Land buy backs in flood-prone areas in the media

Associate Professor Andrew Western from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering has discussed the buy back of land in flood zones for The Conversation.

Assoc. Prof. Western comments on the Victorian Government’s proposal to buy back flood-prone land, saying it provides an opportunity to fix some past mistakes, provided it is targeted well.

Assoc. Prof. Western recently wrote another piece for The Conversation, which argued against building on flood plains. His previous article is also available from The Conversation site.


Amazing Spaghetti Machine Task Revealed

The task for the Melbourne School of Engineering’s inaugural Amazing Spaghetti Machine Contest has been revealed today. The contest launched in 2011 as part of the School’s 150th anniversary celebrations will see teams of year-10 high school students from 40 schools around the state competing to design and build a complicated Spaghetti Machine to undertake a simple task.

The contest will be an annual competition for schools in which knowledge and skills in maths, science, engineering, and project management are put to the test in the creation of a ‘Spaghetti Machine’ – the Italian term for an overly complex machine or device that is used to perform a relatively simple task.

Competition will be fierce as schools from Swan Hill to Sale, and Horsham to Mansfield, have just over four months to design and build a Spaghetti Machine that will dispense instant coffee, sugar, and powdered milk into a cup, ready to make a cup of instant coffee. Please note, that the proportion of ingredients in the cup should make a drinkable cup of coffee, once hot water has been added. Hot water will not be used in the contest, however.

Judging of the Spaghetti Machines will take place in Wilson Hall on July 26 and 27, with teams competing for some great prizes.



Department of Infrastructure Engineering is on the map

Mahsa Ghasemi, student in the Master of Spatial Information Science, has put the “Department of Infrastructure Engineering” on the map using Openstreetmap, a global spatial data infrastructure system based on user-generated content. Openstreetmap is the ‘spatial equivalent’ to Wikipedia.

You can view the updated map online.  Other maps, authoritative as well as commercial, have updating cycles of at least 6 months and lack this level of detail. A number of the Department’s current research projects use Openstreetmap as a demonstrator platform and have user-generated content.


2011 Graeme Clark Oration: “The Computational Brain” by Professor Terrence J. Sejnowski

The ICT for Life Sciences Forum is pleased to announce the details of the Graeme Clark Oration for 2011:

Renowned brain scientist, Professor Terrence J. Sejnowski, will deliver the Oration, The Computational Brain, on Wednesday, 9 March, 2011.

Professor Sejnowski is a pioneer in the field of computational neuroscience and his goal is to understand the principles that link brain mechanisms to behaviour.

His Oration will explore the workings of the brain, whether we are any closer to building artificial brains, how our understanding of the brain is transforming ideas about learning and education and the role of social robots and brain behaviour in disorders such as autism and schizophrenia.

Professor Sejnowski holds the Francis Crick Chair at the Salk institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, and is also a Professor of Biology at the University of California San Diego, where he is co-director of the Institute for Neural Computation.  Professor Sejnowski is also a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator.  He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010.

Further details about the 2011 Graeme Clark Oration can be found by visiting the new Graeme Clark Oration website http://www.graemeclarkoration.org.au/ Continue reading “2011 Graeme Clark Oration: “The Computational Brain” by Professor Terrence J. Sejnowski”


Fast Tracking Prosthetic Feet

(Photograph by Jian Ming Chan)

Associate Professor Peter Lee, from the Department of Mechanical Engineering, and a team of final year biomedical engineering students have been developing prosthetic feet that are more durable and less susceptible to breaking.

A combination of land mines in recent war-afflicted regions, industrial and environmental accidents, terrorist attacks and poor quality public health, in developing nations has resulted in a growing need for low-cost artificial limbs. Associate Professor Lee and his students have been researching different kinds of low-cost artificial limbs, culminating in an annual field trip to areas of need such as Cambodia and Vietnam.

One of the great benefits of working in the field is the way the findings inform future research. For example, in 2009, students who had designed a low-cost prosthetic knee reported that a larger problem in Cambodia were structural faults in prosthetic foot design. As a result, in 2010, students focused on designing a more durable prosthetic foot. In the field, these students found the prosthetic foot design issues were related to the weight and the ability of the polypropylene keel to adhere to the surrounding rubber. This issue can now be studied in the mechanical engineering lab, and improvements to the design can then be taken out on the next field trip in 2011.

For more details read “Fast Tracking Prosthetic Feet”, by Gabrielle Murphy, the Voice, Vol 7, No 2, 2011 and read the transcript, “Low Cost Prosthetic Feet for Cambodia”, Innovations, ABC Radio Australia, 2 April 2011.


Cosmonaut to talk at School of Engineering

cosmonautFamous Russian Cosmonaut, Alexander Ivanchenkov will visit the University of Melbourne on Wednesday March 2 to discuss his life and career in space exploration.

Mr Ivanchenkov is visiting Melbourne as part of the Russian delegation to the Avalon 2011 Air Show.

Mr Ivanchenkov is a cosmonaut of the first class, twice Hero of the Soviet Union (1978, 1982) and has received a long list of honours including a Tsiolkovskiy Gold Medal by the Academy of Sciences of the USSR.

In 1978, Mr Ivanchenkov went into orbit on board Soyuz-29 spacecraft, and made a record 140-day flight on board Salut-6 orbital station.  During that flight, he went into outer space for 2 hours and 5 minutes.

He will be speaking to students and staff at 3.00pm on Wednesday March 2 at the Brown Lecture Theatre, Electrical and Electronic Engineering Building (building 193).

RSVP to Natasha Baxter is essential.


150 years of Engineering at Melbourne

By Jennifer Thomas

The University of Melbourne’s Chancellor and Victoria’s Governor-elect the Hon. Alex Chernov, AO, QC launched the anniversary of 150 years of engineering education at the Melbourne School of Engineering last night.

At the launch Vice-Chancellor Professor Glyn Davis talked about how much the School had grown from 15 part-time students and one academic in 1861, to a community drawn from over 100 countries, with a network of nearly 25,000 alumni. Today the School is acknowledged nationally and internationally for excellence in engineering and technology research and education.

Continue reading “150 years of Engineering at Melbourne”


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