Engineering with impact: our top stories of 2019

30 December 2019
From high-powered rockets and ketone breathalysers to epilepsy prediction devices and cybersecurity: these are some of 2019's top engineering stories.

The University of Sydney team was the first Australian team to ever compete in and win at Spaceport America Cup.

1. Sydney rocketry team wins at prestigious US rocketry competition 

The University of Sydney Rocketry Team was announced as a winner in the Spaceport America Cup intercollegiate rocketry competition, having competed in the 10,000 feet commercial off-the-shelf category.

The team was the first Australian team to attend and compete in the university rocketry competition held annually in New Mexico.

Competing against 51 student teams from around the globe, including Princeton and ETH Zurich, the University of Sydney team claimed victory with its custom-built rocket, Silvereye, in the 10,000 feet commercial off-the-shelf category.

Of the win, team president André Franck Bauer said: “Our win represents the biggest achievement for university student rocketry in Australia’s history. We are proud to have represented our country well and look forward to collaborating with other universities for next year’s competition.”

Read the full story.

2. It could pay to get personal at work – here's why

In July, Faculty of Engineering academics, Associate Professor Julien Pollack and Dr Petr Matous, conducted research that suggests sharing a bit more in the workplace can be both personally rewarding and beneficial.

"We suggest there is a better team-building approach. It doesn’t involve bicycles or obstacle courses or whitewater rafting. It doesn’t even necessarily involve your whole team. It’s about understanding that teams are social networks built on connections between individuals. It involves deep one-on-one conversations, designed to get people out of their comfort zones," said Associate Professor Pollack and Dr Matous. 

Read their opinion piece here.

3. Epilepsy prediction device receives Microsoft grant 

The University of Sydney's Faculty of Engineering was awarded an AI for Accessibility grant from Microsoft to support its efforts developing solutions that improve the independence for people living with epilepsy.

The grant is helping the University to accelerate its work on a seizure advisory system for adult individuals diagnosed with epilepsy who want or used to drive a vehicle.

The system, NeuroSyd, aims at real-time monitoring and processing of brain-signals while driving, in a group of people living with epilepsy. NeuroSyd will be developed to deliver an early warning of the likelihood of an epileptic seizure strike.

Electrical engineering expert from the University of Sydney's Faculty of Engineering and Deputy Director of the University of Sydney Nano Institute Dr Omid Kavehei hopes the technology will bring independence to those living with epilepsy.

Read the full story.

4. Over 2,000 fake Android apps discovered

As part of a two-year cyber security project, researchers from the Faculty of Engineering's School of Computer Science and Data61-CSIRO investigated over one million Google Play apps and discovered 2,040 potential counterfeit apps.

Above: Visually similar app icons in the top-10 apps of Google Play, which were not necessarily malicious. The researchers’ method, detailed in the paper, gave each app a similarity score based on style, content, structural similarity, hashing and the number of features detected on each icon.

Many of the fake apps impersonated highly popular apps and contained malware, with popular games such as Temple Run, Free Flow and Hill Climb Racing being the most commonly counterfeited. The study also found that several counterfeit apps request dangerous data access permissions despite not containing any known malware.

Counterfeit or ‘fake’ apps are often used by hackers to steal user data or infect a device with malware. Installing counterfeit apps can lead to a hacker accessing personal data and can have serious consequences such as financial losses or identity theft.

Read the full story.

5. New device could replace need for diabetes pin prick testing


Monitoring blood levels with the prick of a finger could be replaced with just a breath in a matter of years, thanks to a ketone monitoring device that will soon be taken from the lab to the clinic for trials.

Working collaboratively with AusMed Global and the Australian Trade and Investment Commission, a team of researchers from the University of Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital recently unveiled the breath ketone analyser at the Hong Kong Trade Development Council’s International Medical and Healthcare Fair.

Led by Professor Xiaoke Yi, the device is being developed to allow people living with type 1 diabetes to better manage and detect incidences of ketoacidosis, a life-threatening medical emergency that occurs when the body does not produce enough insulin, causing the liver to produce high levels of ketones that damage the surrounding organs.

Read the full story.

Low Luisa

Media and PR Adviser (Engineering & IT)

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