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Wudu Water Saver wins UEL student Royal Society of Arts award


Judges ‘blown away’ by Ahmed Salah’s work on his ‘Wudu Water Saver’ device

University of East London (UEL) student Ahmed Salah has won a prestigious sustainability prize for his ‘Wudu Water Saver’ invention, which eliminates the need for Muslims to leave water taps running while they perform Wudu – Islamic ritual washing before prayers.

Ahmed, from Romford, Essex, won the ‘Sustainably Clean’ category at the 2016 Student Design Awards organised by the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA). 

The 23-year-old learned of his award when the director of the competition visited him at UEL ostensibly to interview him about his invention – and passed him a letter revealing he had won while the camera was rolling. A shocked Ahmed said it was “an amazing feeling”.

Ahmed, who is studying for a BSc in Product Design at UEL’s School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering, said he had focused on Wudu because, as a Muslim, he had become aware of the sustainability issues that it raised.

“It’s an area that hasn’t really been looked at, so I wanted to see if I could come up with a solution,” he said.

“During my research, I found that people were using five to eight litres of water to wash themselves three times, as required, which meant the water tap is left running for convenience.”  

Ahmed’s Wudu Water Saver container is made from polypropylene and can fit onto a variety of sinks and baths in bathrooms and wash rooms. It holds one and a half litres of water, which is enough to perform the ritual washing without excessive water usage. 

Ahmed will join fellow award winners, as well as a prize of £2,500, at a ceremony at the RSA’s headquarters in central London on 20 June.

He will be treading an illustrious path, with previous winners including Apple design chief Jonathan Ive, leading industrial designer Paul Priestman, GOV.UK mastermind Ben Terrett and renowned fashion designer Betty Jackson.   

The Sustainably Clean design brief, sponsored by Unilever, tasked students with designing a product or system that would allow people to wash and clean themselves using less water or lower water temperatures. 

Each entry was judged according to six criteria, including social and environmental benefit, execution, research, design thinking, commercial awareness and magic.

Ahmed beat off competition from 45 entries in his category, making it onto the final shortlist of nine student designers. He was then chosen as the winner by a panel of experts. 

Sevra Davis, Director of the RSA Student Design Awards said, “The judging panel was blown away by the amount of work that Ahmed did in response to the RSA brief, and he delivered an articulate and thoughtful presentation when he came for interview.”

“He won the Unilever Award because of all the short-listed students, he demonstrated the most thoughtful approach and had the clearest insights into the issues – and, he came up with a brilliant solution that is realistic, has a market and is commercially viable.

“It was clear that Ahmed put in many hours and much hard work into figuring out where water savings could be had and then set about solving a real issue.”

Congratulating Ahmed on his win, Paul Lighterness, an RSA fellow and Head of Product Design at UEL, said: “I’m very proud of Ahmed. He’s really applied himself to the RSA project brief and came up with an award-winning product.
“His creativity, careful research with his chosen user group along with his continual product testing have really paid off. He thoroughly deserves the recognition for winning the RSA Student Design Awards Sustainably Clean project brief set by Unilever.”

A total of 906 students submitted entries this year to the 92nd RSA Student Design Awards, which has been running since 1924.

It aims to challenge the next generation of designers to think critically about the role of design in the world and how society can apply design thinking and skills to make the world a better place.