Project Flock lights the way for cyclist safety

RMIT student crowned James Dyson Award National Winner

17 September 2020

Addressing the global issue of road cyclist safety, this year’s Australian national winner of the James Dyson Award is Project Flock. Designed by RMIT student, Tim Ottaway, the Project Flock bike light uses ‘biomotion’ technology to illuminate the human form in motion, helping cyclists become more recognisable on the road.

Cycling is one of the most common forms of physical activity in Australia, with around 3.43 million Australians riding a bike for transportation or recreation in a typical week.1 The number of cyclist deaths on Australian roads has doubled over the last three years.2 One of the most common causes of fatal cycling crashes involves a rear collision from a motor vehicle.3

The Project Flock bike light consists of a range of compact, high powered LEDs that project onto the rider’s moving legs (biomotion lighting) and the ground, as well as a rear-facing element. Research has proven that highlighting ‘biomotion’ is far more effective in making cyclists noticeable to other road users, by increasing their conspicuity.4

“Safety is one of the biggest barriers for many people wanting to ride bikes and if we want to move towards more sustainable modes of transportation, the issue of safety needs to be meaningfully addressed. The significant increase in Australians taking up cycling during the COVID-19 pandemic5 has been a big motivating factor in me redoubling my efforts to get the Project Flock bike light in the hands of cyclists around Australia. Project Flock became a start-up in May earlier this year, and we are hoping to launch on a crowdfunding platform soon,” says Project Flock Designer, Tim Ottaway.

“The Flock bike light can’t solve all issues associated with cycling safety however, it is a starting point. The bigger picture is about helping to educate and change infrastructure to make roads and paths a safer and more positive place for all users, particularly those who are more vulnerable including cyclists and pedestrians,” continues Tim.

The Invention

Conventional bicycle lighting systems focus on improving the visibility of the bicycle light itself, and with technology improvements these lights are becoming overly powerful to the point of having an adverse effect, by startling or blinding other road users. By projecting light onto the cyclist, the Project Flock bike light illuminates the human form in motion, which is more recognisable to our brains than a flashing light.6 Not only is this easily identifiable, but we are able to distinguish the shape far sooner.

In addition, by using smart sensors inside the Project Flock Light, an 'Adaptive Lighting Engine' automatically adjusts lighting output to be as noticeable as possible, whether on a shared path or a busy road. The Project Flock Light effortlessly changes and reacts to its environment, so the rider is highly noticeable without startling or blinding other road users in the process. The Project Flock bike light is also designed to be easily taken on and off any bike and re-charged.

This year, the three Australian judges included, Professor Veena Sahajwalla, Director of SM@RT Centre at UNSW, Felicity Furey, Business Leader, Entrepreneur and Engineer, and Ryan Tilley, Co-founder of Gecko Traxx, and 2019 Australian national winner and International Runner Up. The trio of judges reviewed over 40 entries submitted from university students and graduates across the country, a record year for the number of Australian entries received. As national winner of the James Dyson Award, Tim will receive AU$3,500 to go towards his project.

Commenting on Project Flock, Ryan Tilley says, “As an avid cyclist, I’ve seen first-hand how serious road accidents can be, which is why Project Flock really stood out to me. It’s a simple design that proves that sometimes the simplest ideas are the best solution.”

“The quality of entries was extremely impressive in this year’s James Dyson Award, and we knew we had found a great design when we all said, ‘I can’t believe this has not been invented yet.’ Ultimately, we selected the winner based on innovation and simplicity, combined with the impact it could have for people and the lives it will save. This is the best purpose of engineering - when it tangibly makes a difference for everyday tasks. I’m looking forward to buying myself a Project Flock bike light to stay safe on the road,” adds Felicity Furey.


The James Dyson Award National Runners Up

Runners up in this year’s competition include Swinburne students, Chloe Leigh-Smith who designed E.Cue, a smart device designed to support individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and, Kennyjie, with is design Quito, a sustainable CO2-based mosquito trap.

All three finalists will move on to the international stage where a Top 20 will be selected by a panel of Dyson Engineers. The International Winner and Sustainability Winner will be handpicked by Sir James Dyson and announced on 19th November 2020. The International Winner will receive AU$55,000 and AU$9,500 for their university, and the Sustainability Winner will also receive AU$55,000.

Quito

Problem: Mosquitoes are one of the deadliest animals in the world, with their ability to carry and spread diseases to humans accounting for nearly 700 million people contracting mosquito-borne illnesses each year and causing more than one million deaths.7 Quito looks to address the public health crisis around mosquito-borne illnesses through the overall reduction of the mosquito population, with a socially and environmentally friendly approach.

Solution: Quito is a low-cost and sustainable CO2-based mosquito trap, which mimics a human presence to attract and trap mosquitoes, with a combination of fermentation and low-power electronics reproducing the cues that mosquitoes use to locate humans. Heat, moisture, natural CO2 and artificial scent are slowly dispersed through the corrugated rattan shell, attracting and drawing in mosquitoes.

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E.Cue

Problem: One of the largest challenges preventing individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) from participating in mainstream systems, such as employment and education, is a limited capacity to control and respond to thoughts, feelings and emotions.

Solution: E.Cue is a smart device that applies biofeedback technologies to detect these symptoms, providing users with increased capacity for emotion recognition. First alerting users to changes in their emotional state, the technology then prompts the user to complete a series of questions to help determine the emotion they are experiencing. Once determined, the user can begin self-regulation, aided by E.Cue’s physical features centred around the theory of sensory soothing.

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About the James Dyson Award

The competition is open to student and graduate (within four years) inventors with the ability and ambition to solve the problems of tomorrow. With students from 27 markets and regions now competing, the award is set to welcome new approaches to a broader range of global issues than ever before.

The James Dyson Award forms part of a wider commitment by Sir James Dyson, to demonstrate the power of engineers to change the world. The Dyson Institute of Engineering and Technology, the James Dyson Foundation and James Dyson Award embody a vision to empower aspiring engineers, encouraging them to apply their theoretical knowledge and discover new ways to improve lives through technology and design engineering.


[1] Australian Cycling Participation 2019
[2] Australian Automobile Association
[3] Australian Transport Safety Bureau (2006), ‘Deaths of cyclists due to road crashes’, ATSB Road Safety Report.
[4] Fekety, Drea Kevin, "Using Motion Perception to Improve the Nighttime Conspicuity of Bicyclists at Street Crossings" (2018). All Dissertations. 2222.
[5] ABC News Online, 2020, David Mark, “Australia is facing a ‘once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity’ as cycling booms, advocates say”, accessed online on 4th September 2020.
[6] Edewaard, D. E., Fekety, D. K., Szubski, E. C., Tyrrell, R. A., & Rosopa, P. J. (2017, September). The conspicuity benefits of dynamic and static bicycle taillights at night. In Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting (Vol. 61, No. 1, pp. 1567-1568). Sage CA: Los Angeles, CA: SAGE Publications.
[7] World Mosquito Program

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