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Industry recognition for sustainable coffee brewing design   

Published: 09 November 2023

A woman in business attire standing in front of some design boards

A third year BA Product Design student has been awarded top honours in a design competition run by the North Yorkshire Institute of Engineering and Technology Committee (NYIET) for York St John University. Monica Powley’s innovative and sustainable design for coffee brewing caught the attention of judges, earning her a £250 cash prize.  

Product and Games Design students were tasked with submitting design files that supported their respective project work. The winner was announced at an award event at the Enterprise Centre at York St John University, attended by industry professional.  

As well as the award presentation, the event also included a technology showcase from Warren Fearn, Associate Professor in Design and Andy Sandham, Senior Lecturer in Games Design. They had transformed the 3D CAD model into virtual and augmented reality environments to make immersive experiences which were presented to the IET on the day. This work highlighted the innovative applications of these cutting-edge technologies, demonstrating the potential of VR and AR in engineering and design.  

Monica's design journey began with her desire to address the environmental impact of disposable coffee pods. Inspired by a friend’s guilty feelings over her ‘pod hungry’ machine, she decided she wanted to tackle throw-away culture with a more sustainable brewing method.   

She examined the coffee-making process and identified convenience and cleanliness as the key factors for long-term success of such a product. Her solution involved introducing mechanical moving layers within both the lid and body of a fully recyclable and reusable coffee pod. Her Apex coffee system pods don't feature any disposable components such as single use films or harmful plastics.   

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is committed to increasing the accessibility of STEM careers with an aim to inspire, inform and influence the global engineering community to engineer a better world. Each year, they allocate funds to support prizes in collaboration with educational providers to inspire tomorrow’s engineers.   

Winning designer Monica Powley said: “When I won, I felt a combination of 2 feelings. Firstly, proud of my work and secondly, excited, excited for people to see the Apex system further with the hope that it would spark sustainability conversations or debates.   

“From the IET competition I have found a fundamental insight into further technological developments but also collaborations between myself, the CAD creator, to VR designers and AR designers. Overall, I hope this work goes on to inspire further academics in the future.”   

Marc Fleetham, Director of Business Development & Knowledge Exchange, said: “This award signifies not only a personal achievement for Monica but also a testament to the collaborative efforts of York St John University and international industry bodies like the IET.  

“Awards like these not only recognize student excellence but also help bridge the gap between education and industry, showcasing the relevance of academic knowledge in the world of work. They emphasize the value of nurturing the next generation of professionals and reinforce the idea that university education can directly impact and contribute to real-world solutions.”     

Warren Fearn, Associate Professor in Design and one of the judges, said: “Overall the standard of entries was very high, but we were particularly impressed with the depth and breadth of Monica's work. She seamlessly integrated sketch development, CAD design, and 3D printing to thoughtfully tackle a real-world problem.  

 "These prizes demonstrate the alignment between the University's syllabus and the demands of the industry. They underscore the value of students' skills and knowledge as valuable assets in the real world of work. We’re now looking to expand the competition to other subject areas after the success of this year.” 

Monica plans to put her prize money towards funding a trip to Copenhagen in June for the Scandinavian 3-Days of Design event, so her journey is far from over.   

More about studying Design at York St John University 


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