Student wins RNLI Design Challenge with contactless lifeboat collection box

Lifeboats News Release

To discover the RNLI’s next innovation project, the charity set the challenge to design students at the University of Plymouth. The winning entry was a contactless collection box designed by Georgina Sparks, taking inspiration from her own father’s experience as a door-to-door RNLI fundraiser.

Georgina Sparks

A prototype of the contactless lifeboat collection box

Working with the University of Plymouth, the RNLI in the south west launched the challenge to explore how to creatively address challenges such as contactless fundraising, water safety education and drowning prevention.

With entry open to all students on the BA (Hons) Product and Furniture Design or BA (Hons) Interior Design course, six students’ projects were then chosen to be part of the RNLI’s virtual showcase - where they then pitched their ideas to key RNLI stakeholders and representatives from RNLI partner Helly Hansen.

The winning entry - which will now be developed through to prototype and completion - was a collection box with a coin and contactless token option by Georgina Sparks, designed so that the public still feels the difference their money is making through a contactless donation.

Describing her inspiration, Georgina said:

‘When starting my design journey, I took it back to basics and spoke to my dad who collected door-to-door for the RNLI. He spoke about people not always having cash on them even in the home, while others rarely used anything other than cash - some even collecting all their loose change until he came back the next year.

‘I wanted to design a collection system that the whole community had a chance to get involved in, having a cash and contactless element. By the RNLI having a strong brand presence it wasn't a hard choice in deciding to do a huge lifeboat as my base and using the boat itself as the draw.’

Seb Webster, RNLI Marketing and Visitor Experience Lead in the south west, said:

‘It was great to see the talent and effort in all the entries from the University of Plymouth students and we are looking forward to working with Georgina on developing her project through to completion.

‘We were amazed by the creativity and detail in Georgina’s project, which perfectly fulfilled the brief of a contactless collection box and will enable our supporters to give vital donations even when they don’t have cash to hand. As well as lifeboat stations and shops, in the south west we also have a range of RNLI visitor attractions and I’m sure this collection box will be a real asset at any one of those.’

Jamie Billing, Module Lead and Lecturer in Product Design, said:

‘It's been a fantastic experience working on this project with the RNLI, providing our students with their specialist insight, passion and energy for this important work.

These types of 'live' projects provide our students with a very special and unique experience, which is often not possible within a solely academic framework. I know our students really enjoyed engaging with the RNLI challenge and their learning was more comprehensive and relevant because of this.’

Georgina added:

‘It's been a huge learning experience for me, particularly working with my first external client. I'm so excited and so grateful that I've got the opportunity to see my idea realised. I can't wait for it to be in action and making a difference to the way the RNLI collects donations.’

Notes to editors

  • Photos of the prototype product and a mock up of it in use (Credit Georgina Sparks)

RNLI media contacts

For more information, please contact Marianne Quinn, Regional Media Officer, on Marianne_quinn@rnli.org.uk or 07786 668847, or Amy Caldwell, Regional Media Manager for the South West on 07920818807 or amy_caldwell@rnli.org.uk.

Georgina Sparks

A mock up of the collection box in action

Key facts about the RNLI

The RNLI charity saves lives at sea. Its volunteers provide a 24-hour search and rescue service around the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland coasts. The RNLI operates over 238 lifeboat stations in the UK and Ireland and, in a normal year, more than 240 lifeguard units on beaches around the UK and Channel Islands. The RNLI is independent of Coastguard and government and depends on voluntary donations and legacies to maintain its rescue service. Since the RNLI was founded in 1824, its lifeboat crews and lifeguards have saved over 142,700 lives.

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For more information please visit the RNLI website or Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. News releases, videos and photos are available on the News Centre.

Contacting the RNLI - public enquiries

Members of the public may contact the RNLI on 0300 300 9990 (UK) or 1800 991802 (Ireland) or by email.