Watermelons And Window Washers: A Taste Of The Innovations Coming From Aussie Universities

You know how you knock on watermelons in the supermarket, pretending to gauge its ripeness?

Well, even experts such as farmers struggle with the same issue.

"The problem is watermelons don't ripen once they're picked," Ranjaka De Mel, a master of electrical engineering at the University of Melbourne, told ten daily.

"And because the current system [to determine ripeness] is not so accurate and inconsistent, about 20-30 percent of watermelons end up in waste because you can't send it to the market if they're not ripe."

De Mal and his team of fellow engineering masters students set out to solve this problem as part of their final 2018 project, which was showcased alongside 130 other innovations at the university's Endeavour exhibition on Thursday.

Using two types of sensors and data collected from an operational watermelon farm, the group developed a device capable of determining the ripeness probability based on the concentration of chlorophyll on the rind of the melon.

The device uses a combination of sensors, single-board computers and deep neural networks to provide an easier picking method for farmers. Image: provided

Mature or ripe watermelons have a higher concentration, De Mal explained, allowing researchers to determine the best time to pick the fruit without having to use the current invasive and lab-intensive methods.

With possible applications for any fruit which produces chlorophyll, the technology, aimed at producing wastage, seems a timely and needed development in these dry times.

The Endeavor exhibition showcased inventions from students across biomedical, electrical, civil, software and mechanical engineering, highlighting the real-world applications of technology coming out of Aussie universities.

Window Washing Drones

In an attempt to tackle another industry problem, 24-year-old Ed James and his team turned to drone technology to develop a "more robust solution" for cleaning more dangerous high-rises.

"We determined that there is a gap in the market for solutions to cleaning buildings autonomously that have quite intricate surfaces," James, a master of electrical engineering, said.

Using a drone normally intended for capturing aerial videos, the group integrated sensors, electronics and hardware to create a system capable of withstanding high winds while cleaning hard to reach surfaces.

The drone will hopefully provide a safer window washing system for more intricately designed buildings, as opposed to flat, glass surfaces. Image: provided

As an autonomous system, the device wouldn't require an experienced operator and eliminates the need for people to perform the task in precarious conditions.

"The advancements in technology with drones is improving every year and quite rapidly," James said.

"They have a real application for potentially dangerous practices that we as humans do."

Checking Skull Pressure From The Outside In

More than 70 million people are put at risk of developing high pressure inside the skull as the result of brain injuries, stroke or acquired and congenital conditions each year, master of business administration student Rowan Seeley said.

"So instead of having to drill a hole into the skull and place a probe on the brain, we're looking to create a device to measure that pressure non-invasively because that pressure otherwise can lead to brain damage, coma or death," he said of his team's project.

The team of biomedical engineering and MBA students worked together to develop the device which can measure skull pressure without risky and invasive brain surgery. Image: provided

While the device, which patients wear like a headband, would improve the treatment of head injuries in Australia, Seeley said the application in developing countries where access to neurological care is much more limited would be a massive feature of the device.

"At the moment there's nothing for a lot of those patients."

While these projects are in their very early stages, they're an indication of the futuristic innovations we can look forward to in the coming years across multiple industries.