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Hackathon winner inspired to study Social Innovation

Mackay’s Gary Matthews wanted to find a way for wheelchair-bound individuals such as himself to clean the blades of ceiling fans.

And following the Assistive Devices Hackathon (a Queensland Government-funded advanced manufacturing program held at CQUni Mackay’s Ooralea campus) his prayers are well on the way to being answered.

As part of this event, Gary (who holds a Bachelor of Arts from CQUni) worked with a team to create an innovative solution – a fan that lowers itself from the ceiling.

ABOVE: Hackathon Mackay’s winning team (from left) Allan Ruming, Brett Lynch, Gary Matthews and Kelly McGrath created a device to assist wheelchair-bound individuals to clean the blades of ceiling fans. BELOW: CQUni Engineering students Doris Xiriha (left), Nicka Mateo and Tahlilah Pepich created a device that enables individuals (such as Mackay’s Isaac Bulter, 9, with cerebral palsy) to write between the lines. Credit: CQUni

This invention took out first place in the competition on Sunday (23 July 2017) and team members will now receive support to further develop their ideas and potentially commercialise their technology.

CQUni’s Mackay-Whitsunday Region Engagement Committee Chairman, Allan Ruming said he was excited to be on the winning team.

“This incredible opportunity has allowed us to build something that will be of great use to many people with a need like Gary’s,” he said.

The team has decided to donate the $6000 prize money (derived from CQUni event sponsorship) to Gary to undertake a CQUni course of his choice.

Inspired by this event, Gary has chosen to undertake a Graduate Certificate in Social Innovation.

Pleasingly, judges were also impressed by an entry from CQUni Mackay engineering students.

Nicka Mateo, Tahlilah Pepich, and Doris Xiriha created a device that enables individuals (such as Mackay’s Isaac Bulter, 9, with cerebral palsy) to write between the lines.

Team leader Tahlilah said: “Upon meeting Isaac, it was clear to see that he has a huge heart.

“In creating a solution to this challenge we had the great opportunity to help Isaac and potentially others that have difficulty with handwriting.

“The opportunity to have such positive impact on someone’s life is very rewarding.”

Other assistive devices developed included a wheelchair pedometer created for David Conway. David also worked with a second team to create a device that allows vision-impaired individuals to read fine print.

And Ross Davidson, “who prefers a good book over an electronic one”, worked with his team to create a page-turning apparatus that enables those without hand mobility to read books.

Minister for State Development Dr Anthony Lynham said Mackay hosted the first in a series of regional Assistive Devices Hackathons running through July and August 2017 to coincide with the roll out of the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS).

“The hackathons tie in with the NDIS goal of supporting a better life for Australians with a significant and permanent disability and their families and carers, by using advanced manufacturing technologies to live more independently or become more involved in the community,” Dr Lynham said.

“These events are the latest in the $420 million Advance Queensland suite of programs designed to create the knowledge-based jobs of the future.

“We aim to encourage Queensland manufacturers to produce more assistive devices, reducing the need for imports and the cost of equipment to improve the lives of people with disabilities in regional Queensland and potentially worldwide.”

CQUni’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor for Engagement, Campuses and Mackay-Whitsunday Region, Professor Pierre Viljoen said CQUni Mackay was honoured to host the event and proud to see the University’s Engineering students participating.

“Social innovation is at the core of our strategic vision and for many years has been entrenched in our core values,” he said.

“At CQUni, we strive to empower our staff and students to make a difference, create an impact and influence the world in which we live, for the betterment of society.

“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to both support and take part in such an incredibly powerful and socially innovative initiative.”

Source: CQUni

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