Next generation of engineers

Wodonga engineers of the future: La Trobe University inspires next generation of problem solvers

La Trobe University ran a two-day expo highlighting engineering career opportunities for local secondary students at the La Trobe University campus in Wodonga on Wednesday 28 and Thursday 29 May.

The event included hands-on workshops showcasing electronic, robotic, mechanical and software engineering – disciplines with excellent career opportunities for young people.

La Trobe Lecturer Eddie Custovic said day one focused on junior high school students who would be given an introduction into the diversity of engineering. The day incorporated the ICT career day organised by the North-East Local Learning & Employment Network (NELLEN).

'Day two was intentionally structured for VCE students, with workshops specifically designed to demonstrate the power of physics, mathematics and general science in the engineering discipline. Students applied concepts learnt at VCE to solve real engineering problems,' Mr Custovic said.

Mr Custovic said the current generation of students had been born into and age of technology and it was important for them to see the myriad of career paths this could create.

'Most of us use computers, smart phones, gaming consoles and other devices on a daily basis; essentially we are immersed in technology. Many of us have also wondered what is next and how will technology change our lives in the coming decade. This is a question best answered by scientists & engineers,' Mr Custovic said.

'Australia is world-renowned for producing some of the brightest engineers and innovators, and we must continue to inspire the next generation of problem solvers, which is why we are taking our road show to Wodonga. We have strong ties in this part of Victoria and a very close working relationship with schools, teachers and students. La Trobe University places a strong emphasis on creating sustainable and productive working relationships will all Victorian communities'

Mr Custovic said the La Trobe visit to Wodonga was part of a program called 'LEAP into – Engineering'.

Wodonga Senior Secondary College, Beechworth Secondary, Victory Lutheran College, Rutherglen Highschool and Catholic College Wodonga, Wodonga Middle Years and Tallangatta Secondary College were some of the schools involved in the engineering activities.

VCE Students were split into groups of 20 according to their preference of engineering discipline and had 3 hours to apply mathematics, physics and IT skills to solve real problems. One of workshops allowed students to develop a digital TV antenna for the greater Albury-Wodonga region. The goal of the workshop also focused on the business aspect of engineering and students had to ensure that they produced a comprehensive solution which was driven by low cost.

A second group of students was able to get real software engineering practice by developing their own physics experiment using an industry based and popular programming language called 'Phython'. Students utilised the software to create a three dimensional environment where a sphere (ball) could be bounced around and gravitational forces altered to calculate drag coefficients. Furthermore, students then designed a game in which the same ball was used to hit various targets while operating in the laws of physics.

The third group got a glimpse into the future world of robotics by assembling a 3D printed robotic arm gripper commonly seen in large scale automation plants. The students worked in groups to firstly assemble the robotic arm and then programmed different commands into the microprocessor. Students then applied mathematics and physics to calculate maximum torque of the motors used and the maximum weight which the arm could support.

'LEAP stands for 'Learn Experience Access Professions', which encourages secondary students, especially those from lower SES communities, to consider higher education options,' Mr Custovic said.

Funded by the Commonwealth Government, LEAP offers access to university, workplace and school-based activities along with online resources to help students learn how university study can help achieve professional career goals.

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