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Mind over matter: “Brain Speller” wins Australian Imagine Cup 2011

6 May, 2011 | Sydney, Australia

Sydney, Australia – 6 May, 2011: Four of Australia’s brightest, budding university student inventors were last night crowned “Team Australia” in the national finals of Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2011: the team will go on to represent Australia with their winning idea “Brain Speller” at the worldwide finals where students from 100 countries will compete.

Hailing from the University of Canberra, Team UCEGG1, snatched the national innovation crown with their winning idea, “Brain Speller” - a new home-grown innovation to help people with decreased physical functions to communicate by translating electronic thought signals into text.

The winners were announced at Microsoft’s Australian finals, held last night at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. They were selected by a panel of five judges made up of industry experts and representatives from Microsoft, including ACS Foundation, Built to Roam and nsquared2.

Paul Du will lead the team of four including fellow Australian students Le Nguyen, Lap Duong and Kim Mai Bui, and will represent Australia when they compete against 400 students at the worldwide finals held in New York between 8-13 July 2011. The runner-up team was from the University of Technology Queensland, with its Mum2Be3 program, designed to improve infant and maternal health and safety.

Team leader Du said his team was hugely excited to win and that he felt proud to represent Australia, a country that he believes “is very inventive by nature and has provided me with everything I have today.”

He said: “Great ideas come from imagination and our team wouldn’t be here right now without it. We’re excited by the opportunity to combine imagination and technology to create a product that will improve lives and genuinely help with an issue that affects so many people in this country.

“Between now and July we’ll be researching and developing our program to get it in the best shape for when we compete against the rest of the world. It’s an honour to represent Australia – to be honest, it’s still sinking in.”

The selection of Team UCEGG as Australia’s student innovators follows an earlier announcement made by The Hon. Peter Garrett, Minister for Schools Education, Early Childhood & Youth, who announced that Australia is host nation of the Imagine Cup 2012 Worldwide Finals, which celebrates its tenth anniversary in 2012.

Delivering the address in central Sydney to an audience of celebrities and industry experts including young Australian of the Year, Jessica Watson; 2005 Australian of the Year, Dr Fiona Wood; and Australian Computer Society Foundation; The University of Melbourne’s Institute for a Broadband-Enable Society (IBES), and Business Events Sydney, Minister Garrett said: “I encourage Australian students to get involved in Microsoft’s Imagine Cup 2012, using software and technology to help improve the world we live in.”

Jessica Watson said: “To me, the Imagine Cup is important because it sends a clear message to young people and students that anything is possible and that we can be the spark that makes great things happen.”

Pip Marlow, managing director, Microsoft Australia said, “We have the brightest and smartest talent in Australia, and by hosting the worldwide finals here next year, we hope to help inspire a new generation of student inventors and imagine-makers.”

The Imagine Cup 2012 will challenge students to come up with ideas to help solve the world’s toughest problems – inspired in part by the United Nation’s Millennium Development Goals – and to use the power of software and technology to help bring those ideas to life. This year, the Imagine Cup has attracted over 300,000 students and more than 400 student finalists will compete.

For more information about the Imagine Cup, visit:

Notes to editors:

1Team UCEGG - Brain Speller University of Canberra

  • Team UCEGG consists of Paul Du, Le Nguyen, Lap Duong and Kim Mai Bui, four students from the University of Canberra.
  • The team imagined a solution to aid disabled people in communicating and interacting with the world around them. Team UCEGG have developed an idea called Brain Speller, an application that uses existing commercially available devices that use electroencephalography (EEG) to translate electronic thought signals into text.
  • As an integrated hardware and software solution, Brain Speller works with the Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset to tune into electronic signals from the brain. Once detected, these signals are translated into words, allowing paralysed users to articulate their thoughts to others. The application has use in dementia as the solution aids communication between patients and carers and increases independence, enabling people with decreased physical functions to communicate with others.
  • Team UCEGG believe that their application can improve the quality of life of patients with brain diseases, as it builds upon existing research to create a viable solution for people in need of assistive thought-to-speech technology. The team believes that anything is possible – particularly that a group of IT students with a great idea and minimal resources could change the world for the better.

2Judging panel included: John Ridge, Executive director, ACS Foundation; Jon Perera, Microsoft Corp. General Manager for Education; Nick Randolph, Founder of Built to Roam; Ed Hooper, Australia’s Imagine Cup 2008 worldwide winner; and Dr. Neil Roodyn, Software Developer, Director at nsquared.

3About Baby2Be - Mum2Be University of Technology Queensland

  • Baby2Be is Hao Guo, Jason Leong, Joshua Fuglsang and Andrew Tan Siak Chuan, four students from the Queensland University of Technology.
  • The team has developed a concept for a mobile application called Mum2Be, a program designed to improve infant and maternal health and safety. The students recognised that maintaining optimal health throughout pregnancy is almost entirely reliant on visits to a general practitioner; however there is a need for up-to-the-minute delivery of health data and practical advice for women on the go.
  • Baby2Be imagined a solution that could assist women to obtain up to the minute health information about the external environment that might affect the health of the mother and the baby. Using smartphone technology and simple, affordable sensor equipment, the application monitors and identifies potential hazards, such as high level of toxicity in the air, or whether the mother is in an unsafe area that is inaccessible to emergency services. The app alerts the mother to potential hazards and offers practical advice and suggestions to improve her condition. The application will also be equipped with an in-built emergency call function that notifies an ambulance if the woman faints or goes into early labour.

For further information or to arrange an interview, please contact:
Rudolf Wagenaar
(02) 8281 3879 / 0439 082 550

Erin Copping
(02) 8281 3848 / 0421 831160

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