RMIT University graduate, Aaron Nguyen has been named a top 20 finalist in this year’s James Dyson Award with his invention, LUNA Modular AFO designed for people with disabilities, among the best global entries.

In Australia, every three weeks a child is born with a Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia (HSP), a broad group of inherited, degenerative disorders characterised by impaired walking due to stiffness and weakness of the lower limbs.

Current ankle foot orthosis (AFO) options for children provide minimal support to their growing users, with rigid thermoplastic forms used to create an intentionally tight fit to give the user the optimal support. LUNA Modular AFO is an ankle foot orthosis designed to adapt to its growing users modularly, prolonging use over several years, and reduce discomfort or common issues like blistering and cuts.

“I’ve always seen the James Dyson Award as the best of the best of industrial design competitions. I feel honoured to be recognised at the international level. Having two relatives that suffer from HSP and hearing of their discomfort from my aunty, made this such an important problem to tackle,” Nguyen said.

Nguyen was also named the James Dyson Award National winner, as judged by engineer Jane Waldburger, STEM journalist Rae Johnston and inventor Alex Goad.

Other global entries shortlisted in the top 20 include a wood alternative made from Kombucha waste (Pyrus), natural ecosystem for bees (HIIVE), bio leather made from citrus peel waste (Citra), a scanner that can determine types of plastics (Plastic Scanner), an assistive drawing device (Guided Hands) and new male contraceptive (COSO).

Dyson global head of design engineering and top 20 judge, John McGarva said, “I believe the James Dyson Award is an extremely effective way of encouraging young engineers to focus hard on their ideas and move their designs forward quickly. The award provides a fertile starting ground for innovation to take root and get the support and recognition that teams and individuals need to succeed.”

Dyson lead technology scout, Kay Yeong added, “The top 20 inventions need to solve a real challenge with a well-researched and elegant design. Entrants need to demonstrate that they really understand what the problem is, that they have engaged with experts and end-users and try as much as they can to test and improve their solutions.”

The top 20 global entries were shortlisted by a panel of Dyson engineers from 83 national finalists from the 28 participating countries.

The top 20 marks the beginning of the international awarding stages by Sir James Dyson, where the International Winner and Sustainability Winner will be announced on 17 November 2021.