Top Designs showcases students’ creations


Lorimer’s creation was the Fire, Analytics, Detection and Emergency Response (FADER) system.

The FADER system – not dissimilar in shape to R2-D2 – uses various apparatuses to measure wind speed, wind direction, smoke and infrared to detect the early signs of bushfires, before sending a text message to the nearest fire station detailing the weather conditions. This allows fire crews to make an informed judgment on the likely extent of the fire’s danger.

Lorimer says it’s the only product of its type in Australia, and though it hasn’t been used by emergency services yet, Lorimer envisages it being used in future.

The final prototype is the result of “hours of late nights researching and watching YouTube tutorials on electronic subsystems”, according to Lorimer, who wants to study design or engineering when he graduates from high school.

The FADER system is on show alongside 85 of the state’s best student designs at the annual Top Designs showcase at the Melbourne Museum, which runs from this week and ends on July 14.

Show curator Sia Smyth says the works are selected by subject specialists and judged on relevant criteria in categories including engineering, systems engineering, design, industrial design and graphic design.

Only students who receive an A or A+ in their design-based VCE course – including visual communications design, film, and creative and digital media – are eligible to have their designs displayed, which provide “brilliant examples of top-level work for other students”, according to Smyth.

“The showing of the folios is actually more valuable than the final work, because it shows the process of how these students have arrived here … they look into the mind of the designer, finding out how they arrived at the final product, the research they did and all the ideas they threw out.”

Smyth says the Top Designs program facilitates solid links between design-interested students. Zoe, the woman responsible for the graphic design of the Top Designs showcase, was a former student entrant in the program.

Smyth emphasises the prototypes aren’t pie-in-the-sky ideas. Students need to submit a detailed “production plan”, including research on whether there is a market for the product, who their end user is, and everything in between.

“A lot of these kids will be the designers and advanced manufacturers of the future,” said Smyth.

Edward Astbury's pill retriever.

Edward Astbury’s pill retriever.Credit:Paul Jeffers.

Another entrant, Northcote High School’s Edward Astbury, drew inspiration from his grandfather for his project, which has won the Top Designs’ art prize.

“I visit my grandfather frequently, he’s 90 and has bad arthritis. He lives at home alone and we noticed he usually spills his tablet on the floor. He used to use a spoon to try and flick them back up off the ground,” said the 18-year-old, now in his first year of a computer science degree at Swinburne University.

“When this project came around last year I had the freedom to create a product that could help my grandfather and people like him.”

Edward designed a gun-shaped device that uses a motor to create suction and retrieve tablets from hard-to-get places.

“He was really happy and proud of what I was doing – he was my main primary resource. He tested the product during the design phase,” said Edward.

“I’d have to jog his memory sometimes, but he was very proud of it.”

Edward says devices that increase the autonomy of the elderly mean they are able to live in their homes for longer.

“We’ve been following the royal commission [into the aged care industry] and all the issues surrounding it – we want to keep him at home for as long as possible and products like this mean he can continue living at home.”

Paul is a reporter for The Age.

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