RMIT students win major accolades for healthcare design innovation

RMIT students win major accolades for healthcare design innovation

A team of three RMIT students have been named the 2022 national winners of the James Dyson Award and received an Australian Good Design Award.

A low-cost pneumatic device designed by RMIT students to help unassisted healthcare workers has won the coveted James Dyson Award and an Australian Good Design Award. 

Their design innovation, the AirLift, assists in performing three key patient movements which improves the experience for both patient and healthcare worker and supports an ageing healthcare workforce from injuring themselves when working unaccompanied in the community. 

Bachelor of Industrial Design Honours student Maneet Singh and Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering & Industrial Design students Maireid Carrigg and Fergus Davidson met through the Safeness by Design studio, run through RMIT’s School of Design with input from the Worksafe Innovation Centre.

Their intention for the AirLift was inspired by personal connections to healthcare and the opportunity to create impact. Singh highlighted a spike in demand for at-home care, alongside an under-resourced and rapidly ageing workforce, is making community healthcare work increasingly dangerous.

“Our research found that healthcare workers were often left to reposition patients on their own, which subjects their bodies to high levels of strain. While there is a plethora of devices on the market that aid with patient repositioning, they are often expensive and bulky, or require multiple people to be used safely,” said Singh.

29 September 2022


The creators of the design smile at the camera The winning students. L-R: Maireid Carrigg, Fergus Davidson and Maneet Singh.

Solving problems through innovation

Comprised of a slide sheet with an inflatable inner bladder and a remote-control pump, the AirLift works by gently inflating to place a layer of air between the patient and the bed. By folding the device prior to fitting it under a patient, it can switch between assisting with three of the most common patient movements – rolling, sitting up and translations. 

“The AirLift’s pneumatic capabilities remove the need to physically lift the patient and reduce the force required to translate them around the bed. This in turn improves the experience for the patient, as they are being repositioned on a cushion of air, instead of being dragged around on a sheet,” Singh said. 

Davidson said that the idea to use pneumatics came about not in the studio but on a camping trip, while inflating a dry bag. 

“Realising the potential, we modified an inflatable lounge so that it could comfortably reposition a human, which served as our initial proof of concept,” he said. 

Collaborating with industry 

Surveying nurses, consulting experts in the field and a consistent feedback process through the Safeness by Design studio helped the team refine their concept and work through issues along the way. 

Carrig said that industry insights helped overcome their biggest challenge – designing a slide sheet that gave greater consideration for a healthcare worker’s age and movements while maintaining patient safety. 

“The collaboration with WorkSafe provided great insight and feedback in regard to designing for the ageing workforce, which we also took on board,” Carrig said.

Another considerable challenge was not to do with the design, but circumstance. 

“The initial research and ideation was all completed within a 2021 lockdown with limited access to materials, few opportunities for in person observation of industry practices and no workshop access,” Carrigg said.

“To deal with this, we reached out to members of the healthcare community and industry experts to draw on their expertise and guidance.”

A prototype of the winning design, The AirLift. A prototype of the winning design, The AirLift.

Designing with purpose

Reflecting on the project, Carrigg says that the team’s respective courses at RMIT provided them with the skills and knowledge to practise design creatively and with purpose.

“We have really benefited from team-based projects at RMIT as it has improved our communication skills and allowed us to produce great collaborative outcomes,” said Carrigg.   

“We set out to make an impact and hopefully change lives, and it feels surreal to have received validation and recognition of our vision and efforts spent over the last many months. The awards have not just provided us with the means but also the confidence to take this idea forward and bring it to life which is the next stage in our design journey,” Singh added.

Harnessing AirLift's potential for community impact

Moving forward, the team hope to create a functional prototype alongside conducting a thorough materiality investigation. 

“In 5 years’ time we see AirLift transitioning beyond the private healthcare sector and into people’s homes,” Singh said.

“We hope the AirLift will enable individuals to look after their family members at home without the need to purchase expensive patient movement devices.”

Safeness by Design is an initiative emerging from RMIT University’s School of Design, aiming to enhance health, wellbeing, and social values by using design to achieve actual and evident safeness across a broad range of environments and contexts.


Story by: Rosie Shepherdson-Cullen

29 September 2022


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Acknowledgement of Country

RMIT University acknowledges the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nation on whose unceded lands we conduct the business of the University. RMIT University respectfully acknowledges their Ancestors and Elders, past and present. RMIT also acknowledges the Traditional Custodians and their Ancestors of the lands and waters across Australia where we conduct our business - Artwork 'Luwaytini' by Mark Cleaver, Palawa.