Trevelyan takes home professions category at Western Australian of the Year awards

Professor James Trevelyan has been recognised at the Western Australian of the Year awards for 2018, winning the professions category.
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Trevelyan takes home professions category at Western Australian of the Year awards

Professor James Trevelyan has been recognised at the Western Australian of the Year awards for 2018, winning the professions category.

Trevelyan has been an engineer, researcher and educator since 1971, and is currently Emeritus Professor at The University of Western Australia, as well as a Fellow of Engineers Australia. He is CEO of Perth air conditioning startup Close Comfort, and continues his research on engineering practice, also infrastructure development in low-income countries.

Trevelyan says winning the award was extremely humbling.

“I felt immensely honoured,” Trevelyan said.

“I looked at the list of nominees and thought that there was a lot of doctors there, they’re bound to choose a doctor.

“I joked that they’d only choose an engineer if they wanted to be unconventional, but they did end up choosing me and I was really gratified.”

Trevelyan has undertaken a myriad of projects during his career including leading the development of the first sheep shearing robot for the wool industry, a major achievement in robotics at the time. In 1993, he led another team at the University of Western Australia that created ‘Australia’s telerobot on the Web,’ which was one of the earliest demonstrations of ‘The Internet of Things.’

In recent years Trevelyan has been using his profile to inspire engineers to help alleviate poverty. Trevelyan’s most recent project has been inventing and pioneering a low-cost energy-efficient air conditioner that could eliminate air conditioning greenhouse emissions and have a life-changing impact in developing countries. 

Trevelyan came up with the idea for the air conditioner whilst visiting his wife’s native Pakistan, where he loves to eat mangoes.

““Like all good things, necessity is the mother of invention,” Trevelyan said.

“The thing about Pakistan mangoes is they’re picked ripe off the trees and so you have to be there at the right time of the year when the weather is hot and unpleasant, it’s usually up to 45 degrees with about 50-70% humidity.

“The air conditioner provides comfort on as little as 170 Watts as opposed to a normal air conditioner which require at least 2.5kW plus a generator to run it.”

A small solar panel provides enough daytime power, and rechargeable batteries help reduce power demand at night.

“We’ve now sold a couple of thousand units in five countries and we are getting wonderful reactions from customers.”

Currently in Pakistan, Professor Trevelyan hopes that winning this award will help to inspire Engineers in Australia to help with worldwide sustainability challenges.

“I think we have the ability to come up with global solutions from right here in Australia, we can be the catalyst that causes these things to happen.

“I’d like that to inspire Young Australian Engineers.”

James’ next ambition is providing safe piped water systems for low-income countries that attract private investment, something urgently needed to meet UN Sustainable Development goals.