Monash research towards inclusive technologies wins Eureka Prize

Monash University researcher, Dr Kirsten Ellis from the Faculty of Information Technology’s Inclusive Technologies Lab has won the prestigious Eureka Prize for STEM inclusion.

Dr Ellis was awarded the Department of Industry, Science and Resources’ Eureka Prize for  creating more opportunities for people with disabilities to engage with science and technology.

The Australian Museum Eureka Prizes honour excellence across research and innovation, leadership, science engagement and school science. They are presented annually in partnership with leading scientific institutions, government organisations, universities and corporations.

Dr Ellis was recognised for TapeBlocks – novel STEM inclusion activities that allow people to experiment with building creative circuits.

This innovative approach to circuit-making facilitates engagement in STEM for people with a range of disabilities so that everyone is able to enjoy the benefits of engaging with electronics and creating circuits for themselves. TapeBlock kits include foam blocks with conductive tape and outputs such as small colour changing lights, fans and buzzers.

“This award helps to highlight efforts around breaking down barriers and challenging perceptions of who is able to participate in STEM activities,” Dr Ellis said.

“The plan is to further refine and extend TapeBlocks to meet the needs of different participants and improve the support materials, including online tutorials and lesson plans.”

The TapeBlocks project is part of other research and initiatives from the Lab including TronicBoards and Braille Bombing.

Dr Ellis and Dr Swamy Ananthanarayan from the Inclusive Technologies Lab along with researchers from the Faculty of Education and the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences have recently received an ARC Linkage Grant working with disability support organisation, Wallara to extend their work increasing access to STEM making for people with intellectual disability in regional Victoria.

The research team aims to set up a mobile maker space to travel between Wallara sites and into the broader community to run STEM engagement activities and skill development.

Eureka Prize winner Inclusive Technologies Lab Group Leader Dr Kirsten Ellis is available for interviews.

Read about other Monash University finalists here.