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Apply now: Huawei 2018 Seeds for the Future programme

19 Jun 2018 - 07:59 in Administrative

We are pleased to announce that applications are now open for the Victoria University of Wellington and Huawei 2018 Seeds for the Future Programme.

The programme provides a vital link between classroom learning and the type of real world situations students will face once they enter the workforce. It aims to challenge and inspire students who are considering a future in technology, and to provide an immersive experience of life at one of the world’s leading technology companies.

Up to four recipients from Victoria will be invited to attend this programme in 2018, with preference given to third and fourth year students.

Successful candidates will attend a two week study programme based in Shenzhen, China, spending time at Huawei Headquarters and at its research and development laboratories. They will learn directly from those who are creating the next generation of consumer, enterprise, and network technology.

They will also experience a week in Beijing to learn about Chinese history, culture, and language, and to gain an understanding of New Zealand’s largest trade partner.

Huawei covers in full the cost of recipients' air travel, accommodation, travel insurance, entry visas and all meals.

Find out more about the programme, and download Expression of Interest forms here:
https://www.victoria.ac.nz/engineering/study/seeds-of-the-future-programme

Key dates and how to apply

Applications are due by 5pm Sunday 22 July 2018 – send your completed Expression of Interest form to suzan.hall@vuw.ac.nz.

The trip runs from 10 to 24 November 2018.

Faculty of Engineering researchers announced as finalists for commercialisation funding

18 Jun 2018 - 21:56 in Achievement

Two Victoria University of Wellington academics were announced as among the twelve finalists for the 2018 KiwiNet Awards, which celebrate successful commercialisation of science research in New Zealand.

Deputy Director of the University’s Robinson Research Institute Dr Rod Badcock is a finalist along with several Chinese research and business partners for their high-speed train travel project, which aims to develop new technology to help transform train networks across Asia and Europe. This project is part of an ongoing partnership with Beijing Jiaotong University.

The other finalist is Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee, Deputy Director of Computational Media Innovation Centre, Faculty of Engineering, who is working on taking New Zealand’s virtual and augmented reality technology to the world. His research looks at creating an immersive virtual reality experience where users can interact with 3D objects against a live video background, creating technology that could be used for anything from home entertainment to simulation and training for architecture and product design.

Both of these projects have been supported by Viclink, Victoria University’s commercialisation arm.

“We have supported the development of relationships, protection of intellectual property, and helped fund the projects,” says Anne Barnett, chief executive officer at Viclink. “Winning these awards, or even being a finalist, is a reflection of success in our commercialisation efforts. There is no doubt we will continue to support the researchers to develop the tech further, and develop themselves as commercially savvy academics.”

KiwiNet Awards Lead judge Dr Andrew Kelly, Executive Director at BioPacific Partners, says, “I feel like we say this every year, but the quality of commercialisation in this country really is getting better. Each of the four Award categories was strong and demonstrated the power of outstanding research innovation backed by real commercial savvy. In fact the judging panel had the longest (and hardest) discussion we’ve ever had. We’re looking forward to Awards day very, very much.”

Paul Stocks, Deputy Chief Executive of MBIE's Labour, Science and Enterprise group, says “The range of innovative research reaching market this year will go a long way to solving some of the most pressing issues facing New Zealand.”

The winners will be announced on 5 July in Auckland.

KiwiNet (the Kiwi Innovation Network), helps bring science and innovation together to create commercialisation opportunities for New Zealand with backing from the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment. The awards celebrate impact from successful commercialisation of science research within New Zealand’s universities and Crown Research Institutes.

Staff profile: Dr Bing Xue

14 Jun 2018 - 13:33 in Research

Dr Bing Xue’s successful research path in computer science began with a Masters in Management in Shenzhen University in China

“During my Masters, I studied data mining,” Dr Xue says. “I was intrigued by the data and computer science techniques we studied, which are so useful and can make life so convenient. I came to Victoria University to complete my PhD and work with a top research group in my area, and my career has only grown from there.”

Dr Xue’s career has gone from strength to strength since then, including a variety of research projects and awards such as a Victoria University Staff Excellence Award in 2018.

“Winning this award means a lot to me,” Dr Xue says. “It’s one of my biggest career milestones since completing my PhD. It recognises all my hard work and encourages me to keep working hard and pursuing new projects in the future.”

Another highlight of Dr Xue’s career so far has been the Marsden funding she received.

“Marsden funding is super competitive for computer science,” Dr Xue says. “My proposal was revised over 20 times, and seen by colleagues and professors across many different disciplines before it reached its final form. Putting together this application really helped me think deeply about my research.”

Dr Xue credits this external support from colleagues as vital to her success.

“Finding support amongst my colleagues and others has been a major factor in the success I’ve achieved,” Dr Xue says. “I’ve also tried to set clear goals and take any opportunities that came my way.”

Dr Xue currently works on a range of computer science research projects at Victoria University, including a face recognition project supported by funding from international technology company Huawei.

“I am the primary investigator for a face recognition project funded by Huawei,” Dr Xue says. “The funding has been great, because it’s helped us get better facilities and improve the quality of our research. Huawei’s good reputation has also helped us attract several top quality PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, which has helped us achieve great things in our research.”

Dr Xue is also involved in two other research projects, both in a similar area to the Huawei project.

“My work focusses on developing novel methods and computer algorithms to improve the performance of data tasks,” Dr Xue says. “I chose these projects because they focus on fundamental real-world problems, like face recognition, and they produce useful results including commercial products in some cases.”

Dr Xue also teaches several undergraduate papers, and supervises a group of postgraduate students.

“I believe a good researcher should also be able to do good teaching,” Dr Xue says. “Having a balance between teaching and research leads to a strong academic life. I find teaching very rewarding, and I’ve seen five students start in my undergraduate courses and go through to Masters and PhDs, and they are all excelling in their research.”

“Academia is certainly not an easy job, but it is rewarding and enjoyable,” Dr Xue says. “Research can have its ups and downs, but I’ve never found any time I spent on research to be wasted. The ability to keep going through challenges is in some ways more important than the technical skills.”

Dr Bing Xue’s successful research path in computer science began with a Masters in Management in Shenzhen University in China

“During my Masters, I studied data mining,” Dr Xue says. “I was intrigued by the data and computer science techniques we studied, which are so useful and can make life so convenient. I came to Victoria University to complete my PhD and work with a top research group in my area, and my career has only grown from there.”

Dr Xue’s career has gone from strength to strength since then, including a variety of research projects and awards such as a Victoria University Staff Excellence Award in 2018.

“Winning this award means a lot to me,” Dr Xue says. “It’s one of my biggest career milestones since completing my PhD. It recognises all my hard work and encourages me to keep working hard and pursuing new projects in the future.”

Another highlight of Dr Xue’s career so far has been the Marsden funding she received.

“Marsden funding is super competitive for computer science,” Dr Xue says. “My proposal was revised over 20 times, and seen by colleagues and professors across many different disciplines before it reached its final form. Putting together this application really helped me think deeply about my research.”

Dr Xue credits this external support from colleagues as vital to her success.

“Finding support amongst my colleagues and others has been a major factor in the success I’ve achieved,” Dr Xue says. “I’ve also tried to set clear goals and take any opportunities that came my way.”

Dr Xue currently works on a range of computer science research projects at Victoria University, including a face recognition project supported by funding from international technology company Huawei.

“I am the primary investigator for a face recognition project funded by Huawei,” Dr Xue says. “The funding has been great, because it’s helped us get better facilities and improve the quality of our research. Huawei’s good reputation has also helped us attract several top quality PhD students and postdoctoral researchers, which has helped us achieve great things in our research.”

Dr Xue is also involved in two other research projects, both in a similar area to the Huawei project.

“My work focusses on developing novel methods and computer algorithms to improve the performance of data tasks,” Dr Xue says. “I chose these projects because they focus on fundamental real-world problems, like face recognition, and they produce useful results including commercial products in some cases.”

Dr Xue also teaches several undergraduate papers, and supervises a group of postgraduate students.

“I believe a good researcher should also be able to do good teaching,” Dr Xue says. “Having a balance between teaching and research leads to a strong academic life. I find teaching very rewarding, and I’ve seen five students start in my undergraduate courses and go through to Masters and PhDs, and they are all excelling in their research.”

“Academia is certainly not an easy job, but it is rewarding and enjoyable,” Dr Xue says. “Research can have its ups and downs, but I’ve never found any time I spent on research to be wasted. The ability to keep going through challenges is in some ways more important than the technical skills.”

Victoria University launches new cyber-security initiatives

03 May 2018 - 11:07 in Research

Staff from Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Engineering and Computer Science are in Samoa this month as part of an initiative to bring cyber-security education to the Pacific and beyond.

The group is installing 10 wireless network points to create a permanent wireless network at the National University of Samoa in Upolu, and will also advise on cyber-security.

“Having these units will open up new learning and teaching opportunities for the University,” Associate Professor Ian Welch says. But he says cyber-security education must be delivered alongside the initiative. “With their new high speed internet connection they are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which could have devastating economic consequences.”

He and Matt Stevens, Teaching Fellow at the School of Engineering and Computer Science, will run workshops on cryptography—the process of securing online communications—and cyber-security for staff and students at the National University of Samoa.

A group led by School Manager Suzan Hall will also travel to schools in Samoa to teach students and teachers about digital technology. This initiative was first suggested by Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Hon. Luamanuvao Winnie Laban.

“This project will strengthen our relationship with the National University of Samoa,” says Hon. Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. “Along with the other initiatives and partnerships we have in the region, this cyber-security and digital education project is a wonderful opportunity for us to connect with our neighbours in the Pacific and play our part in helping our Pacific region to grow.”

Victoria University have also recently launched a 100-level paper in cyber-security—the first in New Zealand. This paper was developed in conjunction with CyberToa and other industry partners to fill what Associate Professor Welch refers to as a “huge skills-shortage”.

“We worked with industry to develop this paper to give students an understanding of the people, information, and processes behind cyber-security and train the people needed to fill jobs in the cyber-security industry,” says Associate Professor Welch. “We’re excited to see over 400 students studying engineering, information systems, and even a small group from law taking the paper this year, and we look forward to continuing to help our students gain these globally relevant skills.”

These two projects are part of ongoing international work and industry partnerships. Victoria University also offers cyber-security education in Fiji through its partnership with Wellington business CyberToa. Dale Carnegie, Dean of Victoria University’s School of Engineering, helped CyberToa connect with the University of the South Pacific, where they now teach four postgraduate courses.

Chris Ward, co-founder of CyberToa, says, “Our partnership with Victoria University helps us expand our business in the Pacific and improve cyber-security training in that area. In turn, Victoria University has access to some of our international connections.”

One of these international connections is with the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, one of the world’s leading providers of cyber-security training. Victoria University drew on the expertise gained through this partnership to develop its 100-level paper, as well as working on several joint research projects with Carnegie Mellon.

“Through this partnership we have access to leading researchers, United States funding, and several exciting projects,” Associate Professor Welch says.

Technological breakthrough for monitoring and predicting landslides

13 Feb 2018 - 10:14 in Research

New technology from a student-led research project at Victoria University looks set to revolutionise the way geotechnical engineers monitor and predict landslides, potentially helping to save countless lives and cut costs.

Engineering and Computer Science student Jonathan Olds was looking for a research project for his Master’s and his supervisor, Professor of Network Engineering in the School of Engineering and Computer Science Winston Seah, suggested developing and testing an automated solution for the long-term monitoring of landslides. The result of that research is AccuMM, which Jonathan validated with a pilot installation in Taiwan.

“The holy grail of managing landslide risk is prediction,” says Nick Willis, Viclink’s Commercialisation Manager, Engineering, who is working with the researchers to bring the product to market. “But predictions can only be made if movement—or, more importantly, the acceleration of land mass—can be measured right down to the number of millimetres per day, over a long period of time.”

He says the traditional method of measurement involves sending a surveyor or engineer out into the field each day to measure land movement with theodolites—a manual, costly process. Even the higher tech options involving robots or drones are costly or have their drawbacks.

AccuMM uses low-cost solar or battery-powered wireless GPS sensors together with a unique, cloud-based algorithm to calculate the location of each sensor, relative to a fixed-base station. This enables daily measurements to be taken at multiple points on a landslide without the need for site visits, with no line-of-sight or cabling requirements, and no need for intervention at the site for five or more years.

Following the pilot in Taiwan, the technology is now being trialled closer to home in areas where landslides have occurred, including monitoring the transport corridors in Kaikoura, Kāpiti Coast and Wellington.

“Approximately 66 million people—one percent of the world’s population—are currently in high-risk landslide areas,” says Mr Willis “Add to that events such as global warming, changing rainfall patterns and aging infrastructure and it’s not hard to see the increasing need for this kind of technology.”

Professor Seah says, “By exploiting the similarity in wireless channel conditions between sensors placed in close proximity, we are able to achieve a high degree of accuracy compared with much higher cost systems. We can power the wireless network by energy harvesting, which means our system can operate for long duration to meet the monitoring needs of geotechnical engineers.”

Viclink is targeting the product at geotechnical engineering companies that undertake long-term analysis and monitoring of landslide risk, as AccuMM measures but does not interpret the data or send real-time alerts.

A year in reflection from Dean of Engineering, Professor Dale Carnegie

21 Dec 2017 - 12:45 in Achievement

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Dean of Engineering, Professor Dale Carnegie, wraps up a busy 2017 and prepares for 2018…

It’s December already (or maybe–finally) and as everything starts to wind down, I’d like to reflect on the past year and look towards the future. It’s certainly been a busy and extremely productive year for the Faculty of Engineering. We have achieved an enormous amount.

First to mention is our tremendous rate of growth. We are New Zealand’s fastest-growing Engineering faculty and we have seen a significant increase in student numbers. I am proud that Victoria University is a place where new ICT/High-tech students want to study.

The thing I enjoy most about being Dean of such a buzzing faculty is seeing the development of students who come to us straight from secondary school, and watching them flourish into well-equipped graduates ready for the real world and all kinds of exciting careers. I am also proud of our exemplary pastoral care programme which provides to support to students when they need it.

Other highlights of the past year include the addition of the Robinson Research Institute into our Faculty and the announcement of the Computational Media Innovation Centre, which will soon grow to a team of 30 students and staff.

On top of this we have been busy supporting exciting developments in our new Cybersecurity and Renewable Energy programmes. These programmes are unique in Australasia and further cement Victoria’s status as the place to study in 2018. We are also seeing the potential for growth in other areas, such as Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. We’ll meet regularly next year to discuss how best to progress these.

None of our achievements would have been possible without the passion, expertise, drive and determination of all of our staff. I would like to personally thank everyone in the Faculty for contributing so much to our success, and congratulate those who have received awards for teaching and/or research, best paper prizes, or distinguished fellowships. There is no doubt our students are getting the best tuition possible, and at the cutting-edge of technology.

After such a full on year, I encourage staff and students to take a well-deserved break over the festive season - and take the opportunity to regroup and refresh for the New Year. So again, thank you everyone. You have made the Faculty of Engineering a fantastic place to work and study. I look forward to seeing you all in the New Year.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Introducing Adrian Pekar to ECS

21 Dec 2017 - 08:52 in Achievement

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Name? Adrian Pekar.

Born in? Kralovsky Chlmec, Slovakia.

Lived in? Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, New Zealand.

First job? Data Centre and Network Function Virtualization Engineer.

Position at VUW? Postdoctoral Research Fellow.

Key research interests? Network Traffic Classification, Management and Engineering, QoS, IPFIX/NetFlow, Software Defined Networking, Data Centre and Network Function Virtualization.

Most looking forward to at VUW? To give and to receive! That is, to share my expertise and knowledge while developing my career.

Where can people find you at VUW? AM407.

Why Wellington? See the quote to live by below!

Favourite movie? The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Favourite food? Cabbage soup (Slovak: kapustnica).

Quote to live by? “I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere I needed to be” (Douglas Adams).

Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Anuroop Gaddam

20 Dec 2017 - 09:26 in Research

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Born in? India.

Lived in? I lived in Hyderabad, India, before moving to New Zealand in 2006. Since then I have lived in Palmerston North, Auckland and Hamilton.

First job? My first job was straight after finishing my PhD. I worked as a lecturer of Electronics Engineering at the Centre for Engineering and Industrial Design at the Waikato Institute of Technology in Hamilton.

Key research interests? I have broad interests within Smart Sensors, Wireless Sensor Networks, Internet of Things, Activity detection and wellness pattern generation using ad hoc Wireless Sensor Networks, e-Learning - and last but not least - educational game development.

Why Wellington? Wellington is a great place to live and work, with amazing scenery.

When did you begin at Vic? I started as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in June 2017.

Where can people find you at VUW? EA 107.

Who have you been working with? I am working with Dr Karsten Lundqvist as a member of the e-Learning Research Group within the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

What have you been working on? Creating tools to improve teaching and learning within various cultural settings, including the use of games and gaming methods in education, and especially for engaging Maori/Pasifika students in Computer Science learning.

What have you enjoyed the most so far? Developing culturally-relevant games for Māori/Pasifika students who are still in school. This is because creativity is the foundation of what we do - and it is what makes creating games so exciting. Other than that, a highlight for me has been learning to speak and use Te Reo Māori for research purposes.

What are some of the challenges you have faced? Coming from an Electronics Engineering background, taking up a role in Computer Science was initially a challenge – but surprisingly, what I have learnt is that when you are motivated and push yourself to try something difficult, it becomes a passion rather than a challenge.

What are you looking forward to in the future? I am looking forward to using the latest technology alongside cultural diversity to advance teaching and learning. I would also like to build on my existing skills and continue my involvement in many professional associations.

Farewelling Elf Eldridge

19 Dec 2017 - 11:03 in Achievement

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After years of outstanding service, Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) is sad to be farewelling one of its most well-loved lecturers.

In his time at ECS, Elf Eldridge has amassed an enthusiastic following comprising the students he has taught and nurtured since their first year, as well as being popular with his colleagues.

Elf first joined the School while finishing his PhD in Physics to take up a role in the outreach and pastoral care team. He was instrumental in inspiring high school students to study at ECS, then providing academic support for them when they arrived at university.

In 2015 Elf joined the permanent academic staff as a lecturer, with a unique vision for first-year engineering courses. Since early 2017 he has also served as the first-year programme director.

Elf says his favourite thing about working at ECS has always been students who have an appetite for knowledge, be it for games, programming, videos, machine learning, hacking, robotics—anything!

“First-years, in particular, are just as excited by new technology as I am. While they have a range of abilities, the common thing about them is that they are genuinely interested in learning new things and finding clever solutions to the problems they encounter.”

Elf also says the Faculty’s good sense of humour creates a unique learning environment.

“The students are comfortable enough to ask for help if they need it, but also to laugh it off if they or I make a mistake.”

Head of School Dr Stuart Marshall says Elf will be sorely missed.

“It is regrettably time to say goodbye to an extremely valued member of our School community,” says Dr Marshall. “Elf has been an outstanding and engaging colleague and has contributed highly to our School culture, never afraid to put forward ideas and suggestions for improvement.”

Elf’s ‘Lecturer of the Year’ award from the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (VUWSA) in 2016 is also a testament to his commitment to his students and inspiring teaching style, says Dr Marshall.

“Elf won this award for his hard work, dedication and engagement with students, and he is incredibly well-liked by students and staff alike. We wish Elf all the best for the future and reflect on the times we have shared with him.”

Elf also has a busy 2018 planned. He hopes to spend time at the beach, perform in a circus show and tramp in the Andes. He also intends to keep running robotics outreach events and public science outreach.

“That should be enough to keep me busy for the short term!”

A taste of future robotics

14 Dec 2017 - 09:01 in Research

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Did you know that robots can now ‘taste’ as humans do? We do now, thanks to Victoria Honours student Michael Pearson.

Michael’s ENGR 489 project gave robots the ability to mimic a human’s inquisitive nature—a nature which normally enables us to recognise objects much better than artificial systems can.

Robots are an increasingly prevalent part of our society, but they struggle to achieve some tasks which are trivial to humans, says Michael.

“Anecdotally, humans don’t just use vision to recognise objects, so why should robots?” says Michael. “My project explored how we can add more senses to a robot to improve its ability to recognise those objects too.”

In the project, which included machine learning, networking and electronics, Michael created a multi-sensory robot using a low-cost spectrometer to allow basic recognition of objects, such as a cricket ball compared to a nectarine.

Mimicking a human’s sense of taste in this way could be described as using a crude approximation of an artificial ‘mouth’, says Michael.

“When humans taste food we immediately get a sensation of how sweet, sour or perhaps bitter it is. The sensor used in this project is able to crudely detect molecules just like a human's tongue. From this information the sensor can then make a prediction as to what has been scanned.”

This classification system has varied uses, including in the self-checkout aisle of supermarkets if a customer were to weigh and scan other items to receive a cheaper price than their actual product. Michael’s robot can tell a carrot from a cucumber, for example.

The end goal of the project was to improve the accuracy of existing classification systems, says Michael. He used a lot of the knowledge he gained studying at Victoria, especially his 400-level Artificial Intelligence papers, which gave him the understanding of the algorithms necessary for the project. However, it turned out to be a challenge.

“Often there was a lot of learning required before progress could be made.”

The facilities provided by the University were also invaluable, from the software Michael used while studying, to the hardware to run his experiments.

He also has some advice for future students: “Make sure you don’t forget to document all of the small decisions that seem obvious to you. Every aspect of your project is important—and the more you can communicate what you did, the happier you’ll be with your final report.”

Being in Wellington also means Michael is close to several high-profile technology companies, including TradeMe and Xero, which could now feature in his future.

“I’d love to work on embedded systems, with some aspect of machine learning,” he says. “This project has given me so many skills that I hope to use in my future, both personally and professionally.”

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