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Finding a passive way to measure Foetal Heartbeats

03 Feb 2009 - 13:57 in Research

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Paul Teal has recently featured in the Dominion for his research on developing a less invasive way of monitoring foetal heart beats. Senior Lecturer Paul Teal says his aim is to find a more passive method of determining the heart beat of infants in the womb than the active method currently used by physicians and midwives.

“A popular method used in New Zealand is the SonicAid, which is a Doppler device that puts an ultrasound pulse into the mother. You can tell what the heart is doing from the change in frequency of the reflected sound.”

Paul says most clinicians believe that Doppler ultrasound is perfectly safe, but anecdotal evidence suggests many mothers don't like this method, as it actively puts energy into their bodies, and many midwives report that babies aren't too keen on it either.

“So I've been looking at a passive way to measure the foetal heart rate. You can do this either by putting electrodes on the mother and then detecting the Electric Cardiogram (ECG) signal, or by listening with microphones, which is what my research has focused on. This is more like using the Pinard – the foetal stethoscope that midwives used before the invention of Doppler ultrasound, but much more reliable and easy to use.”

Paul, who previously worked at Industrial Research Limited (IRL) in Gracefield, has been collaborating with his former colleagues to develop a method of using microphones to separate out the mixture of signals emitted from the womb by using a technique called Blind Source Separation.

“This isolates the foetal heart rate from the mother's heart rate, and the background noise. It's also a more passive method of monitoring that doesn't negatively impact upon either the mother or the baby.”

Paul says he and his IRL counterparts are now working closely with Wellington midwives to collect data from mothers using this less invasive method.

“We've proved the method works in the last few weeks of pregnancy, but we're hopeful that eventually we will be able to use it from when a foetus is 18 weeks. Doppler ultrasound can work from about 12-14 weeks, but the important stages are later in the pregnancy.”

ECS Researchers Involved in Google Summer of Code

24 Mar 2009 - 09:56 in Research

Victoria University security researchers are excited to be involved in Google Summer of Code (GSoC) this year. Peter Komisarczuk and Ian Welch currently lead the New Zealand chapter of the Honeynet Project which has been selected as a GSoC mentoring organisation and two of the projects are focused around work from Victoria University.

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Ian and Peter lead a team of post graduate developers at the Network Engineering Research Group at the School of Engineering and Computer Science that are researching and developing client honeypot technology to detect drive-by-downloads and determine web servers that are compromised. Drive-by-downloads have become one of the most used mechanisms through which Internet users machines are compromised. In a drive-by-download a user navigates to a web site, which responds with a web page that includes code that attempts to compromise their computer. For example this may install a key logger program that captures your user names and passwords, or recruits your machine to a botnet that can be used to send spam or launch distributed denial of service attacks against other users on the Internet.

Growing out of Christian Seifert's PhD research, the team from Victoria, along with other volunteer developers, have created several open source systems (Capture-HPC, Capture-BAT and HoneyC) that are used worldwide by researchers and security professionals. The Google Summer of Code projects will develop this software further. The Honeynet proposed projects are available from the Honeynet project GSoC web site. Victoria University researchers also run a scan of the .nz domain to detect compromised web servers and attacks that are based on New Zealand web sites which is sponsored by InternetNZ. This work was recently reported in Computerworld.

Potential students who would like to be part of GSoC and work on the development of client honeypot technology should look at the GSoC FAQs for more information. Applications are made through Google SoC 2009 and opens on the 23rd March and closes on the 3rd April.

The Honeynet project is a largely volunteer run organisation that aims to “learn the tools, tactics and motives involved in computer and network attacks, and share the lessons learned”. The Honeynet Project is an international, non-profit research organization dedicated to improving the security of the Internet at no cost to the public. It was founded in 1999. The New Zealand chapter consists of researchers across New Zealand as well as some members based overseas.

Victoria University joins PlanetLab

29 Apr 2010 - 10:04 in Research

logo-nz.png At the start of the year Victoria joined the PlanetLab NZ project - part of the world wide PlanetLab. PlanetLab is a global experimental networking facility, designed for conducting cutting-edge research on current and future network technologies, such as Next Generation Networks (NGNs), Next Generation Internet (NGI), Future Internet, etc. Two planetlab nodes have been installed at Victoria.

Funding is provided by REANNZ and the local contact is Dr Qiang Fu.

Google Sponsorship

16 Mar 2011 - 08:47 in Research

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science would like to thank Google for the donation of 50 Android mobile phones for student research.

The phones will be used for teaching networked applications courses at 200 and 300 level. Students will learn the basics of app development on the Android phones and then in the final project at 300 level they will create their own location aware geographic enabled Android applications - the choice of the application is up to the students themselves. The phones are Google Android Nexus 1 phones capable of 3G data, GPS and include inertial sensors - the possibilities for students projects are endless.

Victoria Research Group Leads Agile Software Development Methods

20 Jun 2011 - 14:18 in Research

Computer scientists from the ELVIS Software Design Research Group at Victoria University are working in collaboration with experts from other New Zealand universities to develop more efficient, cost effective and flexible methods of software development.

This research is being conducted as part of a four year project funded by the ministry of Science and Innovation, with participation from industry partners.

Professor James Noble says that early methods of software development in the 1960s arose from cost overruns in the United States Defence Department as they sought to develop their own software in connection with the space race and weapons development.

However, these methods were hampered by the high proportion of time spent on planning, documentation and bureaucratic processes. The Agile approach to software development seeks to alleviate these problems through the use of self-organising teams that work collaboratively with customers to develop iterative and incremental work cycles.

Victoria Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Rashina Hoda has been researching the best ways for agile software development teams to organise themselves. She has identified the roles of "Mentor, Co-ordinatior, Champion, Promoter, and Terminator" as being crucial in the process of software development, along with support from senior management, and the active involvement of customers.

For more information about the ELVIS Software Design Group, click on the link below.

http://elvis.ac.nz/

Wanted - Software Development Projects for SWEN 302 Students

20 Jun 2011 - 15:44 in Research

SWEN302 is a second trimester third year group project course for software engineering students. In SWEN302, students work in teams of around 6 - 8 people to develop prototype software for real projects, working for project sponsors from outside the software engineering group. The project course runs from July 11th to October 14th, and students will each spend around 7 - 8 hours per week on the course.

The ideal project is small enough to be feasible within the three months of the trimester, but large enough to be challenging to the student teams. Teams follow a process called Agile Development, which means that teams work with the sponsor on a weekly basis to ensure that the project is going in the right direction. The process is flexible, allowing the sponsor to change the focus during the course of the project. The process always involves the team creating a prototype system each fortnight that continually expands on the functionality provided. A consequence of this is that sponsors will get some working software early, and can decide what they want added to the working software on a frequent basis.

So, if you have an idea that needs programming to support your research or teaching or other activities, and are interested in sponsoring a project, or would like more information, please contact me ( stuart@ecs.vuw.ac.nz) by July 4th.

Regards,

Stuart Marshall

Victoria Engineering PhD student Features in Dominion Post Article

03 Aug 2011 - 14:25 in Research

A recent article in the Dominion Post features Craig Anslow, a PhD student who has developed a 48-inch multi-touch table. Craig is conducting research into applications that help software developers visually map their programs and identify potential bugs. He plans to test the touch table over the next year or so, and then make it available for free use.

The article, titled “Bright Sparks Dim Futures?” highlighted the difficulties New Zealand scientists face in finding the institutional support and financial backing to develop their inventions into a marketable product.

To read the full article, please go to:

http://homepages.ecs.vuw.ac.nz/~craig/Site/Media/bright-sparks-anslow.pdf

Vic students help speed up Firefox web browsing

05 Mar 2012 - 17:32 in Research

Victoria University student brainpower is helping the Firefox web browser go faster. Victoria's School of Engineering and Computer Science has partnered with Mozilla Firefox's Auckland office to carry out research projects, some of which will help improve the performance of the world's second-most popular browser.

The collaboration was forged by Dr Alex Potanin, Senior Lecturer in Software Engineering, and internationally acclaimed New Zealander Robert O'Callahan who set up and runs Mozilla Firefox's New Zealand arm. The Auckland Mozilla office concentrates on hardware acceleration or improvements that allow browsers to quickly load big, graphic-rich websites.

Recent graduate Jan Larres, who came to Victoria from Germany to Complete his Master's degree, has conducted the latest project with his year-long research effort focused on accurate testing of the Firefox browser's speed. "Speed," says Dr Potanin, "is becoming one of the fundamental things that defines a browser. Google Chrome, for example, has a team dedicated to making its browser go as fast as possible."

Firefox is free, open source software meaning anyone around the world with enough skills and knowledge can contribute to its development. Mozilla carries out automated, round-the-clock testing to gauge which innovations from its community of developers are helping the browser run faster.

However, Jan, says even when two identical computers with identical set-up run the same tests, there are variations in the speed at which the tasks are completed because of "noise" or electronic interference. "That makes it difficult to judge which developments are really beneficial to the speed of the browser and which aren't."

Jan's research investigated how the Firefox product handles web browsing and the make-up of the software itself. He says some issues were relatively easily identified, such as the browser taking longer to load data for the first time than subsequent occasions when it loads information from the same source. Other issues, such as the complex scheduling that prioritises different actions a browser is performing, also have an impact but are harder to do anything about, he says.

In addition to giving Mozilla valuable new information about its testing programme, Jan carried out a statistical analysis that estimates how much variation in speed can be attributed to interference, allowing Mozilla to more accurately identify changes that are accelerating the browser. Mozilla recently flew Jan to the United States to present his findings To the annual get-together of its global development community.

Mozilla Firefox is currently the world's second most popular web browser, used by around 21 percent of people worldwide. Internet Explorer heads the list at around 50 percent, although its market share has been declining steadily in recent years. Google Chrome has a 15 percent share.

Dr Potanin says Victoria's relationship with Mozilla Firefox is giving students valuable, real-world experience. "Victoria hosts the leading southern hemisphere team with expertise in object-oriented programming languages. Robert O'Callahan's background as a programming language researcher at IBM's TJ Watson Research Center before joining Mozilla meant an existing collaboration with Victoria flourished once he opened a Mozilla branch in New Zealand. "As well as carrying out cutting edge research, students who work on projects for Mozilla often end up being offered a job, as the company's policy is to hire people who make a strong contribution to the development of its software."

For more information, please contact:

Dr Alex Potanin on 04 463 5302 or alex.potanin@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Jan Larres on jan@majutsushi.net

Play it Again: Creating a Playable History of Australasian Digital Games, for Industry, Community and Research Purposes.

11 May 2012 - 11:58 in Research

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An interdisciplinary group of researchers including Ian Welch, Stuart Marshall and Susan Corbett (Commercial Law) from Victoria University have received an $AU 186,000 grant to by write histories of the early digital age, and preserving key artefacts.

‘Play It Again’ is the project of a Flinders-led consortium of researchers concerned with the history and preservation of early software, specifically, locally-written computer games from the 1980s. Digital games make up a significant but little known chapter in the history of the moving image in Australia and New Zealand. Early software houses had a remarkable record of content creation and games were important in acclimatising the public to the then new technology of computers.

Despite this, surprisingly little is known about the history of these local digital game industries, the predecessors of today’s industry which earns billions of dollars a year. To date, digital games have also not enjoyed the care accorded other historic screen based media by national institutions, such as the National Screen and Sound Archive. The turbulence of the games industry – where many companies are short lived and firmly future oriented – partly accounts for why it has not undertaken archiving activities. Enthusiasts play an important role as informal custodians, however, an institutional collection and preservation solution is urgently needed, as without adequate preservation procedures, these digital heritage entities will be lost.

The School of Engineering and Computer Science has been working on the technical aspects of preserving games since being part of the formation of the NZTronix group in 2004. The group was formed by Dr Melanie Swalwell who first started researching the local histories of digital games in 2004, when she was a Lecturer at Victoria University. Concerned about the future prospects of the unique digital game artifacts she discovered, Dr Swalwell involved Ian Welch and Stuart Marshall as well as Susan Corbett from the School of Accounting and Commerical Law in the formation of an interdisciplinary team to research the social, legal and technical aspects of games preservation.

The current project builds upon the successes of this earlier work and involves researchers from VUW, Flinders University, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the New Zealand Film Archive, and the Berlin Computerspiele Museum. The Australian Research Council is supporting the project over three years and has provided $AU 186,000 of funding. The team is highly multi-disciplinary, comprising Humanities scholars (Dr Melanie Swalwell, Assoc, Prof Angela Ndalianis, Helen Stuckey), Computer Scientists (Dr Denise de Vries, Dr Ian Welch, Dr Stuart Marshall), an intellectual property lawyer (Susan Corbett), and cultural heritage specialists (Andreas Lange, Dr Winfried Bergmeyer, and staff at ACMI and NZFA). They will undertake a diverse yet integrated plan of work relating to: the history of the local games industries; the collection and preservation of its products and supporting materials; the very important role of fans in this history; and the collecting, policy and preservation challenges such ‘born digital’ items pose for cultural institutions.

Digital preservation is a pressing issue of relevance to a range of areas and disciplines concerned with a digital past and its products. The project directly addresses the challenges that obsolescence of computer software and hardware pose for historic artefacts. The technical team will develop a source code converter so that software written in early dialects of the computer language, Basic, can be translated to the contemporary Java platform. This will make it possible for early games to again be played by the community. Meanwhile, the cultural and historical team will investigate the production and reception histories of early game titles. Much of this work will happen online, with fans, collectors and the general public invited to contribute to a purpose-built Popular Memory Archive.

Apart from the delivery of knowledge about the origins and products of this industry, and making early software accessible once more, the project will help to build capacity in both the academic and cultural sectors in the area of cultural heritage and the ‘born digital’. An international conference will be held on this topic in Melbourne in the second half of 2013. Knowledge transfer workshops will be conducted in Melbourne and Wellington, to share learning from the project with industry professionals.

Contact: ian.welch@vuw.ac.nz or stuart.marshall@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

David Pearce Interviewed by VBC Radio

02 Aug 2012 - 09:25 in Research

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School of ECS senior lecturer David Pearce was interviewed (mp3) for VBC Radio recently. VBC is a student radio station run from Victoria University’s Kelburn campus. The interview features a 60 second research seminar followed by a discussion of David’s research.

In the interview, David talks about his 3-year research project on Whiley, a programming language he has developed, and the need to improve programming languages to make then more reliable and more resistant to hacking.

David also explains how he became interested in computer programming, and the advantages of doing a 4 year professional engineering degree through Victoria university of Wellington.

High Value Manufacturing and Services Research Fund Success

25 Sep 2012 - 13:36 in Research

School of ECS senior lecturer Dr Robin Dykstra and his VUW colleagues Dr Petrik Galvosas (SCPS) and Dr Paul Teal (ECS) were awarded a grant of $880,000 per annum for 4 years from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's 2012 science investment round, the High Value Manufacturing and Services Research Fund. The grant will be used to support research in the field of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). This research will also be a collaboration with Massey University, New Zealand high-tech export company Magritek Ltd, and RWTH Aachen University in Germany.

The aim of the research is to progress nuclear magnetic resonance measurement science, analysis methods, magnet design and NMR electronic engineering. It is expected to lead to new hybrid analysis tools that will enhance process efficiency and quality, and the development of new export products in the core analysis, industrial processing, medical diagnostics, and pharmaceutical industries. Growth in these sectors will have significant benefits for associated New Zealand businesses.

The research will have four main areas of focus. The first is chemical spectroscopy, with the aim of making NMR spectroscopy more accessible to general chemists for routine measurement, and also developing the capacity for online chemical processing. The second is rock-core analysis, improving measurement and analysis for the oil/gas and geothermal industries. The third area is cancerous tissue detection, through development of NMR based hardware and methods that utilise the different morphology of cancerous tissue. The fourth area is Rheo-NMR product enhancement and protein structure determination method, through applying Rheo-NMR hardware and protocols to the measurement of Residual Dipolar Couplings.

Teaching Robots to Navigate

01 Nov 2012 - 15:26 in Research

Teaching Robots to Navigate

Dr Will Browne (Senior Lecturer) and Henry Williams (PhD candidate) are researching ways to teach autonomous robots to learn to navigate themselves without human interaction. The process of a robot constructing a map of its surroundings and at the same time locating where it is positioned within that map is called simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM).

This research has important applications in a search and rescue situation, such as sending robots in to search collapsed buildings. Cheaper disposable robots could be used to map the building, and this information could then be used by a larger robot that is better equipped, say with a heat-seeking device.

Henry Williams is also working with a system called Rat SLAM, which uses visual inputs for map construction and localisation, e. g. the visual inputs from a 360° degree camera are weighted according to their usefulness, so images from the front of the vehicle, which change frequently are retained, while images of the sky or verges are discarded.

To listen to the broadcast and read the full accompanying article, click on the link below:

www.radionz.co.nz/ourchangingworld

ECS Student's Invention Harvests Energy from Earthquakes

07 Dec 2012 - 16:39 in Research

A wireless vibration sensor being developed by a Victoria University student could provide a low-cost solution for engineers to monitor the damage of buildings affected by earthquakes.

Daniel Tomicek wireless sensor

The wireless vibration sensor built by Victoria University engineering student Daniel Tomicek.

Daniel Tomicek, a fourth year Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering student, has been working on the innovative device, which harnesses the kinetic energy generated by earthquakes, as part of his final year research project. The wireless sensor Daniel has developed is designed to be placed in several locations of a building to monitor the stress sustained by different areas during an earthquake.

The sensor harnesses the energy of the building’s movement during an earthquake to power itself, measuring the acceleration of the movement, and transmitting information in the form of data packets to an off-site computer. The data can then be used by engineers to help assess the extent of damage to the building.

When earthquakes occur, the energy harvested from the vibrations activates the wireless transceiver to transmit the data packets which contain the sensor’s identifier. The greater the vibrations, the greater the energy harvested and the more packets that are sent. The device uses minimal energy—so when there is no movement, the sensor simply does not operate.

Daniel has been working with Professor Winston Seah and Dr Ramesh Rayudu from Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering to develop a prototype which is affordable, and can be easily fixed to different parts of a building. Currently, no sensor exists in the marketplace that doesn’t rely on batteries or electricity supply to run—meaning Daniel’s sensor is a major step forward. “The biggest challenge has been figuring out how to make the sensor work from a cold start—how to ensure the initial packet of information was sent, given that earthquake movements begin so suddenly,” says Daniel.

He has been testing the sensor’s capabilities recently at Te Papa’s Earthquake House in its Awesome Forces exhibit, where the device monitored ‘earthquakes’ at the house over the course of a week. “Testing at the Earthquake House was a real success. The device managed to sense each earthquake and send packets of information for each one.” “Being able to use the exhibit was a very handy way of testing the device, and the staff members at Te Papa were really supportive.”

Daniel says he was inspired to create a kinetic sensor after a friend worked on a similar project during a summer research scholarship at Victoria University. He had also heard about applications being developed in Europe, where special springs added to dance floors in nightclubs can harness an electrical current generated by the movement of dancers, which is then stored in batteries and used to run devices.

Daniel is looking forward to graduating next year and doing some overseas travel, before applying the skills he has learnt at university in the workplace.

Engineering Student's Robotic Bass a YouTube Hit

10 Dec 2012 - 09:31 in Research

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A video clip demonstrating the MechBass robotic bass guitar designed by Victoria engineering student James McVay has attracted nearly 500,000 views on YouTube in just two weeks. The fourth-year student designed and built the robotic bass guitar, which sounds like the traditional instrument but looks like a stack of aluminium extrusions, illuminated circuit boards and a web of cables.

The idea was one of a number offered to Honours students for their full-year research topic and, says James, “it looked like fun”. James’ supervisor Professor Dale Carnegie gave him plenty of room to get creative and the resulting instrument is about one metre wide, 60 centimetres tall and is a full four-string bass guitar.

Being computer-controlled, James says the instrument is not bound by the limitations of a human player. “It can play much faster—it does 60 picks per second—and does other things on the strings a human hand wouldn't be capable of. “But the great thing is that if you weren't looking at it, you would think you were listening to a normal bass guitar.”

It turned out to be a bigger undertaking than James had anticipated—he estimates he has spent at least 1,000 hours working on the project. “There are over 800 bolts in it, lots of cables, and I spent hours designing control boards and laser cutting different designs and 3D printing them to see what worked and what didn’t.” But he’s happy with the result. “It’s quite fascinating to watch all these different components working together and producing good music.”

James and Professor Carnegie will present the project at the Electronics New Zealand Conference in Dunedin later this month.Next year, James plans to continue his studies at Victoria by completing a Master’s degree in Engineering. He will work with Professor Carnegie developing search and rescue robots.

To see James’ invention in action, the link to the YouTube clip is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UYMnzXQEtw.

Victoria part of international bid to understand hearing defects

27 Mar 2013 - 16:43 in Research

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A Victoria University researcher’s investigations into improving the diagnosis and treatment of hearing defects will take a leap forward as a result of winning funding from the European Commission.

Dr Paul Teal, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, is part an international research team that has been awarded €2.9 million (NZ$4.5 million) by the 7th Framework Programme for Research, which funds research and development that creates high quality knowledge.

The team will build a finite element model of the cochlea, a spiral chamber located inside the ear that turns sound vibrations into electrical signals which travel along nerves to the brain and allow us to hear.

Victoria is the only university outside Europe to have a researcher as part of the successful bid. Dr Teal’s inclusion is also exceptional because the Commission, which represents the interests of the entire European Union, usually only pays for collaborators based outside Europe to travel there, but not for their time.

Dr Teal, who receives nearly $188,000 of the funding, was asked to join the team because of his world-leading research into better ways of measuring the cochlear microphonic, which is the electrical signal generated inside the cochlea. His work could lead to the development of new techniques to more accurately assess hearing loss.

The project, which will provide a realistic, three dimensional model of the physics of motion in a working cochlea, involves researchers from six European universities and two European companies, including a team at the world-leading Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at the University of Southampton.

Dr Teal’s input allows electrical components to be added to the model which would otherwise be only mechanical and acoustic. The cochlea project comes under the Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) framework which is developing open source digital data on the entire human body.

Sections of the cochlea have been modelled before but no one has yet developed a complete picture. If the team succeeds, Paul says it will answer a lot of questions. “There is still a lot of dispute about how the cochlea even works. It’s hard to study because of where it is in the body and the complex processes at work.

“The fact that the data will be open source is important. The VPH framework allows observations made in laboratories all over the world to be included and analysed. The models developed as a result of that will ultimately be able to be matched against data about an individual to find out exactly what is taking place with a patient.”

Dr Teal’s research takes advantage of recent advances in electronics to find ways of collecting an electrical signal directly from the cochlea. He says the tests most commonly used to measure hearing loss at the moment are non-invasive and record the sounds the ear produces. “However they don’t define the full spectrum of sounds people hear, and the prescriptions given as a result are based on population averages rather than an individual’s condition.

“My vision is that we will one day be able to hook people up to a device that plays them tones and sounds and gives an automatic read-out on the make-up of the hearing aid they need. “Developing the first, full model of a working cochlea will bring us closer to realising that vision.”

Dr Teal will be working on the project for the next three years.

ECS Mechatronics Group Develops Rescue Robots

09 Apr 2013 - 14:32 in Research

The ECS Mechatronics group, head by Professor Dale Carnegie, has developed a system of robots, called "rubblebots" for use in search and rescue situations. The impetus for the research was the failure of robots to find survivors in the World Trade Centre disaster zone after September 11th 2001. Dale Carnegie explains that robots subsequently developed for search and rescue are just too big and expensive, and are designed to do too much. When searching for survivors after a disaster, the first 48 hours are crucial. The ECS mechatronics group has therefore developed a hierarchical system of robots which are designed to perform specialist tasks, and cover a lot of ground as quickly as possible.

To read the full article which was posted on www.stuff.co.nz on the 4th April, please click on the link below:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/unlimited/8223268/Cool-Kiwi-science-Rescue-b

Victoria University Tops Research Ratings

12 Apr 2013 - 14:01 in Research

Victoria University, including our School of Engineering and Computer Science, has demonstrated international excellence in research and has been ranked top New Zealand University for research under government backed criteria.

Victoria University has been ranked first in the 2012 Performance-Based Research Fund Quality Evaluation, which was published by the Tertiary Education Commission yesterday. A total of 27 tertiary education organisations were evaluated.

Our School of Engineering and Computer Science is delighted to be part of the top ranked group in Computer Science, IT and IS. This shows the broad range of subjects, such as information, technology, digital systems, computing, programming language development, cyber-security, gaming, artificial intelligence, communications and so forth, where we are a leading provider. We have a unique mix of offerings.

Please contact us to see where we are the best (please see research groups and staff pages). 70% of Victoria’s individual researchers are internationally or nationally recognised as being of high quality. This includes staff in the Engineering specialisations of Networking, Software, and Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering

The Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Charles Daugherty acknowledged the hours of hard work put in by staff in assembling their research portfolios in order to achieve this result, and said it was a “wonderful day” for the University.

The top ranking will continue to enable the University to attract high achieving researchers from within New Zealand and from overseas. Please see our postgraduate pages for more details on how to join our exciting and leading research.

Engeering helps little spotted Kiwis

13 May 2013 - 10:49 in Research

New study shows kiwi call in perfect harmony

A group of researchers at Victoria University studying the little spotted kiwi are uncovering surprising results about our national bird’s behaviour.

little spotted kiwi calls monitored by Engineering - Kiwi dating service?

Dr Andrew Digby, Dr Ben Bell and Dr Paul Teal [SECS] have conducted the first ever acoustic study of little spotted kiwi, New Zealand’s second rarest kiwi. Over a period of three years, they measured hundreds of calls made by a population of the birds living at the Zealandia sanctuary, in Wellington.

Their research has found that the kiwi, which live in pairs and are thought to mate for life, call in harmony with each other using a previously unknown form of vocal ‘cooperation’.

Dr Digby says the analysis demonstrates that, in contrast to what has previously been thought, size differences between male and female kiwi are not the sole cause of the differences in the frequency, or pitch, of the calls the birds make.

“Instead, male and female kiwi appear to call for different reasons, with male kiwi using their calls for long-range purposes, such as defending their territory from other kiwi, and female birds using calls for close-range purposes, like staying in contact with their partners.”

The researchers also discovered that male and female little spotted kiwi can synchronise their calls and have complementary call frequencies, meaning that when they call together they are more effective at repelling intruders. This is the first time such cooperation in frequency and time has been reported in bird ‘duets’.

The research has made up the focus of Dr Digby’s PhD, which is using kiwi calls as the basis for revealing more about kiwi behaviour and to help provide new tools for their conservation, and has recently been featured in the world’s leading ornithological journal, Ibis.

He is also investigating whether little spotted kiwi have a call ‘signature’ which can be used for identifying individuals, and is studying kiwi in different locations to see if unique regional dialects are developing.

“Calls are an important part of kiwi conservation since they provide an inexpensive, efficient and non-invasive way to monitor these mysterious birds,” says Dr Digby.

“But, we actually understand very little about why kiwi call, and the calls of most kiwi species have never been studied, so this research is important for helping us gain a better understanding of one of our national icons.”

Research collaboration between Victoria University and Zealandia has taken place over many years, and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations in 2011 has established closer links. Areas of research have included native birds such as the little spotted kiwi, the breeding of tuatara and the study of biodiversity restoration and management.

For more information, contact Dr Andrew Digby, phone 021 183 5852 or email andrew.digby@vuw.ac.nz; or Dr Ben Bell, phone (04) 463 5570 or email ben.bell@vuw.ac.nz.

Issued by Victoria University of Wellington Communications & Marketing. Elizabeth Bush-King, Communications Adviser, can be contacted by emailing elizabeth.bush-king@vuw.ac.nz or phoning (04) 463 7458 or 027 563 7458.

Victoria University of Wellington: New Zealand’s most research-intensive university.

Victoria and Weta Digital power growth in Wellington

05 Jun 2013 - 09:55 in Research

A new PhD scholarship in computer graphics at Victoria University, established by Weta Digital, will strengthen the drive by the two organisations to develop graduates who can power growth in Wellington’s digital industries.

The Weta scholarship, which covers PhD fees for three years and offers an annual $25,000 stipend, is also expected to provide opportunities for the successful recipient to work on research projects at and with Weta Digital.

Professor Neil Quigley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), says the PhD scholarship is both an exciting opportunity for an individual and an excellent example of the benefits of universities and industry working together.

“Input from Weta Digital, an international leader in its field, helps ensure that the computer graphics programme that we offer is not only academically challenging, but also relevant to what industry needs.”

Weta Digital’s Chief Technology Officer, Sebastian Sylwan, says the PhD scholarship is part of Weta’s commitment to building a strong eco-system in the capital’s entertainment and digital industries.

“For anyone looking for a university where they will be supported to carry out leading-edge Computer Graphics research at the PhD level, a driving factor is the relevance and applicability of the research itself.

“This scholarship will allow someone to do high quality research and have a connection to an international leader in computer graphics.”

Victoria’s computer graphics programme is unique in Australasia in the way it blends computer science and design.

The content is also unique with students investigating a combination of technical and visual innovation that is ideally suited to the needs of New Zealand’s entertainment and digital technologies industries.

Weta Digital, together with other technology companies, has played a key role in developing the specialisation at Victoria, which is now in its second year. To initiate the programme, in 2011, Weta Digital organised a lecture series which brought top computer graphics researchers from leading research labs worldwide to speak at Victoria.

Courses in the computer graphics programme have been taught by staff from Weta Digital and PikPok (formerly Sidhe Interactive).

Computer graphics students have had feedback from staff at Weta Digital about their projects and Weta Digital expects to hire graduates from the programme. PikPok and Unlimited Realities, another digital industry technology leader, are also expected to consider graduates from the programme.

The successful applicant for the scholarship will be supervised by staff at Victoria University and will report regularly to Weta Digital.

Applications for the scholarship are open. To find out more, visit:

http://www.fis.org.nz/BreakOut/vuw/schols.phtml?detail+500707

Visit http://www.computergraphics.ac.nz for more on Victoria’s computer graphics programme.

To read the article posted on the Stuff website, click on the link below:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/8755921/Weta-Digital-offers-scholarship

PhD Position in Affective Robotics

09 Jun 2013 - 12:15 in Research

Open PhD position in Affective Robotics :

Victoria University of Wellington is pleased to announce a full doctorate scholarship to conduct research in analogues of emotion for robotic mapping, localisation and path planning at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (VUW). VUW is ranked number one in New Zealand for research in the NZ Government Research Exercise 2013.

The PhD scholarship is scheduled to start in October, 2013. Candidates are invited to send an email with a letter expressing their interest for the proposed research and their CV, including full academic transcript, English-language test score and any publications, to the supervisors [Professor Dale Carnegie and Dr Will Browne, Dale.Carnegie@vuw.ac.nz, Will.Browne@vuw.ac.nz].

- Project Description -

The field of affective computing seeks to draw analogues of human emotions for the benefit of artificial systems. This may be in interaction with humans, communication or in decision-making, where the latter is the focus of the proposed research work. Analogues of emotion are to be utilised to develop an autonomous robot for mapping, localisation and path planning when exploring unknown, unfamiliar and/or dynamic environments with the potential application of search and rescue robotics. The work is to be grounded in theory of emotion, e.g. Plutchik, Rolls, Damasio and Darwin.

This position would suit a student who has an interest in autonomous robotics. It is preferred that the candidate have some computer programming, electronics and control systems experience. An interest in psychology is advantageous but not essential. The preferred candidate will have experience in research with supporting journal or conference publications.

Closing date: 10 August 2013

Internet Scholarship

09 Jun 2013 - 12:20 in Research

Josh/VUW PhD scholarship position

Overview

Victoria University is pleased to announce a co-funded PhD scholarship position (approx NZ$35k/year for 3 years) in Software Defined Networks (SDN). The position based at Victoria University will provide research which is of practical benefit to the SDN community and the NZ networking community in particular. This may be via applied research of use and interest to REANNZ, and possibly international research partners like ESnet.

Possible research areas

  • Interdomain SDN (“east-west interface”): how to connect SDN networks in different administrative domains, including BGP alternatives

  • Optimal network design: how to design and test through the use of automated software optimal SDN based network designs based on specified constraints (Eg, number of routes, redundancy of critical links, etc)

  • Migration to SDN: how to migrate common ISP/carrier architectures from non-SDN to SDN (including network management)

  • SDN network management: how to manage an SDN network without needing legacy protocol support (Eg, streaming statistics replacing use of SNMP polling)

Skills

  • Systems/networking software experience preferred

  • Algorithm development including its software implementation

  • Software development experience in C++/Java (python advantageous)

  • Software engineering/test practices such as unit testing

  • SDN/OpenFlow experience advantageous but not necessary

  • Networking protocols (Eg, BGP) advantageous but not necessary

  • Basic familiarity with network architectures and protocols, some exposure to new Future Internet Initiatives like OpenFlow, Named-Data Networking, GENI etc.

  • Strong ability to articulate technical problems and solutions, using various communication mechanisms such as presentations, conference papers etc.

For further information contact Dr Will Browne, will.browne@VUW.ac.nz, who will pass on your details

Victoria engineering students use technology to clean up the environment

18 Jul 2013 - 11:46 in Research

A smartphone app and website which the public could use to report livestock polluting waterways, rubbish dumping and overflows from outfall pipes have been developed by students at Victoria University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. The innovations are part of the River Watch project, carried out by a group of third-year engineering students, supervised by Professor Winston Seah.

The students have also been testing unmanned flying vehicles equipped with GPS technology to record incidents of pollution in New Zealand rivers, particularly those involving livestock. The smartphone app would allow people to upload photographs and automatically generated GPS coordinates of incidents they observed which, once verified, would be made publicly available online.

The students will speak about their work to improve environmental monitoring at a launch event on Wednesday 31 July at Victoria University.

River Watch began as part of a third-year engineering module where students apply their project management skills in a group project. The work continued as a summer research project supported by the Waterway Action Initiative New Zealand (WaiNZ).

River Watch project launch:

Date and time: Wednesday 31 July, 10am.

Venue: Hunter Council Chamber, Gate 2, Kelburn Campus, Victoria University.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP by Monday 29 July 2013 to Suzan Hall, School Manager, School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University: suzan.hall@ecs.vuw.ac.nz.

For more information on the River Watch project, contact Professor Winston Seah, telephone 04-463 5233 ext 8493 or email winston.seah@vuw.ac.nz.

To watch a TV3 news report on the River Watch project, click on the link below:

http://www.3news.co.nz/Unmanned-aerial-vehicle-monitors-river-pollution/tabid/1160/articleID/309479/Default.aspx

To read a Dominion Post article about the River Watch project, click on the link below:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/8931825/Drones-join-effort-to-track-river-pollution

Best Paper at International Conference on Evolutionary Computation

25 Jul 2013 - 11:27 in Research

Congratulations to researcher Muhammad Iqbal and his supervisors Dr Will Browne and Prof Mengjie Zhang on a Best Paper award at a leading International Conference on Evolutionary Computation.

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At the recent Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference, GECCO, Amsterdam, July 2013, they were awarded the best paper in the Genetics-based Machine Learning Track. GECCO is an Australian Research Council (ARC) A-rated conference. There were only 13 best papers awarded out of 570 submitted papers from the leading researchers worldwide.

The core idea of the work is to reuse already learnt information to solve increasingly harder problems, which the research team has shown to scale successfully to problems previously unsolved in machine learning. Surprisingly, nearly all other machine learning algorithms restart learning at the start of each new problem. This work introduces evolvable finite state machines into a problem's representation as a way of reusing cyclic building blocks, which are most appropriate for domains requiring repetitive patterns of knowledge. The work produced for the first time compact solutions that could solve any size problems in a number of important domains, such as parity problems.

Evolutionary Computation is a branch of Artificial Intelligence which takes its inspiration from Darwinian ideas of survival of the fittest as multiple solutions are tested and bred with each other until the fittest survive. The research team form part of the Evolutionary Computation Research Group (ECRG), Victoria University of Wellington, which is one of the largest and most successful groups of this type in the world - currently with available doctoral places and scholarships available.


Track: Genetics Based Machine Learning
Extending Scalable Learning Classifier System with Cyclic Graphs to Solve Complex Large-Scale Boolean Problems. Muhammad Iqbal, Will N. Browne, Mengjie Zhang
(muhammad.iqbal@ecs.vuw.ac.nz; will.browne@ecs.vuw.ac.nz; mengjie.zhang@ecs.vuw.ac.nz)

Abstract:
Evolutionary computational techniques have had limited capabilities in solving large-scale problems, due to the large search space demanding large memory and much longer training time. Recently work has begun on automously reusing learnt building blocks of knowledge to scale from low dimensional problems to large-scale ones. An XCS-based classifier system has been shown to be scalable, through the addition of tree-like code fragments, to a limit beyond standard learning classifier systems. Self-modifying cartesian genetic programming (SMCGP) can provide general solutions to a number of problems, but the obtained solutions for large-scale problems are not easily interpretable. A limitation in both techniques is the lack of a cyclic representation, which is inherent in finite state machines. Hence this work introduces a state-machine based encoding scheme into scalable XCS, for the first time, in an attempt to develop a general scalable classifier system producing easily interpretable classifier rules. The proposed system has been tested on four different Boolean problem domains, i.e. even-parity, majority-on, carry, and multiplexer problems. The proposed approach outperformed standard XCS in three of the four problem domains. In addition, the evolved machines provide general solutions to the even-parity and carry problems that are easily interpretable as compared with the solutions obtained using SMCGP.

Innovative Approach to Monitoring Hutt River Toxic Algae

08 Nov 2013 - 15:30 in Research

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Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and Victoria University are teaming up to trial the use of aerial imagery taken from a small unmanned plane to monitor the amount of toxic algae in the Hutt River this summer. Toxic algae, or cyanobacteria as its scientifically known, has been linked with 11 dog deaths in the river since 2005.

The trial will involve flying the plane (known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV) over three sites in the Hutt River and analysing the images taken to see whether toxic algae coverage in the river can be accurately estimated. “If successful this method could be used to complement our weekly measurements of toxic algae cover we collect at swimming spots in the Hutt River over the summer months” says Summer Greenfield, GWRC Senior Environmental Scientist.

This work will add to eight years of toxic algae research in the Hutt catchment, which will be discussed in a series of public science seminars jointly organised by GWRC, Upper Hutt Council, Hutt City Council and Regional Public Health. “We’ve come a long way in our understanding of the toxic algae that have plagued the Hutt River in recent years and we’d like to share what we’ve learnt with users of the Hutt River” Mrs Greenfield says. Scientists from GWRC, Cawthron, Victoria University and GNS Science will share their collective current understanding of what causes toxic algae blooms and how people can keep themselves and their dogs safe.

Three seminars are being held; Mangaroa School on Sunday 17 November, The Dowse Tuesday 19 November and Upper Hutt City Library on Wednesday 20 November.

For more information on the seminars or toxic algae, check out www.gw.govt.nz/toxic-algae

or call GWRC on 496 734

ECS Professor Awarded James Cook Fellowhip

11 Nov 2013 - 12:23 in Research

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Professor James Noble is one of two academics to be awarded a James Cook Fellowship for his research project entitled "Reliable Software Via Patterns and Ownership". His research aims to address software failures by identifying recurring design patterns in the specification of design of software systems. The Fellowship is worth $100,000 plus $10,000 in relevant exenses per annum for two year.

For further details, click on the link below:

http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/programmes/funds/cook-fellowships/news/

Victoria Researchers to Play Significant Role in Global Science Project

27 Nov 2013 - 12:09 in Research

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Victoria University of Wellington researchers are poised to make a significant contribution to one of the world’s largest science projects—the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

In an announcement recently by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce, Victoria University was named as one of two New Zealand research groups which will lead two work areas in the pre-construction of the multi-billion dollar SKA telescope. Auckland University of Technology is the other institution contributing to the research.

It is anticipated that, once operational, the SKA telescope will be the world’s largest, most sensitive radio telescope, capable of revealing new information about the origins and history of the universe.

Victoria University’s Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, a senior lecturer in Astrophysics from the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, will lead a team of researchers which will contribute towards the Science Data Processor work package, working alongside other New Zealand and international experts.

Other members from the Victoria University team include Dr Christopher Hollitt and Dr Marcus Frean from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, as well as Postdoctoral fellows, PhD, Master’s and Honours students.

“The SKA project has now reached the detailed design phase, which involves groups across the world investigating how best to design the telescope,” says Dr Johnston-Hollitt.

“One of the greatest challenges associated with the SKA project is the ‘big data challenge’ and how we can maximise the scientific return from the vast amount of data generated.

“We’ll be working with our partners from across New Zealand to lead the work concerned with how to best extract information from data captured by the SKA, and determine the computation requirements needed to process it,” she says.

Professor Mike Wilson, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University’s Faculty of Science, is delighted the University’s expertise is continuing to contribute towards the development of the SKA project.

“The SKA radio telescope is currently one of the largest international science and engineering projects, and an exciting one for Victoria’s astrophysicists to be engaged in.

“Victoria’s involvement builds on the University’s track record in radio astronomy, algorithm development and large-scale computing, and will help build New Zealand’s position as a leader in software development and data analysis,” he says.

Dr Johnston-Hollitt has played a significant role in the global effort to develop cutting-edge radio telescopes. She is the New Zealand scientific representative to the SKA Board of Directors, and a primary investigator on the precursor Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope project in Western Australia, which became fully operational earlier this year.

Students Update Classic Animation Technique

03 Dec 2013 - 11:57 in Research

Computer Graphics students at Victoria University have created an alternative to an animation technique used by studios such as Disney and Pixar.

The work is the result of a collaborative project by Byron Mallett, a Master’s student in the School of Design, and Richard Roberts, a PhD student in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, as part of Victoria’s interdisciplinary Computer Graphics Programme.

Byron and Richard have developed a new technique for the classic ‘squash and stretch’ convention, where the shape of a character or object is intentionally distorted to accentuate its movement.

Their alternative aims to overcome issues with current tools by automating much of the repetitive manual work, while maintaining the artists’ ability to customise.

Richard says collaborating on the paper was a great experience. “Our different backgrounds and strengths meant we could each contribute a different perspective to the project.”

“Byron’s expertise in animation meant he could provide content to work with, as well as critique the way the software worked for artists. My knowledge of programming allowed for fast iteration of the tool.”

Dr Rhazes Spell, lecturer of Media Design and Computer Graphics in the School of Design, says this sort of innovative work is the result of the Computer Graphics programme’s unique beginnings.

“Students benefit from taking classes and conducting research in both schools and working with local industry. Wellington provides an ideal learning and research setting for this cutting edge programme,” he says.

Byron and Richard presented their paper, entitled A Pose Space for Squash and Stretch Deformation, at the 28th International Conference on Image and Vision Computing New Zealand, held in Wellington from 27th - 29th November.

Find out more about the project here: http://computergraphics.ac.nz/sqst_article.php

Researchers Look at Rollout of New ICT Achievement Standards in NCEA

04 Dec 2013 - 14:31 in Research

The ICT syllabus was overhauled and new standards introduced into the New Zealand secondary schools in 2011-2013 and this month in IITP Techblog, Sarah Putt summarises two research papers that look at this in detail:The Role of Teachers in Implementing Curriculum Changes by David Thompson, Prof Tim Bell, Dr Peter Andreae and Prof Anthony Robbins, and Adoption of new Computer Science high school standards by New Zealand teachers by David Thompson and Prof Tim Bell.

Dr Peter Andreae (Pondy) is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University of Welington.

http://www.techblog.co.nz/608-ResearcherslookatrolloutofnewICTAchievementStandardsinNCEA

ECS PhD Student awarded Sponsorship to Attend 2014 NZ Wind Energy Conference & Exhibition.

11 Dec 2013 - 14:23 in Research

* Daniel Akinyele:
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Daniel Akinyele has been awarded one of two student sponsorships to attend the 2014 NZ Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition, which will be held from the 14th-16th April at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. In addition to presenting his proposal at the conference, Daniel will spend a day at Transpower, meeting staff and learning about the company, and about the electricity market and transmission planning and investment.

Daniel’s proposal focuses on the intergration of wind power into distribution networks in New Zealand from the end-use and wider application perspectives. His research will model and simulate grid-connected micro and commercial-scale generation from residential and commercial premises respectively. It also considers microgrids connected to local grids for city-wide applications, which may also be disconnected from the network and operated independently in the event of a disaster.

New Zealand probably has the most abundant wind energy resource in the world. Harnessing this natural resource for widespread distributed power generation (DPG) in New Zealand will not only provide support to the electrical network, improve the reliability and efficiency of the electricity supply and offer environmental benefits, but also aid the achievement of sustainable and future smart grid and help the government realize its goal of 90% renewable power by 2025.

Daniel holds a National Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering with Distinction from Osun State Polytechnic, Nigeria in 2002. He holds a First Class Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Nigeria’s Premier University, the University of Ibadan in 2008. He attended Loughborough University, UK for his Masters Degree in Renewable Energy Systems Technology, graduating with Distinction in 2010.

He was a Senior Engineer in the renewable energy research group of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) under the umbrella of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Nigeria. He was responsible for renewable energy systems design and installation. He then joined the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering, Covenant University, Nigeria, as an assistant lecturer, teaching the fundamentals of Electrical Engineering and Network Analysis. He is currently a PhD student in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, Victoria University of Wellington, under the supervision of Dr Ramesh Rayudu.

VUW Students Work with Greater Wellington Regional Council to Monitor Toxic Algae in Hutt River

06 Jan 2014 - 14:00 in Research

Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and Victoria University students are teaming up to trial the use of aerial imagery taken from a small unmanned plane to monitor the amount of toxic algae in the Hutt River this summer. Mark Heath is a PhD student with the School of Biological Science, and Jonathan Olds is a PhD student with the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

The trial will involve flying the plane (known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV) over three sites in the Hutt River and analysing the images taken to see whether toxic algae coverage in the river can be accurately estimated.

This work adds to eight years of toxic algae research in the Hutt catchment, which were discussed in a series of public science seminars jointly organised by GWRC, Upper Hutt Council, Hutt City Council and Regional Public Health. Click on the link below to listen to a Radio NZ interview with Mark Heath and Jonathan Olds.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2580570

Persistence pays off for Smart City Network Project

24 Feb 2014 - 11:19 in Research

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University of Wellington is part of an international group which has been awarded a prestigious grant funded by the European Union.

The highly sought after Erasmus Mundus grant will allow PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and staff members to share and collaborate on their research by visiting partner universities.

The project theme is a ‘Smart City Network’, and it will be made up of a wide range of smaller individual projects that focus on information and communications technology (ICT). A city can be called ‘smart’ when it uses integrated ICTs to produce sustainable economic development and a high quality of life for its citizens.

Victoria is the sole New Zealand university in the group of 10 institutions from Europe and Australasia. Led by the University of Malaga in Spain, this is the consortium’s third attempt to secure project funding through the Erasmus Mundus grant. The group’s persistence has paid off with €1.188 million ($NZ1.96 million) granted to support the project for three years.

Professor Winston Seah, from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, has worked with the University of Malaga to put together each application and is pleased to see the consortium’s efforts rewarded.

He says the project provides an exciting opportunity for students and staff at the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“This will benefit the faculty as a whole,” says Professor Seah. “Not only will it allow our students and staff to travel to partner institutions to enrich their studies, it will also mean we benefit from the expertise of visiting researchers who choose to further their work here at Victoria.”

Professor Dale Carnegie, Head of School, is thrilled at the affirmation of the quality of Victoria’s engineering programme. “This provides an exceptional opportunity to increase the collaboration opportunities of our world-class staff and to provide a unique experience for our growing student cohort,” says Professor Carnegie.

The first round of applications will be called for shortly meaning PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and staff members from the 10 partner institutions will have the chance to apply to have their travel expenses covered to continue their research at another university. Professor Seah says there has already been significant interest shown from international scholars keen to further their projects at Victoria.

Making the most of windy Wellington

17 Mar 2014 - 13:33 in Research

Windy Wellington is providing the perfect backdrop for two postgraduate students from Victoria University to research the potential of wind power.

Daniel Akinyele and Hatem Alzaanin are part of a newly formed and rapidly expanding power and renewable energy systems research group led by Dr Ramesh Rayudu at Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

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Daniel and Hatem are poised to raise the profile of the group’s work after scooping the only two available sponsorships to attend and present their research at the New Zealand Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition taking place in Wellington in April.

Dr Rayudu is excited two of his group will have a chance to present at the conference.

“It’s a great achievement for both of these scholarships to have gone to Victoria students—it shows we are becoming known as a centre of excellence in renewable energy and particularly wind power.”

Daniel, a PhD student originally from Nigeria, is researching the use of micro-grids in Wellington. A micro-grid is a small scale power generator such as a solar panel or wind turbine that could be located on residential or commercial buildings. They can be connected to the main network or operated independently.

Daniel is investigating how micro-grids can provide extra power to the network during peak times and act as a back-up source of energy should the main network go down after a natural disaster.

“In a major earthquake,” says Daniel, “Wellington could be left without power for days or weeks. If we had a network of micro-grids, the impact could be much less severe,” says Daniel.

Research gets gold

21 Mar 2014 - 11:44 in Research

Described as “the equivalent of a desktop version of a mainframe computer” the smart red Spinsolve machine sitting on a lab bench at Victoria University is evidence, say its designers, that the vision of the late Sir Paul Callaghan is coming to fruition.

Spinsolve is an early product resulting from a $4 million dollar investment in research being carried out by scientists at Victoria and Magritek, the Wellington-based company founded by Sir Paul which makes scientific instruments.

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The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer can produce information on the structure of molecules in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost, that it takes to do the analysis on traditional equipment.

“It’s also portable (larger NMR spectrometers have to be housed in a special facility and are expensive to maintain) and beautifully simple to operate,” says Dr Robin Dykstra, a senior lecturer in Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“We are seeing the results of the foundation laid by Sir Paul—most of us working on this research completed our PhDs under Paul’s supervision and we are making a reality of his dream of using science and technology to create a world-class, home grown industry.

“Paul would have been exceptionally proud of the research we are doing and we are proud to be taking his work to the next stage.”

The project, which is led by Dr Dykstra and Dr Petrik Galvosas, senior research fellow in Victoria’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, has received a sought-after gold star rating from its funder, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, which indicates a very high standard of achievement in terms of science discoveries and impact.

“What we are aiming to do,” says Dr Dykstra, “is move Magnetic Resonance (MR) out of the lab and the clinic and open up possibilities for it to be used in a whole range of new industries such as oil and gas, geothermal, chemical processing and biotechnology.

“There is significant international interest in MR because it is non-invasive and rich in information. Our group has a real technology edge in this field.”

Made partly in Germany and partly in Wellington, Spinsolve is being continuously improved but the current version is already proving popular among researchers in educational facilities and pharmaceutical companies around the world.

“Its performance is less than the large, superconducting magnet-based machines but it’s perfect for those wanting quick turnaround to regularly monitor what they are doing,” says Dr Dykstra.

The highly-rated research project has a number of work strands—Spinsolve is at the commercialisation end of the spectrum while another initiative, led by Dr Galvosas, is early stage and exploratory.

He and his team of researchers, which includes a young scientist recruited from an internationally renowned research group in China, are investigating ways of applying knowledge about testing porous media (Magritek’s technology is already used for testing how porous rocks are) to detecting breast cancer.

“Tissue is porous,” says Dr Galvosas, “so in theory our technology can be used to track the way fluids move through the tissue, providing accurate information about its structure.

“Our vision is to develop a simple, portable device which would sit on a doctor’s desk and be routinely used for screening, alerting the doctor if there was abnormality in tissue which needed further investigation.”

The advantages, says Dr Galvosas, would be significant. “Current scanning systems carry some risk—we are aiming to develop a machine which is an alternative to X-ray and to MRI systems that use chemicals for improved imaging contrast which may not be tolerated by all patients.”

Dr Dykstra says a key strength underpins the success the research group is having.

“It is the benefit of a long-standing collaboration between Victoria University and Magritek. Between us, we arguably have the best capability in the world to take MR ideas from concept through to product that is successfully marketed worldwide.”

Craig Holmes, Senior Sector Manager of Manufacturing and Resources at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, says an additional strength of the Victoria-based research is that it will deliver a competitive advantage to a range of New Zealand businesses.

“The Government is committed to ensuring we invest in purpose-driven research that benefits New Zealand, which is exactly what this work is doing. Firms which supply services and technology to Magritek will benefit from this research by gaining knowledge that will lift their technological capability, and, in turn, increase their international competitiveness,” he says.

For further information, please contact Dr Robin Dykstra, on 021-380 904 or robin.dykstra@vuw.ac.nz

Researcher awarded Internet New Zealand grant

08 Apr 2014 - 16:32 in Research

Dr Qiang Fu, from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, has been awarded a $20,000 grant for a project to understand the practical issues on the adoption of Software Defined Networking (SDN), technology that helps network administrators manage network services. Each year InternetNZ grants nearly half a million dollars to individuals and organisations who share its vision of a better world through a better internet.

Saving money and the environment at the lights

09 May 2014 - 10:08 in Research

James McCann is a software engineer with drive. During his final year of study at Victoria University of Wellington, James helped to develop a more cost effective model for New Zealand’s traffic lights.

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James McCann

Under the supervision of Dr Paul Teal, a senior lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, James created a model called the Priority Based Traffic Control system (PBTC).

But it’s not all about numbers for this 22-year-old from Timaru—he says he chose this as his fourth year project because he’s interested in how environmental and economic issues can be solved in tandem.

“If vehicles are driven more efficiently, they are more economic to run and create less pollution,” says James.

The Victoria graduand says there is a cost of waiting at an intersection, whether that’s a loss of productivity from being late for work or even just additional petrol costs. PBTC helps to minimise that cost by controlling traffic lights to make traffic flows more efficient.

Under the current system, traffic lights are reactive, with the duration of lights based on the number of cars which previously drove through the intersection. James’ model, however, is proactive, looking ahead to the cars approaching the intersection rather than the ones which have already passed through.

PBTC is based on having a controller at the intersection which would receive data and GPS coordinates transmitted wirelessly from vehicles. It would then look ahead for the best place, economically, for the lights to turn red. The system introduces a priority rating which adds up the priorities of all cars approaching the intersection and ensures the higher priority side gets a green light first.

“A large truck would have a higher priority rating than a car. A truck barrelling down the motorway costs much more to stop than a car because it takes longer to stop and start, uses more petrol, produces more exhaust and creates more wear on the road,” explains James.

The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

20 May 2014 - 11:34 in Research

The closing date for the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship has been extended till the 28th May 2014.

To be eligible to apply, applicants must:
  • Be a female student enrolled in undergraduate or postgraduate study in the 2015 academic year.
  • Be enrolled in a university in Asia Pacific, excluding Greater China* where we have an additional scholars’ retreat in China Mainland. Citizens, permanent residents, and international students are eligible to apply.
  • Be majoring in computer science, computer engineering, or a closely related technical field.
  • Exemplify leadership and demonstrate passion for increasing the involvement of women in computer science.
For more information and application details please go to: http://www.google.com/anitaborg/apac/index.html

CAPEd crusader addresses online security

26 May 2014 - 10:07 in Research

CAPEd crusader addresses online security

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Professor James Noble

Security breaches are becoming more frequent and serious as our dependence on computer systems increases. Anyone concerned about the security of their data may view Professor James Noble of Victoria University of Wellington as a hero. He has been awarded a Marsden Fund grant to develop a new way of keeping computer systems more secure.

Any program reachable via the Internet will typically have a number of trusted objects (like the core of a web browser) that interact with untrusted objects (like the animation scripts displayed on a web page). A crucial security requirement is to ensure that the trusted parts can’t be compromised by the untrusted parts – viewing a web page should never leak the user’s address book or passwords.

Most current computer systems use security based on “capabilities”. These are unforgeable “keys” that provide access to system services and resources. The problem is that they are scattered throughout the code of programs. Any part of a program that uses an object may (by oversight, error or fraud) hand that object to an untrusted part, particularly where the program has multiple components from different suppliers.

Professor Noble will work with programmers to develop Capability Policies Explicit (CAPE) – capability policies that will explicitly state which objects are trusted, which are untrusted, and which keys can be accessed by which object.

He will also design programming language features that will support component security, meaning that a program will be secure, even when it is being used with other programs in an untrusted environment.

This timely work will make developing secure programs easier and help stop future breaches.

Researchers: Professor James Noble, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140

Email: james.noble@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Summer Scholarship Winner

05 Jun 2014 - 21:43 in Research

Summer Research Scholarships offer a unique opportunity for students to gain experience in research and obtain an insight into what studying for a research degree entails. Each scholarship gives a student the experience of working with established researchers in an area of interest to them, under the supervision of an academic staff member or a research team.

The School of Engineering and Computer Science hosts approximately 30 students each summer who undertake research for academics and industry on a wide range of engineering and computer based topics.

All Summer Research scholars are also invited to submit a poster, or video, describing their work and its results in a clear and interesting style similar to that used at many professional and disciplinary conferences. Communicating research and scholarly findings to a general audience is an essential part of academic and professional life.

Prizes are given out and the competition aims to recognise the work of our researchers in a way that demonstrates the varied research at Victoria University, and supports development of presentation and communication skills.

This summer an Engineering and Computer Science student, Matthew Betts, won the overall best summer scholarship poster. Working with the company Publons, Matthew's research looked at the development of a reviewer search tool to help journals to perform faster peer-review. (View Matthew's poster)

Publons works with reviewers, publishers, universities, and funding agencies to turn peer review into a measurable research output.

Victoria University student can find out more about summer scholarships here: https://www.victoria.ac.nz/study/student-finance/scholarships/summer-scholarships

From West Africa to windy Wellington

18 Jun 2014 - 13:19 in Research

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Wellington may be a long way from home for Nigerian PhD student Daniel Akinyele, but it’s providing the perfect location for him to research the potential of wind power.

Daniel’s research explores the use of micro-grids, which are small-scale power generators such as a solar panel or wind turbine, that can be located on residential or commercial buildings. They can be connected to the main network or operated independently.

Daniel is investigating how micro-grids can provide extra power to the network during peak times and act as a back-up source of energy should the main network go down after a natural disaster.

“In a major earthquake,” says Daniel, “Wellington could be left without power for days or weeks. If we had a network of micro-grids, the impact could be much less severe.”

Daniel says although New Zealand is not yet making the most of its outstanding wind resource, there has been progress.

“In 1993, the Brooklyn wind turbine was the first of its kind in New Zealand and today there are 17 wind farms around the country.”

Daniel says small-scale wind production is essential to the New Zealand Government reaching its target of 90 percent renewable energy production by 2025.

“The biggest challenge is making it attractive to home and business owners to install a small power generator such as a wind turbine.”

As well as his focus on Wellington, Daniel is investigating how microgrid technology could be used in less developed regions, such as his home country of Nigeria, where about 60 percent of the country does not have access to electricity.

“Development relies on energy,” he says, “and those who don’t have it are socially and economically handicapped.”

While Wellington and Nigeria are worlds apart, Daniel says the principles behind micro-grids can be used in both places. “In sub-Saharan Africa, however, it would make more sense to use solar, hydro or biomass power because the region has large resources of these.”

Daniel is part of a newly formed and rapidly expanding power and renewable energy systems research group at Victoria, led by Dr Ramesh Rayudu at Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Daniel was selected, along with fellow group member Hatem Alzaanin, to present his research at the New Zealand Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition that took place in Wellington in April.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2 year fixed term)

26 Jun 2014 - 11:45 in Research

Applications are invited for the position of Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. This is a two year fixed term position.

The main objective of this position is to conduct high quality research in Programming Languages and Software Engineering, particularly within the Grace project. This will include design, implementation, and support work on the Grace language, Grace libraries, interactive and livecoding development environments, and open-source community building. You will also be expected to contribute to teaching in Software Engineering and Computer Science.

Candidates must have a PhD in Programming Languages or Object-Orientation and a good research and publication track record in these areas.

For more information please contact Professor James Noble, School of Engineering and Computer Science on james.noble@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Applications close 31 July 2014

Victoria University of Wellington is an EEO employer and actively seeks to meet its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

For more information and to apply online visit http://vacancies.vuw.ac.nz

Reference SECS089

Taking charge in electricity research

07 Jul 2014 - 16:45 in Research

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A Victoria University engineering lecturer is shedding light on household power usage, as part of her research into improving the way New Zealand uses electricity.

Dr Rebecca Ford, from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, is part of a nationwide research team exploring the future of electricity supply and consumption in New Zealand.

The GREEN Grid project, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE), is a wide-ranging investigation into how New Zealanders use power, how demand can best be met using renewable sources, and how the national grid can be made smarter and more efficient.

Joining researchers from Auckland, Canterbury and Otago universities, Dr Ford will be helping to explore the potential development of a Smart Grid, which incorporates information and communications technology into New Zealand’s electricity infrastructure—advancements which, she says, are well overdue.

“We’ve currently got electricity infrastructure which is relatively ‘dumb’, in the sense that we have some elements of control but we don’t really know what’s going on throughout the entire network,” says Dr Ford.

It’s hoped that improved information about electricity flows will lead to increased flexibility and efficiency within the grid, putting more control in the hands of consumers and the industry.

“A consumer who had a smart meter would no longer get a bill once a month, but would be able to log on and see a chart of how much electricity they’re using every day.”

Dr Ford says a better understanding of how and when consumers are using power would equip them to have greater control of their electricity energy usage.

Power companies would also benefit from the information gathered by smart meters she says. It would provide them with a greater understanding of both their customer’s needs and the needs of the network in general.

Dr Ford says in the future this knowledge could lead to financial incentives for customers to use power in off-peak times when the network is under less strain. While this is not currently an option in New Zealand, the development of smart appliances could mean it is not far off.

“More and more home appliances are being developed with information and communications technology which means they can be switched on and off remotely. With this level of control, consumers could choose to run energy hungry appliances during off peak, lower cost periods to decrease their power bill and help out the network.”

Household electricity usage has been the focus of Dr Ford’s research, who completed her PhD in engineering at Oxford University with research that looked at how people can better manage the way they use energy in their homes.

“With our research, we want to get a better idea of what people are doing, how they’re using their appliances and then what options they have for better managing them and shifting patterns of demand. This could help people save energy and money, and could also help improve our overall management of the electricity grid.”

The research will inform new operating models for the wider electricity system which are being investigated by the New Zealand Smart Grid Forum, a group of industry stakeholders and customers. The Smart Grid Forum, established by MBIE and the Electricity Networks Association, is also looking at the infrastructure and commercial arrangements needed to benefit from new operating models.

Summer Scholarships 2014

15 Jul 2014 - 13:13 in Research

If you’re a third year or above, interested and skilled in research, you could spend the summer supporting a research project and earn a valuable scholarship.

The Summer Research Scholarships offer a unique opportunity for you to obtain experience in research. Working with globally recognised researchers in a local setting, you will gain valuable real-world experience as well as an insight into what research is all about.

What’s involved

You will be expected to work on a research project for up to 10 weeks (400 hours) over the summer trimester, under the supervision of well-established researchers or a research team at the University.

What it’s worth

Victoria University will award up to 150 internally funded Summer Research Scholarships and an additional number of externally funded projects over the 2014/2015 summer trimester.

Each summer research scholarship includes a minimum tax-free stipend of $6,000.

Eligibility

The scholarships are open to students who have completed at least two years of their undergraduate degree and are currently enrolled full-time at any Australian or New Zealand University in an undergraduate, Honours or the first year of a Master’s degree.

Applicants should be intending to enrol at Victoria in 2015. Applicants must not hold a Victoria PhD or Doctoral Scholarship, nor a Victoria Masters Scholarship at the same time as this award.

Download the Summer Scholarship Conditions for a full list of the award regulations.

Applications

You must apply directly to your faculty or school (not the Scholarship Office). For further information on what projects are available and to find out how to apply, contact:

Margot Neas

Administrator - Science and Engineering Faculty Office

Software Defined Networking Masters Scholarship

14 Aug 2014 - 22:52 in Research

A fully funded Masters scholarship position in Software Defined Networking (SDN).

SDN is a new networking technology, which greatly improves network programmability, that is changing how we design, build and operate networks. In this project, we will investigate the practical issues on the adoption of SDN in production networks. It is a great opportunity to work with SDN communities both locally and internationally.

Value of award: Up to $20,000 + tuition fees
Tenure: One year

Essential criteria:
*Strong programming skills in C/C++ or Java.
*Strong motivation for developing practical networking solutions

Contact person: Dr. Qiang Fu, qiang.fu@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Callaghan Innovation Postgrad Internship: Software Engineer

10 Sep 2014 - 09:48 in Research

This Callaghan Innovation R&D Career 2014 position is for a recent graduate of a postgraduate program. The position is fixed term and for a duration of six months but with the possibility of extension to a permanent contract.

Magritek specializes in providing compact NMR and MRI systems for industrial and educational customers around the world. The present R&D focus is the development of compact low field NMR spectroscopy systems for chemistry education, industrial chemical processing and pharmaceutical markets. The product development work we are undertaking involves several technical disciplines including electronic, software, mechanical, magnet and chemical engineering. Our products consist of electronic hardware with embedded systems that interact with an application running on a users computer.

We are developing a new software control system for a new hardware platform to be used in upgrades of existing and new NMR related products. The new embedded ARM based hardware platform will use LINUX and will typically be controlled using an Ethernet port or WIFI. In order to simplify the development for the new NMR products we intend to create one or more custom high level languages that will be used to design experiments and NMR pulse sequences. The custom languages will generate LLVM IR output. This LLVM IR can be optimized for specific CPU's, like ARM or a custom FPGA based softcore processor. The task and challenge is to create a language and an associated debugging tool to debug code on a remotely connected system. The compiler and debugging tool shall run on Windows.

Magritek has an established team of world leading scientists and engineers and this is also bolstered by our collaboration with staff at Victoria University of Wellington. This position will provide someone with the unique opportunity of developing in these areas:
1. interacting with a diverse technical team that has a commercial focus.
2. undertaking leading edge research and development
3. working on a real project that will end up with customers
4. working within an environment will real commercial pressure
5. presentation and report writing

The skills that the applicant must have are C++, Linux, LLVM and compiler development. Additional skills such as C#, ANTLR and knowledge of ARM processors would be desired but are not essential.

The applicant must also have recently graduated with a Masters or PhD in computer science or software engineering or equivalent.
For eligibility criteria, please go to https://www.callaghaninnovation.govt.nz/what-we-do/funding-and-grants/rd-student-grants

Application procedures

Please email CV and cover letter to: Robin@magritek.com
Please also include a copy of your academic transcript and two referees.

Closes: 2 Dec, 2014

Commences: 1 February 2015

Type: Contract Remuneration:$60,000 per annum pro-rata

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

Website: http://www.magritek.com/

Program: Graduate recruitment program

Contact details

Mr Robin Dykstra
Ph: 04 920 7671
Email: robin@magritek.com

Victoria students help public keep an eye on our water

25 Sep 2014 - 09:49 in Research

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Engineering students Jarrod Bakker and Cristina Vina – both working on the quadcopter side of the project

Victoria University of Wellington’s engineering students are continuing to push the frontiers of pollution monitoring in New Zealand’s waterways through an innovative collaboration known as RiverWatch.

The next phase of the RiverWatch venture, which involves Victoria University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science and the Water Action Initiative New Zealand (WaiNZ), will be launched next week.

It challenges third-year engineering students at Victoria to develop an integrated data collection system made up of phone apps, water quality testing devices, unmanned aerial vehicles and a website for reporting.

The goal is to empower public to take direct action, using the phone apps, when they suspect pollution in their water.

This is the third year that Victoria students have worked on the RiverWatch project as part of their course work and Lawrence Collingbourne, a Teaching Fellow at Victoria and the business owner on behalf of the University, says this year, things are taking off.

“Each team of students that works on this project is pushing the frontiers even further,” Mr Collingbourne says, “This year we have teams developing water testing devices, using quadcopters to gather information in real time and launching apps to cover a wider range of smartphone platforms including Windows phones.”

The project enables information to be crowdsourced as people to use the app on their phone to photograph water pollution—the photo, and the GPS coordinates are then uploaded and once verified, will appear on the RiverWatch website. If the photo shows something of concern, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) may be sent out to the location to gather further evidence.

The introduction of quadcopters to work alongside the existing small aeroplanes means the footage can be seen and captured in real time while the introduction of a water quality testing device allows more conclusive evidence of pollution to be gathered.

Engineering students Daniel Yeoh and Hamish Colenso and their teams have been working on two different water testing prototypes that do not require any specialist knowledge or skills to operate.

Both devices measure the temperature and conductivity of the water—which increase when there is pollution—and have a bluetooth sensor to communicate directly with the RiverWatch app to report any issues that are identified.

Hamish’s prototype is built for durability and could be left in the water to monitor pollution levels over time or, with minor modifications, be taken out by a UAV and dunked in the water for an immediate test. Daniel’s prototype runs off AA batteries, rather than a lithium ion battery, making it an affordable option for the general public.

Hamish says creating the devices has been hard work and stressful at times but working with a real client has also been an excellent learning opportunity.

To date, over 70 photographs of water pollution have been published on the WaiNZ website and Mr Collingbourne hopes this number will continue to grow with the project.

“More than half of New Zealanders now have smartphones. By extending the platforms the app covers, we hope to empower more New Zealanders to participate and become kaitiaki for their local rivers and streams.”

The RiverWatch update event takes place on Monday 29 September, 4:30-7:00pm, room 103 Alan MacDiarmid Building, Kelburn Campus, Victoria University of Wellington.

New Zealanders warming to solar power

29 Sep 2014 - 14:21 in Research

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A report released this week shows more and more New Zealanders, unhappy with their power providers, are turning to solar energy.

Dr Rebecca Ford, a lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, is the lead researcher on the report which looks into the uptake of Photovoltaic (PV) to generate electricity in New Zealand.

Dr Ford says the report showed that of the participants surveyed only 30 percent were happy with getting electricity from their power company, and almost 60 percent would like to generate some or all of their own electricity and be willing to purchase PV in the future.

It also identifies that greater numbers of Kiwi’s are already putting their money where their mouth is and investing in PV, with the number of grid-connected small-scale systems having grown by 330 percent in the last two years.

Dr Ford says while the numbers are still relatively low compared to other countries, the growth trend has potential to have a substantial impact in the future.

The report is part of the GREEN Grid project, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment which Dr Ford is working on along with researchers from Otago, Canterbury and Auckland universities.

The project is a wide-ranging investigation into how New Zealanders use power, how the demand can best be met using renewable sources, and how the national grid can be made smarter and more efficient.

The report also investigates what is stopping more New Zealanders getting on board with solar power in their homes and businesses.

“The biggest barrier for people,” Dr Ford says, “seems to be the upfront cost. While there are substantial benefits to installing a Photovoltaic system in your home it’s the high start-up costs and the lack of current financial incentives that put people off.”

Currently there is no support from the Government to encourage a greater uptake but, the report says, there are new types of business models being trialled by companies such as Vector.

Vector’s model allows customers to lease a PV system, making it possible for people to choose solar energy generation even if they don’t have the money to invest in a system or do not own their own home.

“It’s early days,” says Dr Ford, “but the results of our surveys were very promising. It showed us that New Zealanders do want to take personal responsibility for producing clean energy—we just need to find achievable ways to help make that happen.”

The report is available online at http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4992

For further information, contact Dr Rebecca Ford on 04-463 5233 extn 7288 or rebecca.ford@vuw.ac.nz

New Zealand’s energy landscape in 2050

30 Sep 2014 - 10:33 in Research

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A group of Victoria University of Wellington students will spend the summer developing an interactive website that will allow the public and government organisations to see how the energy choices we make today will impact New Zealand in 2050.

The venture is a partnership between Victoria and the National Energy Research Institute (NERI), with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, youth-led climate change organisation Generation Zero, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), the British High Commission, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the United Kingdom.

The project will see students adapt the United Kingdom’s 2050 Pathways Calculator website (http://2050-calculator-tool.decc.gov.uk) and user-friendly simulation tool (http://my2050.decc.gov.uk/), to the New Zealand context, with advice from industry experts and policy makers.

The goal of the project is to identify a range of realistic energy futures for New Zealand and communicate them to the public in a way that encourages open and transparent debate on the topic.

Dr Rebecca Ford, from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, says the result will be a powerful tool anyone can access to explore the options we have for energy supply and demand, and the implications of the choices we might make.

“We’re so excited about this project, as it provides a real chance to engage New Zealanders, from school children right through to policy makers, in thinking and talking about our energy future,” she says.

Paul Atkins, Chief Executive of NERI, adds that the tool that will empower people to contribute to an informed dialogue about New Zealand's energy choices. “Taking the pop-up shop concept and forming what may be New Zealand's first pop-up lab at Victoria for a three-month period over the summer, we are providing opportunity through the process of building the model, as well as through the end product itself,” he says.

“Our lives and our economy revolve around energy,” says Paul Young, from Generation Zero. “With climate change and other challenges to our current energy systems, New Zealand has some important choices to make.”

There are 10 summer scholarships available for students interested in working on the project between November 2014 and February 2015. For more information visit www.victoria.ac.nz and search ‘2050 ecs scholarship’. Applications close on 1 October 2014.

For more information contact Dr Rebecca Ford on 04-463 5233 extn 7288 or email rebecca.ford@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Fighting cyber-crime one app at a time

21 Oct 2014 - 22:25 in Research

This summer Victoria University of Wellington will be home to four Singaporean students researching cyber threats.

The students have been working with Dr Ian Welch, a lecturer in Victoria’s school of Engineering and Computer Science, as part of a partnership between Victoria and Singapore Polytechnic.

In their final year of the diploma in information security, the students have been working in groups to develop software to protect online programmes from malicious software or malware such as viruses or spyware.

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Singapore Polytechnic students show Open Bouncer to Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Open Bouncer is the students' Final Year Project that detects malware in Android applications. PHOTO: Mabel Yap (Credit: Home Team News Singapore)

One of the group projects is a malware detection site called Open Bouncer which is used to test Android apps to see if they are secure and reliable.

This open source platform offers two levels of information. The first shows clearly if the application is safe or not and for more tech savvy users there is the option to expand on the results to show more detail and even add to the software themselves.

Open Bouncer has gone further than the classroom, with the group receiving the opportunity to show off their website at a high profile event in Singapore called GovermentWare, where they explained the software to a government minister.

Dr Welch has been remotely mentoring the students over the past few months through weekly Skype calls. He says he is looking forward to finally meeting them in person.

“They have been working on practical software projects, and this visit will help them get research backing for the work they are doing.”

As well as providing advice, Dr Welch helped the students to test their programmes to see if they would stack up against real cyber threats. Dr Welch says when it came to testing how effective their software was at fighting cyber criminals they used similar methods to the ones police use to catch regular criminals.

“The police will set up a ‘honey pot’ where a car is left unlocked in a rough end of town waiting for thieves to steal it. We did something similar by leaving a piece of software unprotected and waited for the malware to attack. When it did the students were able to test their programmes against a real threat.”

The testing paid off and Open Bouncer will soon be available for public use. A video demostration of the Open Bouncer system is now available at: https://openbouncer.catoace.com/drIan/Video/Trailer.mp4

For more information, contact Dr Ian Welch, phone 04 463 5664 or email Ian.Welch@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Teaching robots to see at Victoria

15 Dec 2014 - 15:28 in Research

Robots may soon see the world differently thanks to work being done at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

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Syed Saud Naqvi, a PhD student from Pakistan, is working on an algorithm to help computer programmes and robots to view static images in a way that is closer to how humans see.

Saud explains: “Right now computer programmes see things as very flat—they find it difficult to distinguish one object from another.”

Facial recognition is already in use but, says one of Saud’s supervisors Dr Will Browne, object detection is more complex than facial recognition as there are many more variables.

Different object detection algorithms exist, some focus on patterns, textures or colours while others focus on the outline of a shape. Saud’s algorithm extracts the most relevant information for decision-making by selecting the best algorithm to use on an individual image.

“The defining feature of an object is not always the same—sometimes it’s the shape that defines it, sometimes it’s the textures or colours. A picture of a field of flowers, for example, could need a different algorithm than an image of a cardboard box,” says Saud.

Work on the algorithm was presented at this year’s Genetic and Evolutionary Computational Conference (GECCO) in Vancouver and received a Best Paper Award.

Now the computer vision algorithm is going to be taken even further through a Victoria Summer Scholarship project to apply it to a dynamic, real-world robot for object detection tasks. This will take the algorithm from analysing static images to moving real-time scenes.

It is hoped that the algorithm will be able to help a robot to navigate its environment by being able to separate objects from their surrounds.

Dr Browne says there are a number of uses for this kind of technology both now and in the future. Immediate possibilities include use on social media and other websites to self-caption photos with information on the location or content of a photo.

“Most of the robots that have been dreamed up in pop culture would need this kind of technology to work. Currently, there aren’t many home helper robots which can load a washing machine—this technology would help them do it.”

It’s early days but Dr Browne says in the future it’s possible that this kind of imaging technology could be adapted to use in medical testing, such as identifying cancer cells in a mammogram.

For further information contact Dr Will Browne at will.browne@ecs.vuw.ac.nz or on 04-463 5233 ext 8489.

Masters Scholarships in Computer Networks

23 Mar 2015 - 16:50 in Research

Two full-time Masters scholarships are available for qualified candidates to undertake research studies leading to a Masters in computer networks at Victoria University of Wellington.

The successful candidates will be supervised by Dr. Qiang Fu and industry partners, and conduct research in one of the following areas:
  • Coordinated resource allocation / scheduling in 4G/5G mobile cellular networks
  • Content distribution in mobile / vehicular networks
  • Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV)
  • Software Defined Networking (SDN)
Value of award: $15,000 + tuition fees

Tenure: One year

Commencement date: Anytime in 2015/16 (tentative)

Essential criteria:

*Strong programming skills in C/C++ or Java.

*Strong motivation for developing practical networking solutions

Desirable criteria:

*ECEN or wireless communications background (mobile networks)

*SWEN / COMP or software development / virtualization background (SDN/NFV)

Contact person: Dr. Qiang Fu, qiang.fu@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Cochlea model reveals inner workings of the ear

18 May 2015 - 21:56 in Research

A model developed at Victoria University of Wellington has helped researchers conduct intricate experiments into the cochlea, which may lead to improved methods of treatment for hearing impairments.

PhD student Mohammad Ayat’s research involved developing a model of the cochlea, a snail-shaped chamber in the human ear, focused on the cochlear microphonic (CM)—an electrical signal generated inside the cochlea in response to sound.

The model—which includes electrical coupling of the cochlea—is the most detailed one-dimensional model developed to date, and allowed Mohammad to predict some characteristics of the cochlear microphonic.

“Some of these characteristics are different from what many researchers thought in the past, and may have clinical significance once further research is done,” says Mohammad.

Mohammad says the cochlear microphonic signal is a potential tool for diagnosing hearing impairments and investigating cochlear function.

“The CM can provide information about the health of particular sections of the cochlea, which may lead to faster and more accurate methods of adjusting the many settings of modern hearing aids to compensate for areas of weakness.

“The cochlea is hard to study because of where it is in the body and the complex processes at work. Modelling allowed us to bridge these gaps and gain useful information.”

Mohammad, who had no previous experience researching the cochlea, says it took him around eight months to learn its functionality.

“It’s a fascinatingly complex organ and there’s still mystery around how it works. Further modelling and signal processing experiments will lead to better methods of diagnosis, and improved methods of treatment for hearing impairments. It may also lead to the development of bionics-inspired speech recognition systems similar to the human cochlea.”

This study was conducted at Victoria University of Wellington, under the supervision of Dr Paul Teal from the School of Engineering and Computer Science and Professor Mark McGuinness from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research.

Mohammad graduated with a PhD in Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering on Wednesday 13 May 2015.

Scholarships for the Master of Engineering (ME) in Software Defined Networking

21 May 2015 - 19:48 in Research

The School of Engineering and Computer Science is offering two full-time Master scholarships (domestic tuition fees plus a 1-year stipend of NZ$20,000) to excellent candidates to work on the following topics:

  • "Performance Evaluation and Analytical Modelling of SDN and OpenFlow-based Networks and Systems". The successful candidate is expected to have a good foundation in theoretical performance analysis techniques, viz. and queuing theory. Knowledge of common network simulation platforms (e.g. OmNet++, QualNet, etc) would be advantageous. He/she will also have the opportunity to spend time in Kyoto University, Japan, to work with world leading experts in performance analysis.

  • "Traffic classification in Enterprise Networks using Software Defined Networking". The successful candidate is expected to have a good fundamental knowledge of networking and strong hands-on skills required to validate his/her research results on a real network testbed. Knowledge of traffic classification techniques for supporting quality of service in the Internet would be given preferential consideration.
Interested applicants, please contact Professor Winston Seah via email attaching your transcripts, publications list, and CV. If you are suitable, you will then be provided with the information on how to apply for admission into our ME degree programme. Contact: winston.seah@ecs.vuw.ac.nz.

Research to reduce the cost of traffic

16 Jun 2015 - 09:27 in Research

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Drivers may be less frustrated by the apparent whims of traffic signals if a research project by Victoria University of Wellington associate professor, Dr Paul Teal, goes ahead.

The multidisciplinary project aims to bring together economists and engineers to design a traffic control system that reduces operational costs and delays, thereby delivering both economic and social benefits.

Strengthening the relevance of the research is the recently released OECD Economic Surveys NEW ZEALAND report which states that Auckland and Wellington are the second and third most congested cities in Australasia, according to the TomTom traffic index.

The OECD report suggests implementing demand management strategies such as pricing mechanisms to reduce urban road congestion. Dr Teal’s research will explore utilising mobile devices as a means to predict traffic movements, thereby enabling a new kind of management strategy.

“Although the traffic control system in New Zealand is relatively advanced, it can’t anticipate traffic flow, which is part of the reason why roads get congested,” says Dr Teal. “It’s also why we often find ourselves sitting at the lights even when there is no traffic around.

“Our project aims to use mobile devices in cars to convey key information some time before the vehicle arrives at an intersection, and use that information to set a more appropriate phasing of traffic lights.”

GPS tracking technology will be used to determine such factors as speed and location, with the information then sent back to a centralised traffic control system.

Wider application of the technology may also include providing information on vehicle weight, fuel economy, destination and costs of traffic delays.

“Two key components when it comes to inefficiencies in traffic are slowing down and stopping. These are largely reflected in the operational cost of fuel and the cost of lost time.

The research will focus on strategies for using the available information to minimise the total society cost, which is the combination of the operational and delay costs.

To give an idea of the scale of the problem, a 2013 New Zealand Transport Agency Research Report estimated the annual cost of traffic delays in the Auckland region alone at $1.25 billion.

Funding is currently being sought for the research project.

For more information contact Dr Paul Teal on 04-463 5966 or paul.teal@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Riding high on a great idea

29 Jul 2015 - 15:23 in Research

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Cycling is an increasingly popular way of getting around in New Zealand. However, in 2013 alone, eight cyclists died, 171 were seriously injured and 646 suffered minor injuries in police-reported crashes on New Zealand roads( Ministry of Transport, Cyclist Crash Facts).

Michael Baird, who is studying for a BE(Hons), is hoping to discover how cyclists can lower the inherent risks of being less protected and less visible than the motor vehicles they share the road with. His Honours project involves developing a sensor system that integrates multiple sources of data inputs to improve rider safety—and enjoyment.

A keen cyclist himself, Michael says the idea for the project came about while he was out riding with his brother. “I asked him what sort of data he’d find useful to make cycling a safer and more fun experience, then I compared his ‘wish list’ with the features of the products that are on the market now.” He says that although today’s products provide basic, mostly fitness-related information such as speed, heart rate and cadence (how fast you spin the pedals as you ride), his focus is on developing a product that gives cyclists the information they need to feel safer on the road, including alerts to problems or faults with their bikes.

Such information will include the real-time status of both bike and rider (for example, speed, condition of brakes and cycling characteristics), that will be provided via a set of on-bike sensors that communicate with an on-bike controller.

Michael will also look at integrating multiple modes of sensory information (including one of the world’s biggest networks, Google Maps) that will enable warnings to be given to riders about difficult terrain ahead, or whether they are approaching a junction too fast. Proximity sensors will also warn riders that they are approaching or being approached by another vehicle too closely.

Improved safety is Michael’s primary goal, but he also plans to include data that will increase enjoyment for recreational or competitive cyclists, together with “some route planning features that will recommend roads to take and speeds to ride at, based on current conditions.“

Michael’s supervisor, Professor Winston Seah, says he is delighted to see Michael thinking in such an innovative way.

“When I set a project, I don’t usually expect students to come up with their own novel idea to base it on, as Michael has. But when they do, and that idea involves solving a real-world problem, it makes the project that much more relevant for them.”

Michael concurs. “I’m really enjoying working on something I can relate to personally. Professor Seah is one of the top academics in the field of wireless sensor networking, so I feel very lucky to have him as one of my two supervisors.”

Michael’s current focus is on finishing the development of the project’s programming and electronics in time for testing and evaluation at the end of the year, but he hasn’t ruled out the possibility of taking it to market in the future. “It’s cool to think there’s a possibility that I might be able to build a business out of it!”

Opportunities explode for game development and gaming

05 Aug 2015 - 10:33 in Research

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10 years ago the stereotypical 'gamer' was a young male sitting in a basement hooked up to a computer for days on end. Nowadays, a gamer can be defined as loosely as 'anyone who plays games'. With the proliferation of games like Candy Crush Saga and Farmville, alongside 'serious’ games such as League of Legends and Skyrim, that definition now includes almost everyone.

As new technology, better graphics, and more powerful computers are developed there's never been a more exciting time to be a gamer.

Kieran Carnegie, Computer Science PhD student and leading member of Victoria University's Engineering Club, is particularly interested in how the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality device, can be used for gaming, and other scenarios.

“When you use the Oculus Rift you honestly believe that you have been transported into a virtual world,” he says. “Research shows it's effective in treating Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and phobias through desensitisation therapy; you can also teach someone to drive, or how to be a tour guide using virtual maps.”

Kieran believes you can build a serious career around gaming, and New Zealand has a flourishing games industry.

“Companies like PikPok in Wellington, Gameloft in Auckland or Epic Games in Christchurch create opportunities for gamers to work in the industry. These companies are constantly looking for new talent. There's a very attractive company culture for gamers,” says Kieran.

When it comes to gaming at Victoria, it’s not all work and no play either.

Kieran says many Engineering and Computer Science students were gamers before they came to university, and now they have an outlet to continue their hobby. The Victoria Engineering Club hosts LAN parties where students connect online and play against each other.

“We facilitate tournaments for League of Legends, Dota 2 and Harvester and arrange team creation nights. Occasionally we get sponsorship from one of the big gaming companies who supply 'swag'. There have been New Zealand-wide events which the VUW team has competed in too, such as last year's Winter Championships hosted by Riot Games and this year's Oceanic Collegiate Championships.”

For those that are really good it can also offer an unexpected career path.

“The United States government already offers athletes' visas for eSport players and there are international tournaments with serious prize pools of millions of dollars. There are even opportunities to become a pro-player and earn a salary by both playing in tournaments and sharing gaming tips with other enthusiasts online.”

To keep up with gaming tournaments and opportunities for ECS students, check out:

https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaEngineeringClub

Software Defined Networking Scholarships

17 Aug 2015 - 19:56 in Research

The Software Defined Networking Research Centre aims to foster collaboration with industry, academia and individuals as well as promote independent research and development activities promoting Software Defined Networking (SDN). SDN is a new networking technology which greatly improves network programmability and is changing how we design, build and operate networks.

Scholarship opportunities.

We are pleased to be able to offer multiple scholarships for students wanting to begin a full-time, research-focused Master’s degree. Students will carry out research into the application of SDN to improve the reliability, efficiency and security of networks.

The opportunity to take a new approach to networking based upon the application of software engineering techniques means that we are particularly interested in students with backgrounds in one or more of computer networking, electronics, software engineering, programming languages or formal methods.

Topics include performance measurement, traffic classification for quality of service or security, intrusion detection, application of software debugging and visualization techniques to network programmability as well as the application of formal methods to improve the reliability of networks.

More details about potential research topics are listed on our research group’s web page: http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/Groups/SDN/

Conditions and Requirements.

Each scholarship consists of domestic tuition fees plus a 1-year stipend of NZ$20,000 to successful applicants. International students, other than those from Australia will be liable to pay the difference between the full international student fee and the domestic fee.

Applicants must be eligible to enrol in a Master’s degree by thesis at Victoria University. In general, this means you have a Computer Science or Engineering (Electronics/Electrical) related honours degree. Please read about this at

http://www.victoria.ac.nz/fgr/policies-and-resources#masters

Next Steps.

You should contact either Dr Ian Welch (ian.welch@ecs.vuw.ac.nz) or Dr Bryan Ng (bryan.ng@ecs.vuw.ac.nz).

Before continuing with your final application we will provide all candidates with a set of tasks to evaluate their technical competency, programming and writing. Applicants typically have four (4) weeks to complete them. Upon satisfactory completion, we will arrange for a Skype Interview with you. Part of the interview will be centred around the tasks you have completed and the submitted report. Successfully passing these steps will result in an invitation to make a formal application via the Victoria University of Wellington’s Scholarships office.

Zombie apocalypse how?

18 Sep 2015 - 11:15 in Research

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Ever wondered just how a Zombie attack could play out in your town—or what a Zombie apocalypse might actually look like? By the end of this year, it’s quite probable that student Jacob Duligall will be able to answer those questions, and more. He’s currently developing software that will simulate the spread of Zombie disease through a virtual city, turning everyday (virtual) folk into the flesh-eating un-dead.

“As any good Zombie fan will tell you, Zombie-ism is spread by disease,” says Jacob, a fourth-year student who is studying towards a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, majoring in Software Engineering. “By building a system that models a Zombie apocalypse, I’ll also be able to create a simplified simulation of how real diseases—such as colds or flu, or even Ebola—are spread.”

Able to choose the direction the project will take, Jacob is focusing on enabling the system to deal with a range of diseases, and allowing users to specify how the Zombies behave—rather than the alternative, making a more accurate model of the virtual city. He will, however, devote some time to adding geographic data by laying real maps over the top of the simulation to enhance user experience. “I’ll be able to pick a person’s home town, wherever it is in the world, and overlay the relevant map to show Zombies invading his or her town or home!”

Using Java to implement the system, Jacob says he is really enjoying the visual simulation aspect of the project as it means working at the front-end of software development. “If I make a change to the code, I can almost instantly see a change to what’s depicted on screen. Working at the back-end of development, on servers and gateways, is usually a less visually responsive exercise.”

At the end of the project, Jacob will look for volunteers to test his simulation program, and he’ll write a report evaluating his findings.

Jacob’s supervisor, Roman Klapaukh, says he wanted Jacob to tackle a real-world problem—the spread of disease—and build a system from scratch, using all the skills he’s learnt during the past three years of study. “When he finishes his project, Jacob will have a fantastic block of work to add to his portfolio that shows future employers just what his capabilities are,” says Roman.

Jacob, who is originally from Havelock North, chose Victoria because of its strong focus on, and good reputation for, Engineering and Computer Science. “One of my favourite subjects in Year 12 was computing. We had to build our own educational game, which I really enjoyed, although I didn’t actually learn to write code until I started at Victoria.”

So what are his career plans when he graduates? “I’m hoping to turn my internship at Snapper into a full-time job,” he says. Jacob is already working part-time at Snapper—a New Zealand contactless payment system—after being introduced to the company through his course work at Victoria.

“When we studied agile development as part of our course work, Snapper’s chief technology officer, Norman Cumerford, was one of our mentors,” Jacob explains. “He ended up offering me and three others the opportunity to join Snapper as interns. I’ve been working on mobile app development there during the holidays (and part time during term time) and I'm really enjoying it. It would be the ultimate for me if I could go straight from university into a job I love!”

Superlens promises new insights

28 Sep 2015 - 11:09 in Research

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Observing the real-time interaction of virus particles is one of the many benefits expected from Victoria University of Wellington research into the design of a new far-field superlens, or optical omniscope.

Dr Ciaran Moore from the School of Engineering and Computer Science will be leading the project as the recipient of a $300,000 Marsden Fast-Start grant.

Current superlens microscopes cannot simultaneously resolve both very small and large features, measured in terms of smaller or greater than 1/200th of the width of human hair. Moreover, they can only observe these features in one dimension, resulting in images consisting of parallel lines.

The optical omniscope aims to address both these issues, meaning differently-sized features can be observed together and in two dimensions, allowing for more detailed observations of nanostructures and nanoparticles interacting with their environment.

"The optical lenses we have now can only give us a blurry image of a nanostructure. It's like looking at an object through frosted glass. You can see that something is there, but not the finer detail," says Dr Moore.

"Other techniques with higher resolution are available, but these can damage the nanostructures."

While still in the early stages of development, Dr Moore says the optical omniscope has a number of potential benefits across a range of scientific applications.

"Presently, medical samples have to be extensively treated—usually cut into thin slices then bleached or doped with fluorescent markers—before they can be examined. But the optical omniscope removes the need for pre-treating, which will save time and result in faster diagnoses.

"Pre-treating can also kill medical samples—by eliminating the need to pre-treat, the sample remains live. That means you could take high-resolution images of a living sample and watch organisms develop or change over time, or see what happens to them when they are in contact with toxic material."

Dr Moore says the optical omniscope could also help speed up the manufacture of computer processors. "The wide field of view contains information about both the very small features as well as the larger ones, so you would be able to check a larger section of each microchip more quickly. By being able to manufacture them more quickly, the cost should then come down too."

Dr Moore hopes that the prototype optical omniscope will improve access to high-end microscopy equipment, thereby leading to new discoveries in nanoscience and nanotechnology.

"If we can make this technology better and more accessible, then more is being seen, which could have a significant impact on the rate of scientific discoveries."

Dr Moore has been working with Victoria University's School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, where nanoscience research is undertaken.

Marsden Fast-Start grants are administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand and come from a special pool of funds set aside for emerging researchers (up to seven years after the conferment of a PhD).

For more information contact Ciaran Moore on 04-463 5233 x8931 or ciaran.moore@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Training in computer science

20 Oct 2015 - 12:33 in Research

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When Benjamin Powley first played with a train set as a small boy, he could never have imagined he’d be using a similar set to complete a university Honour’s project.

Benjamin, who is currently studying a Bachelor of Science with Honours (having already completed a double major Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematics), is one of the first to test out a new model railway purchased by the School of Engineering and Computer Science for student projects. He is using it to develop safety-critical control software that simulates a real-world, automated train network (such as the Paris Metro’s ‘Line 14’).

“I have to manage the scheduling of multiple locomotives, and safely route them through a network of tracks using the Java Model Rail Interface (JMRI),” Benjamin explains. “The safety challenges involve ensuring that no two trains are in the same section at the same time, and that all points are correctly set to ‘open’ or ‘closed’ each time a train enters a new section.”

As part of the project, Benjamin must programme both a handheld controller and a simulator—reflecting the real-life situation for software engineers who must always test their programmes before implementing them. “The handheld controller is a bit different to what you’d find on your average train set—this one has a special interface so that I can plug in my own programme and send instructions to the trains,” Benjamin says. These messages are sent across a voltage line to sensors on the track, which communicate with chips attached to each train.

At the end of the year, Benjamin will evaluate his work and formally present the results with a written report and a series of test runs. “I need to demonstrate a range of complicated scheduling, so I’ll put increasing stress on the network by adding more trains to run simultaneously,” he says. Benjamin will also use his maths background to build mathematical models for the controller to prove that the properties in the programme are correct and safe.

In addition to the project work, Benjamin says he is also improving his ‘soft’ skills such as time management and how to work as part of a team. “My two supervisors and I meet every week to talk things through and bounce ideas off each other. Their feedback is always incredibly useful.”

The idea to use the model railway as the basis for a project came from one of Benjamin’s supervisors, Dr David Pearce, a senior lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. “Where possible, I like to set projects that have some kind of real-world application, because students are more likely to relate to, and engage with, them.”

David says that the need for safety-critical software will become increasingly important with the rise of the ‘internet of things’. “More and more devices in the home will be built with wifi capability, making them potentially vulnerable to cyber attacks and hacking—unless they feature safety-critical software.”

David says that Victoria has the edge over other universities teaching the same subjects. “We have our own electronics workshop and technicians, which means we’ve got the facilities and skills to carry out any hardware projects or modifications right here on campus.”

Going forward with Google

28 Oct 2015 - 11:17 in Research

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Victoria University has further solidified its place at the forefront of research in one of the most innovative emerging technology areas—software defined networks (SDN).

After forming a software defined networks research group in 2014, Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science has gone on to sign a three-year research agreement with Google to embark on SDN development, maintenance and teaching.

Traditionally, networking hardware is manufactured with specific software in mind, but standardising the way that software interacts with hardware allows developers the freedom to go beyond what is standard in the field.

“This means software developers can write programs for their own specific networking needs, and they are less restricted by the set-up of the hardware, which is more conducive to innovation,” says senior lecturer Dr Ian Welch.

“The flexibility of SDN technology means network modifications can be made more readily, and system threats dealt with rapidly and effectively. Even better, we can make networks more reliable by applying well-understood techniques from software engineering, such as unit testing and formal methods. Overall, this makes for a commercially nimble, cost-effective solution because it allows maximisation of the use of bandwidth and is potentially more secure and reliable than existing technologies.”

According to Google’s representative software engineer at Victoria, Josh Bailey, companies such as Google, Facebook or Amazon wouldn’t be in business without the vital role of network engineers.

“SDN is set to revolutionise things further by allowing better management of things such as cloud services, big data and consumer-interfacing technology, and it provides attractive options for scaling up business operations,” says Josh.

“This means SDN technology is set to be a growth industry and a serious option for any student considering network engineering.”

The three-year research agreement with Google provides a platform for Victoria to grow its profile in SDN teaching and research, with the goals of bringing more students into this emerging field and partnering with other academic and commercial organisations.

Developing a digital reputation

05 Jan 2016 - 08:44 in Research

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A Victoria University of Wellington researcher is developing a new reputation management system for the digital world.

Ferry Hendrikx, who graduated recently with a PhD in Computer Science, is researching ways of building reputation profiles online that draw information from multiple sources.

“The widespread use of the internet for social and commercial use has made traditional methods of gathering reputation, such as word-of-mouth or personal associations, insufficient for gaining a clear picture of an individual or organisation,” says Ferry.

“Many websites have features designed to build trust, but these only provide a narrow perspective of an individual. They don’t allow for a fuller, more substantial impression. Someone might be an honest trader on Trade Me, but a poor mechanic. A company might give generously to charities, but be a bad employer.”

Ferry’s thesis proposes a network-based framework that automatically extracts information about an individual or organisation from multiple sites and stores this information in a profile. The system decides what’s important, reliable or relevant based on online activity.

The reputation associated with a profile will develop and change over time as new information comes to hand and old data becomes less significant.

“The profile develops as a result of online actions and associations. While the individual or organisation can host their own profile, it’s not something they can necessarily modify—you can’t lie about yourself,” says Ferry.

“A key aspect of the research is the establishment of an access control feature, meaning that, as a reputation develops, the individual or organisation will gain (or lose) access to relevant online services or groups. They’re not required to apply for these things—it just happens.

“Examples might be access to industry relevant publications, a wider database of customers to trade with, or membership to online societies.”

The technology is still at a nascent stage, however Ferry believes this approach has significant potential for reputation management as social and commercial activity continues to grow and develop in the online space.

Governor-General stops by Engineering and Computer Science

22 Feb 2016 - 10:23 in Research

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The Governor-General Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae recently paid a visit to Victoria University and stopped in at the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS).

Staff and students from ECS presented some of the exciting projects taking place around the School.

Senior Lecturer Dr Taehyun Rhee introduced the Governor-General to his team’s research into 4D entertainment. The project, which involves a multi-disciplinary team from New Zealand and Korea, is looking at how computer graphics and emerging interactive technologies can be combined to create new, immersive, home entertainment experiences.

Postgraduate students Andrew Chalmers, Kieran Carnegie, Thomas Iorns and Chris Dean each showcased their specialisations and gave Sir Jerry a chance to get up close and personal with the technology.

The students talked about their research into making virtual reality a more enjoyable and realistic leisure activity including finding ways to mimic what the human eye sees to reduce simulator sickness.

As part of the presentation Sir Jerry tried out the Oculus Rift, a cutting-edge virtual reality headset, to explore an underwater scene. Later a scan of his face was taken to create a 3D digital model.

Dr Ian Welch, Dr Bryan Ng and Master’s student Matt Stevens spoke about the progress of the Software Defined Networks research group, formed in 2014. Recently the group signed a three-year research agreement with Google to embark on SDN development, maintenance and teaching.

The agreement provides a platform for Victoria to grow its profile in SDN teaching and research, with the goal of bringing more students into this emerging field and partnering with other academic and commercial organisations.

The School of Engineering and Computer sciences was the third stop on the Governor-General’s tour of the University. As part of his visit to Victoria he was also treated to a sneak peek at 'No Man’s Land', a production co-created by Professor John Psathas that will premiere at The New Zealand Festival, and he was part of a round table discussion on the state of Antarctica’s ice sheets and rising sea levels.

Waging war on hackers a daunting arms race

24 Jun 2016 - 13:41 in Research

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The following commentary by Dr Ian Welch from Victoria University's School of Engineering and Computer Science was originally published in the New Zealand Herald on 20 June:

“The Government has released its new defence policy with a budget of $20 billion. The plan covers the next 15 years and in addition to replacing hardware over that time, as you'd expect, it includes the creation of a cyber security system. This is good news—we need a cyber security system, but more importantly, we also need a lot more people learning about cyber security.

Recent US figures point to more than 169 million personal records being exposed in 2015, across the financial, business, education, government and healthcare sectors.

The now infamous Panama Papers represent the world's largest ever data breach, with 11.5 million documents that were stored in the computer systems used by Mossack Fonseca—the law firm that was a primary conduit for world leaders and corporations seeking off-shore tax havens—being leaked.

We might see this particular data breach as a good thing because of the pressure it has placed on governments around the world to address tax havens. However we might not have been so happy to see ordinary individuals' phone records or tax records being stolen and unfortunately the problems that allowed the Panama Papers to be stolen are not unique, they are found in many commercial and government systems.

So, with companies and government organisations responsible for storing so much data, why do such problems exist?

First, it is the nature of software to be insecure. Humans write software so making mistakes and introducing bugs that can be exploited is inevitable.

Second, we don't design the software to fit how humans weigh up risk when making decisions. Most of our rules for decision making are the result of the experiences of our ancestors when they lived in relatively small tribal groups. They have not yet caught up to the environment created by the online world where we have hundreds of friends on Facebook whom we have never met.

One way that these flaws are exploited by attackers is in so-called "drive-by" attacks, where hackers are able to bypass organisational defences, such as firewalls, and directly infect a victim's computer. This might be done by infecting a website known to be visited by the target users. The goal is to exploit both the trust of the users and bugs in their web browsers to install a virus allowing the hacker access to the organisation's network.

At Victoria University, my research group has been looking at this particular problem for the last 10 years, and trying to understand how attackers choose to target vulnerable users. Our goal has been to develop software that can detect infected websites. However this is such a massive problem that it cannot ever be solved by one research group—or even at all. As we develop new defences, attackers develop new attacks, which means we have an ongoing arms race.

The size of this problem means that businesses and government largely lack the expertise and resource to protect themselves. To help address this, the Government recently announced $22.2 million of funding for the establishment of a new national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to support customer organisations in dealing with cyber-attacks and cyber-crime. This is a long-overdue step and will see us join a community of over 40 other national CERTs across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

This good start isn't enough. We also need to address major shortfalls in the number of software and network engineers with an understanding of security. Internationally, experts are forecasting a shortage of up to a million trained cyber security professionals in the coming years.

These are not necessarily people whose primary job is to be a security professional but who have studied computer security and can apply this in their day-to-day jobs. We will never remove the bugs but we can make it harder for hackers by having fewer of them in the first place.”

Master of Engineering Scholarship Announced

21 Jul 2016 - 13:36 in Research

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science is offering a full-time Master of Engineering (ME) scholarship (domestic tuition fees plus a 1-year stipend of NZ$20,000) to an excellent candidate to work on the "5G Internet of Things". This scholarship is sponsored by Victoria's Huawei NZ Research Programme and the research will focus on the latest 5G wireless access technologies to support massive IoT connectivity.

The successful candidate is expected to have a good fundamental knowledge of networking, especially in medium access control protocols, random access in 5G networks, and other related topics. Knowledge of theoretical performance analysis techniques, namely queuing theory, is highly desired, and hands-on experience in common network simulation platforms (e.g. OmNet++, QualNet, etc) would be advantageous.

Interested applicants please contact Professor Winston Seah via email attaching your transcripts, publications list and CV. If you are suitable, you will then be provided with the information on how to apply for admission into our ME degree programme. Contact: winston.seah@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

PHD Scholarships Available in Evolutionary Computation

25 Jul 2016 - 11:07 in Research

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Join our internationally renowned and friendly research team:

- Up to eight funded PhDs (fees + stipend) available 3 times a year, 3yr duration in English, with expert supervision.

Five major EC strategic research directions:

- Feature selection/construction for classification, regression, clustering

- Combinatorial optimisation: scheduling, routing, web services

- Computer vision and image analysis

- Multi- and many- criteria optimisation

- Transfer learning

Techniques include:

- Genetic Programming, Learning Classifier Systems, Particle Swarm Optimisation, Differential Evolution, and many others.

Publish in top journals and conferences:

- Awards include Best Papers in IEEE, TEVC, CEC, GECCO, EVO

About Wellington:

- City voted as ‘Coolest little capital in the World!’

- VUW is the top-rated research university in New Zealand.

Entry requirements:

MSc/ME; GPA >= 3.5/4; research experience/publications

For more information:

- Come and find us after one of our many talks, or apply at: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/fgr/prospective-phds/scholarships

Postdoctoral Fellow: Introducing Harith to ECS

26 Sep 2016 - 09:36 in Research

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Name? Harith Al-Sahaf.

Born in? Lincoln, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Lived in? Iraq (1984-2006), and New Zealand (2006-present).

First job? Yarn machine operator (Iraq), Delicatessen, New World (New Zealand), and Tutor for SWEN304 (VUW).

Position at VUW? Postdoctoral Fellow working with the Evolutionary Computation Research Group.

Most looking forward to at VUW? Joining the team!

Key research interests? Evolutionary Computation and Computer Vision.

Why Wellington? Definitely not for the weather, but absolutely for the friendly people.

Favourite movie? The Message, The Godfather - and almost all comedy movies.

Favourite musician? Lionel Richie, Air Supply, ABBA.

Favourite food? My mum’s.

Quote to live by? “The more you know, the more you realise how much you don’t know – the less you know, the more you think you know”.
- David T. Freeman

Making sensor of the Internet of Things

09 Nov 2016 - 10:59 in Research

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People like to think of themselves as complex, but compared with things they are all too predictable.

That’s what Winston Seah, Professor of Network Engineering in Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, has found as he leads a team of researchers working on the Internet of Things (IOT).

Currently the area of internet development “the whole world is crazy about,” says Winston, IOT seeks to give everyday and other objects network connectivity so they can send and receive data.

Supported by a three-year $1 million deal with telecommunication giant Huawei New Zealand, one of the aspects of IOT Winston and his team are exploring is how networks might handle the massively increased traffic such functionality would bring.

“It’s already been predicted the numbers are going to exceed human connections by hundreds of thousand times or even a billion. How many smartphones can we carry? Maybe two or three—and that’s a lot. But let’s say my jacket is embedded with sensors that measure my body statistics. It could easily have 100 sensors, each sending data. Multiply that by the number of people in a city. And that’s just one application.”

Then there is the variability of what is being transmitted and when.

“It’s not like the internet in the past where you’re just dealing with human beings’ communications. People are creatures of habit. How we communicate tends to be the same. Whereas machines are so different. And sometimes you just can’t think what kind of data they will send and what kinds of patterns will emerge.”

Winston and his team are also developing individual IOT applications such as land movement sensors that give advance warning of potential landslides, which are being trialled in the Manawatu Gorge near Palmerston North.

With a glint in his eye, Winston ponders other New Zealand sensor candidates, turning the Internet of Things into “the Internet of Sheep, the Internet of Cows, the Internet of Pinot Noir vines…”

Operation Zombie saves the day

21 Nov 2016 - 10:18 in Research

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A group of enterprising third year Engineering students are the ‘brains’ behind Operation Zombie, a project to develop cutting-edge technology for use in search and rescue training scenarios.

The project was one of several available to students to choose as part of a compulsory year-long project management paper, where students were asked to combine their electronics, software and networking expertise to solve a problem for an external client.

A team comprising Patrick Savill, Layne Small, Callum Gill, Miten Chauhan, Kandice McLean and Marc Laroza created a product for the New Zealand Fire Service’s Urban Search and Rescue team that simulates human behaviours for search and rescue training exercises.

All of the team members are studying Engineering, but as they are pursuing different majors, they each brought something different to the table. The project was called ‘Operation Zombie’ as it is targeted at replacing humans during training operations. Real people cannot be placed in realistically dangerous scenarios for fear of physical harm - and using dummies to simulate these scenarios is currently too expensive.

Patrick, the team’s spokesman, says they were aiming to produce a simple and cheap solution to the problem, by creating a small, self-contained motorised control box that can be operated wirelessly from a website. Instead of using a real person, the motorised box can mimic heat loss from the human body that might occur due to exposure in an emergency situation, as well as providing a realistic rescue scenario where someone is trapped in a river or under rubble. The group’s design was praised for being robust, waterproof and able to be operated at long-range.

“We had to build the hardware, configure the network, and design software to run the web page, so we were able to utilise our team members’ individual skills based on their areas of expertise”, Patrick says. “It was an enjoyable challenge with a tangible result, which is always a bonus”.

Patrick and his teammates found the project a useful platform to practise both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills learnt in class.

“I used what I knew about creating printed circuit boards - equipment that supports electrical components - as well as everything I had learnt about micro-controller coding”, says Patrick. “A happy by-product of the course was getting to practise people-management and communication skills which are so valued by employers”.

The team met some hurdles along the way, including “timing, work falling behind, untested assumptions - and blowing up electronic parts!”

“It was definitely challenging”, says Patrick. “I went in imagining the utopia of a high-functioning team, perfect circumstances and rigid scheduling – but came out the other side with an intimate understanding of Murphy’s Law.”

Patrick says that despite the challenges, the project has definitely added value to his university degree.

“I now realise that the challenging projects are the ones you learn the most from”, he says. “I have learnt far more by making mistakes than I ever could have from easy successes. Now I hope to find a job where I can use my engineering skills and really make a difference in the world”.

And Patrick’s advice to future students?

“No one said Engineering was going to be easy, so to paraphrase American writer Denis Waitley, “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised!””

Gareth's good thinking about drinking

30 Nov 2016 - 10:52 in Research

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An Honours-year Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering student won’t find his good ideas drying up any time soon. That’s because this year, Gareth Clay built a ‘Bioimpedance Hydration Measurement Device’ that could prove handy for emergency department doctors treating dehydrated patients on the go.

Gareth’s device enables doctors to form an accurate picture of the volume of fluid within a person’s body by measuring their ‘body impedance’, or the resistance and reactance of the body.

The hydration level of a patient is extremely important to the treatment options prescribed, especially on admission in an emergency room setting. Low levels of hydration in patients who are already weak due to sickness or injury can lead to complications that compromise patient health.

“I’ve made a unique device using all the skills I’ve learnt from my university studies”, says Gareth. “It could really help doctors in their day to day work. A lot of people are interested in developing it further”.

The project was proposed by Dr Sapi Mukerji, an emergency department doctor working at Lower Hutt hospital, who contacted Victoria about the potential to collaborate on developing some biomedical products he had been thinking about.

Several clinical techniques already exist to measure the hydration levels of a patient. However, Gareth’s new technique has been praised for being less invasive and less expensive than current commercial bioimpedance devices. His device was also found to be precise to within 1%.

“It’s always nice to have a real world application for a project – it’s really motivating!” says Gareth. “It was easy to see how this device would be helpful to doctors and that made the project all the more appealing and interesting to be part of”.

Gareth has already landed his dream job at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, which he says was “definitely” helped by the fact that he had developed a medical device at university.

“It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience because it’s the first chance you get as an Engineering student to develop a large project independently”, he says. “It was also a time to refine all my learning, solidify the theory and practise the practical stuff I needed to hit the ground running when I entered the workforce”.

Gareth’s advice to other Honours students is to get as much done as early as possible.

“I put a lot of work into the first trimester, when the workload was easier, and it really paid off”, he says. “It meant I had time for setbacks and to refine my ideas, including actual testing with patients in the final stages of the project.

“The next step in the process is to decide the feasibility of further development - I would love to see a new commercial product on the market as the result of this idea.”

New $29 million funding fuels hybrid-electric jet engine and other research projects

14 Sep 2017 - 09:05 in Research

Development of technology to help build the world’s first hybrid-electric passenger jet plane is among Victoria University of Wellington projects to receive nearly $29 million in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's 2017 Endeavour Fund.

Five Victoria projects have been successful in this year’s science investment round, announced this morning by Science and Innovation Minister Hon Paul Goldsmith.

Dr Rod Badcock from Victoria’s Robinson Research Institute is leading the jet plane project, which was awarded $6.3 million over five years.

The Institute is an international leader in the field of superconductivity—a key mechanism needed to develop cleaner aviation technologies, says Dr Badcock.

“Electric planes pose a big challenge as they will require very high-power propulsion systems which are subject to stringent weight constraints. Existing electrical machines are simply too heavy. The only feasible approach is high-torque, high-speed machines that employ high temperature superconductors.

“We’re planning to develop a motor for a Boeing 737-sized passenger plane. This will use an electric drive-train to connect high-speed electric motors with a fuel-powered generator running at maximum efficiency. A superconducting motor will deliver the all-important power-to-weight ratio.

Dr Badcock and his team will collaborate with experts in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan. “Flying is the most climate-intensive form of transport,” he says. “It’s important that a clean alternative is found—and fast. It would have a huge economic impact not only for New Zealand but around the world.”

Professor Colin Wilson from Victoria’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences is leading an $8.2 million five-year multi-institution consortium programme that aims to reduce the uncertainty around future supervolcano eruptions.

“Unlike normal-sized volcano systems, the behaviour, impacts and probabilities of supervolcano eruptions remain poorly understood around the world,” says Professor Wilson.

“Global hype assumes any activity at a supervolcano will lead to catastrophe—however, history and the geological record shows that their impacts can be managed. Our project will develop a new framework for estimating the size, timing and impacts of future unrest or eruptive events, and provide resources to improve education, resilience and decision-making for our communities.”

Dr Simon Hinkley from Victoria’s Ferrier Research Institute is leading a team that has been awarded $6.2 million over five years to generate new compounds for use in products that accelerate bone and tissue repair.

“Current therapies have undesirable side effects, low efficacy, high cost, low biological stability and dubious overall benefit,” explains Dr Hinkley.

“Our project will explore the use of complex sugars called heparan sulfates in producing more effective and rapid tissue regeneration. Heparan sulfate has been shown to be an essential ‘match-maker’ in coordinating growth factors that mediate the repair processes. With our partners at the University of Otago and in Singapore, we will build on our current research activities to develop materials that assist in tissue repair processes.”

Professor Tim Naish from Victoria’s Antarctic Research Centre is leading a project that will receive $7.1 million over five years to develop a national set of sea-level rise estimates.

Professor Naish says there is currently a number of knowledge gaps that are hampering our ability to anticipate and manage future sea-level rise in New Zealand—including a lack of understanding of the influence of vertical land movements and changes in sea-surface height.

“A team of leading experts will aim to address these knowledge gaps, and to generate a set of probabilistic sea-level rise scenarios. This will improve our assessment of the physical impacts and risks of increased coastal flooding and rising groundwater levels.”

In addition to the four successfully funded research programmes, Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee from Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering has been awarded Smart Ideas funding worth $1 million.

This three-year project will examine how to capture real-world lighting and reflections in augmented and mixed reality applications.

“Generating realistic representations of the world is essential for the visual effects industry to seamlessly blend virtual objects with real ones—but doing this accurately is very challenging,” says Associate Professor Rhee.

“We propose a novel method of automatically producing real-world lighting using what is called image-space analysis. Our project will ensure far more realistic visual output in immersive augmented and mixed reality and will vastly improve the visual quality for interactive applications including computer games, virtual simulation and training.”

Victoria’s performance in this year’s Endeavour Fund represents 12 percent of the total $248 million awarded to 68 projects from 17 universities, research institutes and other organisations.

“This is a stunning result for Victoria and testament to the quality of our science and technology at New Zealand’s number one-ranked university for research excellence,” says Professor Mike Wilson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Science.

Professor Kate McGrath, Vice-Provost (Research), says the result reflects the exceptional leadership of Victoria's researchers in the scholarly community and beyond.

“Our researchers are utilising an expanding base of fundamental science and engineering to create valuable solutions to global problems and to boost high-value manufacturing in New Zealand.”

More information on the 2017 Endeavour Fund can be found at: http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/science-innovation/investment-funding/current-funding/2017-endeavour-round

New digital media centre one of first recipients of Government’s Entrepreneurial Universities funding

22 Sep 2017 - 13:12 in Research

A leading member of Japan’s digital media industry is joining Victoria University of Wellington as Director of a new Computational Media Innovation Centre (CMIC).

The Centre will be based in Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering and was today announced by Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Hon Paul Goldsmith as one of the first three recipients of funding from the Government’s $35 million Entrepreneurial Universities initiative.

The initiative aims to attract world-leading entrepreneurial academics to New Zealand in order to foster cutting-edge research and university-led innovation and entrepreneurship.

CMIC Director Professor Ken Anjyo set up and headed the research and development (R&D) division of OLM Digital, the Tokyo production company famous for the Pokémon movies, as well as for 3D animated feature films.

Professor Anjyo later became the company’s Chief Technology Officer and is now its executive Research and Development adviser. He has contributed to Japan’s digital media industry for many years, including between 2009 and 2014 as a technical committee member of the Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association, the largest association of Japanese game companies. He is a board member of VFX-JAPAN, the Japanese association of domestic digital production companies, and a member of the Visual Effects Society in the United States.

Professor Mike Wilson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering, says Victoria’s successful application for Entrepreneurial Universities funding and ability to attract an industry figure of Professor Anjyo’s standing are an endorsement of the entrepreneurial spirit already at large at Victoria and of the ground-breaking research into innovative digital media taking place at the University.

“Professor Anjyo will be heading a team that includes some of our many stars in this field, including as Deputy Director Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee,” says Professor Wilson.

“Associate Professor Rhee himself came to us from a strong industry background, at Samsung, and has been conducting pioneering virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) research that just last week received $1 million for one of its projects from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s latest Endeavour Fund science investment round.”

CMIC will incubate potential startups and industry pipelines to strengthen New Zealand’s computing and media ecosystem, placing it at the forefront of an emerging global digital media market, says Professor Anjyo.

It aims to develop extensive links with a variety of renowned gaming and anime companies and institutes in Japan, the United States and elsewhere, he says.

“Although creativity and artistic skills for creating digital media are important, the core research activities for providing competitive media are based on scientific efforts, including new algorithms, computational models, simulation methods based on computer science, computer vision and computer graphics.

“The Computational Media in our Centre’s name emphasises computing’s significant role in communications and its expression in digital media.

“We will conduct fundamental research in computational science, including computer graphics, computer vision, machine learning and applied mathematics, in response to industry needs. We will apply our research to new and existing digital media technologies. And we will ensure technology transfer from research to industry to strengthen New Zealand’s capability in interactive media such as virtual reality/augmented reality, as well as films and computer games.”

Also joining CMIC, as Executive Adviser, is James Foley, internationally respected as a computer science and graphics pioneer, and Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States.

In 2007, Professor Foley received a lifetime achievement award from the Association for Computing Machinery, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, with his citation saying: “It is difficult to think of anyone who had a larger role in the institutionalisation of HCI [human-computer interaction] as a discipline.”

He is a member of the United States National Academy of Engineering; a former chairman of the Computing Research Association, an organisation of more than 200 computer science and computer engineering university departments, professional societies and industrial research laboratories; and a former chairman and chief executive of the Mitsubishi Electric Information Technology Center America, where he led corporate research and development across four laboratories.

The programme to establish Victoria’s Computational Media Innovation Centre will begin in January 2018, with the Centre opening in June 2018.

It will complement the activities of the recently launched Victoria University of Wellington Miramar Creative Centre, which offers students the opportunity to gain unprecedented insights into the inner workings of the creative industries and interact with world-leading practitioners in the heart of Wellington’s film and digital media industry.

Together, the Centres confirm ‘Spearheading our digital futures’ and ‘Cultivating creative capital’ as two of Victoria’s areas of academic strength and distinctiveness.

New Zealand superconductor-based magnets to support neuroscience research

12 Oct 2017 - 12:35 in Research

Victoria University ’s Robinson Research Institute is part of an international project awarded funding to build a smaller and more mobile MRI system that will support neurological research.

The project, led by the internationally acclaimed Centre for Magnetic Resonance Research at the University of Minnesota Medical School, has received $(US)10.8 million in funding from the National Institutes of Health in the United States to help develop the system, which will be ready for clinical trials by 2021.

Researchers at the Robinson Research Institute, based in the Faculty of Engineering, are recognised worldwide as pioneers and leaders in high temperature superconductivity (HTS) research. This technology will form a critical part of a key aspect of the project—removing the need for liquid helium in MRI machines and thereby reducing the energy and space needs of the machines.

The Robinson Research Institute will receive $(US)1.7 million of the total funding, in recognition of the huge potential the system holds for increasing our understanding of the functioning of the human brain.

Ben Parkinson, senior engineer at the Robinson Research Institute, says: “By using our high-temperature superconductor magnet technology in combination with technology from our collaborators at University of Minnesota, Columbia, Yale, and University of Sao Paulo, we’re building a brain imaging MRI system that is more like a motorcycle helmet. It fits over the subject’s head, allowing them to sit comfortably with a normal field of view during the MRI exam, yet it can just be plugged into the wall and use a normal power supply.”

He says the challenge with current MRI systems is that they require a great deal of infrastructure and resources to build, operate and maintain.

“The standard MRI machine you see in a hospital requires 1,700 litres of liquid helium to keep the magnet at a low enough temperature to work and produce high quality images,” says Mr Parkinson

“This creates a number of challenges—a lot of infrastructure, energy and space is required to run the machine. In addition, liquid helium is also not only expensive, but in short supply, so we need to look for alternatives.

“An MRI machine is one of the best tools currently available to study neurology. However they put the patient in an unnatural and confined space, where they can’t respond to stimuli in a normal way, and the range of activities they can perform is very limited.”

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