In Summary

  • Swinburne students praised by Sir James Dyson for their lifesaving wheelbarrow design
  • The design concept can be used as a traditional wheelbarrow, a boat or as a market stall
  • It was designed to ease the effects of annual flooding suffered in many cities globally 

Two Swinburne students have been praised by Sir James Dyson for their redesign of the wheelbarrow as a lifesaving device.

The product design engineering students, Lachlan Meadows and Hugh McKay, have been recognised by the English inventor for their entry into the $49,000 James Dyson Award competition.

“It means a lot to have a design externally recognised, let alone by someone of his calibre,” says co-creator Lachlan Meadows.

“Sir James Dyson is so highly regarded in the industry, so to have him commenting on our work is just amazing.”

lifesaving wheelbarrow concept in three positions

The ‘Utility Barrow’ can be used a traditional wheelbarrow, and as a boat capable of carrying up to 300kg through floodwaters, and also as a market stall.

The two students worked on their design as part of the Global Design unit, one of the final units of their studies.

Unit convenor Dr Charles Ranscombe set students the task to "improve experience or mitigate effects of annual urban flooding suffered in many cities globally."

The Swinburne duo developed the final concept after working through several ideas such as a wheelbarrow for cleaning up mud and one for helping people get out of dangerous areas.

Lifesaving wheelbarrow concept drawings

Eventually, they combined all their ideas and the ‘Utility Barrow’ was created.

The ‘Utility Barrow’ design, created using 3D modelling, includes:

  • a heavy wheel at the front of the wheelbarrow to balance the weight of a person sitting on its rear seat
  • rings on the side to hold poles in place to turn it into a market stall

Concept design of lifesaving wheelbarrow.

Sir James Dyson, who won an award for his own wheelbarrow redesign in 1977, believes the Australian innovation could have far-reaching benefits.

“The Utility Barrow is a clever and affordable design with the potential to save lives and possessions during flooding,” he told the Herald Sun.

“Each year, I am fascinated by the raft of ideas that enter the Award.”

The first round of competition winners will be announced in September.