Dundee design team creates polar bear alarm system for explorers!

The first leg of the Scottish Design Relay, a national V&A Dundee project to inspire the next generation of designers, has been completed.

3D polar bear sculpture

The relay, which began in Dundee in August, will now travel to Orkney before reaching Caithness, Shetland, Govan and Aberdeen.  For the first leg, young employees from the Michelin factory in Dundee were challenged with creating a new prototype design inspired by their city’s heritage of travel and exploration.  

With the help of Dundee-based designer Kevin Fox, founder of the luxury luggage company LAT_56, they devised a polar bear alarm system to protect explorers from deadly attacks. The design will be displayed in V&A Dundee when the new museum opens next year, alongside prototypes from the five other Scottish Design Relay teams across the country.

Peter Nurick, V&A Dundee Communities Producer, said: “The first stage of the Scottish Design Relay has been a massive success. The creativity, enthusiasm and work ethic of the Dundee team has been incredible and has resulted in a fantastic and innovative design with the potential to save lives.” 

The team came up with the idea of creating a new alarm system after meeting Craig Mathieson, the first Explorer in Residence with the Royal Scottish Geographical Society. Craig, who was inspired to become an explorer after reading about Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s British Antarctic Expedition, explained the dangers polar bears pose to camps at night during expeditions through the wilderness.  The prototype design builds on an existing humane tripwire system which sets off a loud bang if a bear breaches a campsite perimeter. 

The new design includes a retractable spring recoil system to prevent tangling of the tripwire, and uses non-conductive material to stop exposed skin freezing to the device in sub-zero temperatures. New technology has also been incorporated, allowing for early detection of polar bears around the camp. 

Emma Evans, 24, an engineer at Michelin and part of the Dundee design team, said: “I’ve always been interested in design and really wanted to be involved with something new and different. 

“We designed a polar bear alarm prototype. My role focused more on technical problems due to my engineering background. 

“The project has made me realise design is in everything, no matter how simple, and sometimes simple designs work best.”

Ross Tolland, 23, also an engineer at Michelin, added: “Learning about the design process was something I hadn’t had the opportunity to do before, so I was very keen to get involved.

“My advice for the next team would be to listen to everyone. The more ideas, the better.”

The Scottish Design Relay is being supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery and the Mathew Trust. The workshops held during the first leg of the project were created in partnership with Dundee Heritage Trust.  The next stage of the Scottish Design Relay is in Orkney and will begin in October. 

For media enquiries, please contact Jenny Kane (Media Officer) - 01382 305 545 - 07870 508 568 - jenny.kane@vandadundee.org

For more information about the Scottish Design Relay please visit the news section of the V&A Dundee website