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Curtinnovation award winners 2021

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Henry Thai
overall winner feature
// // The annual awards were held this afternoon at Optus Stadium. We have all the winners' info and photos from the event...

The annual Curtinnovation Awards was held today at packed Riverview Room at the Optus Stadium. Startup News was there to watch the celebration of some outstanding research offering real-world solutions.

This year, the field of winners includes:

  • a microchip that can monitor animal health,
  • an alternative to ear implants that helps children with chronic ear infections,
  • a mobile app that helps law enforcement officers identify offenders quickly from their marks, scars and tattoos,
  • a virtual training platform to help teach pharmacology,
  • menstrual health education, and
  • a new way to monitor black pepper crops in Malaysia.

Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran praised this years recipients. He also spoke about the importance of making the path to commercialisation more rapid, recalling exemplars of the practice such as the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

“We should not wait. We should just on with it,” Prof Moran said.

Curtinnovation award winners 2021
MC of the Curtinnovation Awards 2021, Director of Commercialisation, Rohan McDougall.


Curtinnovation award winners 2021
The winning VetChip team, in matching shirts. See names below.

The smart microchip can be placed under the skin of dogs, cats, horses and other livestock.

Inside the device, minute sensors monitor an animal’s heart rate, temperature, respiratory rate, stress levels, location and activity, with that information then relayed to the animals’ owners or veterinary staff via a smartphone app.

VetChip team. Image: Supplied.

Expecting to be rolled out to veterinary practices across the country as early as next year, the device was lauded by Curtin University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran as:

“… believed to be the first of its kind in the world and will offer pet owners and veterinary staff vital, real-time health information about their beloved animals through the use of a smartphone app,”

Deputy Vice-Chancellor Research Professor Chris Moran

Professor Moran said the team of Curtin engineering alumni worked with Fremantle Animal Hospital’s veterinarians to finetune their idea as part of Curtin Accelerate, an intensive 10-week program that helps transform a brilliant idea into a successful business, earlier this year.

Team: Dr Garnett Hall and Dr Maxwell Hall, from Fremantle Animal Hospital, along with Mr Zyrus Khambatta, Mr Ross Khambatta, Mr Pendar Dalili and Mr Dilesh Wadia.

Faculty of Health Sciences winner – EarBuddy

Curtinnovation award winners 2021
Two of the winning EarBuddy team, Dr Matt Oldakowski and Mrs Intan Oldakowska, with Prof Moran (left)

The device is used to treat children with chronic ear infections in a non-invasive way.

Current treatment usually involves implanting pressure equalisation tubes under general anaesthesia to ventilate the middle ear through the eardrum, however, this is costly and can involve complications.

These ear infections are common in children, and and may cause hearing difficulties, discomfort and a delay in language and speech development.

The EarBuddy is a non-invasive device that drains the middle-ear fluid in children with chronic ear infections, avoiding the need for surgery.

EarBuddy looks like a sippy cup, and contains a nasal interface that senses when a child swallows and delivers a gentle puff of air into the nasal cavity, which releases the trapped fluid. Children can use the device independently or with assistance.

Team: Dr Matt Oldakowski, Mrs Intan Oldakowska, Associate Professor Peter Santa Maria and Dr Paul Bumbak

Faculty of Business and Law winner – Mobile app uses marks, scars and tattoos to identify suspects

Curtinnovation award winners 2021
Ms Ash Roberts, Associate Professor Vidyasagar Potdar, Associate Professor Amy Tian, WA Police.

The new mobile app has been endorsed by the WA Police senior leadership team, who plan to deploy it across the entire WA Police force.

What does the app do you may ask?

While some agencies record notable features like marks, scars, and tattoos of a suspect on paper in the form of hand-drawn sketches, the app makes the process easier and faster.

The app captures and annotate images of suspects and records the location, scale, colour and description of their unique markings.

The app also includes a search engine to identify possible offenders that match a text description or a physical image. 

Team: Associate Professor Vidyasagar Potdar, Associate Professor Amy Tian, Mr Jason Luppnow and Ms Ash Roberts, from Innovation Central Perth.

Faculty of Humanities winner – VIT∞Ls

Curtinnovation award winners 2021
The winning VITools team – see names below

The name may be perplexing, but the irony is that VIT∞Ls is a virtual learning platform that makes pharmacology less perplexing.

It provides teachers with the ability to scaffold learning material, whereby learning materials from different areas and levels of a course are incorporated into one simulation.

The platform is designed primarily for teaching and training in pharmacology, which is an integral discipline of pharmacy, medicine, nursing, paramedicine and other biomedical sciences. 

The virtual reality platform includes a simulation where learners can administer various medicines to a patient and observe what happens, which can’t be done in a laboratory setting.

Another simulation shows the effect of drugs on a patient at the cellular level.

Team: Dr Rima Caccetta, Associate Professor Lisa Tee, Associate Professor Francesco Mancini, Mr Jonathan Pillai, Mr Justin Owen, Associate Professor Aneesh Krishna, and Mr Matt Reed.

Learning and Teaching winner – My Vital Cycles

Curtinnovation award winners 2021
The winning My Vital Cycles team member Felicity Roux, with Prof Moran.

Researchers found that when girls first start their periods, and experience period related pain, mood swings and other symptoms, many do not seek or receive appropriate care.

This may be due to a lack of ovulatory-menstrual education, with the Australian education curriculum covering this topic in just one lesson per year. 

My Vital Cycles is a learning program to address this gap, by delivering a programme that includes activities, videos and interactive workbooks and can be embedded into the school curriculum, to help students make informed health decisions throughout their lives.

Team: Mrs Felicity Roux, Mrs Kammi Rapsey, Ms Alexei Tsallis, Professor Sharyn Burns, Dr Jacqui Hendriks, and Dr Jun Chih.

International winner – AgriSmartEye

When your food arrives, but lacks a certain caprice, the waiter may offer you some cracked pepper from a large mill.

But what if the pepper was never offered? What might be a reason?

Existing methods to maintain and improve the quality of the pepper are time-consuming and uneconomical, and are an important agricultural commodity in Sarawak, contributing to more than 95 per cent of Malaysia’s pepper industry.  

As a premium product, it is important to ensure that it is sold as a pure, unadulterated product without added bulk contaminants.

A research team from Curtin University Malaysia has proposed a rapid, reliable and cost-effective screening tool that uses hyperspectral imaging technologies combined with deep learning artificial neural networks, to not only detect pollutants in the black pepper powder, but also indicate its chemical composition and geographical origin.

Hyperspectral imaging is commonly used in agriculture to analyse crop development and health. In more recent times, those devices may sit underneath a drone. The technology has also been used in surveillance, and astronomy.

The tool can be used by local producers, traders and regulatory bodies such as the Malaysia Pepper Board.

Team: Associate Professor Agus Saptoro and Mr Terence Chia Yi Kai, from Curtin Malaysia.


Photos – Henry Thai

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Henry Thai

Henry studies engineering at Curtin University. He has a diverse set of interests and was previously a journalist and news presenter for 107.3fm and The Wire National Current Affairs on Radio.
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