IT Carlow student takes top awards at Universal Design Grand Challenge

A therapeutic horse riding aid what can be used in equine therapy for children with autism has scooped all of the top awards at the Universal Design Grand Challenge (UDGC), a design competition that promotes and awards design excellence in Ireland.

Jack Gregan from Wexford, who is a Product Design Innovation graduate of IT Carlow and currently an intern with the Institute’s designCORE design research centre, was awarded the UDGC People’s Choice Award, the UDGC Judges’ Choice Award and the Enterprise Ireland Universal Design Commercialisation Award for his design of a Go Therapeutic Horse Riding Aid.

He receives a perpetual trophy plus €1,000 in prize money for each of the People’s Choice and Judges’ Choice Awards. In receiving the commercialisation award from Enterprise Ireland, IT Carlow will receive funding of up to €15,000 to explore the marketing/commercial opportunity of Jack’s winning entry. This Commercial Case Feasibility Grant by Enterprise Ireland recognises the excellence in applied research in the Higher Education sector and the need for business development expertise to complement researchers’ technical expertise, to develop strong commercialisation strategies for innovations.

Jack’s design of a therapeutic horse riding aid can be used in equine therapy, which is growing in popularity as an activity for children with autism. Feeling the movements in the muscles of the horse and experiencing the textures and tactile nature of the activity has proven very beneficial in equine therapy. However, a standard horse riding saddle detaches the child from the horse. Jack’s project is an alternative to the saddle and ensures the stability of the rider while enhancing all the benefits of equine therapy. In the truest nature of universal design, his solution is proving excellent for many users outside of equine therapy and can be a very effective way for many people to engage in horse riding. 

Fittingly, the news came through to Jack’s tutor, Mr. Hilary Dempsey and the design staff at IT Carlow, as the Institute was launching an event to mark 40 years of design at IT Carlow and the opening of the first ever design research conference in Ireland, hosted by designCORE at IT Carlow.

“We are thrilled for Jack who is a deserving winner. IT Carlow was the first third-level institute in the country to offer product design courses in the early ‘70s and our students have played a large part in Ireland’s design landscape. It is fitting that one of our students is honoured just as past graduates of design from IT Carlow are returning to their Alma Mater this weekend to celebrate their success stories”, commented Mr. Dempsey, designCORE at IT Carlow.

The Universal Design Grand Challenge Student Awards 2015 is run by the Centre for Excellence in Universal Design, NDA.  It invites third level students in their final two years of study, post grads and recent graduates to enter their best student project to compete for two National Universal Design Student Awards and, for this year, the special optional prize of the “Universal Design Commercialisation Award” supported by Enterprise Ireland. The UDGC 2015 is part of Irish Design 2015