Real World Futures

Maths apps to modular transport: $100K competition targets innovations that are on the money

Date: 24 September 2015

Remember back in high school when you'd rush to maths class thinking, 'Yippee, I can't wait to get stuck into these non-linear equations today'?

Nope, neither do we.

Mathematics has always been a hard sell to high school students, even those destined for careers in STEM.

That's why a trio of QUT alumni engineers is developing an app-based resource that makes maths more relevant.

"Our product tackles that age-old question, 'Why do I need to learn this?'," said Jillian Kenny, QUT civil engineering PhD candidate and co-founder of Machinam.

"It does this by framing maths problems in a way that allows students to connect what they're learning in the classroom to their own life and future careers.

"The app brings together problem-based learning, real-life context and digital technology to provide an alternative to traditional maths textbooks - one that's engaging and mapped to the Australian Curriculum.

"For example, say you love fashion. You might watch a video of Heidi and Sarah-Jane from Sass & Bide talking about how they use algebra and geometry in the work they do. Then, based on what you've learned in that video, you can design you very own digital fashion line.

"So, you're working on something that's of interest to you, while at the same time learning the maths concepts you need."

Ms Kenny and colleagues Felicity Furey and Claire Bennett are one of six finalists in the qutbluebox $100,000+ Innovation Challenge.

QUT's innovation transfer company qutbluebox holds an annual competition to uncover and support outstanding ideas from the university's staff, students and more than 210,000 alumni across the globe.

qutbluebox Director of Innovation and Engagement Brent Watts said the challenge offered more than $100,000 in prizemoney to help the winners turn their top innovations into income-generating enterprises.

"New technologies have dominated the 2015 competition - both hardware and software - and staff and students feature strongly this year," Mr Watts said.

"First prize is $50,000, which is a fantastic boost for any start-up.

"As well as cash prizes for first and second place, there are a number of others prizes including up to $50,000 in professional services and a $12,500 cash prize for the winner of the online crowd vote.

"We've asked the six finalists to create 30-second pitching videos. Jump online and tell us which you think is the most innovative idea."

Among the finalists is VBK Motors, a company created by three current QUT students with a passion for affordable personal transportation.

IP law PhD candidate Victor Vicario and final-year engineering students Blake Fuller and Karl Von Richter are developing the world's first fleet of modular personal electric vehicles, which includes skateboards, long boards, scooters and bicycles.

"Electric vehicles are great provided you have the right one for the task at hand. But rarely will one electric vehicle meet all your transport and recreation needs," Mr Fuller said.

"Our system is highly versatile and completely modular. You might have the frames of two or three of our vehicles but you only buy one set of motor and batteries, which you can quickly and easily detach from one vehicle and clip into the vehicle you want to use that day.

"We are so close to making a real difference in the personal transportation market, but have exhausted most of our resources in order to reach this point in our prototyping.

"Winning qutbluebox's Innovation Challenge would bring the commercialisation of our products much closer to reality. We need additional capital to get us ready for production, undertake further testing and to protect our intellectual property."

The public has until 2pm on Tuesday 13 October to watch and vote for their favourite finalist speed pitch.

The six finalists will pitch their innovations to a judging panel and live audience on Wednesday 14 October.

For more information about the qutbluebox $100,000+ Innovation Challenge, visit the bluebox website.

2015 qutbluebox $100,000+ Innovation Challenge finalists:
Clipchamp - a platform for sharing videos fast and recording video easily, with smaller files in a modern format.
EziDialer - software that synchs any smartphone to the latest business tools and content management systems without the need for expensive add-ons.
Fantasy Insider - a platform for analysing sporting data for AFL and NRL fantasy contests.
•Wajarra Studios - creators of intelligent online learning platform, iKnow, which is responsive to each user's circumstances.
Machinam - an app-based resource that makes high school maths engaging and relevant to real life.
VBK Motors - developers of a range of modular, personal electric vehicles.

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Media contacts:
Kate Haggman, QUT Media, 07 3138 0358 or
After hours Rose Trapnell, QUT Media team leader, 0407 585 901 or

Content sourced from QUT News Web Service.


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