Hope floats: Student creates a chair that transforms into an emergency life raft

Published September 14, 2022, 4:36 AM

by Jessica Pag-iwayan

Project Noah is among this year’s national James Dyson Award finalists

Data have shown that annually, the Philippines has over 20 typhoons—five of which have the potential to be destructive. Flooding has become the most frequent and widespread natural disaster in many cities across the country and drowning accounts for 75 percent of deaths in flood disasters.

This is what inspired college student Aleksander Wieneke from the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde to invent Noah—an indoor chair that can transform into an emergency life raft in case of a flood. And this project was hailed as one of the finalists in this year’s national James Dyson Awards competition.

“When I was nine years old, Typhoon Ondoy hit the Philippines affecting millions. Today, flooding remains to be a problem, with low-middle income countries being most affected. Floods are the most frequent natural disaster and are expected to increase in frequency and severity due to climate change,” he says. “Drowning accounts for 75 percent of deaths due to floods, but victims also experience limited mobility, sickness, slow emergency response, damaged belongings, stranding, and so forth, yet most do not own emergency equipment. An emergency device that can better assimilate into victims’ lives and help make disaster response more proactive, can save more lives.”

How it works

According to the project description, Noah can be used as a chair, and transformed into a raft through a simple origami technique. The seat is detached from the base and opens to become the raft. The seat is reattached inside the raft, assuring Noah’s reuse after a flood. 

Archimedes’ principle is also applied rather than air, simplifying the assembly, and reducing the risk of puncture. The seat’s center of gravity is as close as possible to the center of buoyancy. A flat hull makes it stable and ideal for the passage range and type of water it will be used in. Variations of Polypropylene are used to simplify production. It is low-cost, chemical resistant, abrasion-resistant, and anti-impact, making it stronger than an inflatable. It’s recyclable, lightweight, rated for over 20,000 folds, and electrically insulated. There are handles on all four sides to grip onto, attach a cord, or link multiple rafts together. It also features storage, a paddle with a bow hook, and reflective tape for visibility.

“Most consumer flood products are inadequate for severe floods, costly, or intrusive to the home, especially for low-middle income households,” he says. “Noah is unique since it can be used like any other indoor chair but is also an emergency device that is quick to setup, lightweight, and easy to use. This makes disaster response more proactive on the household level.” 

Moving forward, Weineke wants to run more comprehensive test to have Project Noah certified and validated. He’s also looking forward to have it manufactured, distributed to various non-profit organizations, and even made available to the mass market.