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Easy for arthritis, safe for kids

17 November, 2010

A UNSW industrial design student has come up with an award-winning creation that could make hard-to-open pill bottles a thing of the past for people with restricting conditions such as arthritis.

Joseph Louis Tan, a third-year student in the Faculty of Built Environment, won the nationwide Cormack Innovation Award for packaging design for his innovative approach to making a pill container that was child-resistant but easy to open for users with limited dexterity.

The 23-year-old’s win led a clean sweep of the awards by UNSW students, with FBE colleagues Eric Chau taking second place, Michael Brock equal third and Tristan Dimitroff highly commended. Eric Chau also won a scholarship from the Australian Institute of Packaging which will allow him to further his studies in packaging design.

Joseph’s winning "SlideLid" container employs a two-fingered, push-down-and-slide movement to open the lid. Joseph said research showed that movement was easier to accomplish for seniors than the push-down-and-twist action of a standard child-resistant cap but still difficult for children.

"The idea came about over weeks of research and planning, while observing users opening pill bottles in videos which are available on the web," he said.

Joseph’s interest in designing to assist people with disabilities was sparked by extraordinary personal experience: his mother and father both suffered childhood polio and have been wheelchair-bound throughout his life. They raised their son and remain living independently in their home country, Singapore, but Joseph said it was seeing how they coped with difficulties that inspired his career direction.

"When I called them on Skype to tell them about my win they said they were proud of me and to keep doing what I’m doing, so that felt pretty good," he said.

FBE industrial design lecturer Steve Ward said the strong showing by UNSW was particularly impressive given the high standard of entries in this year’s awards.

"The students respond to the competition because the can see that the company sponsoring the awards is interested in the ideas they come up with, and packaging design is a significant career entry area," he said.

Joseph said he doesn't know if SlideLid will ever go into production but that Cormack, where he'll do an internship next year as part of his prize, was interested in his design.

Source: The University of New South Wales

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