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12 year-old girl wins Hype’s ‘Backpack to the Future’ competition with design that filters polluted air

Tom Bottomley
31 January 2023

A 12 year-old girl from Huddersfield has won the Institution of Engineering & Technology’s (IET) national ‘Backpack to the Future’ competition in partnership with fashion brand Hype, with a design that filters polluted air, inspired by her mum’s asthma condition.

Eleanor Woods' ‘Breathe Better Backpack’ features a built-in air filter and fans, powered sustainably by solar panels and a dynamo.

Wood’s entry enthralled judges with its innovative ability “to make a positive difference to people’s lives, and to the planet”. The design comes at a time when the topic of air purity is more relevant than ever, with respiratory illnesses including Covid-19 in wide circulation.

In fact, analysis has revealed that Google searches of ‘clean air’ were 850% higher in December 2022 compared to December 2018 (source: Google Trends).

Presented with her prize, a working prototype of her winning backpack during ‘Chilly January’, fittingly the deadliest month of the year for asthma sufferers, Woods commented: “I was really shocked when I found out I’d won, I really didn’t expect anything when I entered the competition! 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!”

Hype Backpack

Eleanor's backpack helps clean the air: she was inspired by family and friends with asthma

The judging panel included Hype’s CEO and Co-Founder Bav Samani, IET Fellow Professor Danielle George, IET’s 2021 Young Woman Engineer of the Year Dr. Ciara McGrath, and founder of sustainable fashion bran Biophilica, Mira Nameth.

Bav Samani said: “We loved the messaging behind the design and the positive impact this could have, not only to people's lives, but to the planet.

“This backpack is one of a kind, it's not available to purchase. It will be on display at our Carnaby London flagship store from 1 February.”

Professor Danielle George, commented: “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. 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!”

Hype backpack

Eleanor's 'Breathe Better' backpack

The IET’s competition was launched with the aim to change perceptions, encourage more diversity within engineering and show children how they could combine a passion for fashion with a Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) related career. It followed research which revealed only one in 10 (10%) kids think that engineers work in fashion and just 16% understanding how science and fashion are related.

Runner up places were awarded to ‘The Travel Bag’ by Maria Hughes, aged 12 from London, “which features handy gadgets to make holidays a breeze”, and the ‘Candy Creator’ by Emelia Fry, aged 11 from Essex, which features a candy floss maker powered by a piezoelectric disc.

Listen to our podcast with Hype founders Bav Samani and Liam Green here.

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