Flinders engineers lead the field

Professor John Arkwright is a recipient of this year's Engineering Excellence Awards.
Professor John Arkwright is a recipient of this year’s Engineering Excellence Awards.

Flinders University’s biomedical engineering and assistive technologies cluster is enhancing its reputation for excellence in research, design and development, highlighted by the group’s latest victories at Engineers Australia’s Engineering Excellence Awards.

Flinders lecturer in Engineering Design and Rehabilitation and Assistive Technology, David Hobbs, led a team that received a commendation in the Research and Innovation category of the 2014 South Australian Engineering Excellence Awards, announced on Friday (September 26) night.

The team, which includes the University of South Australia and the Women’s and Children’s Hospital, received the commendation for OrbIT – an accessible gaming system for people with limited hand function, such as children with cerebral palsy or young adults with acquired brain injury, that features 15 custom-made computer games and an accessible gaming controller named ‘Orby’.

Further cementing Flinders’ position as a leader in biomedical engineering, Professor John Arkwright, the South Australian Premier’s Professorial Research Fellow in Biomedical Engineering, led his team to win the highest overall accolade in the NSW division of the Awards – as well as in two other categories – for a novel fibre-optic catheter which he began developing in 2012 at the CSIRO.

Recognising an engineering accomplishment of exceptional merit, the prestigious Bradfield Award acknowledged the collaborative efforts of the CSIRO, Flinders University, Flinders Medical Centre and Griffith University for their work to create the fibre-optic manometry, which combines advanced fibre-optic technology, high-level engineering and software design in an instrument for monitoring muscular activity deep within the human body.

Flinders also received the highest award at the 2012 SA Engineering Excellence Awards for its Six Degree of Freedom Hexapod Robot. Designed by internationally-recognised biomechanics engineer Dr John Costi, the Hexapod Robot enhances understanding of the 3D performance of normal and diseased joints and their artificial replacements by simulating complex joint motion.

Professor Karen Reynolds, Director of the Medical Device Research Institute at Flinders and the 2012 South Australian Scientist of the Year, said the latest success in the Engineers Australia Awards highlights the significant contributions that the Flinders engineering cluster is making to the community, industry and government on a local, national and global scale.

“The State Government’s Woodville West Urban Renewal Project, which features eight ‘smart living’ apartments for people with disabilities, was designed with cutting-edge assistive technologies based on expert advice from Flinders engineers,” Professor Reynolds said.

“Our Retrofitted Electronic Aids project also demonstrated that a range of readily available electronic and electro-mechanical products can be fitted to an existing house or dwelling for less than $10,000, providing greater independence for people with disabilities and the ageing community,” she said.

“Turning to the future, our $120 million building at Tonsley, which opens in January 2015, will be the new home of the Medical Device Partnering Program, providing a collaborative research environment to develop the new products and process of the 21st century.

“It’s terrific to see that the many real and meaningful contributions of Flinders engineers to improve quality of life for our communities and bolster medical technologies to meet clinical outcomes is being recognised on the national stage.”

Flinders is now in the running for the Australian Engineering Excellence Awards, which will be announced at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre on November 24.

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