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Computer game controller for cerebral palsy earns top prize for new inventor

by Katrina Phelps

Max Hughes with the Hills Young Australian Design Award.Max Hughes with the Hills Young Australian Design Award.

Design work on a novel gaming controller that lets people with cerebral palsy play computer games has earned a UniSA Master of Design graduate one of Australia’s most prestigious industrial design awards.

Max Hughes (pictured above), who graduated from the Master of Design at the end of 2012, has been working on the design since completing his Master’s, spending most of last year employed by Flinders University researcher David Hobbs to redesign the controller and manufacture a short run of units for a current clinical trial.

Hughes was one of three UniSA graduates or students to be a finalist in the Hills Young Australian Design Awards, a national design award for young Australian designers, engineers, innovators and entrepreneurs under the Good Design Awards in which a UniSA lecturer was also part of a South Australian team who won a Best in Category design award for their new clothes pegs.

“I am extremely honoured to be the winner of this prestigious award, and I am looking forward to the potential growth of this product in the near future,” Hughes says.

“Being able to attend the Good Design Awards was a great opportunity and experience, even just being there in recognition of a lot of hard work was rewarding enough especially for such a worthwhile design project.

Max Hughes’ novel gaming controller.Max Hughes’ novel gaming controller.

“The controller is spherical-shaped and inspired by the trackball computer mouse designs that were popular in the 1990s.

“It’s very intuitive to use. Being able to help kids with cerebral palsy is very rewarding.”

UniSA Industrial Design Lecturer Sandy Walker has praised all three of the UniSA finalists and congratulated Hughes on his award win.

"Max did a wonderful job, and is another great example of how the Masters of Design (Industrial Design) can enhance research outcomes, through the application of user-centred problem solving,” Walker says.

“The CP Gaming Controller project was a well-executed exercise trans-disciplinary (Medical Engineering/Industrial Design) and cross-institutional collaboration. The commercial potential of the product system beyond the treatment of CP, is considerable. Congratulations to all involved, and especially to Max.”


The Hills Young Designer of the Year Award is a category in the annual Good Design Awards. A South Australian design – a peg with a hook (hegs) (pictured right) – won the Best in Category award in the housewares and objects category at Australia’s longest standing national design award and promotion program.

Andrew Whittaker, who for the past 14 years has been a part-time lecturer and tutor in Industrial Design at UniSA and Partner of Fingo Product Development, an Industrial design consultancy based in Adelaide, was part of the winning hegs team.

"In the field of Industrial Design, an Australian Good Design Award® represents the highest level of recognition for design excellence, so naturally I was thrilled to receive this acknowledgement,” Whittaker says.

“I guess it reinforces the notion that an innovative idea coupled with well-considered design can turn even a simple product like a domestic clothes peg into an international award-winning product.”

For 2013 Master of Design (Industrial Design) graduate Robert White, an interior train design to help commuters flow in and out trains more smoothly earned him a spot as finalist in the awards.

Robert White’s interior train design.Robert White’s interior train design.

White’s design, which was his major project last year, looks to guide passengers into the carriage and to discourage them from lingering in the entryway where people generally tend to congest, which leads to longer stops as more people try to get on the train.

“I did a lot of research to learn as much as I could about trains, ranging from surveying people who catch trains every day, taking them myself, and even watching surveillance footage from peak commuting hours to observe passenger behaviour patterns,” White said.

“I was pleased and pleasantly surprised to be selected as a finalist – it’s nice to have all the work that went into my train project recognised on a national stage.”

Soon-to-graduate Bachelor of Industrial Design student Andrew McIntyre has been recognised in the Hills awards program for a design update to emergency medicine for diabetics.

Andrew McIntyre’s Glycoject Hypokit.Andrew McIntyre’s Glycoject Hypokit.

His Glycoject Hypokit quickly and easily integrates the two components needed by diabetics in an emergency situation, designed to replace the current process of mixing two components from a syringe and a vial, which can be extremely difficult to perform accurately under stress in an emergency.

“I really enjoyed the in-depth, comprehensive detail and complexity that was needed to make an improvement for this product,” McIntyre said.

“Being a finalist for this award is amazing – the Hills Young Australian Design Award is a part of the biggest design event in Australia and it’s great that I have the opportunity to be part of it.”

The awards were created to inspire a new generation of Australian designers and thinkers and to help foster a culture of design, innovation and creativity in Australia.