Core77 Design Awards
- Other Years
THE POLAR BURRITO is a passive thermal rewarming device for individuals experiencing hypothermia. This project was brought to Year 3 Product Design Students by Mustang Survival, a well-established protective apparel company, after they were asked to design a hypothermia blanket for post-water rescue victims.
After a successful completion of a first prototype for urban search and rescue applications by the 2017 Student group, this Year's Product Design Class (2018) was asked to innovate and complete a next generation design for polar water conditions, specifically to be field tested by Sedna Epic - a group of (SeaWomen: Polar Snorkelers and Divers). The project reviewed precedents and undertook in-depth research and analysis including interviews with experts, development of scenarios, materials research and prototyping to inform the final design solutions.
The purpose of the Polar Burrito is to mitigate the effects of hypothermia in post water rescue victims by using passive rewarming technology. The design team first met with highly qualified and diverse industry specialists to better understand thermal physiology. Once they developed a base understanding of thermal properties, the team began to build and test their theories. Keeping the polar explorer at the forefront of the design, testing of various materials began, construction technologies were implemented, and usability features were analyzed to achieve the optimal combination for aiding in passive rewarming of a hypothermic patient in an extreme polar context.
The final Polar Burrito is a fully functioning design solution device, with future opportunities for further in-field testing within the polar landscape.
Exploration and studies in polar climates is ever increasing. With the desire to understand and connect with our planet, study the changing climate, and enjoy all that nature has to offer we are seeing more people venturing into this cold and often harsh climate. New technologies in materials and equipment has allowed people to push the limits and explore these cold climates in higher numbers, which in turn leads to greater risks. With this awareness, the Product Design Class of 2018 was presented with a goal. To develop a passive rewarming device for polar explorers that may be victims of hypothermia. Nothing currently on the market focuses on this niche demographic, where not only search and rescuers will be interacting with the device, but explorers themselves. This project consisted of the development of a new generation of the hypothermic Burrito design, with the focus on producing a functional prototype for use in a polar context. The process of this project involved the review of a previous prototype built for an urban recreational context by the 2017 Product Design class, an in-depth research and analysis phase, interviews with industry specialists, and material and user testing to determine problems and aid in our exploration to develop solutions.
Our process began by researching material technology currently available, seeking innovation opportunities, and exploring how we could take the valuable information provided from the previous team and our industry, academic and explorer/user experts further. Our initial investigation into the field of polar expeditions, human physiology, environmental conditions, and what is available on the market within the field of search and rescue informed the ideation phase and our prototype. This allowed us to create a functional hierarchy to determine what attributes we could improve upon or redevelop for this next generation concept. Furthermore we conducted simulation and material tests to evaluate the viability of the Polar Burrito prototype performance in a polar context. The outcome of our research and ideation phase focused solely on the development of a hypothermic Burrito for cold water rescue and rewarming.
We began this design process by developing a strong understanding of the physiology of hypothermia. To develop a device that would function accordingly in these conditions, we had to understand all the variables involved in achieving optimal thermal comfort for the victim. Our general understanding of human physiology was developed through interviews with Dr. Matt White, Professor at Simon Fraser University, who specializes in thermal physiology and regulation. In addition, we were aided by our professor, Sue Fairburn, who has a background in human sciences and environmental physiology. With key insights from these first interviews, we established our framework for the functional aspects we wanted to achieve in our prototype development. This framework was based on the thermal equation, which dictates the thermal balance of the hypothermic individual. This project aimed to incorporate our understanding of this equation in every feature through the ideation and prototype stages.
Developing an understanding of the demographics of the user profile and functional needs for polar explorers was informed by industry interviews, as well as through literature reviews, films, documentaries, and novels. We were fortunate to be able to interview Susan Eaton, Geologist and Arctic Explorer, who leads a team of all female explorers and arctic snorkelers known as Sedna Epic Expedition. This particular expedition team was our target market and aided our knowledge of polar expeditions to help understand the environmental scenarios we needed to consider. Interviews with Susan informed our understanding of current market options for explorers and the equipment being used within the Arctic context. Our user profile quickly evolved into two user levels;
2)Secondary; Search and Rescuer
We developed these user profiles based on the degree of interaction with the device, as Search and Rescue personnel are not always present on these expeditions. Through the interviews with our primary user group we were able to develop a narrative where the burrito would be used. The scenarios encompass a range of situations that explorers may find themselves in, which affect the hypothermic patient in a variety of different ways. Important factors include time, communication with rescue teams, the state of the patient, the geography and weather, and the available equipment. Polar conditions are harsh with up to 20-24 hours of darkness or sunlight depending on the season. Air temperatures are usually below freezing, with salt water freezing at -1.8° C. Barren snow filled landscapes, exposed ice, and extreme winds all create environmental elements that affect equipment performance. Using ethnographic research led us to develop user scenarios and informed our design criteria and material options.
As our objective was to mitigate effects of hypothermia in post water rescue victims in polar context, the following hierarchy of goals were outlined to guide our prototype process;
1 ) Thermal: The main goal is to ensure the functionality of the burrito for hypothermic victims through passive rewarming techniques. i.e. Keep them WARM AND DRY
2) Transportation: Space is limited and transportation costs are high, so the burrito must be easily packable for Polar Explorers, easy to carry for rescuers, and able to be used and stored on boats (Zodiacs and Supply Vessels).
3) Standard Protection from Elements: This may be used not just for hypothermia victims, but as a safe shelter from the extreme temperatures, wind and precipitation elements during wait for rescuers (i.e. the possibility of being stranded on a polar ice flow for 36 hours).
To achieve our design goals, material exploration began with the assistance of Mustang Survival and Wendell Uglene, the Director of Research and Development. As Mustang approached The Wilson School of Design with the initial opportunity to design a hypothermia device for post-water rescue victims, they were vital in our understanding of materials currently available for use. As our context was for the extreme cold environment, we had to develop a methodology to ensure that the performance criteria was achieved. We eliminated the use of plastic, metals, and elastics as much as possible, as they become brittle in cold temperatures. We identified materials to use based on our awareness of the thermal context in which they'd perform best. This led to our initial round of material testing to ensure the most efficient layers of textiles to be used in the development of a functioning passive rewarming device.
The final design concept and functional prototype was developed to meet our criteria. The Polar Burrito uses the latest in technical materials, achieving the optimal thermal performance within the polar context. It is easily packable into the provided dry bag, which can be stored in zodiacs, and ready for deployment when needed. The Polar Burrito features a three-way zipper to ensure quick and easy access when medical attention is required. Three zone protection flaps limit radiant heat loss while a custom designed zipper toggle ensures explorers can use the zipper whilst wearing gloves and provides lighting in extreme cases of limited visibility. The interior of the Polar Burrito has a waterproof lining along with a water absorbent contact layer to provide comfort for the patient. The Polar Burrito also includes a manual inflation pillow that adds perceived comfort while also keeping the head slightly elevated. The exterior textile selected is a waterproof ripstop which is extremely durable and red was chosen for its high heat absorption properties and polar visibility across the seasons. A removable natural fur hood reduces heat loss from convection, inspired by the current equipment used in Inuit /Indigenous arctic communities. The closure system was developed using velcro cinching for quick and secure adjustments of length and width. The closures reduce the surface area of the Polar Burrito allowing minimal contact to the ground, reducing conduction, and ensuring the interior environment is minimally affected by convection. Ten strategically placed handles are provided to create a durable base support system and allow for efficient and secure transport.
The design concept and build was completed in the Spring of 2018, however the testing of this final design continues through the relationship established with the Sedna Epic team. Our final functional prototype was developed to be tested in polar conditions, and has since been demonstrated on a snorkel safari off the coast of British Columbia and it has been sent to the Canadian Arctic for user feedback. Future development opportunities continue to be explored, with the opportunity to replace insulation and lining layers with higher functioning materials.
This design prototype was presented to an external panel of experts including the Canadian Coast Guard, Susan Eaton of Sedna Epic, Dr. Matt White, and Mr. Wendell Uglene and the feedback received was incredibly positive. The project has received ongoing attention from the media, from industry and from organizations who have identified possibly applications out with the explorer context, including: Arctic/Antarctic Cruises, Polar fishing vessels and Polar researchers.