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A mouse that operates with the blink of an eye, remote control breaks for a kids bike and a car that drives itself. These are a few of the final year projects on display at this year’s Endeavour Engineering Exhibition at the University of Melbourne.

Predicting the time and location of a bushfire is set to become more accurate thanks to research carried out by a group of final year students from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

Up to 1000 Robot Dancers could shuffle their way into the Guinness Book of World Records with an attempt for the word’s largest Robot Dance at the University of Melbourne tomorrow. 

Researchers from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering have moved a step closer in their pursuit of a zero emissions future with the launch of a highly efficient hydrogen-fuelled internal combustion engine. 
The prototype is part of a $2.93 million three-year Hydrogen Car project; a collaboration between the Brumby Government, Melbourne University and several local manufacturers.

The team at the University of Melbourne were led by Dr Michael Brear who said the project is working toward the creation of a new market for low-cost gas fuelled engines to support Victorian manufacturing into a low emissions future.

Dr Brear says the increased uptake of gaseous fuels like LPG, natural gas and ultimately hydrogen will be able to significantly reduce our greenhouse gas emissions whilst improving our balance of trade.  

“Hydrogen fuelled vehicles offer the potential of zero greenhouse gas emissions, and are the end game in this development pathway,” he says.

“The engine technology we have developed also has applications in areas such as renewable and distributed energy production. This includes use as an off-peak electrical generator running off solar or wind generated hydrogen, or electrical generation from biogas. In all of these cases, very low greenhouse emissions are achievable using the same base engine technology.”

To optimise this research, the project will continue for a further 18 months with the aim of developing the most efficient hydrogen fuelled internal combustion engine in the world.
The project involves collaboration with several local manufacturers, including Ford Australia, Haskell Australasia, Mahle and Parnell, as well as the University of North Florida, through the collaborative research centre ACART (

The nation’s first cross-disciplinary research institute dedicated to maximizing the community benefits of broadband technologies has been announced by Premier John Brumby.

The Victorian Government will provide $2 million for the new Institute for a Broadband-Enabled Society (IBES). The Institute will be based at the University of Melbourne to foster innovation across a wide range of disciplines including Medicine, Engineering, Education, Social Sciences, Economics, Business and the Environmental Sciences.

Professor Rod Tucker, Director of the IBES, says the Institute will source skills and resources of leading University researchers and 10 major industry leaders. Together they will develop and test new products and services which will benefit society, in areas such as e-health, e-education, e-commerce, and environmental monitoring.
The IBES has attracted the support of leading global and local companies to join its research program. They include Cisco, Microsoft, Alcatel-Lucent, Telstra, Ericsson, NEC Australia, Optus, Allied Telesis, Pacific Broadband Networks, and Haliplex. The research will also be enhanced by the support of Bell Labs and NICTA, Australia’s national research centre of excellence in Information and Communication Technology.

Professor Tucker says the IBES will serve as a national and international focus for research and innovation across the full spectrum of social, business and technological activities associated with and influenced by the new Australian National Broadband Network.

 “The strong support of industry coupled with the support and commitment of the State Government of Victoria, positions IBES to play a key role in the development of an Australian industry that is ready for the true broadband revolution," he says.

University of Melbourne Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis says the IBES will be a unique facility that will allow new ideas and applications to be tested in a real broadband environment that will maximize the contribution the Australian Broadband Network will make to Australia’s economic and social progress.


Why is it easier to follow directions when they are explained through a series of landmarks instead of street names? According to the research by the University of Melbourne’s Geomatics Department and, when your mate says “turn right at the post office” he is actually tapping into your spatial cognitive recognition to give you a better understanding of how to get where you’re going.  

Armed with this knowledge, and equipped with what is said to be a world first landmark selection system, has incorporated a range of Australian landmarks into its map directions, finally providing users with real-life navigational context for their chosen routes.

Commercial Manager of Fred Curtis says the addition of this tool will help the mapping site remain at the forefront of Australian mapping by improving the experience people have when requesting directions on the site.

“We continue to find new ways to build upon the already market-leading user experience. Current trends in technology all point to increased functionality alongside ease of use, so that’s the direction we’re heading,” he says.

Dr Matt Duckham, Senior Lecturer in Geographic Information Science at the Department of Geomatics says what makes this addition to different from existing navigation systems is that it identifies the most suitable landmarks based on cognitive principles.

“Deciding which landmarks are most useful is really based on the uniqueness of the landmark, and this can be determined by three main things; the landmarks meaning, its visual salience and where the landmark is located, relative to the decision point on the route,” he says.

“While computers can work out how far it is to the next interaction, humans find it much easier to use instructions that refer to places with meaning and that we can easily identify.”

“It really is an exciting time for researchers in this field. The unique partnership between our researchers and has opened the doors for a new generation of systems that provide mapping data and navigation instructions based on your location. As far as we know, nowhere else in the world is this kind of user experience available that delivers detailed landmark and geometry information to consumers”.

Mr Curtis concluded that, “being an Australian mapping company, it was important our team worked with local experts to investigate the potential of incorporating the new landmark feature to our site. Melbourne University’s geomatics team certainly fit the bill.”


Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have had a tremendous effect on the reporting of Iranian elections, according to Associate Professor Ingrid Volkmer.

Associate Professor Volkmer says YouTube and Twitter have allowed a global audience access to footage and reports from Iranian citizens which would have been gagged by the Government, and says these first hand accounts have made the Iranian people less like ‘the other’ to a western audience.

“Basically ‘the other’ - which used to be the Iranian population - has become us. In this footage streets look the same as ours, people use mobile phones like we do, and they even look like we do,” she says.

“What Twitter does is give us immediate accounts of what people in Tehran are doing. It allows them to organise themselves and organise demonstrations. From Australia we can read the same message as if we are there, its more authentic and lively.”

“Personal interaction is having political impact and we haven’t had that before. We have only had media outlets covering global affairs such as CNN, NBC and SBS, but never this kind of personal interaction and this creates empathy.”

Associate Professor Volkmer says the impact of social media on the Iranian elections shows journalism is changing.

“In the old days we basically went overseas and delivered a message from the Australian perspective back to Australia, but this has dramatically changed because all of a sudden it seems we are one concerned community.”

Associate Professor Ingrid Volkmer is the Deputy Director of the Media and Communications Program at the University of Melbourne.