A 12-year-old girl from Huddersfield has won the Institution of Engineering and Technology’s (IET) national Backpack to the Future competition.
Eleanor’s Wood’s Breathe Better Backpack – which was inspired by her mother’s experience with asthma and is aimed at helping the eight million people in the UK who suffer from the condition – features a built-in air filter and fans and is powered sustainably by solar panels and a dynamo.
The competition, which launched in September, was designed to change perceptions around engineering and encourage more diversity within the industry by showing children that it’s possible to combine a passion for fashion with a STEM-related career. As part of its 2022 Engineer a Better World campaign, the IET teamed up with global fashion brand HYPE. to challenge children aged 5–13 to design a backpack equipped with clever gadgets and special tech that enabled the wearer to do ‘incredible things’.
The competition was prompted by IET research that revealed that only ten per cent of children think that engineers work in fashion and just 16 per cent understanding how science and fashion are related.
Among the more than 330 competition entries the IET received were a backpack that helps sick animals and another with arms that can give you a hug if you’re having a bad day. The judging panel included IET Fellow Professor Danielle George MBE, HYPE.’s CEO and co-founder Bav Samani, the IET’s 2021 Young Woman Engineer of the Year Ciara McGrath and Mira Nameth, founder of sustainable fashion brand Biophilica.
‘Alongside the more light-hearted ideas entered, it was wonderful to see so many of the kids’ designs featuring technology to make the world a better place,’ said Professor George. ‘There’s so much potential for engineering to help tackle the societal and planetary problems that we face, and Eleanor has demonstrated exactly that with her Breathe Better Backpack. Taking an issue close to her heart and engineering a fantastic invention to provide a solution really is inspiring. The future is in good hands with ingenious inventors like Eleanor!’
‘I was really shocked when I found out I’d won. I really didn’t expect anything when I entered the competition, said Eleanor, who was presented with a working prototype of her winning backpack in January – the deadliest month of the year for asthma sufferers. ‘I thought of my backpack to help clean the air because some of my family and friends have asthma and hay fever, and it could help them. I’m very happy the judges chose my entry as the winner. I think it’s a great idea to have cleaner air anywhere you like.’
Eleanor’s winning design will be displayed in HYPE.’s flagship London store, allowing children to come and see how the idea has been brought to life by one of their favourite brands.