Dyson has just unveiled this year’s National James Dyson Award winner, Méadú, by Wicklow-born Product Design graduate from Technological University Dublin, Paul Hendrick. Paul has attempted to solve a problem connected with primary school students learning and engaging with mathematics in both the classroom and home.
In Ireland, over half (52%) of parents admitted to not understanding their child’s maths homework, with only 1 in 10 (13%) feeling comfortable teaching their children STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects.
The announcement goes on to talk about how Paul always had an interest in maths and solving problems growing up, which led him to become a product designer. The idea for Méadú stemmed from primary user research within primary schools. During this study, teachers flagged to Paul that there was a drop in physical maths resources for the older year groups in primary education when the subject increased in difficulty.
Students who may have already started to develop a fear of maths during their time of education said that multiplication is often one of the more challenging concepts to understand due to a lack of physical resources for students to utilise. The focus area for Méadú was then decided and attempts to design a solution began.
The award-winning device primarily functions as an interactive multiplication table for children to learn up to 12 times tables but it also has several other features that allow interactive maths learning. The multiplication table is the main feature of the product.
It is a 12 by 12 grid showing the multiples of ‘1 times 1’ up to ‘12 times 12’ and includes two sliders with a multiplication table as well as a whiteboard. For the multiplication table, the sliders align with input numbers on the board’s edges and intersect to highlight the product of the two numbers. A whiteboard is on the underside of the central board, which students can use during lessons. The board can be used for general rough work or draw when combined with the sliders and their rulers. Finally, there is a maths fact sheet underneath the central board for easy access to maths facts for use during lessons.
Paul had previously seen videos of successful applicants from previous years, which inspired him to apply. Paul felt that entering would give them valuable exposure to the Méadú concept and that the experience would be an incredible opportunity to take the device to the following stages of development. Paul meticulously tweaked his design until he was confident in the final concept. He produced ten prototypes in total.
Paul Hendrick, Designer of Méadú, says: “Children who struggle with maths in primary school can begin to put up a barrier to understanding the topic, impacting their future career opportunities. I am delighted that Méadú is the national winner of the James Dyson award. Méadú exists to promote more hands-on and engaging maths lessons for students in primary schools; I look forward to further tailoring the product to align with teachers’ and students’ needs.”
Aoife Considine, winner of the James Dyson Award 2013 in Ireland and judge on this year’s panel, says: “Winning the James Dyson Award in 2013 for my invention Boundless, a tool to help snowboarders with their bindings, was a real springboard for my career in engineering. This year’s winner, Méadú, stood out in its simple yet effective approach to design. It showed you don’t always have to come up with the most technical solution; so long as it solves a problem and suits the intended user, simple is often best.”
Winning the James Dyson Award
This year marked the 17th year of the James Dyson Award and has also seen its highest number of entrants in the Award’s history across all 29 participating nations.
Winning the national leg of the James Dyson Award will inject €5,800 into the Méadú project. The win will support research and development as Paul continues to improve the device, with plans to expand its use cases in the classroom and further tailor the product to align with teachers’ and students’ needs.
Méadú will progress to the international stage with the James Dyson Award. Paul Hendrick aims to commercialise this product and to have Méadú used in Primary schools across Ireland to support mathematics education. The International shortlist will be announced on 12 October, and the international winners on 16 November.