Prototype 'Avalanche Backpack' and 'Smart Hurling Helmet' win top awards at students’ Engineering Expo 2019

Thursday, April 25, 2019 Press Office
Press Release

Awards presented by Engineers Ireland

A GMIT engineering student’s prototype of the Avalanche Backpack has won him the overall Engineers Ireland’s Project Award at GMIT’s Mechanical and Industrial Engineering Expo 2019. John O’Toole from Inishturk, Co Mayo, won the overall Mechanical Engineering Year 4 Competition. He was one of 45 students who exhibited their final year posters which were judged by industry representatives in GMIT’s Café Foyer earlier this month (April).

“The revised bag can be inflated and deflated after a fixed time period multiple times”, explains John. “The backpack works when the user deploys the airbag out of the backpack which inflates to a volume of approximately 150L. It saves lives through a process known as inverse segregation which means that larger particles are more likely to rise to the top of the snow drift than smaller ones.  Essentially it allows the user, such as a snowboarder, to become the larger particle when caught up in an avalanche. The design incorporates a novel electrical blower which is more advantageous than the one-shot compressed air canister. The device is made up of a 3300kv brushless motor and is controlled using an ESC and a simple embedded controller. The system can be programmed to be automatically deflated after a fixed time period. The prototype casing and guard around the programmed motor is 3D printed using a PLA material, the airbag itself is made from oxford nylon which inflates to a U-shape around the user, thereby preventing major traumas and saving lives”.

Student Shane Molloy from Furbo Hill, An Spidéal, Co Galway, won in the Product Design category for his 'Smart Hurling Helmet'. Shane designed and developed the smart hurling helmet with the assistance of Cooper Ltd, a local and very popular hurling helmet manufacturer based in Ballinasloe.  “The purpose of the hurling helmet is to provide coaching staff with not alone a live TV feed from the prospective of the hurler but a way of directly and furtively communicating with the hurler. Hopefully the integration of such technology will provide real-time footage from the players’ perspective and assist the coaching staff in maximising the team’s performance. The project is completely novel and there are currently no products available on the market for the sport of hurling. I would also like to take this opportunity to formally thank Cooper, my industrial partner for assisting me in every practically way possible with the project.”

This year’s competition was judged by industry experts Alan Heneghan, Senior Programme Manager, Thermo King;  Donal Collins, R&D Manager, McHale; Ronan Gibbons, Senior Design Engineer, JFC Group; Doru Boblea, Senior Design Engineer, Caragh Precision; Michael Cummins, Senior Development Engineer, TE Medical (formerly Creganna); Colin Langan, Senior Engineer, Advance Quality, Stryker; Tomasz Wlosinski, R&D Engineer, Boston Scientific; Karl Dooher, Process Manager, Medtronic; Derek Haynes, Technical Director, Unitherm Heating Systems; and John Paul Butler, former Chairman of Engineers Ireland West Region. All the industrial representatives kindly sponsored the various awards for the event.

Colin Langan, Senior Engineer, Advance Quality, Stryker, says: “I really enjoyed my time being back at GMIT, and looking at the level of expertise the students have is a credit to the department. This exhibition will bring the Engineering school into the spotlight both publicly and within industry.”

Michael Cummins, Senior Development Engineer for TE Medical (Creganna), says: “The level of diversity presented in the posters/projects was high, and ranged from the very practical to the highly theoretical. The quality of the work in generally was impressive and reflects well on the institution, the students and the faculty.”

Ronan Gibbons, Senior Mechanical Design Engineer for JFC Group, says: “I was impressed by the quality of work on display, but more importantly, giving the students an opportunity to present their work to industry professionals will allow them to build confidence in communicating with their peers. This is a vital skill of an engineer.”

Alan Heneghan, Senior Programme Manager for Thermo King, says: “The final year projects showcased the students’ practical application of all the technical engineering knowledge they have gained throughout their educational journey in GMIT to solve some very exciting and novel problems. It was a pleasure to be involved in judging all these very interesting final year projects on show. It was a credit to the students, lecturers and GMIT.”

Donal Collins, R&D Manager for McHale, says: “It nice to see a buzz about the place and its always interesting to see what the students have been working on, some of its really ingenious.”

Derek Haynes, Technical Director of Unitherm Heating Systems, says: “It great to see the work on display, and as always time is short when judging the event.”

Dr Oliver Mulryan, Dept lecturer and Expo organiser, says: “It’s a privilege and an honour to teach some of the brightest minds in the Institute. This was evident not only by the quality and ingenuity of the work on display, but also by the confident way our students interacted with industry. We hope to run this competition annually to proudly promulgate to all, our students’ capabilities.  Small events like this will leave an indelible mark on the students’ learning experience and assist the department in forging, fostering and fortifying permanent links with industry.”

Dr Carine Gachon, Head of the GMIT Dept of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, says: “The department would like to formally acknowledge the ongoing contribution which local industries are making towards increasing the profile of our students, engaging with them and our department. We are extremely grateful for your sponsorship, guidance, time and assistance! Now that the event has roots, we plan to include more engineering employers in the coming years.”

For further details on programmes in the Dept of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering, see:

Issued by Regina Daly
GMIT Communications Officer
GMIT, Dublin Road, Galway
Tel. 091 742826 / 087-9618355 (m)