The Road to Endeavour: What it takes to engineer the future
By Claudia Hooper
Imagine if a drone could wash the windows on a tall skyscraper or a sensor could detect when a watermelon has reached its optimum ripeness. These aren’t crazy contraptions from Wallace and Gromit, but just a taste of some of the ingenious inventions designed and built by our engineering and IT masters students that will be on display at our Endeavour Exhibition.
These projects also include life-saving and life-enhancing devices, with an app designed to predict devastating bushfires, non-invasive medical tools to detect severe illness and 3D printed prosthetics for children in amongst 130 different projects.
In the lead-up to the Exhibition, three teams will be documenting their journey as part of the Road to Endeavour competition. As part of the competition anyone can vote for their favourite project, with the winning team receiving $2000.
Window Washing Drone: Meet Ed, Matt and Matt
Suspended high in the sky, manually washing skyscraper windows is incredibly dangerous, and as our cities densify, we’ll require more people to undertake this kind of labour-intensive work. The window washing drone aims to do what is says on the can – to develop a prototype drone-based window washing system with the possibility of future commercialisation. Such a device could not only save time, but save people from doing unnecessarily dangerous work. The project involves designing and integrating external hardware and developing navigational systems to accurately clean building windows.
The team sensed a ‘window of opportunity’ and took on the challenge of starting a unique and complex drone-based system. “Our project really is new, nothing like this has been done before.” said Ed James. “The best part of this is that it means that we have enormous creative licence. We’re not building on from something that already exists, but instead designing all the systems from scratch ourselves.”
Our project really is new, nothing like this has been done before
The drone needs to be properly balanced, to have the correct set of window-washing capabilities and be able to access a water supply. “We’re electrical engineers, not plumbers, so this has definitely been a challenge for us,” said Mathew Knight.
The aim is to have a device that can anchor to the top of a building and draw water supply from there whilst it navigates down the window panes to keep them clean. This requires sophisticated sensors and counter-levering to ensure that the drone is always at the correct distance from the building.
The drone is fitted with LiDAR and sonar, allowing it to differentiate between glass and stone or concrete surfaces. “It’d be easy to design something that just cleans glass skyscrapers, but we need our window washing drone to tell the difference between concrete ledges as well as windows.” In this sense, the ledgendary design is truly putting all this group’s engineering skills to the test. They’ve had to test water flow and pressure as well as the figure out the optimum amount of water required to neatly clean a window.
“One of the best things we’ve done is to 3D print a lot of the materials for our prototype drone. This means we can easily upscale when it comes to making the real thing,” said Matt Walker.
Unfortunately for the team, current regulations in Australia make it difficult to properly test their prototype. As a result, the team will be travelling to Singapore where they can put their window wiping wizardry to the test.
InCora: non-invasively measuring pressure in the head: Meet Kulaghan, Laura, Chandra, Eric, and Rowan
Monitoring head pressure is critical for patients, with high pressure in the head possibly leading to brain damage, coma and sometimes even death. Monitoring head pressure is also of vital importance to doctors to help with diagnosis and treatment of illness. However, currently this measurement can only be conducted through surgery; through drilling in the skull. This highly invasive way of measuring pressure means that fewer patients are tested than could benefit from knowing their intracranial pressure.
This is the reason why a multidisciplinary team of biomedical engineering and Master of Business Administration (MBA) students have been working to develop a device that can measure this pressure without surgery. The team is working on commercialisation, finance, intellectual property and regulations as well as working with hospitals, clinicians and neurosurgeons to develop their prototype.
It’s exciting to learn from different areas and be able to put everything together to have an outcome that will improve people’s health
“We spent the first 2-3 months of the year going out into the healthcare sector and studying the various clinical needs out there. We settled on this particular project based on our overall interests and our skills,” said Kulagahan Kumaradevan.
“It’s exciting to learn from different areas (electrical, mechanical and so on) and be able to put everything together to have an outcome that will improve people’s health,” added Laura Castro.
3D-printed prosthetics for kids: Meet Matt and Michael
This team came together through their shared interest in an Engineers Without Borders project involving improving the functionality of prosthetics. Working with the charity Robohand Australia, the team have brought together their software and 3D printing knowledge to help work on a humanitarian project. 3D printing prosthetics has the potential to be cheaper and more accessible than current prosthetics, which is particularly beneficial for children who outgrow their prostheses quickly and require new ones that are able to fit their bodies.
“We really had the desire to stay away from something corporate or something that was all about a startup or making money really. We wanted to go with a bit more of a charity, give something back,” said Matt Collinson.
“We’re both mechanical engineers, so we really like the idea of these mechanically actuated prosthetics, and we’re both really keen on the 3D printing technology, so to combine that with a humanitarian aspect was something we were really keen on doing – we jumped on the project as soon as we saw it.”
The team also contacted Aussie Hands, a community group who work with children who have reduced hand function from either congenital, or traumatic conditions. This connection allows them to test their prostheses and receive feedback from patients themselves about what improvements need to be made.
The Endeavour Exhibition, led by Melbourne School of Engineering, showcases industry, design and research projects developed by our engineering and IT masters students.
Each year, our students work in collaboration with government and industry on projects to solve real-world challenges.
The Endeavour Exhibition showcases these projects, offering a unique opportunity for students to demonstrate their engineering and IT capabilities. This year, the Exhibition will present more than 130 diverse projects to members of the public, high schools, industry and current students.
Road to Endeavour is a component of Endeavour that highlights the journey students take from project conception to preparing for the Exhibition. Three teams are invited to video blog their project development in three episodes, capturing all the milestones, challenges and achievements in between.
The Endeavour Exhibition will be held on Thursday 18 October from 10.00am – 4.00pm at South Lawn, University of Melbourne.