How fabrics can change our future

By Global Challenges Travel Scholar Syamak Farajikhah,

In mid-November 2017, I had the opportunity to stay in Melbourne for a week to do a lab visit at RMIT University School of Fashion and Textiles and initiate some collaboration.

The Global Challenges Travel Scholarship provided my funding and facilitated my trip to Melbourne. I am currently a PhD student at UOW’s Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) working on producing different fibers and textile-based microfluidic devices. Visiting RMIT University and having access to their fascinating textile fabrication facilities, provided me the opportunity to make different textile designs as low cost templates for textile-based microfluidic devices.

RMIT School of Fashion and Textiles

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Postcard from Boston

by Global Challenges Travel Scholar, Malachy Maher

In March 2017, I travelled to Boston, Massachusetts, to attend the third annual BioEngineering: BioMEMS, 3D-BioPrinting & Synthetic Biology conference, and what an experience it was!

I am currently studying a double masters in Biofabrication, which combines 3D printing and tissue engineering. I have worked on projects for articular cartilage regeneration, biomaterial development and creating heart patches for cardiac muscle regeneration. This conference however, focused on another branch of Biofabrication, specifically organ-on-a-chip and microfluidics. These two topics aim to model the functions of organs, allowing for advances in tissue regeneration, drug discovery and toxicology testing. Needless to say, I was very excited to attend this conference and expand my knowledge in this multi-disciplinary field.

I am currently on exchange in Utrecht, the Netherlands, so I departed from Amsterdam and travelled to Boston. There was a large storm in Boston the day before I arrived which cancelled many planes, but I arrived smoothly to a snow-covered city which was looked beautiful.

Remaining snow in Boston after the big storm

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Southern Manufacturing Innovation Group – first meet-up for 2017

By Global Challenges Research Assistant, Jessica Grozdanov (Manufacturing Innovation)

I attended my first Southern Manufacturing Innovation Group (SMIG) event last week, and despite the terrible weather there was record high attendance. The March event was all about robotics and automation! And who isn’t excited or interested in robots! The evening brought together people from the all over the region in a variety of backgrounds, from researchers to industry workers to entrepreneurs from start-ups.

There were several guest speakers including those from UOW as well as industry.  First we heard from Nathan Larkin (pictured above left), a UOW researcher showing us how robots can be used in the workplace. Having processes automated and how this can all be integrated into current systems to increase efficiency and accuracy.  He is also involved in the Global Challenges Project on Robotic Fabrication in Architecture and Arts.

Next we heard from Professor Gursel Alici, part of UOW’s soft robotics team. Everyone’s imagination went wild, thinking of all the possibilities as we saw lots of cool ideas and demos, one of the most memorable for me, a student controlling a robotic hand that was fully 3D printed using sensors on his own arm (see image right on screen). Definitely a space to watch closely, we will have humanoid robots before we know it! Continue reading

How I turned my prototype into a real product

by Tor Gerde, InnovationWorks! 2016 Winner

Stunning mountain scenery in Norway

While hiking in the mountains of my home country in Norway, and taking in the nature with aerial photography, I ran into a big problem.  All of my gadgets started “dying” on me because the batteries were running low – I needed some sort of way to generate power/electricity and quickly!

I arrived in Australia in June 2015. While settling into student life at UOW, I came across Global Challenges’ InnovationWorks! Student Prototype Competition.

I had enrolled in a Mechatronic Engineering degree, so I was really looking forward to making all kinds of electrical circuits and to learn more about how the technology we surround ourselves with on a daily basis, actually works. My classes and lectures allowed me to gain theoretical knowledge, but entering the InnovationWorks! competition enabled me to also start developing my practical skills over a number of weeks in the lab with specialist advice.  It allowed me the perfect platform to start solving the problem I had back home while hiking the mountains. Continue reading

Postcard from Cuba: Supply Chain Management and POMS

By Global Challenges Scholar Emily Ryan

Author, Emily Ryan attending the 2016 POMS conference in Cuba

Author, Emily Ryan attending the 2016 POMS conference in Cuba

Starting my PhD I had no idea where I would find myself along the journey, turns out Cuba would be on the list of stops… but I’m getting ahead of myself. My name is Emily Ryan and I’m a Global Challenges Scholar in the area of Manufacturing Innovation. I’m not a Scientist or an Engineer but I do want to connect these people with each other to foster manufacturing innovation and that is where my research comes in. From a Business background, majoring in Supply Chain Management, I understand that when everyone in an industry works together through collaboration there is an opportunity to boost the whole industry, this is why I am looking at supply chain clusters. My research aims to understand the forces that drive supply chain cluster development within the sustainable buildings industry, particularly in the Illawarra. As this research falls in the production and operations field I was very fortunate to attend the 5th World Conference of Production and Operations Management (POMS) which was held in Havana, Cuba in September 2016. Continue reading

Think it. Design it. Make it: Innovation Works! opens for 2016

By Professor Geoffrey Spinks

The team who created an educational tool powered by artificial muscles, which was one of two projects to take out the first Innovation Works! in 2014. Photo credit: Paul Jones

The team who created an educational tool powered by artificial muscles, which was one of two projects to take out the first Innovation Works! in 2014. Photo credit: Paul Jones

Like many other academics, I spend a lot of time thinking about things – trying to come up with solutions to the various problems we are interested in.

In my case, I’m interested in developing new technologies from advanced materials and my special interest is in artificial muscle materials for robotics and medical devices.

We’ve had a lot of success in improving the performance of the artificial muscles.

Our latest collaborative work has shown that we can convert ordinary polymer fibres (like nylon fishing line) into high performance artificial muscles that have a power-to-weight ratio of a jet engine. The real beauty of these materials, however, is their simplicity and accessibility.

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Postcard from Seoul: one step closer to affordable MRI scans

The author at the North Seoul Tower. Photo credit: Dipak Patel

The author at the North Seoul Tower. Photo credit: Dipak Patel

By Dipak Patel

I was really excited as soon as I found out I was awarded with a Global Challenge Travel Scholarship. I wanted to use the scholarship to attend a conference to present my new research outcomes and visit overseas labs to discover new research facilities.

This time, I was preparing myself to attend a Magnet Technology Conference (MT-24) from October 18 to 23 at the COEX, Seoul, South Korea. My abstract was selected for a contributed oral presentation on a development of the ‘Superconducting Joining Process’ for a magnesium diboride superconductor. This technology is considered as one of the key technology for realising affordable MRI machines.

Before the conference started, I wanted to see some places in Seoul and know South Korean people as much as I could. Thus, I reached Seoul on October 16.

I had a stopover at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I was impressed with the typical Vietnamese ladies dress. I saw most of the ladies at the airport wear the same pattern traditional Vietnamese dress, which I hadn’t seen anywhere before.

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Illawarra Solar Hub

Blogpost by Dr Andrew Nattestad, AIIM

The Illawarra Solar Hub was set up as part of an application for a Major Equipment Grant (MEG) in 2013. This application was successful and allowed UOW to establish a state-of-the-art solar simulator and quantum efficiency testing station to enhance the impact of solar energy conversion research projects across various research centres at UOW.

The idea of setting up the Solar Hub originated in the realisation there was a discontinuity between the research being undertaken at The Intelligent Polymer Research Institute (IPRI) and Institute For Superconducting & Electronic Materials (ISEM) (small scale test devices) and that of our colleagues at the Sustainable Buildings Research Centre (SBRC) (sub-module to module scale), and in the Faculty of Engineering and Information Sciences (EIS). Even in the preliminary stages of discussion a number of interesting concepts were floated as possible projects, which were not apparent to any one area alone.

A major impediment to transferability of technologies was the lack of scalable characterisation facilities. The 2013 MEG allowed us to purchase equipment to fill this gap. High quality characterisation equipment such as this is an essential element in high quality, high impact publications.

Furthermore, having a common system, housed within the Australian Institute for Innovative Materials (AIIM) facility also located at UOW’s Innovation Campus, will facilitate more discussion between researchers across the university as well as providing opportunities for organisations external to the university to become involved.

The Illawarra Solar Power initiative was launched on 25th September with the support of Global Challenges.


The new solar simulator (left) and quantum efficiency measurement system (right)

In essence the idea of the hub is to act as a mechanism to kick start interdisciplinary collaborations between researchers working on related yet disconnected projects ranging from photocatalysis, third generation photovoltaic concept devices through to module testing and electrical grid management.

For those interested in learning more about the Illawarra Solar Hub or to get involved, please email Dr Andrew Nattestad.

Global Challenges: Transforming the way we do research

At UOW we’re transforming the way we do research.

Dr Leah Gibbs

Dr Leah Gibbs, Chief Investigator on Global Challenges project “Sharks: Threatened and threatening?”

The Global Challenges Program is a strategic research initiative that is focused on transformative interdisciplinary research.

To contribute to a national discussion on challenge-led research, the Program leaders have written a whitepaper on Challenge-Led Interdisciplinary Research Programs.

In this whitepaper we offer a reflection on our experience and the successes and challenges since the inception of Global Challenges two year’s ago.

There are multitudes of ways to orchestrate interdisciplinary research. What is essential however, is the desire to find a new approach that successfully aligns with a shared commitment to research excellence and passion to transform lives and regions.

This approach broadens the application of disciplinary expertise, stretching beyond disciplinary comfort zones towards a shared challenge. In this sometimes uncomfortable, but novel space, lie possibility and opportunity.

Find out more about how we bring researchers together, fund and grow interdisciplinary projects and witness innovation unfold.

We invite you to learn more about the Global Challenges Program, or by contacting the Global Challenges team.  Or let us know your thoughts below.

Winners of 2015 Innovation Works! Prototype Competition

Innovation Works! is a Prototype Competition run each year to help UOW students turn their ideas into reality.  This project is a collaboration with UOW’s Australian Institute for Innovative Materials and provides students the opportunity to win a 10-week program to assist them to design and build a new product concept.

During the competition period students had access to space, facilities such as 3D printing, training and assistance to help them develop a prototype.

The competition concluded with a public demonstration held on 20th August followed by a presentation given to a panel of four UOW judges.  Teams were judged against the criteria of how well their prototype performed; originality; and their plans for taking their ideas forward.

IMG_3910The judging panel were very impressed by all finalists, but have awarded First Prize to: “Unmanned aircraft system as a search and rescue tool” by Nathan Tarlinton and Sally Reynolds.

Congratulations to the winning team (pictured right), who receive $500 each in prize money and a place in UOW Pitch to further develop their prototype.

The judges also commended the other finalists for their endeavours.

Runner-up: Low-Cost Two-Phase Expander For Low-Grade Waste Heat Recovery” – (Muhammad) Fahad Alizai

 Highly Commended:

  • Solar Charged Sodium Ion Battery Power Bank” – Zhe Hu, Weijie Li, Qiuran Yang And Weihong Lai
  • Project Tactile” – Daniel Cvetkovski

Click here to read the media release.  For more information about each project and to watch the finalists’ video diaries, visit the Innovation Works! webpage.