Judges bowled over by a squashy utensil

June 29, 2001

A plastic bowl that can be squashed up for storage and will not hurt when junior throws it at you is the kitchen accessory of the future, according to the judges of the Students' Plastics Design Competition.

The annual contest, run by the Institute of Materials and plastics trade guild The Worshipful Company of Horners, required entrants to design a plastic kitchen product that would appeal to young families.

Six finalists were assigned a mentor from the plastics industry who helped them develop the product into something with commercial potential.

Winner Rob Thompson, a second-year product design student at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, said: "What's been really good about the competition is that it made me take a project right through to prototyping, which we don't normally have time to do. " Mr Thompson, who designed his "button bowl" as part of a potential range of flexible crockery for children, used the industrial contacts his mentor provided when he needed to get production costs.

"It brings about a sense of reality," said Alan Baker, a senior lecturer in the school of graphic and industrial design at Saint Martins. "It also builds a connection between companies, colleges and students, which is obviously important for students as they have to find employment once they graduate."

However, the entrants are not the only ones to benefit.

Martin Rayner, purchasing director of kitchenware retailers Lakeland Limited, which was the competition's principal sponsor, said: "To keep ahead we're dependent on designers coming up with new ideas such as these."

Mr Thompson won a work placement with thermoplastic manufacturer Ticona UK Ltd along with cash prizes for himself and his university. Designs for an ultrasonic cleaning device and an electronic shopping aid were among the runners-up.

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