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New prize honours UC innovator and celebrates design - University of Cantebury

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

From 2020, two final-year UC students achieving at the highest level in industrial product design will be rewarded with a prestigious new prize. Donated by Springfree NZ Ltd, the prize recognises product design excellence and also honours outstanding UC academic, engineer and inventor, Professor Keith Alexander.

More than 20 years after a young engineer invented a safer spring-free trampoline for his daughter, the inventor in question - UC Engineering Professor Keith Alexander - can’t quite believe a new academic prize has been named in his honour, but hopes the spring-free story will help inspire a new generation of innovators.

"I don’t feel like I’m the kind of person to have something like that named after me, but it is a real privilege and I remember how proud I was in 2010 to be presented with the inaugural UC Innovation Medal by Sir Paul Callaghan. I think the students in the School of Product Design who go to my lecture on the spring-free trampoline story would be similarly proud to get this prize."

The Springfree Keith Alexander Final Year Prize for Industrial Product Design will be awarded to two top UC students in their third and final year of study. Those producing the best design portfolio will receive either a first prize of $3000 or a second prize of $2000.

Industrial Product Design has only recently been offered as a major at UC, following the opening of the new School of Product Design in 2018. Professor Alexander believes the new prize will help establish and reinforce the prestige of this major and is delighted the first 300 level students through the programme will be eligible for the award in 2020.

Commercial investment funded the development of Professor Alexander’s original prototype spring-free trampoline into a viable market-ready product. Today it sells worldwide and has won multiple international awards.

Doug Hill, who is managing director of Springfree NZ Ltd, says the prize celebrates the company’s experience of working with Professor Alexander over the past 17 years.

"It has been an absolute pleasure for us: Keith Alexander is such a genuine and hard working person," Doug says. "As well, the innovation on which our business is based has come out of the University of Canterbury and was developed by Keith as a researcher there, so the roots of our business are firmly connected to the university."

The prize acknowledges that history and ongoing positive association with UC and its student community. "We’re really impressed with the School of Product Design and excited to be supporting UC’s culture of innovation."

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