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Students work to invent the future

4 November 2016
Student innovation recognised

PhD student Xanthe Croot from the School of Physics, recently took part in the inaugural, cross-discipinary Inventing the Future program.

By working with other students from across the university, I developed my understanding of the business components of the project and got to delve into a different scientific field beyond my own
Xanthe Croot

Xanthe Croot is in the final stages of her PhD on experimental quantum computing. She studies in the Quantum Nanoscience Lab in the Sydney Nanoscience Hub, but recently took part in the inaugural Inventing the Future program, for which her team's ‘FluroSat’ project won first prize.

This unique, cross-disciplinary program involved postgraduate and research students from the University’s Faculties of Science, Architecture, Design and Planning, Engineering and IT and the Sydney Business School. Over 11 weeks, the students took part in the complete process of innovation, from ideation to prototyping to a funding pitch to industry, enabled by interdisciplinary collaboration and cross-faculty teaching.

“Our FluroSat project aims to use satellite imaging to monitor crop health, providing pre-visual detection and identification of crop stress” Xanthe said.

“The benefits of this technology are twofold: first, the early identification of crop stress, and subsequent rectification of any issues, can increase overall crop yields. Second, this technology can inform decisions about resource management - ie. imagery can identify which regions of crops are experiencing higher levels of stress, and can inform variable rate fertiliser/chemical/water distribution.”

Rolling out this technology would mean farmers could make data-driven decisions about their use of chemicals, water and fertiliser, meaning they would use less and save costs. Similarly, the environmental impact of the farming would be reduced.

“The most enjoyable thing about the Inventing the Future program was working such a driven and motivated team. By working with other students from across the university, I developed my understanding of the business components of the project and got to delve into a different scientific field beyond my own.”

Xanthe believes that cross-disciplinary project work encourages students to look at the same problem through completely different lenses. 

Learning to draw on each other's strengths to get the most out of the team is very rewarding.

“Having multiple people working on different aspects of the same project enables each person to have a much deeper appreciation for the multifaceted nature of achieving the project's goals. Learning to draw on each other's strengths to get the most out of the team is very rewarding.”

“I think it really helped me to see where my skill sets can be used outside of the research contexts I am familiar with, took me out of my comfort zone on numerous occasions, and connected our team with academics and industry experts across a broad range of fields.”

Xanthe will soon have another opportunity to engage with industry experts. She has just been awarded a Startup Catalyst scholarship which will take on her on a 10 day immersive mission to Silicon Valley later this month. This scholarship aims to expose future and current entrepreneurs to fast paced, startup rich environments with the goal of transforming the startup and innovation landscape in Australia.

“I'm looking forward to meeting with successful entrepreneurs, seeing their work first-hand, learning about their business strategies, and being inspired by their innovative approaches and responses to challenges.” Xanthe said.

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