Posted Monday 27 February 2023
An innovative solution to the never-ending battle for who gets to use the middle armrest on planes was among the winning entries in this year's Kingston University Bright Ideas competition.
The eighteenth annual final of the entrepreneurial contest saw students from across the University pitch their ideas before a group of expert investors in a Dragons' Den-style event.
The People's Choice prize was awarded to aircraft engineering students who pitched Comfort Enhancer for Aircraft Armrests - a device that would be fitted when planes are being built in order to make the middle armrest comfortable for passengers when flying.
Charlie John, one of the students behind the winning idea, which also scooped the engineering award and the social media prize after topping the votes in a poll run through the University's Instagram account, said the team wanted to address an issue that would make a real difference to people when travelling. "The product incorporates a sliding mechanism that could be set to a passenger's preference," he said. "The armrests would be installed alongside seats when they are fitted into the plane. We decided on this idea after a survey of staff and students found that narrow armrests were people's biggest inconvenience when flying."
Students taking part in Bright Ideas gained skills beyond just learning to make a pitch, Charlie explained. "We've really developed our abilities to work as part of a team and how to communicate effectively," he said. "To ensure all aspects of the project were detailed sufficiently we all had to work collectively. Winning three categories at this year's competition really shows how much the idea captured everyone's attention and the success of our idea has been quite a surreal experience for the whole team."
Other members of the winning team include aircraft engineering students Giuseppe Leogrande, Kushal Vekariya, James Sinclair and Andrew Kakeeto.
Following an in-person pitching session and a networking event, the winners were revealed in a virtual award ceremony.
Winners in the other six categories included Legal Ability, an app that offers free legal advice to low-income families, which took home the Business and Social Science prize. Watch Tower, an AI system aimed at reducing fire damage to farmland, was the Computer Science victor. The Health and Education category was won by Teaching Teachers About Self Harm, a learning aid to help teachers tackle this subject while Body Pots, themed around designs for body-shaped ceramic pots for house plants, won the Kingston School of Art category. The Sustainability award went to Inflate Series, an eco-friendly furniture maker, while the second engineering award was presented to the team behind Level Guard, a pedestrian safety solution.
The award ceremony opened with a keynote speech from Kingston alumna Oriele Frank, who graduated in 1993 with a degree in business studies and went on to co-found luxury skincare brand Elemis.
Ms Frank talked to students about the process of setting up her company, going on to praise the quality of entries at this year's Bright Idea. "I see a lot of the qualities in the students here that I want in the people who work for me," she said. "The positive attitude, resilience and ambition on display in these ideas is something I know will really take the students here forward."
Bright Ideas takes place over a number of months and is open to students across all disciplines at Kingston University. The competition supports the development of future skills such as problem solving and communication that are most sought after by employers.
Hundreds of ideas were pitched in this year's contest before being narrowed down for the grand final. The winner in each of the seven categories received £1,000 while the runner-up was rewarded with £250.
The audience of students, staff and guests were invited to vote for the People's Choice award for their favourite idea.
Head of Enterprise Education Martha Mador spoke about the high calibre of ideas this year's competition attracted. "It has been brilliant to see so many new, fresh ideas this year and to see how innovative our students can be," she said. "Ideas change as you develop them, and it has been great to see all the pitches from the students and hear about the skills they have learned that will be hugely beneficial in their future careers."
Sponsors for this year's competition included Estonian ship building company LTH-Baas and Sainsbury Management Fellows Engineers in Business, which each sponsored categories and prizes aligned with their sectors.
Full list of Bright Ideas 2023 winners
Comfort Enhancer for Aircraft Armrests: People's Choice and Social Media Award winners
Business and Social Sciences: 1st Prize LegalAbility, 2nd Prize Fempowered
Computer Science: 1st Prize Watch Tower, 2nd Prize Stepping Stone Communities
Health and Education: 1st Prize Teaching Teachers About Self-Harm, 2nd Prize Sleep Apnea
Kingston School of Art: 1st Prize Body Pots, 2nd Prize London Ai and Film Student Festival
Sustainability: 1st Prize Inflate Series, 2nd Prize Aircraft Window Solar Generator
Engineering 1: 1st Prize Comfort Enhancer for Aircraft Armrests, 2nd Prize Are you straw? (Golden ticket winner)
Engineering 2: 1st Prize Level Guard, 2nd Prize Flexi-Kerb