Student entrepreneurs design solutions to real-world problems

27 August 2020
Student Innovation Challenge winners announced
University supports student entrepreneurs to take their big idea to the next level.

Technologies to help city planners track traffic, prevent diabetes-induced blindness and provide women with clear pathways into STEM careers are among the winners of the University of Sydney’s annual Student Innovation Challenge.

The Student Challenge is part of Connect for: A better future, a program of events from July - September 2020 celebrating innovation and impact.

Software helps city planners track traffic

Start-up Prize winner – Compass IOT

Design computing, arts, economics and commerce students Emily Bobis, Harrison Khannah, David Lee, Angus McDonald have won the Start-up Prize, which includes $10,000 and a three month membership to the Sydney Knowledge Hub to help grow their business.

Their business, Compass IOT is a software alternative to the expensive and time-consuming process of analysing traffic data, which is currently performed with hardware and traffic consultants.

The digital platform allows city planners, local councils and governments to view traffic data (including the number of vehicles and average speed) for any road in Australia, over any time period, instantly.

Team leader Emily Bobis, who is studying a Master of Commerce, said the team has already provided data to Transport for NSW, Transport Canberra and ASON group.

“We’re looking forward to using the prize as an opportunity to grow and continue to improve city planning processes through better traffic data. We hope that in the future, Compass IOT will be the gold standard for traffic and transport engineering,” Emily said.

New-generation satellite navigation

Research Innovation Prize winner – CROSS

Engineering and science students Joshua Critchley-Marrows, Dominic Albertson, Julian Guinane, Benjamin Jarvis and Matthew Suntup have won the Research Innovation Prize, which includes $5,000 in cash and a three month membership to the Sydney Knowledge Hub.

Their project, CROSS (Calculated Reference Of Stellar System), is a new-generation star tracker system for use in small-satellites being developed within the University’s School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering in collaboration with the ARC Training Centre for CubeSats, UAVs & Their Applications.

Star trackers measure a satellite's precise orientation in space, which enables the satellite to accurately perform complex tasks such as communication and imaging.

However, current technology is prohibitively large and expensive for the growing small satellite market. CROSS draws on novel research to develop a competitive and accessible star tracker that aims to grow Australia’s space capability.

“CROSS is a platform that has earned significant national and international interest," says team member Julian Guinane, who is studying a Bachelor of Engineering Honours (Aeronautical Engineering) and Bachelor of Science (Advanced).

"We are truly excited by the potential of the system and aim to see it operational in space next year. This prize makes a tremendous impact on the project, helping us to source space-grade equipment."

App to help prevent diabetes-induced blindness

Interdisciplinary Innovation Prize winner – iCARE

Master of Health Technology Innovation students Rui Gong, Xueying Yang and Zhanpeng Tang have won the Interdisciplinary Innovation Prize ($5,000) to bring to life their innovative app, iCARE, which aims to prevent vision loss in those with diabetes.

Diabetic retinopathy is one of the most common complications for those with diabetes. Caused by damage to the blood vessels in the tissue at the back of the eye, the retina, the condition affects one in three people with diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults.

Combining retinal cameras with the convenience of mobile health management, the app aims to assist people with diabetes track their eye health.

Team leader Rui Gong says the team also hopes the app will facilitate care coordination, improve the efficiency of referrals and ultimately, prevent blindness in people with diabetes.

“We hope that the perspective of interdisciplinary collaboration will enable us to make a difference in healthcare practice,” Rui said.

People’s choice winners

For the first time this year, the Student Innovation Challenge introduced people’s choice awards. The winners include strategies to detect money laundering and provide women with clear pathways into science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers, as well as a convertible bag to carry a life-saving artificial heart pump.

Undergraduate students Ayoan Salim Sadman, Charlie Sharpe, Megan Mirchandani, Nick McGarry, Silpa Sreekumar, who are studying in a wide range of disciplines, from history and law to engineering, won a people’s choice award for their idea of a deep-learning artificial intelligence system to detect money laundering.

Anti-artifice was borne out of a student industry project with Westpac earlier this year.

“We believe that our strategy would not only save billions of dollars of criminal transactions in the global banking industry, but also reduce attrition rates of criminal activity and as such, deter and increase accountability if such activity continues to occur in the future,” the team said.

PhD student Jessica Lea Dunn won a people’s choice award her VAD Purse: a lightweight, ergonomic and fashionable carry bag for women awaiting heart transplantation who are required to carry a life-saving artificial heart pump, called a Ventricular Assist Device (VAD), 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Undergraduate engineering students Isabelle Kohout and Gabriel Raubenheimer also won a people’s choice award for their idea, Poppy careers: A platform that provides women with clear pathways into STEM. The technology understands a user’s interests, how they like to work, and shows them perfectly suited career destinations, so women can carve their own paths into the world of STEM with clarity, inspiration, and confidence. 

Coding challenge assists vaccine research

University of Sydney students and staff were also invited to participate in a Coding Challenge to help understand vaccine related misinformation.

The Challenge will contribute to research by Associate Professor Adam Dunn, from the Faculty of Medicine and Health, on vaccine sentiment from Twitter posts.

Simon Cai and Benoit Berthelier tied for equal highest classification score for the Twitter dataset and will each receive a cash prize of $2250.

The team of Charles Hyland, Alexey Vlaskin, Xuanchi Liu, Eduardo Altmann and  Lamiae Azizi will receive the Artemis Prize of $500 for using the most novel techniques and approaching the problem with revealing insights.