Diving in at the deep end nets Cathal a top prize
A 26-year-old Bunclody student has won the 2015 Irish James Dyson award.
Cathal Redmond, a product and technology design student at the University of Limerick, won the award with his innovative 'Express Dive' invention.
Express Dive allows divers to breathe underwater for up to two minutes. Once the air supply begins to run out, the user simply resurfaces and holds a button to refill the one-litre tank.
Unlike traditional snorkels, Express Dive allows the user to dive to much greater depths as it has its own separate air tank. A full scuba kit can cost in the region of €3,000, as opposed to an estimated €400 for Redmond's device.
Cathal said the Express Dive System is a 'step forward for small scuba systems. It overcomes the complexities of a scuba setup by reducing the number and size of parts needed to breathe underwater, vastly reducing the weight and size of the breathing apparatus. Best of all, my device is refillable at the surface, using the surrounding air to supply your next dive.'
A keen swimmer, Cathal said that when he tried scuba diving for the first time he immediately enjoyed it and wanted to do it on a regular basis. 'I could see rock formations and I saw abundant interesting things to enjoy. But there was a catch: I didn't own scuba gear. I looked into buying it, It was in the high hundreds for the kind of gear I would need to dive in Irish water. I didn't have access to that kind of money, or even a dive buddy that I'd also need to dive with. I resigned to limit my diving to holiday and training dives, and to this day this has made up the vast majority of my scuba diving.
'It was when I was on holiday in Greece on a boat excursion when I saw a shiny object on the seabed that I recognised my curiosity for a method of increasing the amount of time spent underwater without carrying heavy equipment. I wanted to be able to go a little further than I could with just my lungs, but without the rigour and preparation required for scuba.
'Then when searching for ideas for my Final Year Design Project, I remembered this feeling and decided to tackle the problem head on!'
Cathal, whose hobbies include adventure sports and music, said that he initially started by identifying 'the limitations and challenges posed by the water: thermal comfort, underwater vision, air supply, propulsion, sharing experience, and knowledge. I also identified what opportunities may be available to me: air compression, buoyancy change, and product predecessors.
'My initial designs included concepts for water blaster boots to move you through the water faster, underwater sonar mapping and GPS devices for documenting your dive, electrical gloves to prevent your hands from becoming numb in the cold, fish-eye goggles to improve the field of vision, a marine life-identifier that works on imagine matching, and a proximity- alert system to prevent collisions between swimmers and boat/jet-ski traffic. The concept I chose however was an onsite refillable air compressor/dive-bottle combination, which would allow the user to stay underwater for a short dive, breathing the compressed air and refilling at the surface when necessary.'
As part of the award, Redmond will receive €2,500 from the James Dyson Foundation and will proceed to the international stage of the James Dyson award. He will be competing against over 600 students from 20 countries for the grand prize of €37,500 to help further develop his device. The international shortlist will be announced on September 17.