A product design graduate from Cardiff Met is celebrating being named as 'Rising Star New Engineer of the Year 2014', after designing an educational toy to help children with autism.
Daniel Marshall, who graduated from the BA (hons) Product Design course at the Cardiff School of Art and Design with a 2:1 in 2014, was presented with the prestigious award at the Elektra European Electronics Industry Awards in London, which recognises technical innovative and business success in the electronics industry across Europe.
The judges were impressed with Daniel's design of an educational toy 'Empathy'; created to help children on the autistic spectrum develop their communication skills and relationships through play. The thoughtfully designed, textured, cylindrical toy can be divided into two and children learn that when a parent or friend presses a button, their half of the toy receives music, vibration or light via a Bluetooth connection.
Empathy's design also deliberately features calming colours, soothing sound and mild lighting as many autistic children can find the combination of lights and sounds in traditional toys distressing.
Daniel developed Empathy as his final year project with support from CARIAD – the Centre for Applied Research in Art and Design, based at Cardiff Met. The CARIAD team are a multidisciplinary group of researchers, lecturers and research students whose principal objective is to address, through their applied research, some of the complex challenges faced by diverse communities and vulnerable individuals in society.
Collaboration and research represented a large part of Empathy's design and development, and saw Daniel visiting a special school in Cardiff with pupils with autism, a muscle therapist, a paediatrician and other medical experts as well as consultation and detailed research through a variety of academic journals and papers studying children with autism.
Speaking about the design of Empathy, Dan said: "I have always felt passionately about the power of communication and I also enjoy designing products which simplify difficult tasks, and products which aid people with disabilities, which is how Empathy came about. It's satisfying to express my creativity through design while providing products which can help improve the quality of life of others."
"When doing my initial research I was staggered by the recorded increase in cases of autism over the last 30 years and further research demonstrated there was a definite need and gap in the market for this kind of product.
"It has been hugely rewarding to look at the challenges faced by children with autism and their parents and carers and to research, invent and design a product which goes some way towards solving some of the everyday problems they face with communication in particular."
Speaking about his success at the national awards ceremony, Daniel said: "I was so pleased to be shortlisted and I don't think it's really settled in that I actually won the award. To be nominated as an undergraduate alongside other finalists with PhDs in design was a fantastic recognition. I think it proves that hard work and particularly passion for your subject goes a long way."
This is the second year in a row that a CSAD student has won this prestigious award.
Bethan Gordon, Head of Undergraduate Studies at the Cardiff School of Art and Design said: "We are really delighted to see Dan being recognised in this way for his innovative work in product design and pleased to see such successful collaboration in action with CARIAD.
"Many congratulations to Daniel and we look forward to following him in what is sure to be an exciting and rewarding career in product design".