September 23, 2008 Arizona State University student Travis Andren's entry for the Sustainable Technologies category of the Create the Future Design Contest is a plug and play system designed to combat the phenomena known as “vampire power” or “power leakage”, which causes power loss through plugged in appliances.
The Power Dam acts as a wirelessly controlled power strip for every outlet in a building. Controlled by a master switch that can be placed at the entrance to the room, each slave unit to the switch will be plugged into the existing outlet which will then have the appliances plugged into it. The slave will then act as a dam between the appliance and the power grid. Each wall unit has the capability for appliances that require power all the time, such as clocks, to remain off the wireless system and retain use. This would provide power to those appliances while stopping power loss through items like phone chargers and toasters that aren’t in use all of the time.
Current products on the market require professional assistance from an electrician to install, whereas the Power Dam is a plug and play system that would start saving consumers energy and money from the outset. Each wall unit's wireless capabilities are powered by a rechargeable battery that will charge when power is returned to the system and will stop charging once full. The master switch has an integrated plug to charge the internal battery and final designs will include a visual power gauge to ensure that the switch is always useful. This product is designed to be not only beneficial to household consumers, but also for offices, hotels, restaurants and any location with unused appliances that remain plugged into the wall.
Embodying what the Create the Future competition is all about, Andren believes it is a designer’s responsibility to make sure that each design is produced in a responsible manner with consideration for the producer, the user, and society as a whole. “This is especially important in the realm of industrial design; for industrial designers put forth an end result that utilizes incredible amounts of materials and resources globally,” he said. He sees it as a key part of his role as a designer of the future to keep up to date with every aspect of the design process, from material sourcing and energy production to manufacturing and marketing, to usability and finally, land filling and recyclability.
The Create the Future Design Contest is open until 17 October 2008 across seven categories: Machinery, Equipment, and Component Technology; Consumer Products; Medical; Safety and Security; Transportation; and Sustainable Technologies. $20,000 cash and other great prizes are up for grabs.