Curtin Croc Challenge may unearth viable warning systems

Lecturers, mentors and students participating in ‘Curtin Ultimate
Croc Challenge’ gather for a group photo.

Lecturers, mentors and students participating in ‘Curtin Ultimate Croc Challenge’ gather for a group photo.

MIRI: The ‘Curtin Ultimate Croc Challenge’ – an electronics design competition to be run by Curtin University Sarawak Malaysia during its open day this Oct 8 – could pave the way for the setup of active commercial crocodile warning systems slated for the benefit of thousands of riverine communities in the state.

The inaugural challenge is the brainchild of Curtin Sarawak pro vice-chancellor and chief executive officer Prof Jim Mienczakowski, and championed by the academics of Curtin Sarawak’s Faculty of Engineering and Science with support from the university’s Office of Research and Development.

It is to promote an interest in electronics and engineering, besides nurturing in students the appreciation of crocodiles as a natural and integral part of the state’s eco-system.

As far as the challenge goes, it requires the competing teams to design and develop simple electronic system that through the utilisation of programmable microcontroller kits, can sense the presence of crocodiles.

Recently a workshop on the challenge was conducted, involving 50 students and 10 supervising teachers from 14 participating secondary schools.

It was facilitated by a team led by lecturer of electrical and computer engineering Dr Wong Wei Kitt. The workshop aimed to familiarise the competitors with the usage of the Arduino UNO microcontroller kits, and also for them to gear up for the competition.

“We are very pleased with the response from the schools and students. Everyone was very enthusiastic and quick to learn. I think there will be a very tight competition during the open day,” Wong said.

According to him, the teams would not only design crocodile alert systems using simple electronics and programming, but will also demonstrate their concepts through working scale models and posters. Mentors from the university have been assigned to each team, to guide the youngsters in constructing their devices.

Wong said active crocodile warning systems could benefit thousands of riverine communities in Sarawak, and Borneo in general, prone to crocodile attacks.

“They (devices) could sense the presence of crocodiles in rivers and immediately alert villagers of impending encroachment through various means such as alarms, flags or even mobile messaging systems. The projects will be showcased and judged by a panel of Curtin Sarawak’s academics during the open day. Members of the public and supporters from participating schools are invited to view the projects at the foyer of the Harry Perkins Lecture Theatre (Falcon 1) between 10am and 4pm, and root for their favourite teams during the project evaluation, running from 2pm to 4 pm.”

The competition, which is set to be an annual fixture of ‘Curtin Open Day’ here, is open to students of secondary schools across the state. Judging will be based on creativity, novelty and feasibility of entries, as well as presentation.

The winning team will bag RM2,000, while first and second runners-up will receive RM1,000 and RM500, respectively. In addition, each participating team will be given a RM50 book voucher and certificate of participation.

Besides the ‘Curtin Ultimate Croc Challenge’, there will also be other competitions during the open day such as the ‘Business Genius Challenge’ and ‘So You Think You Can Spell?’.

There will also be the ‘Young Innovate Miri’ – another electronics design competition using open-source hardware and software, where the top three teams will represent Sarawak at national ‘Young Innovate Malaysia’ finals to be held in Kuala Lumpur.

For more information about Curtin Sarawak Open Day 2016, go to