Better rat trap wins engineering prize

The old adage 'build a better mouse trap and the world will beat a path to your door' has new meaning for La Trobe Electronic Engineering and Computer Science student, Aiden Nibali.

Mr Nibali has just won the Victorian finals of the Institution of Engineering and Technology's (IET) global student showcase for an electronic rodent trap monitor that offers significant cost savings for the pest control industry.

Called 'RatTrace', it has been specifically designed for rat traps. 'Rats carry diseases including bubonic plague, cause a lot of property damage and cost the Australian grain industry up to $47 million in losses every year,' he said.

Major operational cost to industry

'Pest control companies often deploy dozens or more traps per location and bait levels in each trap must be checked regularly. This is time-consuming and a major operational cost for the industry.'

The remote monitoring system allows pest controllers to check in advance which of their traps need servicing. Monitors could be mass-produced for about $14 with a one-year battery life, Mr Nibali said.

'RatTrace senses bait levels by using pulses of infrared light, and the information can then be sent to mobiles, tablets, laptops and desktop computers.

Easy as checking Facebook

'It caters for all of these devices with a
responsive web interface which makes inspecting trap data is as easy as checking 
Facebook. As far as I know there is nothing like it on the market,' he said.

His supervisor, Dr Robert Ross, said: 'Aiden has done a fantastic job in solving a real-world problem which will help speed up our response to serious rat infestations. We hope to build on his success and create even smarter traps to stop these rodents from taking over the world.'

Global  finals in London

The invention beat two projects from the University of Melbourne and RMIT. It earned Mr Nibali a cash prize and trip to Perth for the Australian finals in April next year. The global finals will be held in London in November 2016.

Having just completed his honours year, Mr Nibali was previously part of a five-person team from La Trobe University that won the inaugural Telstra M2M (Machine to Machine) University Challenge in 2013. He plans to go on to do a PhD in artifical intelligence at La Trobe.

The IET Present Around The World competition is a global contest for young engineering professionals and students to develop and showcase their presentation skills.
Media contact: Ernest Raetz 041 226 1919

Image: Mr Nibali, right, being congratulated by his supervisor Dr Ross after the award cermony.

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