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Plymouth graduate wins UK James Dyson Award for 3D-printed hand

Joel Gibbard left a job with an engineering company to dedicate himself to his invention. Credit: Open Bionics

A Plymouth graduate who started trying to make a better prosthetic hand while at university has won the UK's 2015 James Dyson Award.

25-year-old Joel Gibbard achieved a First-Class Robotics degree in 2011, and has since created a ground-breaking robotic hand for amputees, through his company, Open Bionics.

Using 3D printing, the hand can be made in just 40 hours for under £2,000 - a fraction of the cost of conventional prosthetics.

It allows an amputee to do the same things as a traditional, expensive prosthetic hand, right down to individual finger movements, by using electromyographical sensors which are stuck to their skin.

“We’ve encountered many challenges in designing our hands but the reactions of the individuals we help fuels our perseverance to bring them to market. My aim is for Open Bionics to disrupt the prosthetics industry by offering affordable prosthetics for all.”

– Joel Gibbard, winner, 2015 National UK James Dyson Award

“I am impressed by how much Open Bionics can improve lives of amputees. By listening to the potential users, Joel is providing the functionality they want at low cost – making appropriate use of technology and 3D printing.”

– Anne Dowling, President of the Royal Academy of Engineering and national James Dyson Award judge

"By using rapid prototyping techniques, Joel has initiated a step-change in the development of robotic limbs. Embracing a streamlined approach to manufacturing allows Joel's design to be highly efficient, giving more amputees’ access to advanced prosthetics.”

– Sir James Dyson, inventor

Joel gets £2,000 for his win - which he intends to spend on a new 3D printer - and advances to the international stage of the competition, in which Dyson engineers whittle 100 entries from around the world down to just 20.

The results will be announced next month, with the winner awarded £30,000 to work on their invention.


Perseid meteor shower - send us your pictures!

The Perseid meteor shower has been putting on some lovely displays over the West Country.

The annual light show is caused by debris from a comet hitting the atmosphere.

Perseid meteor shower over Dartmoor Credit: @jonscottfilm

The meteor shower should be visible again tonight and tomorrow night - weather permitting!

We'd love to see your Perseid pictures or videos . Please send them to or @itvwestcountry

Plymouth University to build world's first unmanned ship

Artists impression of the Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship. Credit: Plymouth University

Plymouth University has revealed its plans to build the world's first full size unmanned ship to sail across the Atlantic Ocean.

The ship will be named the 'Mayflower Autonomous Research Ship' and will replicate the sailing of the 'pilgrim fathers' from Devon.

It will be the first of its kind in the world, as it will be unmanned and powered by renewable energy.

All going well, the project is aiming to have the ship ready to sail on the 400th anniversary the pilgrim voyage in 2020.

The ship will be unmanned and powered by renewable energy. Credit: Plymouth University
  1. National

Scientists overturn idea racehorses can't get any faster

Racehorses are reaching faster and faster speeds, scientists have found, overturning research which suggested they had reached their galloping limit.

A team from the University of Exeter studied a total of 616,084 races run by more than 70,000 horses, with a broader focus on sprint races.

Racehorses are reaching ever-faster speeds, the study found Credit: PA

Previous research, which suggested speeds had reached a plateau, had largely concentrated on a small number of middle- to long-distance races.

It is not yet known whether the faster pace is down to breeding, better training, better jockeys, or a combination of these.

Researcher Dr Patrick Sharman said:

There has been a general consensus over the last 30 years that horse speeds appeared to be stagnating.

Our study shows that this is not the case and, by using a much larger dataset than previously analysed, we have revealed that horses have been getting faster. Interestingly, both the historical and current rate of improvement is greatest over sprint distances.

The challenge now is to find out whether this pattern of improvement has a genetic basis.

– Dr Patrick Sharman, University of Exeter

Rewards and rejection for Dorset's dinosaur heritage

Fossil hunters comb Dorset's Jurassic Coast. Credit: Chris Ison/PA Archive/Press Association Images

Dinosaur footprints and the archive of novelist Thomas Hardy are among the treasures that helped Dorset County Museum attract more than £10m in Heritage Lottery Funding.

the 150-year-old museum has ambitious plans to build a new Discovery Centre so it can bring the rest of its collection out of storage.

It's not all good news for dinosaur fans though. Jurassica, the Attenborough-backed project to create a spectacular prehistoric attraction on Portland on the scale of Cornwall's Eden Project has been turned down for £16m of Lottery funding.

Also rejected for funding were plans to uncover the Roman baths beneath Exeter Cathedral.


Fish genetically mutated by Cornish mining

Research at Exeter University has linked the evolution of fish to pollution from Cornwall's mining boom.

Scientists have found that pollution from historic mines in the South West has "severely affected" the genetic diversity of local populations of brown trout.

The report highlights the difference between so-called clean rivers like the Camel and the Fal, with more contaminated rivers such as the Hayle.

Man regains feeling in paralysed arm decade after crash

Craig Stewart has movement in his arm for the first time in years. Credit: Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery, Morriston Hospital

A man from Devon whose arm was severed in a car crash can move it for the first time in a decade.

Surgeons reattached former serviceman Craig Stewart's limb after his accident ten years ago, but it was left paralysed - until now. Over the last three years doctors in Swansea have worked to restore movement.

Pioneering surgery at the Welsh Centre for Burns and Plastic Surgery transferring a muscle from his thigh into his arm means he can now raise and bend that arm and move its fingers for the first time in years. You can find out more about the surgery here.

New sea creature discovered in Devon

The new discovery has been nicknamed the 'fairy anemone'. Credit: Robert Durrant

An new type of sea anemone have been discovered off the coast of north Devon.

Retired teacher Robert Durrant had no idea the tiny, 6mm creature was unknown to science when he spotted it in Hele Bay near Ilfracombe.

He posted a photograph to Facebook and asked experts, but nobody could identify it - so he took it home to his aquarium to feed it.

The breakthrough came when he took a backlit photo, which showed the anemone was transparent and covered in tiny tubercules. This helped French expert Wilfried Bay-Nouailhat to identify it as a different variety of Aiptasiogeton pellucidus, an anemone found in Dorset in the 70s before disappearing off the radar.

As the scientific name for the new discovery, Aiptasiogeton pellucidus var comatus, is a bit of a mouthful, Devon Wildlife Trust have asked Robert to name it.

I’d like to call it the fairy anemone, as it’s so small, delicate and elusive.

– Robert Durrant
The backlit photo which helped an expert identify the creature. Credit: Robert Durrant

Since the discovery, further anemones of this variety have been found at Newlyn in Cornwall

It’s amazing that new animal discoveries can still be made right on our shores. The north Devon coast is particularly rich in marine habitats and species, which is why local people nominated the area from Bideford to Foreland Point as a Marine Conservation Zone.

Government missed this site off the list in the first designations of MCZs in 2013, but we have a chance to secure protection for this stunning section of coast in the new year.

– Dan Smith, Devon Wildlife Trust
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