of alert themselves are reduced. I believe that my system is marketable and has the potential to be rolled out into other sectors as well such as NHS healthcare, private use and even security.”
Sanjay, who is studying A levels in Maths, Physics and Design Technology (Systems & Control), says he first came up with the idea during a discussion with his mother, a care home director.
He says: “In September , I visited the Nottingham Care Village, a local care home under development near to where I live. By talking with the staff, I soon realised that there was a gap in the market for some sort of fall detection and alert system. We have an ageing population, the market is ever expanding and as more care homes open up, they will want a USP to show residents’ families that the quality of care is very high and that the organisation will do its best to protect their loved ones.”
So what inspired Sanjay to seek a career in engineering? He says: “My father was a heating and refrigeration engineer, so there was some influence from him. I also believe that engineers have the capability to make a real difference to peoples’ lives and the world around us. The benefit engineers bring to society as a whole is significant and that is what initially attracted me to the profession. I hope to do well in my A Levels and then study a Degree in General Engineering at Warwick University.
“I think engineers in this country suffer from a visibility problem. While we all recognise and clearly understand what lawyers, teachers and doctors do on a daily basis, because we interact with these people fairly regularly, when it comes to engineers, we don’t interact with them as often and so it can be more difficult to see and understand exactly what their role in society is.
“Also, many engineering graduates end up pursuing jobs in the financial sector or other service industries rather than engineering. This will have to change if we are to fill the UK engineering skills gap. The Big Bang Fair is an excellent advert for UK engineering, not just as a recruitment fair, but it really helps by getting young people interested in engineering and engaging with them on many different levels.”
Sanjay concedes that he never expected to win the Duke of York Award for Creative Use of Technology. He says: “At the end of the two days of judging, I was very surprised to win the award because there were so many excellent projects on display from other students involved in the Young Engineers Mentoring Programme. Also, to receive such an accolade from HRH The Duke of York [the patron of Young Engineers since 1994] made it even more special.
“I would like to especially thank my teachers at school for their assistance and encouragement throughout the project and to everyone at the Young Engineers for all their support and guidance, particularly in the run up to the National Final and for providing me with such an amazing opportunity to take part in the Mentoring Programme.”
Rod Edwards, Chief Executive of the Young Engineers charity, says: “The Duke of York’s Award is a most prestigious trophy and I was absolutely delighted to see it presented to Sanjay Puri this year. His project was well designed and engineered, and clearly satisfies a real-world problem. All at Young Engineers wish him well with his ongoing studies. He has a great future ahead of him as a professional engineer.”