The developer of a potentially life-saving road safety device has been awarded a prestigious scholarship which may allow him to intern with one of the world’s most influential automotive manufacturing companies.
Bond University commerce student Hugh Maxey came to national attention earlier this year over his plans to develop a micro-sleep detector to reduce fatigue-related car accidents, following a car crash which left his friend Harrison Frear a paraplegic. Mr Frear fell asleep at the wheel while driving to work.
Backed by the university’s Transformer entrepreneurship program, the detector would act as an in-vehicle “sensor of last resort”, to monitor driver eye activity.
Now, as a recipient of a New Colombo Plan scholarship, the 19-year-old will receive funding to seek and undertake internships, alongside a study program, in the Indo-Pacific region.
Mr Maxey hopes to travel to Japan to take up an internship with either Mitsubishi or Nidec Corporation.
The New Colombo Plan was set up by the Australian government to increase knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia by supporting Australian undergraduate students to study and undertake internships in the region.
After getting the news he was to receive a scholarship, Mr Maxey admitted to feeling “a bit out of my depth”, but added it was not a feeling he was totally unfamiliar with.
“I’ve felt like that before, and a lot of good things have come from that, by biting off more than I can chew, and then chewing harder.”
Mr Maxey plans to travel to Japan in early September next year, where he will complete the final semester of his studies at Hosei University.
His scholarship also includes six months of Japanese language training, during which he’ll also be learning about Japanese culture and history, before taking up an internship at one of the two automotive giants for three months. He plans for his final three months to be spent at another internship with Meat & Livestock Australia, in Tokyo.
“Nidec manufactures a lot of similar items to what I’m trying to create,” he said.
“They are very good with the minute details and smaller-scale manufacturing, so they could potentially provide networking opportunities into the automotive industry which could lead to partnerships with different car companies to get my micro-sleep detector into vehicles. Mitsubishi would do that really well too.”
Having moved to Bond from Nevertire in the NSW Central West where his parents and siblings farm wheat and run cattle and sheep, Mr Maxey said the internship with Meat & Livestock Australia would also be valuable for him.
“Growing up on a farm, I was always interested in the sale of cattle, watching sheep and cattle prices go up and down, and even going along to auctions. Australia exports huge amounts of beef to Japan, and as we breed cattle specifically designed to meet Japanese market needs, we’ve got a bit of a niche market.”
In the meantime, Mr Maxey intends to continue development on the micro-sleep detector, and has an open mind for what comes after his scholarship.
“I’ll cross that bridge when I get there.
“I didn’t have a set plan for after I finished my degree because I thought something would present itself, and it has, so I’m thinking there’ll be plenty more opportunities in the next two-and-a-half years… so when I get my cards, I’ll play them.”