Among the many students celebrating their graduations at Heriot-Watt this week is one who has already won a string of awards and acknowledgements for a sports innovation idea developed during his course, which he is hoping to turn into a business.
23 year old Michael Harkins, who has graduated in pharmaceutical chemistry, was originally supported in developing his idea for the next generation swimming aid the Turtle Pack by his sister Lisa, who has just completed the second year of the same course at Heriot-Watt. Both are keen swimmers with Livingstone Dolphins, where Michael now also works part time as head swimming teacher.
Michael continued to develop the concept in parallel with his course and in partnership with external groups, and hopes to take the product to production now that he has completed his studies. His aim is to address the alarming statistic that 40% of children in the UK cannot swim and that drowning is the third highest cause of accidental death in Britain.
Michael, whose father Thomas also graduated from Heriot-Watt, in accountancy and finance, in 1981, hopes the Turtle Pack will be a real help to new swimmers. The product, he says offers novice swimmers free arm movement, the correct horizontal body position, and is progressional as swimmers develop their own confidence, and fun and engaging for young swimmers.
He says that that the thread of entrepreneurship which is core to Heriot-Watt's approach has helped him to get him this far with his development plans, and particularly noted the support he had from the Converge team, based at Heriot-Watt, in assisting with the development of Turtle Pack.
“The Turtle Pack provides freedom of movement in combination with streamlined support, providing novice swimmers with the level of support they need as their swimming skills develop.
“I am grateful for the wider support I have received while combining developing the Turtle Pack with my degree course, and am looking forward to developing and producing it for the market, to support both the youngsters I teach and the wider community.”