Enabilise: working with users to create new mobility aids

Enabilise is examining how to improve mobility aids such as walking sticks. Photo credit: iStock

Enabilise is examining how to improve mobility aids such as walking sticks. Photo credit: iStock

By Dr Eliza de Vet

How do you imagine yourself as an older person? Are you hunched over your uniform grey walker, fearful of falling, no longer able to bend your knee for a game of lawn bowls?

These are not the images we see for ourselves, but they are scenarios facing older people today. In the next few years, changes to mobility support need to be made, not only for the benefit of future generations, but our own parents and grandparents.

Mobility is key to quality of life, independent living, and physical and mental wellbeing. Maintaining mobility as we age allows us to continue activities as normal, retaining our self-sufficiency and involvement in the community.

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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 Scotland: Talking bras with biomechanists

By Celeste Coltman, Global Challenges Travel Scholar

A popular coblestone street in Glasgow's West End. Photo credit: Celeste Coltman

A popular coblestone street in Glasgow’s West End. Photo credit: Celeste Coltman

With the help of a Global Challenges Travel Scholarship, I attended the 25th Congress of the International Society of Biomechanics in Glasgow, Scotland. The conference, which was held on July 12-16, is the largest meeting of biomechanists in the world.

I arrived to a cold, wet and rather bleak Glasgow, smack bang in the middle of the Scottish summer, which was not too different to Wollongong in July.

The Scottish are certainly not lucky enough to enjoy the summers that we get, but what they lack in weather they make up for in character.

My Nan is Scottish, but it was actually my first time to Scotland, nonetheless, the accent certainly was very familiar.

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VIDEO: A Conversation With Professor Geoffrey Brooks

 

Professor Geoffrey Brooks, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Swinburne University of Technology.

Professor Geoffrey Brooks, Pro Vice-Chancellor at Swinburne University of Technology.

Professor Geoffrey Brooks, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Future Manufacturing) at Swinburne University of Technology, sat down with Global Challenges Manufacturing Innovation leader, Professor Geoffrey Spinks, in July as part of the A Conversation With series.

The event, held in front of a large audience of students and academics, was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about the current state of the manufacturing industry and what’s in store for the future.

Professor Brooks spoke about his career, his interest in the manufacturing sector, and why industries must innovate to survive.

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Can data transform the manufacturing industry?

How can analytics benefit the manufacturing industry? Photo credit: ThinkStock

How can analytics benefit the manufacturing industry? Photo credit: ThinkStock

 By Abhijith Anand, Global Challenges PhD Scholar

Consciously or unconsciously, manufacturing industries have been collecting data from the many machines and equipment that are used in everyday routines.

The complexity and the granularity of the data vary from simple transactional logs to temperatures, location, and diagnostic information on the machines and organisational processes. Every time machines interact with other machines or any agents of change, data is born.

Advancements in information systems and technology have enabled manufacturers to aggregate the data from multiple machines and store in the data warehouses. However, the question is: can we derive value from the data that is artlessly sitting in data warehouses?

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Lessons from Cleveland: why manufacturing matters

By Manufacturing Innovation leader Professor Geoff Spinks

Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo credit: iStock

Middlesbrough Transporter Bridge in Cleveland, Ohio. Photo credit: iStock

CLEVELAND, OHIO: Manufacturing Innovation is one of the three inaugural themes within the University of Wollongongs Global Challenges Program, which are united under the aim of Transforming Lives and Regions.

But why should we worry about manufacturing? Is it a problem if all manufacturing disappears from the Illawarra and Australia? After all, as consumers we already benefit considerably from low-cost imported manufactured goods of all varieties, from iPods to cars.

A University of Manchester study has estimated Apple’s profits would decrease by 50 per cent if iPhones were assembled in the United States, compared to China. Presumably, the ‘on-shoring’ of iPhone assembly would drive selling prices through the roof.

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Fishing for artificial muscles nets a very simple solution

By Geoff Spinks, University of Wollongong 

Sometimes in research the answer is right under your nose.

In our case, we spent nearly two decades developing exotic materials as artificial muscles – to now show in a paper published in Science today that the best performing systems can be made from ordinary, everyday fishing line.

Or sewing thread, if you prefer.

Not only are these materials cheap and readily available, they can be converted into high performance artificial muscles easily – just start twisting!

Polymer coil muscles.

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