Hackathon win transforms students into entrepreneurs

May 24, 2017

Murdoch students have won the Unearthed Hackathon with their ideas to improve safety for mining company South32.

A weekend-long competition has resulted in a potential business idea for a group of Murdoch University students.

Murdoch students Brice Gower, Corey Barrit, Ryan Santos and Louis Williams emerged as the victors of the Unearthed Hackathon.

A hackathon is an open innovation event where teams of entrepreneurs, software developers, engineers and designers work in teams over a couple of days to solve challenges presented by industry.

The Unearthed Hackathon event was hosted by CORE Innovation Hub in Perth’s CBD, and focused on two specific issues faced by Western Australia’s resource sector.

This year, the teams worked together over a 54-hour period to develop prototype solutions to challenges posed by mining companies South32 and Newcrest Mining.

South32 posed a question about safety locks to avoid exposure to fatal energies and Newcrest Mining was interested in finding ways to decrease the down time of the gold ore crusher.

The Murdoch University student team tackled the South32 challenge with a mix of expertise. These included three third year Engineering students majoring in Industrial Computer Systems and Instrumentation and Control (Brice Gower, Corey Barrit and Ryan Santos) working with Louis Williams who is finishing a postgraduate degree in Psychology.

Brice, who led the Murdoch University team, said the event gave the students a fantastic insight into how real companies operate.

"Most plants are built with a 30 year life span, but technology is improving so rapidly that companies now have massive leaps to make,” Brice said.

“One of the major challenges faced by companies is finding ways to go through a digital transformation.

“We had quite an advantage heading into this competition because Murdoch University teaches in such a hands-on and relevant way, rather than just talking about theory, which luckily resulted in a win!”

The Murdoch University team worked on a problem posed by South32 regarding an issue in Worsley Alumina’s refinery in Collie, Western Australia.

Currently, companies use a series of padlocks to manually isolate and lock isolation points to prevent the workforce from being exposed to potentially fatal electrical, chemical, mechanical energies.

The Murdoch team came up with a smart lock embedded system for live feedback and control, and are now in talks with South32 to further develop the idea.

“We are aiming to use the Hackathon prize money on making this solution for South32 a reality,” Brice said.

“We will set up an innovation incubator at SpaceCubed to begin to prototype the solution and eventually would like to use the idea to launch a Lean Startup.”


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