Edinburgh student invents radical new flatpack wind turbine

An Edinburgh schoolboy has invented a flatpack wind turbine that could revolutionise life for refugees and victims of natural disasters.

Saturday, 6th October 2018, 6:00 am
Royal High School student Douglas McCartney won a Scottish Leaders Innovation award for his flatpack wind turbine design. Picture: Neil Hanna

Douglas Macartney, 15, a pupil at the city’s Royal High, designed the modular turbine after being inspired by Swedish furniture giant Ikea’s solar-powered flatpack refugee shelter that won the London Design Museum’s design of the year award in 2016.

The fourth-year pupil’s innovative idea has won him a Scottish Leaders Innovation award, a national competition run by Primary Engineer, a charity working to promote engineering skills and careers with young people. He was one of 15 winners out of 11,000 entries.

Douglas said: “I was quite surprised to win. I sort of thought it was a good idea, but I didn’t know it was going to win.”

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Douglas imagined that the wind turbine would be air-dropped into remote areas that have been struck by natural disasters or into refugee camps, allowing people access to electricity.

Douglas said: “Ikea built a flatpack refugee shelter and I quite liked the simplicity of it and I thought of doing the same thing that would have similar use in a refugee camp.”

After brainstorming who else in the world could be helped by his award-winning idea, Douglas came up with supplying the aluminium and composite material turbines to remote areas that have been affected by natural disasters.

Now Douglas’s wind turbine has been chosen by a team of engineering masters students at Glasgow Caledonian University to turn the idea into a working prototype that they hope will one day be mass-produced.

Euan Howieson, team leader of the university students who will be making the prototype, had high praise for the teenager.

He said: “Douglas’s design was easily the best one. It was laid out perfectly and it was clear that he had done his research. It also contributes to the common good.

“If I was like that at his age I would be a much better engineer today.”

Douglas’s second-year chemistry teacher and Royal High’s STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) co-ordinator Phil Wootton said: “I’m absolutely delighted for him and very proud.

“Douglas did all of the work on his own. I taught him in second year and worked with him on another competition. He asked to enter another competition in third year and this is the result.”

Douglas said that he enjoyed the problem-solving aspect of the engineering project and hopes to study the subject at university level and one day work in a science field.

He was delighted when he learned his would be made into a working prototype. He said: “I think that was the best part because I really wanted to see it built. It will be really interesting to see how it’s done.”

The design phase for the prototype will run until Christmas and then the following six months will focus on production when it will undergo tests that simulate the climate of where it could end up.

Mr Howieson said: “We want to make the design as close to his as possible. It’s of such a high standard. I would give Douglas a job in a heartbeat.”