A passion for problem-solving leads brothers to collaborate on study and work
Seeing the interesting assignments his brother was doing for his Engineering degree at Victoria University of Wellington confirmed Alex Quinlivan’s decision to follow the same path. John Quinlivan is a third-year student and Alex is in his first year. Both are majoring in Software Engineering.
“We spent a lot of our childhood mucking about with computers and played our fair share of video games,” says John. “Eventually the passion for ‘how does it work?’ extended into the tertiary education field.”
Alex always knew he’d study computer science or engineering because he was drawn to computing and problem-solving.
“When decision time came, I was swayed by the interesting courses that my brother was taking, as well as some of the assignments, which looked like something I’d be keen on doing. The other drawcard was the sheer number of courses you can choose from for a Software Engineering degree at Vic.”
The first-year Autonomous Vehicle Challenge is one of the assignments that hooks students into Engineering, says Lecturer Dr Will Browne. Students have to make a vehicle using a micro-processing board, a gear box and a motor driver. Sensors are added to improve performance in a competition to see whose invention takes top honours.
The hand-sized vehicles—which range from mini-tank lookalikes to sand buggies and go karts—have to look good, be recyclable and able to complete physical tasks such as weight pulling, a drag race, a slalom and navigating a maze. “The challenge happens at the end of the first trimester so students are thrown in at the deep end, but it’s really popular and a great way to get students engaged in many aspects of engineering,” says Will.
Although Victoria’s Engineering degree is relatively new, having siblings and cousins involved at the same time is increasingly common, says Will. “Once other family members get to see some of the hands-on and fascinating projects Engineering students do, they get inspired to follow in their footsteps. “To recommend a university course to your own whānau is a pretty high recommendation.”
Although the Quinlivan brothers are at different stages of their degree they get to take some classes together. That’s because John was Alex’s tutor in the first trimester. “It was a bit of fun having my younger brother in the tutorial,” says John, while Alex enjoyed a few perks from living in the same house as the teacher. “I could hitch a ride in to the early morning labs that started at a ludicrous time of 9am which meant I didn’t have to get up early and wait for public transport!”
Studying engineering together has also deliver benefits outside of the university. John and Alex have developed applications for Android and iOS systems, along with a corresponding website, and already have projects underway with several small start-up businesses.
Miria, who will be awarded a Bachelor of Engineering tonight, says she feels a responsibility to other Māori women in the engineering and telecommunications field. “It’s a bit intimidating to be set up as an example, but if I can open the door for other Māori women to come into this career then that would be fantastic.” Miria, who is one of 10 in the Vodafone Graduate Technology Programme, started working in Vodafone’s Auckland-based optimisation team in February. “I’m working to maintain, manage and optimise the network to improve the customer experience in terms of coverage, speed and reliability.” However, she almost missed out on a place in the programme, which has been running since 2008. “I attended a tech users event, where Vodafone’s Chief Technology Officer, Sandra Pickering, was speaking. I introduced myself and told her I was looking for a job and even though applications for the graduate programme had closed, she told me to send in my CV.” Four days later, the job was hers. “I was surprised at getting in, because I always thought graduate placements were for A+ students.” Amy Oding, Leader of the Technology Graduate Programme at Vodafone, says Miria is “a star in the Technology Group”. “She has displayed a high standard of engagement and her team leaders are confident she will make a success of her career at Vodafone. We are very pleased to have a female Māori graduate of this calibre,” says Amy. Miria, who was born and raised in Wellington and is of Ngāti Raukawa descent, is following in the footsteps of her engineer father. “I did a two-month internship at 2degrees in Wellington which really cemented my enjoyment of technical engineering and the telco industry. The industry is so fast-paced and varied, it’s exciting to know that there’s always something new around the corner.” After finishing the two-year graduate programme, Miria hopes to gain overseas experience in her field before returning to New Zealand. “I want to give back and technical engineering is one way I can do that.” Miria will graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering tonight, Monday 13 May at 6pm. She will also attend Hui Whakapūmau, a celebration for Māori graduands at Te Herenga Waka Marae at Victoria University on Tuesday 14 May at 9am.
Saud's paper investigated models of human eye movement. Humans concentrate only on small parts of an image at a time, termed fixation. Saud developed an existing biologically inspired model of how humans attend to a scene by using artificial intelligence to weight important aspects of the image. His method was compared with alternative artificial approaches and actual recordings of human eye movements, where he showed positive results in being able to predict human eye movement.
The practical applications of Saud's work range from developing fast camera systems for autonomous robots to predicting the best places for road signs to be mounted so that drivers notice them quickly.
The award carries a prize of $1500, which will be spent on assisting Saud with conference travel, was kindly funded by a donation to the conference from Google. This will enable Saud to present his follow up work that has been accepted for publication in the International Congress on Evolutionary Computation (CEC 2013), which is a top rated A international conference, to be held in Cancun, Mexico.
This is an example of Victoria's national and internationally leading research as recognised by the first place ranking in the recent research evaluation exercise. Doctorate scholarships are currently being offered for bright, hard-working and enthusiastic researchers to join the Evolutionary Computation Research Group and other world-class researchers.
NZCSRSC 2013 was the 10th conference in the series which started in 1992 and has now become a regular event in New Zealand.
The aim of the New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference is to establish and reinforce a nationwide community of ICT graduate students. It provides an opportunity for students to establish contacts and share their research with graduates from across New Zealand, and members of the wider community. Students will gain experience in communicating their research and participating in an ICT community by:
- submitting, presenting and reviewing research papers in a supportive and enthusiastic environment,
- participating in workshops dedicated to providing practical information for completing a successful graduate programme, and pursuing future careers in academia or industry,
- participating in a range of special events that get students in touch with like-minded people working in related areas within ICT, and
- hearing from leading ICT experts in a series of exciting invited keynote presentations