Science and Technology

Our engineers will remain in demand

Here’s why Australian engineering talent will remain in demand.

In a 21st-century world where the best bright ideas live or die as elevator pitches, spots on the ‘Shark Tank’ TV series franchise and startup pitch decks, the August event at GM Holden, where final-year automotive engineering students presented their mid-year research projects, was a powerful learning opportunity. The annual Excellerate Australia event is designed to foster the ‘soft skills’ that students will need in their future careers. Presenting these mid-year results develops communication skills and networking opportunities.

For those of us looking on it was also a fascinating insight into the process of developing a research project – identify a problem, define it clearly and articulate a coherent approach to finding a solution. It was an interesting exercise in communications, and these students put the tired old stereotype of engineers not being communicators firmly to bed.

Students from universities across the country – including Swinburne, RMIT, UTS, Deakin and QUT – presented their project as a large-format poster and a short 30-second video to present their ideas.

The results were varied and interesting. The videos, cut together in a compilation showreel, displayed the capability and inventiveness of Australia’s next generation of engineering talent. Some students spoke to camera, some demonstrated lab and field work, many used humour (with several shameless ‘homages’ to Mr Bean!)

Barry Comben OAM, of Excellerate Australia, gave the keynote presentation about career futures for automotive engineering graduates. In spite of the discontinuation of automotive manufacturing in Australia, Barry made it clear that our engineering graduates have a bright future at home and overseas.

This message was embodied in the next speaker Warrack Leach, senior designer from GM Holden. Warrack, Australian design wunderkind, lead the exterior design team in Detroit for the Avenir concept car for Buick that was unveiled at the 2015 North American International Auto Show. Warrack showed the students the process of designing a car from drawings, through clay-model shaping, to body fabrication and assembly.

In the subsequent panel Q&A, David Brim, founder and CEO of Tomcar Australia, spoke about entrepreneurship and the opportunities of independent automotive startups. The time is right, he said, to build your own company doing small production runs of specialist and bespoke vehicles. You can even outsource your manufacturing and run an automotive company from an office.

After the speeches and Q&A session in the theatrette, students got the chance to put their soft skills to practice at the research poster display. A large number of industry professionals dropped in over lunch to talk to the students about their research.

The judges from Excellerate Australia and GM Holden appraised the posters and tallied their scores, and attendees filled out their people’s choice voting forms. Given the quality of the projects it was not surprising that the scores were high. But four projects were clearly outstanding resulting in a four-way tie:

  • Smart City Crowd Control Robotic System
    Yew Wee Wong, Xiao Jian Cai (Jeffery) and Kwun Shan Lam (Sam)
    Swinburne University of Technology and National Instruments Australia
  • Analysis of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Polymer Repair
    Andrew Cannizzo and Robert Tomori
    Swinburne University of Technology and EVX Ventures
  • Point (Spot) Joining of Carbon Fibre Reinforced Plastics to Metals
    Adam Gazzola and Chris Oresti
    Swinburne University of Technology and GM Holden
  • C40 Body Work and Chassis
    Benjamin Wilmoth and Joseph Cugno
    Swinburne University of Technology and DESAV 2

People’s Choice Award:

  • Vortex Generation for Optimum Drag to Downforce Generation
    MM Manjula Bandara Gallella
    Swinburne University of Technology and EVX Venture

Congratulations to the winners and to all the final-year students. Excellerate Australia would like to thank GM Holden for hosting the event as well as Rowan Lal and his team for making it possible. Read more about the Excellerate Australia education and training programs.

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