Q&A with Carvey Maigue, on fighting climate change with his award-winning invention
Carvey Ehren Maigue never imagined that fighting climate change would result in an invention that would change his life. And maybe, even, change the world.
The Mapúa University student recently became the first-ever Sustainability winner at the James Dyson Award 2020 for his invention AuREUS, a device that makes use of waste fruits and vegetables to capture ultraviolet (UV) light and transform it into renewable energy. His invention bested 1,800 entries from design engineers all over the world to be personally chosen by the Awards founder James Dyson, a British inventor who developed the Dual Cyclone bagless vacuum cleaner.
Winning the award has a sense of both a beginning and an end. As it marks the end of years of self-doubt and the beginning of bringing AuREUS to the world, Carvey aims to continue to address climate change, carrying his hope for a more sustainable future for the next generation.
“Carvey has done Mapúa proud,” says Mapúa University president and chief executive officer Dr. Reynaldo B. Vea. “His work on utilizing UV as a new source of renewable energy through environmentally sound resources is worthy of global recognition. We feel good in the thought that his knowledge and talent will make a huge difference and change the world for good in the years to come.
In a recent question and answer encounter, the student inventor shares his motivation, inspiration, and journey while working on the globally acknowledged invention.
What was the inspiration or the incident that gave birth to AuREUS?
“It is a combination of the things I learned along the way. But if there’s a single idea that holds all of these, I believe that if we want to fight climate change, the best approach would definitely be embracing renewable energy.
“It is something experimental. When I was a kid, I could still play up to nine or 10 in the morning. But now, it has become impossible for children to do the same because of the excessive heat. I hope that someday children will experience that scenario again. Whenever I’m struggling, I always go back to that resolve.”
In 2018, you applied and failed at the James Dyson competition. Did this ever discourage you?
“Yes, a part of me was discouraged because I told myself, ‘My invention was good. Why didn’t it win?’ But eventually I went back to my core resolve. It is not to join a contest and gain recognition but to help fight climate change. So even if I don’t win, it’s okay.
“I just accepted what happened as a challenge to enhance my work. I thought there might be areas that were still lacking and that I could still improve on. It was what drove my participation this 2020.”
Was that the only inspiration?
“I can say that this invention was a result of an accidental discovery. It is an evolution of how we harness solar energy by harvesting a larger range of sunlight as compared to what normal solar panels can.
“I wondered if we could convert solar energy in a sustainable and inexpensive manner, where the manufacturing process would not be destructive. We have good ideas for solutions to our problems, we need to deliver these solutions through a sustainable process.”
What is the importance of AuREUS and for whom do you want this to be most beneficial?
“The agricultural sector can benefit from this invention, especially the farmers who are oftentimes affected by climate-driven typhoons. I hope that as we progress, they can make a profit out of their damaged crops to help them rehabilitate or improve their source of livelihood. It is in this way that the technology and process becomes sustainable.
“I also hope that my journey will spark the interest of students in engineering and science. It feels great to know that in this field, we have the capacity to provide solutions to various problems.
“Filipinos have a lot of ideas, and I hope we realize that it is possible to turn these ideas into actual solutions. We must encourage the youth to pursue and explore things and to not be discouraged because of failures. There are people who are actually expecting innovations from the Philippines. That’s why we need to keep going.”
What learnings do you want to impart to aspiring engineers and innovators?
“First, do not limit yourself within your field. You should be open to other experiences, whether it’s photography, arts, music, or anything else. When you are exposed to different environments, you have a lot of options to draw ideas from.
“For AuREUS, one of the concepts is UV (ultraviolet light)-to-visible light conversion. I got the inspiration from illuminating bottles and glasses. Plus, I also like astrophotography.
“That inspiration made me explore the possibility of converting UV to visible light before transforming it into electricity. Converting UV to electricity is very hard to do, and I thought I wouldn’t be able to succeed if I just restricted myself to reading and learning electrical engineering subjects.”
Now that you are the competition’s Sustainability Winner, how does it feel to be chosen among the thousands of young innovators? What is your next plan?
“I felt a sense of validation. When I started on this invention, I was the only one who believed in it and that it had potential. Now, people from different parts of the world and from different industries are interested to learn about AuREUS.
“Currently, I am still developing the prototypes for windows and walls to make them storm resilient. Hopefully, by the first or second quarter of next year, we can complete those and eventually expand into other technologies and applications.”
Did winning the competition change anything for you so far?
“Before, I would see this product only as a technology. But my experience in engaging with different people while building this product made me realize there were people and values that we needed to consider in order to give this technology a great purpose.
“More than being great and advanced, this technology must change lives and the environment for the better. I had to be more responsible and careful if I wanted this to grow and expand.
“My perspective changed from being purely technical to be more people- and product-centric. But definitely, I am still at the beginner level, and there’s still a lot to improve towards the end.”
Who are the people who supported you along your journey as a participant of the James Dyson Award?
“When I was working on the early versions, the laboratory assistants of Mapúa helped me a lot in testing them and finding out what worked. My mother also supported me. Being the eldest, there’s the natural pressure that I have to graduate, support the schooling of my siblings, and help my parents. But my mother never pressured me. I experienced the freedom to explore, develop, and continue studying.
“Of course, there was the support of our Dean Alejandro Ballado Jr. and my subject teachers. The people behind the James Dyson Awards also helped and supported me throughout this journey.
“It’s also an advantage for me to have this kind of environment in Mapúa wherein the pressure is high and the time flies fast, which is why you need to act quickly. If you failed, it’s okay. Just keep going. For me, that’s one of my advantages against my competitors.
“My classmates, professors, the Mapúa administrators, and even my fellow Mapúans, all of them are part of this success because they helped in defining who I am.”