Solving data dilemmas: Moreton Bay students take home top prize

Published 09 November 2022


Two groups of UniSC Moreton Bay students have won national awards for their creative solutions to some of the problems facing Australia’s freight industry as part of the annual GovHack competition.

Every year GovHack challenges bright, analytical minds to access open government data and identify how it could be used to improve our society. UniSC’s Dr Erica Mealy, the Moreton Bay Regional Lead for GovHack, says she was impressed with the quality of this year’s entries.

“It’s very exciting to see so many of our teams in both the national and regional awards. Especially for our engineers who are almost ready to graduate – it speaks to the quality of our engineering and technology curriculums and the employability of our students and graduates,” Dr Mealy said

While there were innovative ideas spanning everything from water supply to biodiversity, it was the UniSC teams tackling the transport system that gained national attention, taking out first-place in GovHack’s two freight categories.

From keeping supermarket shelves stocked, to making sure regretful online shopping purchases arrive on time – freight plays a hand in every facet of our lives. However as the pandemic, floods and fires over the past 4 years have shown – Australia’s supply lines can be susceptible to shutting down in the face of adversity.

Fires remain a challenge, but one of UniSC’s teams think they might have come up with a solution to the problem presented by floods. Enter Flood Freight Assist.

“The concept of our application is to create a map that will help freight carriers navigate safer routes and complete their routes more efficiently by indicating travel routes at risk of flooding,” said Airah Flores, a member of the winning team.

Combining data sets mapping freight routes, with topographical data of flood plains, drainage basins and at-risk areas, the concept aims to provide up-to-date information on roads that are in danger of being flooded straight to the phones of Australia’s transport industry workers.

“Our goal is to connect transport planners with freight data and real-time data to assist with their planning. If we see that there is a high density of freight carriers travelling on areas with high risk of flooding, transport planners can help by creating alternative routes. This may also assist in road improvement/development plans,” she said.

UniSC’s other national award-winning entry took a similar approach, but instead focused on combining BOM rainfall data in a bid to predict what freight routes around the Ipswich region were most likely at risk with a phone app called Australian Freight Road Planner.

These ideas aren’t just pipedreams either, Dr Mealy believes they have real-world potential.

“Over the years, GovHack concepts have been further developed across Australia. For 2022, Moreton Bay Regional Council is already speaking with award winning teams from UniSC, and looking at how they might further develop them.”

Moreton Bay Regional Council Mayor Peter Flannery said GovHack provided an opportunity to develop and support entrepreneurial capabilities for the region’s young innovators to generate real-world solutions for both local and national issues affecting communities.

“Knowledge, innovation and entrepreneurship is one of the four pillars of our Regional Economic Development Strategy. Our aim is to make our region one of the top 10 regional knowledge and innovation hubs in Australia – a goal we can achieve by focusing on growing our region’s talent,” Mayor Flannery said.

UniSC’s Computer Science and Engineering had 4 winners, 3 runner ups and 4 honourable mentions across the state and national levels of the competition. Moreton Bay Regional Council was also recognised with a national award.

“We were especially proud to win the Best Government Participation award for Moreton Bay Regional Council as our staff unlocked over 290 data sets in preparation for the event and then eleven of our staff volunteered over the entire weekend to support the UniSC students,” Mayor Flannery said.