Ontario’s industrial design students showed off their design chops this past weekend and proved you’re never too young to have a great idea.

Sponsored by the Association of Chartered Industrial Designers of Ontario (ACIDO), the eighth annual Rocket Show competition pitted bright students from Ontario’s three industrial design schools — Humber, Carleton and the Ontario College of Art & Design — against each other to show off their ability to think creatively to create solutions to everyday problems.

Among the clever designs students presented in seven different categories were autonomous cars for visually impaired travellers; lightweight, modular refugee shelters that can be built on-the-fly; and a self-cooling fruit bowl that requires no electricity.

Jonathan Loudon, show co-ordinator, says the event’s 57 entries all show great promise and creativity and help advance the cause of industrial design.

“We want to raise awareness of what design can do and how design can be a problem-solving tool,” he said. “The calibre of work is really high this year.”

Tyson Leslie, 21, built a self-teaching guitar that lights up to show you where to play notes and chords, like a Guitar Hero controller but for real.

“I like designing stuff that I would like to see out there,” Leslie said.

Transportation category winner and Humber student David Bernhardt, 28, created a design for a utility vehicle that is as small as a compact sedan but can carry as much cargo as a pick-up truck. He calls his vehicle Duro and says he got the idea from watching subcontractors lug around their enormous pick-ups and SUVs in their off-hours, since most of them required the capacity of such vehicles during work hours.

His design for Duro puts separate motors inside the wheels of the vehicle, completely eliminating the need for a lengthy drive-train connection between wheels. Bernhardt also included a special tray underneath the main body of the vehicle, which allows storage of 4 x 8 sheets by simply sliding the sheets in and out of the slot.

Bernhardt conducted months of research into materials, components, design specifications and production-line costs of his vehicle and hand-built a prototype scale-model to show what a finished vehicle would look like. He says the thrill of creating something that people can really find practical motivates him.

“Making something that people look at and go, ‘That’s a really good idea — I can use that,’ that’s what really drives me,” Bernhardt said.

He loves the challenge that industrial design presents.

“I like the problem-solving aspect of design. When I go to a potential employer I always say I’m a problem-solver,” he said.

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