Wireless sound system for home-theatre wins Victoria's 2008 IET Student Prize

Wireless sound system for home-theatre wins Victoria's 2008 IET Student Prize

01 May 2008

It sounds like a 'no brainer'. In the world of cordless, mobile, and infrared, have you ever wondered why we must persist with meters of cords extending from the amplifier to the tiny speaker units of our surround sound system?

La Trobe University Electronics graduate Glenn Boardman has. It was exactly this question that prompted him to design and develop a home theatre surround sound system with wireless speakers - a student project that so impressed judges it has just won the 2008 Victorian Institution Of Engineering and Technology (IET) Student Prize.

"Glenn found a hole in the home theatre market," says Glenn's supervisor, Darrell Elton, a lecturer in electronic engineering in La Trobe University's School of Engineering and Mathematical Sciences. "The only similar products available currently are the wireless computer speakers, and they don't have the Hi-Fi quality."

Glenn says his project's design concept was more complex then "just incorporating wireless sensors."

"For the unit to work well, the sensors needed to be resistant to interference from other wireless signals, so I needed to source some high quality chips," he says. "I did some research and found a company in England that made high quality wireless chips for streaming audio, and then I circuited around it to make the chip work."

Although he had solved the 'crux' of his problem, Glenn says it was still a big undertaking.

"I realised there were other things aside from the electronics that I needed to figure out. It needed to be easy to use, it had to be compatible with other hardware in the entertainment unit, the buttons had to be intuitive, and I needed to make sure it wouldn't overcook itself," he says.

"On top of all that it had to look good, so there were various elements I needed to figure out as I went along."

Having ticked all those boxes, he then had to find a reasonably priced, high quality amplifier that could accept audio inputs from a range of audio-visual devices used in the home.

While 'tinny-sounding' computer speakers are the closest wireless audio output currently available, Glenn hopes to continue to develop his project for the consumer market.

"There really aren't any Australian audio companies. My challenge now is in launching a high-end home theatre product to an audience other then the 'in-the-know' audio market on the internet," he says.

In what he calls a 'lucky coincidence', when his old amplifier blew up a few weeks ago, he simply replaced it with his own model.

"So I now have my own prototype working beautifully, in my lounge room!"

Glenn says his motivation initially was to develop this project with the aim of being included in La Trobe University's annual Hooper Awards, which showcase the Department of Electronic Engineering's most outstanding developments that year.

"I really didn't expect to go further than that, I certainly didn't expect to be nominated for the State awards, let alone win," he says.

Darrell Elton saw the project's potential from the beginning, encouraging his student first of all to do his market research.

"Glenn was the very best student we had last year. He worked in an unconstrained manner, and seeing that his project had such merit, I pushed him very hard," Mr Elton says. "Glenn impressed everyone, especially the Hooper judges. He really went well beyond the requirements."

La Trobe's Department of Electronic Engineering is one of Australia's most consistently successful. It was a runner up in last year's National Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) competition and its annual Hooper Awards are widely respected as a showcase event.

Glenn and his supervisor agree that Glenn's winning design also reflects the dedication of the department's teaching staff, the quality of the students it produces, and the overall strength of the University's Faculty of Science, Technology and Engineering.

Contacts

Glenn Boardmann T: 0408 138 036 E: glenn@exies.net Supervisor Darrell Elton, La Trobe University Department of Electronic Engineering T: + 61 3 9479 2826 E: D.Elton@latrobe.edu.au

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