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Curtin Malaysia’s unique crocodile-themed electronic design competition back for third year

Miri – 28 June 2018 – Encouraged by the success of its second ‘Curtin Croc Challenge’ last year, Curtin University Malaysia (Curtin Malaysia) is hosting the third edition of its iconic crocodile-themed electronic design competition as part of its Curtin Malaysia Carnival this 25 August 2018.

Curtin Croc Challenge 2.0 last year saw 26 teams demonstrating highly innovative system designs in a bid for the top spots and cash prizes. Droves of visitors also filled the competition venue to view the teams’ showcases and support their favourite teams.

Aimed at fostering critical thinking among secondary school students using real-life design case studies, the annual competition has encouraged participants to explore the use of simple electronics and basic programming to sense the presence of crocodiles, provide alarm systems to warn of crocodile intrusion, and now, trap crocodiles for relocation.

The competition is both educational and fun, with workshops conducted to teach the participants the basics of electronic system design and programming, guidance provided by academics and student ‘technology mentors’ of the university throughout the design and prototype building stage, and keen competition between teams to outshine each other on competition day. 

This year’s competition, themed ‘The Smart Trap’, is being organised by the university’s Office of Research and Development with support from the Electrical and Computer Engineering Department of Curtin Malaysia’s Faculty of Engineering and Science, as well as the Institution of Engineers Malaysia, Miri Branch (IEM) and Sarawak Forestry Corporation.

Secondary schools in Miri, Brunei and Sabah are being invited to field teams of four students (Forms 3 to 6) and a supervising teacher each. Participation is free-of-charge and cash prizes totalling RM3,500 and other prizes are up for grabs.

Participants in the inaugural competition in 2016 used programmable Arduino UNO microcontroller kits, sensors and basic programming skills to develop simple electronic systems and scale prototypes to demonstrate the electronic sensing of crocodiles.

Last year, participants took it one step further, developing electronic signalling systems as crocodile early warning or alarm systems using microcontroller kits, sensors and LEDs, in addition to minor automation concepts and basic programming skills.

In this instalment of the competition, participants will delve into mechatronics and electronic sensing to design scale versions of ‘smart traps’ to capture crocodiles for relocation. In addition to basic programming, key components will include microcontrollers, sensors, motor controllers and motors, as well as materials to build working prototypes.

“An ideal smart trap is one that closes only when a crocodile, and not any other reptile or animal, is detected. It automates motors for closure and locking, and alerts people so crocodiles can be immediately transferred to safe sanctuary,” said competition coordinator Dr. Wong Wei Kitt.

“Cages are the conventional way of trapping crocodiles using bait. The problem is that everything is done manually. With the increasing use of technology in wildlife conservation, we are exploring the possibilities of digitising conventional caging or baiting techniques so that crocodiles can be safely captured and relocated,“ Dr. Wong added.

Meanwhile, Curtin Malaysia’s Pro Vice-Chancellor, President and Chief Executive Professor Jim Mienczakowski said that aside from the technical aspects, the competition promotes an appreciation of crocodiles as a natural part of Sarawak’s ecosystem and the importance of co-existing with the reptiles in the vast river networks of the state.

He said the university supports the efforts of the state’s wildlife conservation bodies to raise understanding and awareness of the nature of crocodiles and dispel the perception that they are a menace to humans through the Curtin Croc Challenge and related research.

Those interested to participate in Curtin Croc Challenge 3.0 can contact Serena May Robinson at 019-855 5610 or by email to serena.robinson@curtin.edu.my for more information. Students from invited schools can also enquire with their school counsellors.

The deadline for registration is 2 July 2018. A mechatronic workshop to help participants acquire the necessary knowledge and skills for the competition will be held at the university on 14 July 2018.

As the competition will be held in conjunction with the Curtin Malaysia Carnival 2018, participants and their supporters will have the opportunity to take in the event’s attractions and get a taste of the university’s dynamic campus life.

The Curtin Malaysia Carnival, previously known as the Curtin Malaysia Open Day, is geared to give visitors a fun, hands-on learning experience in a festival-like atmosphere. In addition to the Curtin Croc Challenge and other faculty-run competitions, there will be a Future Students Hub for enquiries and applications, lively showcases of Curtin Malaysia’s faculties, entertainment and food stalls, guided tours of the campus, and more.

For details of the Curtin Malaysia Carnival 2018, visit its Facebook event page at bit.ly/2M5i8Vt. A promotional video can be viewed at bit.ly/2lFRQ0R.

For more information on Curtin Malaysia, visit its website (www.curtin.edu.my), its Facebook page (CurtinMalaysia), Twitter profile (curtinmalaysia), Google+ page (Curtin Malaysia), Instagram (curtinmalaysia) or YouTube channel (Curtin Malaysia).

          

Curtin Croc Challenge 3.0, Curtin Malaysia’s unique crocodile-themed electronic design competition.

Participants demonstrating their designs to judges at last year’s competition.


Prof. Mienczakowski addressing participants at last year’s competition.