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Olivia's bee-friendly design creates a buzz in national contest

A design for a wildlife-friendly planter which can protect bees from a potentially deadly parasite has won its creator a national prize.

Olivia Alexander, a third-year Product Design student at De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) came up with Buzz, which attracts bees to the garden while protecting them from the Varroa mite, which can destroy whole colonies.


The national Design Innovation in Plastics (CIP) competition proved a big success for DMU, with fellow Product Design student Fatima Abedi Manji earning a highly commended for her design to encourage more children to garden.  

CMS copy of DIP group shot

Olivia said: "Coming this far in the competition has made me confident about my designs and my ability to execute a brief using the skills I have been taught at De Montfort. As this project was completed as part of a course module, taking part has also shown me what I can accomplish within a tight deadline.”

Olivia wins a placement with one of the competition sponsors, Innovate Product Design, which helps individuals protect, develop and commercialise their new product ideas and inventions.  She also won a special prize, the Covestro Award, chosen by judges from Covestro, which means she will take a trip to Germany to visit that company, alongside the competition winner.

DIP, which is organised by the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and the Worshipful Company of Horners, and headline industry sponsored by Covestro, gave students the brief of ‘Branching Out – Design For Garden Innovation’.

They were asked to come up with an innovative product, primarily from plastics, which could be used in a garden, that would better connect people with nature, enhance the pleasure of gardening or leisure activities within the garden, or help sooth mind and body after a long and stressful day.

Olivia spent time with Leicestershire and Rutland Beekeeping Association learning about the Varroa mite, how it infects bee colonies and the devastating effect on the honeybee population.

Chairman of judges, Richard Brown, said: “The judges were fascinated by the research Olivia undertook with the beekeeping community to gain feedback on her idea, and we also liked the other details she had considered, such as the recyclable packaging for point of sale, and the development cycle she had followed to determine product viability. At the same time she recognised that further investigation would be needed on the miticide application which will protect the bees.”

Fatima Abedi Manji was highly commended for her product, Gingko, a planter for urban spaces designed specifically with children in mind to help their development and promote the joy of gardening.

CMS copy Fatima Gingko

Fatima said: “This competition has proved a great opportunity and incredible experience!  The whole journey has been a learning curve, challenging and rewarding and it’s given me a deeper understanding of plastics and different approaches to sustainability, in term of material and behaviour.”

* Find out more about Product Design at DMU
* DMU student wins Royal Society award

The competition winner was Alex Roquero, Brunel University, who produced ‘Hook’ a portable balcony shelf which hooks to any kind of railing, optimising space in small areas.

In second place was William Oughton, also from Brunel University, who created ‘Bulb Garden Furniture’, a set of garden accessories. Highly commended places went to Lewis Brown from Teeside University for a garden tool for gardeners with arthritis and Zeina Mofti of Brunel for her indoor gardening scheme.  

All finalists are offered a placement with one of the competition sponsors, Brightworks, HellermannTyton, Innovate Product Design, PDD and RJG Technologies, as part of their prize.

The Design Innovation in Plastics Award is the longest-running student plastics design competition in Europe, having been established in 1985. 

Posted on Monday 9th July 2018

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