Students' award-winning freight plans

Published 6:00am 12 November 2022

Students' award-winning freight plans
Words by Nick Crockford

Two groups of UniSC Moreton Bay students have won national awards for creative solutions to problems facing Australia’s freight industry, in the annual GovHack competition.

Tackling the transport system won the two freight categories in GovHack’s national challenge to identify how open government data could be used to improve our society.

“It’s very exciting to see so many of our teams in national and regional awards. Especially our engineers who are almost ready to graduate,” UniSC’s Dr Erica Mealy, the Moreton Bay Regional Lead for GovHack, said.

“It speaks to the quality of our engineering and technology curriculums and the employability of our students and graduates.”

The pandemic, floods and fires over the past 4 years have shown Australia’s supply lines can be susceptible to shutting down in the face of adversity.

Fires remain a challenge, but one of UniSC’s teams might have come up with a solution to the problem presented by floods. Enter Flood Freight Assist.

Students' award-winning freight plans
Award winners being announced at the national finals.

Safer routes

“The concept of our application is to create a map that will help freight carriers navigate safer routes and complete their routes more efficiently by indicating travel routes at risk of flooding,” said Airah Flores, a member of the winning team pictured receiving the award.

Combining data sets mapping freight routes, with topographical data of flood plains, drainage basins and at-risk areas, the concept aims to provide up-to-date information on roads that are in danger of being flooded straight to the phones of Australia’s transport industry workers.

“Our goal is to connect transport planners with freight data and real-time data to assist with their planning,” she said.

“If we see there is a high density of freight carriers travelling on areas with high risk of flooding, transport planners can help by creating alternative routes. This may also assist in road improvement/development plans.”

UniSC’s other national award-winning entry took a similar approach, but instead focused on combining BOM rainfall data in a bid to predict which freight routes around the Ipswich region were most likely at risk with a phone app called Australian Freight Road Planner.

These ideas aren’t just pipedreams either, Dr Mealy believes they have real-world potential.

Students' award-winning freight plans
Participants in the Moreton Bay round of GovHack.

Nation wide

“Over the years, GovHack concepts have been further developed across Australia,” she said.

“For 2022, Moreton Bay Regional Council is already speaking with award-winning teams from UniSC, and looking at how they might further develop them.”

Moreton Bay Regional Council Mayor Peter Flannery said GovHack provided an opportunity to develop and support entrepreneurial capabilities for the region’s young innovators to generate real-world solutions for both local and national issues affecting communities.

“Knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship is one of the four pillars of our Regional Economic Development Strategy. Our aim is to make our region one of the top 10 regional knowledge and innovation hubs in Australia – a goal we can achieve by focusing on growing our region’s talent,” Mayor Flannery said.

UniSC’s Computer Science and Engineering had four winners, three runner ups and four honourable mentions across the state and national levels of the competition.

“We were especially proud to win the Best Government Participation award for Moreton Bay Regional Council as our staff unlocked over 290 data sets in preparation for the event and then 11 volunteered over the entire weekend to support the UniSC students,” the Mayor said.

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