Designs by QUT students for a waterway transfer and launch system that makes it easier for people with limited mobility to go kayaking has been applauded by Seqwater and Spinal Life Australia.
In a real-world learning project this semester, 13 teams of third-year QUT Bachelor of Design (Honours) Industrial Design students worked with the two organisations on a brief to devise an accessible kayak launch and recovery system for use at south-east Queensland dams and lakes.
The students had to consider how their designs could be used by people with a range of spinal injuries and levels of mobility and how to accommodate changing water levels, while minimising environmental footprint and impact and considering potential obstruction for other water users, the ease of maintenance and cost.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the students conducted the entire project online. As they couldn’t travel to do site surveys, Seqwater provided them a portfolio of photos, videos and drone surveys of dams and lakes to work from. The students met in an ‘eStudio’ with each other and with staff of the organisations and Spinal Life Australia members who volunteered to provide feedback during the design process, then made their final presentation pitches to a judging panel in a marathon Zoom session.
Seqwater Senior Planner Source Protection and Recreation, Kellie Loge, said the panel members were impressed by “all the designs and the amount of effort that each team put in”.
“There were lots of features on each design that were commendable, and we thank all the students, their lecturers and tutors for a job well done,” she said.
A $2000 prize from Seqwater was awarded to the students who created the preferred design – the ‘Adaptic Land Launcher’ devised by Benjamin Cornelissen, Roozbeh Fakhr, David Quick, Kim Thomas and Mia Yeh. Their design incorporates a platform with adjustable sleds to cope with uneven terrain and slopes, wheelchair floor locks, and a multi-fit modular launch slide with a floating guide, ergonomic handrails and a roller mechanism to control the kayak’s speed of descent into the water and its safe recovery.
The panel gave special mention to two other teams (‘Wave Slide Launcher’ and ‘The Platypus’, both pictured below) for the design of their wheelchair transfer seats.
QUT Creative Industries Faculty senior lecturer Andrew Scott said the university and the organisations would now explore how the preferred design could be refined for further development and testing. It was hoped it might also attract interest from other waterways managers around Queensland and elsewhere.
“This project was modelled on a professional design consultancy process with clients, but because of the COVID-19 restrictions it meant a radically different way of working for the students,” Mr Scott said.
“Normally design teams would be around tables discussing and sketching ideas and in the workshop putting together scale models to develop and test their concepts. That couldn’t happen.
“We also had two exchange students who had to go home to Scotland. Despite the time difference, they worked with their teams really well and their families got used to them working at night.
“All the students involved definitely rose to the challenge.”
Spinal Life Australia initiated the project with QUT, and secured Seqwater’s collaboration.
“Our organisation aims to partner with leading research institutions to support people with spinal cord damage to live inclusive, equitable and empowered lives,” said Spinal Life Executive Manager Member Services Ross Duncan.
“We had seen the excellent work done at QUT and we were keen to develop a relationship with the university, and also encourage students to think about inclusive design as they move towards professional careers.
“All of our members who volunteered their time for this project were very impressed with the professional manner in which it was conducted, particularly in these disrupted times, and they appreciated the students’ efforts to be inclusive, to rethink their designs based on feedback and to look for novel solutions.
“Our members really liked the idea that they may have had a hand not only in supporting students to design a better kayak launching solution, but more importantly influencing them to consider inclusion once they graduate and enter the workforce.”