In summary

  • STEMM students are learning to become better communicators through Swinburne’s Start Talking competition
  • Participants receive training in public speaking, networking and digital literacy 
  • The 2022 winners include a fish skin wound care innovation and a household hydrogen fuel solution

Swinburne’s STEMM students have pushed the boundaries of modern science and technology with innovative ideas for the fourth annual Start Talking competition.

Launched in 2019 to develop future-ready STEMM communicators, this year 175 students participated in the challenge.

They attended extra-curricular workshops to develop public speaking and networking skills, and to hear from an industry panel of science communicators. 

The students develop and present a four-minute pitch of a STEMM idea with social impact to a judging panel of industry and community representatives.

Judges’ choice: Tilapia Fish Skin Band Aid

Swinburne Malaysia student Stephanie Cheah Hao Ling was awarded the $400 Judges’ Choice prize for her healthcare innovation that could revolutionise wound care.

She proposes using the skin of the tropical Tilapia fish as a dressing for burns.

It contains high levels of collagen, which could retain moisture and boost healing collagen.

Stephanie said the invention would be mutually beneficial for patients and healthcare providers, improving the efficiency, success and speed of wound-healing.

Importantly, the painful changing of burns dressings would be reduced due to quicker healing times.

She found the digital literacy training the most valuable aspect of the competition.

A benefit of Swinburne being Australia’s first Adobe Creative Campus was that Start Talking organisers were able to collaborate with Swinburne Adobe Hub Digital Coaches to tutor students in design programs to enhance their presentations.

“For people who are novices at computer software like me, it is invaluable to have the opportunity to learn something and have a platform to apply it directly at the same time,” Stephanie said.

People’s choice: Shipping hydrogen to your home 

The $100 People’s Choice prize was awarded to Minh Tien Tran for his idea to store and transport hydrogen energy in liquid organic hydrogen carriers (LOHC) for household use. 

The Swinburne Hawthorn student said the cost and resources required to transport and store hydrogen safely was often prohibitive, but new LOHC technology provides a safe means of doing so in pressurised canisters using an oil compound.

His proposal is to make these cannisters readily available in Australia and offer households the opportunity to purchase hydrogen to be shipped safely and efficiently to them to power their homes.

“Australia is a major supplier of energy to world markets in general and is the world's largest exporter of coal in particular,” he said.  

“Therefore, I realised the potential for Australia to be a leader and develop hydrogen energy on a large scale, assisting the world's energy supply.”

Minh hopes to immerse himself in future Start Talking activities to compliment his studies.

“The most rewarding part of the competition is the series of build-up skill workshops before the final showcase,” he said.

“It is really awesome as students participate in the competition and not only leave with prizes but also useful skills such as public speaking and video editing.”

Sharing ideas

Swinburne lecturer Dr Bita Zaferanloo initiated Start Talking at Swinburne in 2019, after identifying a gap from communication theory to professional practise in STEMM.

In future years, she hopes to take the competition global.

“Effective communication via digital literacy can reach diverse audiences and is widely recognised as essential for quality work in real workplaces,” she said.

“I hope to eventually invite students from other institutions to address the global challenges in their countries and act as global citizens, providing an opportunity for Swinburne students to extend their global networking and businesses.”

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