Construction industry awards: could QE team clean up again with their dust-removing invention?

Construction industry awards: could QE team clean up again with their dust-removing invention?

QE’s Year 12 Engineering Education Scheme team have been nominated for the Innovation prize in this year’s Constructing Excellence Awards after their design for a machine to reduce dust on construction sites impressed judges.

The four boys overcame the challenge of having to work through lockdown – depriving them of access to tools and of the opportunity to do a live construction site visit – to put together a fully-illustrated 66-page project report.

They will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of several successful QE teams of the past. In 2020, the QE entrants, working with office design company Morgan Lovell, won not only the Innovation category in the Constructing Excellence SEBCE Awards, but also the People’s Choice Award – a prize that this year’s team is eligible for, too.

Head of Technology Michael Noonan said: “These awards are competed for by adults working full-time in the construction industry, so our four Product Design students have done very well indeed to be nominated. They worked extremely hard and used their engineering, design and research skills to good effect in putting together a comprehensive and well-thought out report, which they then presented well.

“I commend them on their success and thank their sponsors, Morgan Lovell, for all their mentoring and support throughout the project.”

The team comprised leader Lucas Lu, lead designer Ben Pang, lead researcher Rohan Sira and Jayden Savage, who led on the project planning and organised the tasks to be done. Technology teacher Tony Green facilitated the boys’ involvement in the scheme.

Morgan Lovell’s Health, Safety & Wellbeing Manager, Alex Wood, set them the challenge of tackling the large amount of harmful dust found on construction sites.

Workers normally guard against inhaling dust either by wearing face masks or by using square-shaped dust-reduction devices, such as the one made under the tradename, DustCube.

The boys had the option of either improving on the ‘DustCube’-type device – they actually stripped one down to investigate how it worked – or of designing an entirely new product.

Having identified a number of drawbacks with the existing machine, including the high cost of replacing their HEPA (high efficiency particulate air) filters, they chose the latter route.

After exploring no fewer than 13 concept ideas and producing more detailed analyses of around half of these, the team eventually devised a product that they dubbed the ‘Dust Cylinder’– since it was cylindrical, not cube-shaped.

Ben says: “It makes use of a water filtration system: essentially, the dirty air is passed through a tank of water, all of the dirt is trapped and suspended within the water tank, and all of the clean air is released back into the room.”

It has, he says, a number of advantages over machines currently on the market:

  • The ease with which operator will be able to tell when the water needs to be changed.
  • Minimal maintenance costs
  • The high volume of air it can filter
  • Its ability to filter particles smaller than those removed by HEPA filters.

“All of this was done either in school, or at home (during the lockdown). Doing the work at home meant that we we were unable to manufacture the actual product due to a lack of tools. We faced many issues ranging from poor internet connection to glitches with the conferencing software.”

With coronavirus restrictions ruling out a physical visit to a site, Mr Wood instead arranged for them to make a virtual site visit to 80 Charlotte Street in Fitzrovia, London, where the interior was being renovated by Morgan Lovell.

After delivering their presentation online, the team were exhilarated to find out that they had reached the finals of the Innovation category, says Ben.

“We were never expecting to make it this far, especially considering the fact that almost all of the other teams consist of people who do this kind of thing for a living – to to be pitted against them is a huge honour.”

The Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards virtual ceremony will take place on 1st July. Online voting for the People’s Choice Award is expected to open early next month.