AMID the lurid colours and hackneyed designs dominating the Millennium Dome, the Young Electronic Designer Awards finalists proudly showed off their quieter, humbler but clever, quirky and occasionally ingenious inventions at the 15th annual awards presentation in July, presided over by YEDA's patron, the Duke of York.
The entries were strikingly diverse, from the senior category award-winning wireless temperature monitoring system for cooking poultry, designed by 18-year-olds Patrick Donnelly and Terence Carmichael (pictured), to SKIDS, 14-year-olds Keir Johnston and James Biggar's Scalextric Kontrolled Independent Driving System.
There was Saqib Shaikh of the Royal National Institute of the Blind's New College, with his Braille Magic software, which turns wordprocessed text into Braille for a fraction of the cost of traditional Braille translators. Designed as a standard Windows application that can be used with any embosser, it is speedy, too. A 10-page document in one of three languages can be translated from text into Braille in less than a second. And if the user has difficulties, Saqib, who is 18, has provided an online help service and e-mail discussion forum. His ingenuity won him the Institution of Electrical Engineers Award for best new entrant to YEDA.
Fourteen-year-old Marko Cosic's project Timekeepr is something that all bored swimmers will rush out to buy the minute it comes on the market: a machine that keeps track of the number of lengths swum so the swimmer can think of more important and exciting things. Awarded the most commercially viable project, Marko's Timekeeper is a black box which is manually triggered by the swimmer touching the side of the pool after every length. The device is also designed to give the time for each length, the number of strokes, distance and speed. A production run of one million would enable it to sell for around pound;30.
The Duke of York's Award for the most imaginative concept went to Martin Rosinski, age 15, whose Smartlink is the world's smallest data logger developed for stress measurement in difficult industrial applications where existing systems cannot be used.
Imagination, creativity and ingenuity were thick on the ground. But girl power was not. Shulah Oliver, age 17, who designed a sensor to allow visully impaired people to judge when meat is fully cooked, was the only girl to make it to the finals. Does this indicate a worrying trend? The good news is that this year is the first since the war that engineering training is recruiting more apprentices than it is losing.
YEDA Trust, tel: 01798 875559. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; www.yeda.org.uk