Growing up around 20 massive oak trees might have been picturesque, but for Ryan Jansen, a senior at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, it was also the catalyst for Rake n Take, announced last night as winner of the fourth annual Eye for Why contest sponsored by James Dyson and IDSA. The challenge invites students from North America to re-envision an existing product that solves a problem, works well, and is an improvement on other offerings, and the winner is automatically entered into the international James Dyson Award competition (whose winners were also announced at last night’s ceremony).
Rake n Take features a sliding sleeve that allows users to close the flexible prongs around leaves for easier carrying. In from Illinois for the New York awards ceremony were Jansen’s parents, financée, and industrial design professor Walter Hargrove, who noted that Jansen exemplifies the Midwestern pragmatism typical of his students. “They’re problem-solvers,” he said. “They know how to fix things, and no one else is going to do it for them.” As for the popularity of bicycle accessories—Reactiv, an LED-lit safety jacket by Londoner Michael Chen, took the 2008 James Dyson Award, while a Canadian team’s Single Handed Bike Brake Lever got the runner-up prize—Dyson himself wasn’t surprised. “They’re students,” he explained with a shrug. “Students ride bicycles, and bicycles are endlessly problematic.” www.designawards.dyson.com
above, from left: Micha Wallace with her team’s brake lever project, James Dyson, Michael Chen models his Reactiv jacket, and Ryan Jansen with Rake n Take
Dyson announcing the winners of the fourth annual Eye For Why competition in New York on April 9