Clever treehouse design wins national James Dyson award

Massey University graduate Jason Khoo has taken out first place in the New Zealand leg of the fifteenth James Dyson Awards with his tree house platform called Tree Mount, designed to encourage Kiwi families to spend more time together and get back to nature.

After winning $5,200 from the James Dyson Foundation, Khoo will be one of five New Zealand entries to progress to the international leg of the competition.

The James Dyson Awards challenge current and recent design engineering students to reflect the Dyson design philosophy and ‘design something that solves a problem’.

The aim of the foundation is to inspire and excite young people about design engineering. Taking entrants from 20 countries, the award looks for emerging designers who reflect Dyson’s philosophy of creating products that remedy everyday problems.

Twenty-four-year-old Khoo says his winning design is a reflection of how he grew up, partaking in outdoor activities such as climbing trees. He was interested in building something that gave time-poor families and technology-obsessed kids a purpose to play outdoors.

“I read a lot of studies about the disconnectivity in families, kids and adults have no time for family… I also had a self-realisation of how much we rely on technology, especially with social networks, so I sort of just wanted to create a time-out zone from all of that.”

Khoo with his winning design

Tree Mount is a bracket that can be placed onto any tree (without any damage to it), allowing families to build their desired tree house around it. This means the tree house can be relocated without any permanent attachment. Khoo’s design also allows families to source their own materials and create their own tree house designs, as the mount simply provides the platform to be built upon.

The prestige of the James Dyson Awards encouraged Khoo to enter into the competition, which he’d previously never thought to enter.

“I knew about the Dyson Awards but never actually looked into it that much until my friend told me about all the perks and exposure that come with Dyson,” Khoo says.

The awards will not only provide exposure for Khoo, but the international leg will put him in the running to take out the grand prize of $67,000 to fund the commercialisation of Tree Mount, (including an $11,000 donation to his university). Selecting the winner will be James Dyson himself, British inventor of the bagless vacuum.

Judges were overall impressed with Khoo’s design, unanimously deciding on his top placement. Head judge, Mike Jensen said during the awards that Tree Mount is amazing work, particularly for a student design, reflecting the need to get people outside and express their creativity.

The future appears bright for Khoo, who plans to not only commercialise Tree Mount, but also has ideas for how relocatable platforms can benefit other industries.

“I’m sort of looking at high altitude jobs that require a non-permanent, moving platform so people can get up and down with ease … like arborists, scaffolding, power poles,” he says.

Runners-up, Philip Leyten and Emma Warren, will also be heading to the international awards with Khoo to showcase their designs.

Leyten has designed the ‘Triple Skin BMX Helmet’, designed to provide greater protection to BMX riders, who will often have an ill-fitting helmet, or none at all. The design is ‘one-size-fits-all’ and is fully adjustable for the wearer.

Warren brought to the table ‘Bound by 8’, which is a sustainable shoe, designed to be produced without harmful synthetic materials, such as glues and plastic. The shoe is made from a mix of wool and natural latex, and reduces the number of middle-men in the supply chain.

The other two finalists are Insight Fetal Monitoring and Subscope.

International winners will be announced on the 10th November 2015