GCU engineers power wind turbine idea

13 August 2019

Pupil Douglas Macartney who invented the flat-pack wind turbine

Pupil Douglas Macartney who invented the flat-pack wind turbine

A flat-pack wind turbine designed by a Scots school pupil and created by engineers at Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) could help bring power to refugee camps and disaster areas across the world.

The portable turbine, invented by Douglas Macartney, 15, a pupil at Royal High in Edinburgh, will be showcased at Gatwick Airport this summer after the idea was handpicked from 11,000 entries to a national competition run by the not-for-profit organisation Primary Engineer.

A team of undergraduate engineers from GCU spent months bringing the idea to life and designing a viable prototype.

The original concept was inspired by a flat-pack refugee shelter created by Swedish furniture giant Ikea.

It’s hoped the turbine may one day be mass-produced to generate electricity for refugee camps where there is no access to a power source for cooking and lighting.

The device, which can be assembled without any specialist training, could also be used to help areas recovering from natural disasters and in rural settlements far from grid connection.

Judges of the Leaders Award competition, run by Primary Engineer and supported by several partners including Facebook, selected the wind turbine as one of 15 shortlisted concepts.

Dr Andrew Cowell, a senior lecturer at GCU and supervisor of the project, said: "It was a very mature concept. We've taken Douglas’s idea and put a lot of engineering thought into it.

“The prototype is small but could generate enough electricity to power a light and two USBs sockets in a disaster relief zone or a refugee camp. All our calculations show the concept is viable. It's a brilliant idea."

The turbine and the other shortlisted designs will feature on a billboard at Gatwick Airport over the next three weeks.

More than 125,000 daily visitors passing through the airport will be encouraged to vote for their favourite creation by scanning a QR code on their phone.

Primary Engineer strives to provide young people from all backgrounds the chance to access a career in engineering, science and technology by bringing engineers into primary and secondary classrooms.

Dr Susan Scurlock MBE, founder of Primary Engineer and an honorary graduate of GCU, said: “This exhibition at one of the most important travel hubs in the UK is a testament to the commitment of commercial organisations, schools and universities who are all doing their bit to help pupils tap into their inner engineer.

“Each year I am astounded by the designs by pupils as they identify problems to solve which are important to them and in turn inspire engineers to build their solutions. We started by asking engineers to inspire children and have found that children inspire engineers.”

You can vote online for your favourite design by visiting Leaders Award - Wall of Fame.