Future engineers shine at Capstone showcase

Autonomous sensors that detect pollution in our rivers, a tracking device for dogs deployed in search and rescue operations, and a beam of light that can transmit data; these are just some of our recent Capstone engineering projects.


Capstone Projects
Capstone Projects

The Capstone project is an important milestone for ANU Engineering students. It marks the culmination of a student’s learning as they spend a year working in teams to create solutions for government agencies, research groups, established companies and startups. Some of the project hosts come with well-developed solutions in mind, while others bring problems for the students to solve with an openness to solutions previously unimagined, each unique and challenging in their own way.

Photo of Ishita Sharma

“I was drawn to my project because it looked to be more on the R&D side,” said Ishita Sharma from the Sky Light Team. “Our project host offered us a lot of flexibility and creativity to bring our own ideas and direction to the table.”

The College honours top projects with the Waste Check Capstone Prize recognising the profound impact engineering solutions can have in shaping a more sustainable society. The award is made possible by Alex Northey, a Canberra-based tech entrepreneur Capstone project host.

The judging panel, comprising Chief Engineer, Jane McMaster from Engineers Australia, Dr. Craig Davis, a Cambridge physicist, businessman, and entrepreneur and Paul Jenkins, faced the formidable task of evaluating the projects.

With over a hundred people attendance, thirteen teams showcased their projects. Three teams were awarded cash prizes, and a fourth received an honourable mention from the judges.

Transmitting data through a beam of light - The Sky Light Team

The Sky Light team, consisting of Ishita Sharma, Connor Kneebone, Mark Louis, Sanjana Dovathi, Isaac Gainey, and Sheldon George won a $1200 prize for laying the groundwork for their project host– the Australian Federal Police (AFP) to embed data in beams of light.

“In the past decade, the world has seen an unprecedented increase in radio communications,” Connor said during the Sky Light presentation.

This creates radio frequency congestion with critical sectors such as the police using radio communication, it becomes crucial to employ systems that are fast, reliable, secure.

“Visual light has huge potential for data communication. It can operate completely free of interference from radio-frequency devices, and it can be pointed directly at a receiver, reducing the chance of interference or interception,” Connor said.

At the showcase, the team unveiled a prototype that transmitted live video using a light transmitter and receiver.

The AFP was highly impressed, Ishita said, "we exceeded their expectations by delivering not just a demo but a successful prototype.”

With iterative improvements such as to design of the lens, they expect the range to increase to tens and thousands of metres.

Beacon Tracker for Search and Rescue dogs - The Beacon Tracker Team

Edward Parker and his teammates Jonathan Mathew, Darcy Coleman, Nicholas Doig, Archie Crabb, and Skanda Dolphin recieved the top prize for developing a localised tracking system for the AFP. Covering a sprawling 25-acre range, this system has the potential to aid in tracking canine units during crucial Search and Rescue operations.

Edward said “a very clear project scope” is what drove him to pick the project. He and his team developed a shockproof, waterproof, battery-powered beacon transmitter to be attached to the dog’s collar. 

“Our system had to be portable, robust and could not be reliant on critical existing network infrastructure, such as GPS,” said Edward, owing to the remote environments the Search and Rescue team works in.

“The receiver is a very advanced software defined radio, or SDR, which uses multiple antennas to receive and process the transmitted signal,” Edward said. “This then generates the distance and direction of the dog, sending it to a smartphone.”

“After our presentation we had a few people talk about possible other applications of our technology which was really interesting and something we’ve passed onto our project host,” said Edward.

Low-cost capability to clean our rivers from nitrate pollution – The NADA Team 

The Nitrate Assessment and Detection Apparatus (NADA) team won a $500 prize for developing an automated system to measure pollution in Australian rivers, specifically nitrate runoff generated by the agricultural sector, a challenge set by Dr Alex Potanin of the School of Computing.  

The team’s modular pollution monitoring system pumps water from the river to a nearby test station, automating the process and saving the project host valuable time and labour efforts.  

“NADA is a fraction of the cost of competing systems that cost upwards of $10,000,” said James Klose who spoke for his team at the showcase. ”The prototype has already demonstrated immediate value and is poised to facilitate the creation of an autonomous sensor network along the rivers of New Zealand.” 

The NADA team also included Geneveva Naomi, Thomas Hansen, Tzai Seng Saylan, Lucas Falconer and Joshua Sandiford. 

The SOITI team, consisting of Le Ming (Megan) Chen, Oliver Hart, Juliet Healey, Katherine Jones, Nicky Koubouzis and Jessica Lawa, received an honourable mention from the judges for their work on modifying transport for NSW’s current procurement approach to include a series of sustainability checkpoints.

The Capstone Design Project (ENGN4300) is the pinnacle group project course in the Engineering degree at ANU. Capstone exposes students to an authentic engineering-based experience, both in preparing students to have the autonomy they will require to be graduate engineers and giving students the experiences and skills they need to succeed in a variety of graduate jobs. The course runs a full year over 2 semesters, with new projects beginning in February and July 2024.  

The call for 2024 projects is now open. If you have any questions, please contact us at engn4300.cecc@anu.edu.au 

Learn more about the Capstone Design Project Course.

More Capstone Projects

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Capstone 2023 Project Groups

Image: Capstone award-winning projects from left to right - Beacon Tracker including Edward Parker,Jonathan Mathew, Darcy Coleman, Nicholas Doig, Archie Crabb, and Skanda Dolphin. NADA including Geneveva Naomi, Thomas Hansen, Tzai Seng Saylan, Lucas Falconer and Joshua Sandiford. Sky Light team including Connor Kneebone, Mark Louis, Sanjana Dovathi, Isaac Gainey, and Sheldon George, note team member Ishita Sharma was not present.

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