Huangyutian Wang, an alumna of Limkokwing University hailing from China, has recently garnered international acclaim as the runner-up in the 2023 James Dyson Award. This prestigious accolade honours innovative engineers globally. Wang's remarkable invention, a testament to her ingenuity, promises to brighten the lives of sea nomads, especially the Bajau community, by harnessing wave energy.
Wang shared her exhilarating journey and the inspirations behind her groundbreaking project, “Design for Nomadic Seafaring Life.” Reflecting on the moment she learned of her achievement, Wang expressed, “I was very excited at that time.”
Her time at Limkokwing University was pivotal, saying, “my lecturers encouraged us to try new things.” During her holidays, exploring cities and islands, the seeds of inspiration were sown. Wang’s project, while not directly guided by her lecturers, benefitted immensely from the foundational skills she acquired at the university. “The software skills and design thinking I learned in the lecturers’ courses helped me turn my ideas into reality,” Wang explained, highlighting the significant role her academic background played in her success.
The plight of the Bajau community, and Wang’s desire to contribute positively as a product designer, steered her towards this ambitious project. She believes in design as a “tool to improve people’s quality of life and help people in need.” Her approach melds product design, architecture, and materials into a cohesive solution, though not without challenges. One particular challenge of understanding the movement of ocean waves was crucial for her design. “I do not understand the movement of ocean waves,” Wang admitted, recounting the initial setbacks and the extensive research required to overcome them.
The core of Wang’s invention lies in its innovative use of electromagnetic induction. She reminisces, “The first time I learned about electromagnetic induction came from my high school physics textbook.” This innovative concept, rooted in her high school physics lessons, involves a magnet under a float on the ocean surface, moving up and down with the waves and generating current as it passes through a coil. The application of this principle culminated in an effective energy generation system.
An intriguing aspect of her design is the integration of traditional weaving techniques. “The traditional weaving techniques have not changed much,” Wang says, emphasising her intent to blend this age-old craft with modern technology. She emphasises the importance of retaining local characteristics in design as a form of cultural protection. “It is very important to retain local characteristics in the design,” underscoring her commitment to cultural preservation.
In terms of future adaptability, Wang acknowledges the need for continuous refinement. She believes in the continuous improvement of her design, underscoring that design is an ongoing process, saying that “design is a process, not a project that stops when a goal is achieved,” she asserts, aware of the ever-changing environmental challenges.
Wang modestly views her role in the larger engineering mission. “If my design can help a small number of people or improve some designs, I will be very happy,” she says, aligning with James Dyson’s vision of engineering’s potential to effect change. Wang sees her role as a contributor to positive change, albeit on a modest scale.
As for the response from the sea nomad community and future plans, Wang indicates, “There is currently no feedback,” and she intends to continue refining her design. She advises budding designers and engineers to focus on what they can do to make a difference.
To aspiring designers and engineers, Wang offers a simple yet profound piece of advice: “Do something that you can.”
Wang’s achievement and her approach to design and innovation are not just a personal triumph but also a source of inspiration for aspiring engineers and designers worldwide. Her journey from a student at Limkokwing University to a national runner-up in the James Dyson Award 2023 is a testament to the power of education, innovation, and the relentless pursuit of positively impacting society.