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Research impact

Our applied research focus emphasizes the translation and uptake of research findings to meet external stakeholder needs – the focus is not merely on increasing academic publications and citation rates. Several aspects of our research are oriented towards real-world outcomes including: provision of high quality outcomes through translation and application of current research findings (Mental Health Nursing, Family and Domestic Violence; Population Health; Education Practice); influencing government policy and regulatory frameworks (Fatigue Management in Fly-in/Fly-out and Drive-in/Drive-out long distance commuters; Marine Biosecurity frameworks); and developing greater understanding of social issues of the day and contributing to decision-making through salient advice (Economic considerations of conflict between agrarian and resource extraction uses).

10,000 Steps to Better Health

From its humble beginnings in Central Queensland in 2001, the 10,000 Steps project is now recognised as an effective local health promotion activity both nationally and internationally. Its resources and research have been adopted worldwide with similar projects now in countries such as Canada and Belgium. Coupling the 10,000 Steps message; taking 10,000 steps every day is good for your health, with Australia’s National Physical Activity Guidelines (which recommend accumulating 150 to 300 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity each week), the effectiveness of the project is evidenced by the ongoing support of different levels of government, as well as the ever increasing number of individuals and communities embracing the concept. Together members log 4.3 million steps on the program’s website every day while undertaking an Individual Steps Challenge or participating in a Workplace Steps Challenge. The concept is a simple one. The aim is to increase the day-to-day activity of individuals by encouraging the use of a step-counting pedometer to accumulate incidental physical activity on a daily basis. These steps can be measured over an entire day or at one or more specific instances. The beauty of the project is that almost anyone can take part without having to commit to strict fitness regimes. While 10 000 steps is the recommended daily minimum amount, individuals can easily perform more or less depending on age and general fitness levels, all the while accumulating their steps and improving their health. 10 towns across Australia now identify themselves as 10,000 Steps towns.

For more information contact Professor Corneel Vandelanotte

Exploring Possibilities

Mask-Ed™ stands for masking the human educator and the education process, while the acronym KRS represents knowledgeable, realistic and spontaneous simulation. An extension of Mask-Ed, Pup-Ed puppet educator), uses puppets in a similar fashion. Both Mask-Ed™ (KRS Simulation), which was first created in 2008, and Pup-Ed (KRS Simulation) offer unique and innovative approaches to teaching and learning.Both techniques were created at CQUniversity by Professor Kerry Reid-Searl and are now gaining national and international recognition for their value in learning and teaching. The key concept of Mask-Ed™ is that the simulation device takes training to a new dimension because the work is done on a real person, who is also the educator. Simulation learning facilitates critical thinking, reduces the risk element to actual patients and enables the educator to provide real-time feedback to their students. Local, national and international workshops are delivered regularly, with participants from across all health disciplines. Mask-Ed™ (KRS Simulation) has been trademarked and patents exist on some of the silicone props. More than 20 delivery sites now exist throughout Australia, the United States of America, the United Kingdom and New Zealand. Organisations taking up Mask-Ed™ are in the areas of nursing, physiotherapy, occupational health and safety, paramedics, psychology, speech therapy and medicine. The growing success of these techniques are further evident in the extensive teaching awards, invited key note addresses and research findings that confirm the positive impact on learners and users.

For more information contact Professor Kerry Reid-Searl

Near infrared Spectroscopy in Fruit Quality Assessment

A century ago, harvested fruit were graded by human visual inspection and sorted on their perceived quality. A new approach discovered a couple of decades ago from local fruit growers has resulted in the development of technology with worldwide application in the more accurate grading of fruit quality. Non-invasive devices using near infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) have been successfully developed in collaboration with various manufacturers and funding sources to improve the overall quality of fruit. Research undertaken at CQUniversity, led by Professor Kerry Walsh, has translated the theoretical potential of NIRS to commercial practice and explored related agronomic issues relevant to the production of quality fruit. To support the uptake of the technology, the research team has worked with growers and supply chain groups focussed on production of quality fruit to use the technology to improve their product. For example, the technology has become integral to the success of the Calypso mango. Commercially, learning how to grow sweeter, as opposed to more, fruit has become significant. Interest in sweetness sorting has re-emerged within the citrus industry, which has a growing export market in Japan and Korea – markets that require and reward sweetness. CQUniversity has been instrumental in these developments, working in concert with the engineers of CVS, and later French-based MAF Pty Ltd, for inline sorting technology, as well as those of Integrated Spectronics, then Felix Instruments Incorporated, for the handheld unit.

For more information contact Professor Kerry Walsh

Reducing downtime for descaling and cleaning operations in Bayer Plants

Reduced flow efficiency due to scale growth and downtime of equipment can cost about a third of the refining process. Scale growth in alumina refineries is a common phenomenon and occurs where supersaturated solutions used in the refining process, known as Bayer liquor, are in contact with solid surfaces. A collaboration between CQUniversity Australia and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) was initiated to examine the effect of fluid flow characteristics, for example; flow velocity and turbulence, on scale formation. The results suggested that the creation of flow instability within the boundary layer of Bayer liquor flow could be used to inhibit or suppress scale growth in the process equipment of Bayer plants (alumina refineries). It was also suggested that an increased flow disturbance or instability in the boundary layer could be used to enhance the effect of scale inhibition. Production of this instability helped achieve a large-scale suppression effect instead of using high velocity, which is difficult to produce due to operational limitations. The results and outcomes of this research project provided solid evidence of the effect of fluid velocity, influencing further research to determine the relationship between fluid dynamics and scale formation mechanisms, including a new novel agitator design, Swirl Flow Technology (SFT), which was introduced as an alternative design to the widely used conventional draft tube agitator system to mitigate scale growth. QAL has adopted the new SFT design and progressively installed this system, resulting in a reduction in scale growth. This has reduced downtime by about 50 percent, saving a significant amount of money, as well as increasing productivity and returns.

For more information contact Professor Masud Khan

Operational Readiness of Rural Firefighters

There are arguably few communities across the globe unaware of the devastating effects of bushfire. Concerns exist that the severity and frequency of bushfire is on the rise and with hotter weather and more intense fires requiring longer shifts and more frequent deployments there are significant threats to the operational readiness of the volunteers and salaried staff of Australasia’s fire and emergency services. Safeguarding workers’ operational readiness relies, in part, on a robust and relevant evidence base from which to build policies and procedures. In the past, industry-specific research has been required to assist the fire industry in developing comprehensive policy, best practice guidelines and training and educational materials in order to preserve the health and safety of their firefighters during multi-day bushfire suppression deployments. It was this exact focus that became the main aim of the Operational Readiness project. A four-day bushfire suppression simulation tour was developed and validated by researchers led by Professor Sally Ferguson, and agency collaborators over a 12 month period which provided the opportunity to study the impact of, and interaction between, multiple fire ground stressors, i.e. sleep disruption and heat, on firefighters’ physiological responses, as well as physical and cognitive work performance across a simulated four-day bushfire suppression tour. Findings presented to key fire industry stakeholders informed development of comprehensive policy, best practice guidelines and training and educational materials for the preservation of firefighters’ health and safety. These outcomes are now used by more than five fire and emergency services agencies and are an important aid for keeping our firefighters safe so that they can continue to keep us safe.

For more information contact Professor Sally Ferguson

Distributed Power Tracking for Solar Systems

Is there a way to improve the yield of solar power systems on buildings that are often subject to shadowing from the building itself or adjacent buildings or trees? Researchers at CQUniversity have successfully patented a distributed maximum power tracking technology that greatly increases the yield of solar arrays subject to shadowing. It was while managing CQUniversity’s solar car team that Professor Peter Wolfs first identified the opportunity to develop and distribute MPPT technology. Distributed power tracking imparts a benefit on a curved solar array – as found on solar cars, such cars also use arrays that are hand-built from single cells. In this instance the maximum power tracking was even more extreme with a MPPT being applied to the single cells. In this extreme case, where the distribution of many MPPTs were required, there needed to be a focus on methods that resulted in very low MPPT distribution costs and high energy conversion efficiency. This work resulted in Australian and the United States of America patents. Tigo Energy subsequently purchased the rights to the CQUniversity patents, and today, the Australian and United States of America patents continue to be the central core of their distributed MPPT technology.

For further information contact Professor Peter Wolfs

The Economics of Improving Water Quality into the Great Barrier Reef

Prior to this project being conducted, little economic analysis was available to review or guide policy and investment decisions dealing with the declining health of the Great Barrier Reef. Substantial scientific investments were made in relation to monitoring and understanding the ecology of the Great Barrier Reef, as well as the water quality draining from adjacent catchments. Evidence of continuing decline in the health of the reef led to calls for additional protection measures to be undertaken. Led by Professor John Rolfe, this particular program of research used cost-benefit analysis to evaluate the benefits and costs of additional investments in protection for the Great Barrier Reef. Ultimately this would enable more cost effective proposals to be prioritised and available public funding to be used to maximise environmental protection. Results have shown that the cost effectiveness of public funding can be more than doubled when there is better understanding of economic trade-offs and prioritisation of project selection. This analysis provided policy makers and natural resource management groups with insights into how engagement initiatives and incentive programs can be better designed to improve the effectiveness of public funding. The research team has worked with several agencies and groups to trial different water quality auctions, assessment metrics and evaluation criteria including the Fitzroy Basin Association, reef catchments, Burnett Mary Regional Group, Burdekin Dry Tropics, Growcomm, CSIRO and the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. Almost all research activities have involved different partners and field experiments with landholders and communities. This has helped to improve understanding and prioritisation of project selection and funding initiatives.

For further information contact Professor John Rolfe

Don’t FAID Away

Technological innovations, changes in customer demands and community expectations, and the emergence of global competition now requires many industries to operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In many developed countries, fatigue is recognised in occupational, health and safety (OHS) legislation as an identifiable workplace hazard that must be managed to minimise the risk to employees. Researchers at CQUniversity Australia’s Appleton Institute have responded to this challenge by developing a biomathematical model to quantify the impact of shiftwork schedules on employees’ levels of sleepiness, alertness and performance. Research conducted over the last 15 years in laboratory, simulator and field-based settings related to the impact of various sleep/wake and work/rest schedules on human fatigue levels has resulted in the development of various algorithms to estimate the level of fatigue associated with non-standard (shiftwork) duty schedules. This research has been conducted by Professor Drew Dawson, Associate Professor Greg Roach and Dr David Darwent. InterDynamics, a South Australian software development company, successfully incorporated these algorithms into a commercialised stand-alone software application called the Fatigue Audit InterDyne (FAID). FAID has produced two measurable economic and safety benefits of significance: Since 2001, InterDynamics has received $5 million in revenue from the sales of FAID. FAID licences are currently held by 350 organisations in Australia and overseas. Professor Drew Dawson originally licenced the biomathematical algorithms to InterDynamics in 1999. Since then, InterDynamics has renewed its licence in 2003, 2007 and 2013. Union Pacific Railway has used FAID to aid the design of fatigue-friendly rosters since 2001. Since then, the incidence of planned rosters with fatigue exceedances has been reduced by 20 to 30 percent. Prior to the introduction of FAID, Union Pacific Railway averaged five fatigue-related fatalities per year. In the 10 years that the organisation has been using FAID, it has not had a single fatigue related fatality. It is likely that the development of fatigue-friendly rosters using FAID has contributed, at least in part, to this reduction in fatalities.

For further information contact Professor Drew Dawson

The Impact Of Electronic Gambling Machine Jackpots On Gambling Behaviour

Many people enjoy a flutter every now and again. Nonetheless, it is well established that gambling can cause financial, psychological and health-related harms to gamblers, their families and the community due to excessive use and expenditure. In Australia, annual social costs of gambling are estimated to range between $4.7 and $8.4 billion. Of all forms of gambling, poker machines or electronic gambling machines (EGMs) are consistently found to present the most significant risk to individuals, with elevated use of EGMs most strongly associated with the development of gambling problems. Researchers at CQUniversity, led by Professor Matthew Rockloff, found that participants who receive a relevant message regarding jackpot expiry significantly reduced their betting and cashed out of the EGM with more money remaining than those in control conditions. EGM jackpots were associated with greater spend overall and those more at risk of developing gambling problems tended to be more vulnerable to the influence of jackpot features, leading to greater persistence in the face of losses. Progress was also made in terms of advancing the theory of why jackpots tended to result in more intense gambling. The impact of the research in providing knowledge of the elevated risks caused by jackpot-enabled EGMs is informing policy makers and regulators in determining the constraints enforced on EGM features in casinos, pubs and clubs. Regulators in Australian states and territories are currently reviewing the structure of EGM payout mechanisms, as well as jackpot sizes, to determine the safest configurations for Australian consumers.

For further information contact Professor Matthew Rockloff

Smart Brakes

Freight trains still have the same basic operating principles of air braking that was derived in the late 19th century. Given that the control medium is air pressure, the control signal cannot move along the train any faster than sonic velocity. This leads to the familiar ‘clunk-clunk-clunk’ sound we hear in trains. While electronic braking has been available in passenger trains for some time, there are difficulties in freight trains due to the train length and the fact that freight wagons have no electric power. The need for electronic brakes has continued to increase as heavy haul trains have become longer. Trains of 2.4 kilometres are common in Australia, with longer trains of up to 4 kilometres currently operating in South Africa and proposed for new projects in Australia. The impact and effectiveness of research into these issues by CQUniversity’s Centre for Railway Engineering has been demonstrated through a number of successes. Firstly, the development of an electronic braking product that can be retrofitted to a large percentage of freight rail fleets in Australia, Europe and the United Kingdom. Secondly, the development of a train health advisory system product that is integrated into the electronic braking product, which again is easily fitted to freight rolling stock and provides the capability of every wagon condition monitoring. The underlying research enabling these impacts was the development of a robust low power brake control product for operation in the severe on-wagon environment, as well as robust and low-cost condition monitoring technology for each wagon that required a minimum number of transducers. Today, cost-effective electronic smart brakes for freight trains are very much a reality.

For further information contact Professor Colin Cole