MSE alumni win Fullbright Scholarships to study in US

Dr Dean Freestone will travel to Colombia University in New York to further his research in epilepsy control.
Dr Dean Freestone will travel to Colombia University in New York to further his research in epilepsy control.

Two of the Melbourne School of Engineering’s alumni have won Fullbright Scholarships to undertake professional development in the United States.

Water resource manager Dr Tony McLeod has received a Fulbright Senior Scholarship. He will compare the water management challenges of the Colorado and Murray Darling river basins at the Getches-Wilkinson Centre for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Dr McLeod completed his Bachelors and PhD in engineering at the University of Melbourne and is a General Manager at the Murray-Darling Basin Authority in Canberra. Dr McLeod said that the systems share many challenges and opportunities and he will work to prepare an analysis that will inform policy in both the US and Australia.

Biomedical Engineer, Dr Dean Freestone, has received Victoria’s Fulbright Postdoctoral Scholar. He will further his research into controlling epilepsy using electrical stimulation.

Dr Freestone graduated with a PhD in Engineering from the University of Melbourne in 2012. He is now working with St Vincent Hospital’s Department of Medicine and with the Department of Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the University of Melbourne.

“The scholarships support recipients for professional development in the United States, up to the value of $40,000. University of Melbourne’s Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Engagement) Sue Elliott said that the scholarships highlight the University of Melbourne’s world-class research and global focus.

“Fulbright Scholarships support outstanding graduates and recognise the potential international impact of their research aspirations.”

Can we still make things? – the future of manufacturing

In this month’s edition of Voice, Annie Rahilly and Zoe Nikakis ask engineering experts what manufacturing in Australia will look like in the future. The answer is firmly: hi-tech, collaborative and innvotion-based.

Australia, and Victoria in particular, have long been places that make things. From the massive Ford plant in Geelong to Ardmona tomatoes and SPC canned peaches, to boutique clothing operations like Queensland’s Black Milk, manufacturing and the encouragement to ‘buy Australian’ has always been part of the nation’s cultural identity.

It’s an expensive way to be proudly Australian though, and the costs are increasingly making Australian manufacturing unviable.

Dr Colin Burvill from the University of Melbourne’s Department of Mechanical Engineering says the future of Australian manufacturing, and engineering more broadly, relies strongly in what he calls “continuous innovation”.

“Innovation, invention and the associated design skills that enable practical realisation are crucial to retaining local manufacturing,” he says.

“We are losing the major automotives from Victoria and while this is problematic, the concern should be for the workforces. In particular, the highly trained people whose skills should not be lost, whether those skills are used directly in other industries or to assist the training of the next generation.

Paul Minty from the Melbourne School of Engineering (MSE) says a competitive manufacturing sector is still viable.

“Two people may buy the same machine but one asks, how can I make this machine operate better? How can I optimise its performance? This is innovation. Having an idea and realising it.

“Australia has a full range of such innovation skills to offer. At MSE, staff build the machines, apply them to manufacture and understand how the equipment will work.

“In the quest to improve quality, manufacturers can increase volume and shorten the time to market. In my associations with industry, I have seen how clever manufacturers invest in upgrading machinery and tools to increase batch runs that result in products being made quicker and cheaper,” he says.

“By going back to the essence of engineering, small businesses can adopt new tools and technology with positive results. Engaging with new research is key to this continuous improvement.”

Dr Alan Smith is the senior manufacturing lecturer in Mechanical Engineering. He agrees there is an imperative for engineers, and particularly the future engineers he teaches, to change and adapt throughout their careers.

“As engineers, invention is part of what we do and it is all wrapped in disciplines and systems,” he says.

“We must retain our expertise to keep improvement going through product innovation, invention and design.”

To change the ways engineers and manufacturers innovate and invent new methods, first the way in which they are taught must change.

This future, where students must be innovators and inventors as well as specialists in specific disciplines, is one the University of Melbourne is actively pursuing by changing the ways in which it teaches students.

Successful innovation and invention also means supporting different ways of undertaking research projects.

At Melbourne, research innovation, not just in manufacturing but also across sustainability and resilience challenges and other complex global problems is increasingly being explored by collaborative teams of experts from across different faculties.

Where once a project may have been solely engineering’s territory, to be truly innovative now requires multi-disciplinary teams comprising experts from faculties as diverse as Information and Computer Technology, Science and Medicine, Dentistry and Health Sciences.

The University is in many ways supporting this new way of working on multi-disciplinary projects, and the teams required to undertake them, including by creating a new facility designed from the ground up for this purpose.

The project, known as the Carlton Connect Initiative, will help accelerate the transition to the economy of the future, says Project Director Charlie Day.

“Victoria is moving from a product-based economy to a knowledge-based economy,” he says.

“The sustainability challenges around issues such as water, energy, food and liveable cities are areas in which we have globally-recognised strengths, and we need to think about how to build on those.

“We are planning to co-locate academics with industry and government experts to work collaboratively to drive innovation in these fields.”

Mr Day says to successfully nurture these future innovators, partners are needed to help with the translation of ideas into reality.

“If we get this right now, it will create the opportunities for the new businesses that will underpin our future prosperity,” he says.

“Companies must not be afraid to engage with engineers; they can learn from being on the ground in industry gaining practical experience and industry can learn from engineers about problem-solving.”

Mr Day says implementing an equal exchange system between universities and industry is a plan worth considering.

“The benefits are positive as overseas programs have demonstrated,” he says.

“But research and industry need to be matched. Industry doesn’t need raw scientific research but research that connects with them. Better links are needed.”

One of the great developments in manufacturing in the past few years, 3D printing, was a result of industry-engineering alliances, and has already resulted in advanced manufacturing practices.

“Academics are forced to focus 15 years into the future. Industry is forced to look at next week’s problem, Mr Day says.

“Structurally we need to look half way.”

The article, “Can we still make things’, by Annie Rahilly and Zoe Nikakis, first appeared in Voice, Volume 10 Number 4, April 14 – May 11 2014.

Using crowdsourcing to boost EV battery system invention

Electrical and Electronic Engineering PhD student Valentin Muenzel and his supervision team have launched a crowdsourcing initiative to maximise the impact of an invention for a highly advanced battery system for electric cars.

Through a collaboration with ideas crowdsourcing start-up Marblar, Valentin and his supervisors Iven Mareels, Doreen Thomas, Marcus Brazil and Julian de Hoog are offering bright and creative minds the opportunity to contribute towards improving the technology itself as well as finding alternative applications for it.

In addition to the thrill of turning cutting-edge research into innovative and world-changing products, Marblar supporters also earn digital marbles that allow them to share in the financial rewards, if the technology becomes a commercial success.

The underlying battery system technology invented by the Melbourne School of Engineering researchers represents a novel approach to integrating the hundreds or thousands of individual lithium-ion battery cells that form the basis for large battery packs widely used in applications such as electric cars or stationary energy storage.

Conventional battery systems represent a weakest-link type problem, whereby the weakest battery cell limits the energy capacity of the entire system. By allowing each individual battery cell to be dynamically switched between being connected to the main power side, a secondary side or disconnected altogether, it is possible to overcome this weakest-link type issue and notably increase the useful capacity of the system.

The system allows electric vehicle manufacturers to discard the traditional 12V car battery, which in current electric vehicles is still required for backup purposes, providing weight and cost savings.

Any interested undergraduate or graduate students, alumni or other creative thinkers can read about and contribute to the technology on the Marblar.

Katherine Frase discusses digital content in education

Fundamentally, we all want the same thing when it comes to education and our children. How do we encourage young people to get the best education for their future careers? What role does digital content have to play?

In the first Dean’s Engineering and IT Public Lecture for 2014, Dr Katherine Frase discusses the potential of digital content to drive better learning outcomes. As Vice President and Chief Technology Officer in IBM’s Public Sector, Dr Frase offers real-life examples and insightful interpretations concerning technology and education.

By using the controversial example of technology in an educational setting, Dr Frase outlines how digital content is becoming the norm in the classroom.

“Students are not expecting to unplug themselves when they arrive at school. Instead, we can use digital power to predict student needs and communicate with them in an engaging manner,” she says.

Combining this with an increased ability to monitor and anticipate student needs, Dr Frase asserts instructors and teachers are better positioned than ever to drive better learning outcomes and advance their students’ future.

Presented by thought-leaders, industry experts and senior academic staff, the Dean’s Engineering and IT Public Lecture series are designed to stimulate public interest while debating the future of engineering, information and technology in relation to society.

Dr Tuan Ngo’s team wins national Defence Materials Technology Centre award

Dr Tuan Ngo and his team
Dr Tuan Ngo and his team

Dr Tuan Ngo from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering and his research team have taken out a national award for their work in creating new protective materials to enhance the safety of military vehicles.

The Capability Improvement Award was presented at the recent Defence Materials Technology Centre (DMTC) conference in Canberra on 26 March. The prize was awarded for the team’s Armour Applications Program, focusing on developing new materials and optimised systems to enhance blast and ballistic protection as well as mobility of the Bushmaster and Hawkei military vehicles.

The team has developed novel material testing and characterisation techniques and a multi-scale simulation framework for modelling ultra-high strength armour materials and vehicle structural components subjected to extreme mine blasts and ballistic attacks.
The group has been working in close collaboration with industry partners, the Thales Group, to develop a unique structural optimisation algorithm to reduce weight and increase mobility for military vehicles. Dr Ngo has also developed new innovative hybrid composite structures which can significantly enhance the protection of vehicles, structures and humans against shocks and impacts.

The team also includes University of Wollongong, DSTO, ANSTO, Blue Scope Steel, Bisalloy and Swinburne University.

At the conference, Federal Assistant Minister for Defence, Stuart Robert, also announced an extension of funding for three years, for the DMTC, of which the University of Melbourne is core participant.

“This will enable the DMTC to continue to drive the creation of Australian industry capability and Australian jobs in advanced manufacturing and associated technologies,” Mr Robert said.

The DMTC assists Australian defence industry to develop world leading technology, which provides Australian industry with the potential to compete in the global defence marketplace.

PhD Candidate Sam Amirebrahimi wins IBM Fellowship

Sam Amirebrahimi
Sam Amirebrahimi

Infrastructure Engineering PhD candidate Sam Amirebrahimi has recently received an IBM PhD Fellowship Award. Out of more than 350 nominations, Sam was chosen for his PhD research project, assessing flood damage to buildings and urban environments.

Highlighting the association between good planning and disaster-prepared communities, Sam intends to develop a better understanding of the impacts of flood, which will be used to develop strategies to minimise adverse effects of the natural disaster. By implementing a model supported by three-dimensional spatial information, Sam can effectively evaluate the potential physical damage caused by flood.

The IBM Fellowship will benefit this research, by matching Sam with an IBM Mentor and linking him to IBM research facilities.

“This Fellowship will provide me with the opportunity to interact with experienced researchers in the IBM research lab in Melbourne,” Sam says.

The IBM Fellowship is an intensely competitive global program, honouring exceptional PhD students and supporting their projects.

Focusing on areas that are fundamental to innovation in the 21st century, Sam will have access to the Australia Disaster Management Platform, a joint collaboration between the University of Melbourne and IBM. Developing systems for disaster management, the aims of this partnership are closely aligned with Sam’s overarching research aims. “This will provide me with an opportunity to increase the quality of my research,” says Sam.

MAP Alumnus Long Zheng Creates Train App for Google Glass

“OK Glass.”

“Trains near me?”

Melbourne Accelerator Program alumnus Long Zheng, has created a new public transport app for Google Glass. Coded over two nights, this app shows users the nearest train stops, route numbers, destinations and departure times. Convenient and safer than relying on a smartphone, this new software development ensures commuters will never miss their morning train again.

Long Zheng’s transport timetable app follows the success of Omny, developed by 121cast, co-founded by Long.

This app creates personal stream of audio content, based on the user’s internet preferences. Building personalized audio services to help people stay informed and entertained, 121cast’s aims are closely aligned with the features of the new Google Glass transport app. Both of these initiatives innovatively use software to inform and help people in their daily lives.

Read “Melbourne transport timetables hit Google Glass” by Paddy Wood, The Age, March 31, 2004.

MAP Startup Accelerator Application Workshop

The Melbourne Accelerator Program (MAP) will be hosting its annual Application Workshop on Tuesday April 8 at the University of Melbourne.

MAP, Australia’s preeminent entrepreneurship program, offers Fellowships to outstanding business innovators within its Startup Accelerator Program. Entrepreneurial Fellows receive up to $20,000 in funding, office space and networking and mentoring opportunities. These resources provide startups with an exceptional opportunity to get their business ideas off the ground and into marketplace.

The Application Workshop is critical for groups applying for the Startup Accelerator, as it provides an overview of the selection process. In addition, the workshop is highly beneficial for those interested in improving their entrepreneurship skills, as attendees will discover how to pitch ideas, prepare for interviews and find resources for crafting great applications.

Future seminars will discuss mentoring opportunities, accounting basics for startups and other critical topics for entrepreneurs.

MAP offers support to entrepreneurs at all stages of development through a range of workshops, programs. Up-skilling, networking and mentoring students, MAP plays a vital role in accelerating startup ventures into the global stratosphere.

Ivan Marusic elected a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science

The Australian Academy of Science has elected Professor Ivan Marusic, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, for his outstanding contributions and applications of scientific research.

Distinguished scientists are elected every year by their peers to be part of this elite Fellowship.

“They are the Olympic athletes of science,” said Suzanne Cory, President of the Australian Academy of Science.

Professor Marusic, who completed his Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) and PhD at the University of Melbourne, was elected for his contributions to fluid mechanics and advancing our understanding of wall-bounded turbulent flows, with applications from aquatic ecosystems to aircraft drag reduction.

Aircraft spend about half of their fuel overcoming turbulence, meaning that any improvement in this area has implications for not only the cost of air travel, but also its contribution to carbon emissions.

Professor Marusic said that it was not only an honour for him, but his team and Australian fluid mechanics researchers more generally.

“This is an area in which Australia has been traditionally very strong – it’s a great recognition for the field as well,” he said.

Professor Marusic joins University of Melbourne colleagues Professor Barbara Howlett from the School of Botany and Professor Ingrid Scheffer from the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health as 2014 Fellows of the Australian Academy of Science.

Orica Engineering Design Prize Announced

l-r: Jacob Rivera, Dr Peter McGowan (Manager of Mechanical Engineering at Orica) and Lee Rogers
l-r: Jacob Rivera, Dr Peter McGowan (Manager of Mechanical Engineering at Orica) and Lee Rogers.

Jacob Rivera and Lee Rogers are the joint winners of the 2013 Orica Design prize. On Wednesday March 19 2014, the Mechanical Engineering students received a financial prize and certificate from Dr Peter McGowan, of Mechanical Engineering at Orica.

The Orica Engineering Design Prize is awarded to students who have produced outstanding project work in their penultimate year design subjects in Mechanical Engineering.

Jacob and Lee worked in small and large teams on various projects throughout their study. The final project, designing a gearbox, was among the most challenging and rewarding assignments.

“We were challenged with real-world problems,” Lee said, reflecting on the difficulties of finding cost-effective solutions. Despite these obstacles, the students found their project work rewarding. “Throughout all the difficulty, it was pure mechanical design and it showed me that I was exactly where I wanted to be,” Jacob said.

Orica Engineering has been a long-time supporter of Engineering Design at the University of Melbourne, employing many of the best and brightest graduates from the School of Engineering. Orica has been involved in a number of collaborative projects across various study levels with the School.

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