School of Engineering and Computer Science

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Launch of the TechHub CREST Challenge

06 Mar 2015 - 10:57 in Event

Year 10 students at St Mary's College were captivated by visiting speakers at a special assembly to launch the TechHub CREST Challenge to develop a phone app. St Mary’s students have started their journey into the arena of software development, highly motivated by words of encouragement from Tasha Sharp who is based at the Institute of IT Professionals, and four senior Victoria University students.

Elf Eldridge, a senior tutor from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, brought along four students who are studying either software engineering or networking. They provided an insight into the potential of pursuing a career in IT and also the opportunities for work at Google. Konnie and Kate who are Google ambassadors, and Bonnie and Ellie shared their passion for software development and programming.

Year 10 students reflected on the presentation:

Konnie and Kate made Google sound like a great work place, and a fun environment to be in. Bonnie and Ellie explained to us the sort of studies they do in university, and it sounded very interesting – Amelia.

Konnie and Kate taught me a lot about the Google lifestyle and environment, I absolutely agree that more women should be involved with technology as the world is beginning to have more and more technology – Kennedy.

Bonnie and Ellie talked about how they created programs and robots and cool things like that. They told us that even if you don't have a lot of knowledge about programming it’s alright because you will learn more and gain more knowledge. I think that doing this project will be fun and a lot of hard work and I'm also excited to see how it all works out at the end – Amour.

I'm looking forward to starting this project because it’s a new experience and seems like a fun challenge for me. I don't know what to expect because this is new to me but I’m keen for it and can’t wait to get stuck in – Lizzie.

There are a lot of apps on my phone so it would be really amazing to see how they are made. It is also very exciting because we will be working in groups so we will have to work together on this and use our skills to build an app – Sophie.

Thank you to Mrs Genevieve Herder, Digital Technologies, St Mary's College, for this article.

Lecture to highlight Alan Turing's genius

19 Feb 2015 - 14:23 in Event

The School of Engineering and Computer Science is hosting a lecture about the work of Alan Turing, often dubbed the father of modern computing and the subject of the film The Imitation Game.

Professor Rod Downey from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research at Victoria will deliver the public lecture in which he aims to give an accurate picture of Turing’s work and his place in history.

Professor Downey has spent the last 35 years researching in the area of the theory of computation and recently edited the book Turing’s Legacy: Developments from Turing’s Ideas in Logic.

Alan Turing was a mathematician and logician whose ideas led to the development of the modern computer and artificial intelligence. He has recently come to popular attention through The Imitation Game which focuses on his role in cracking intercepted coded messages in Britain during the Second World War.

Professor Downey says the film “horribly mangles” Turing’s contribution, and the nature of Bletchley Park, the central site of the United Kingdom’s Government Code and Cypher School which was a key hub for penetrating communications during the Second World War.

Professor Downey describes Turing as one of the geniuses of the twentieth century.

While Professor Downey will spend a small part of his lecture discussing things the film got wrong, most of his address will focus on mathematics, especially the development of computers and how cryptanalysis worked at Bletchley Park. He will pay particular attention to covering the range and variety of Turing’s work and the impact it has had.

“Turing was a prodigy, a brilliant and original man who was terribly treated for being gay. His story is a study in ideas and social commentary.”

In his lecture, Professor Downey will cover a brief history of ciphers, the work done by the cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park and how the Enigma machine works, all of which are portrayed in The Imitation Game.

Professor Downey will also discuss some of Turing’s less known work in areas including Biology.

What: Public Lecture: Alan Turing, Computing, Bletchley and Mathematics

When: Thursday 26 February, 5.30pm

Where: Government Buildings, Lecture Theatre 2

RSVP: Siyun.thompson@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

This public lecture is the first in a series of events being run by Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science with the aim of making science more accessible.

Rod Downey, FRSNZ, is a professor of mathematics at Victoria University of Wellington. His research is in the theory of computation and complexity theory. He is the only person in New Zealand who both is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Mathematical Society. During the Alan Turing year (2012 – centenary of Alan Turing’s birth) he was one of the foundation fellows at the Isaac Newton Institute at Cambridge for the Alan Turing Programme. He recently edited the volume Turing's Legacy for the Association for Symbolic Logic. He has won numerous awards for his work including a James Cook and Maclaurin Fellowship, the Shoenfield Prize from the ASL, and the Nerode Prize from the EATCS.

For more information contact Professor Rod Downey on 04-463 5067, or rod.downey@vuw.ac.nz

New Students' Orientation

13 Feb 2015 - 21:40 in Event

The School of Engineering and Computer Science welcomes all new students.

We recommend that you attend the new students’ orientation from the 23 - 27 February. For further details check out: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/students/new-students/orientation

On Thursday 26 February all new engineering and computer science students are invited to a welcome session in lecture theatre 101 in the Maclaurin building. Meet staff who teach in first-year courses and find out how to get the most out of your lectures, tutorial and labs.

Engineering students will also get to know their fellow students with a fun team exercise followed by a BBQ at 5pm.

Entertainment at your fingertips

03 Feb 2015 - 16:18 in Achievement

Home entertainment could soon be experienced in four dimensions as a result of upcoming research at Victoria University of Wellington.

The project, which involves a multi-disciplinary team from New Zealand and Korea, will investigate how computer graphics and emerging interactive technologies can be combined to create new, immersive, home entertainment experiences.

The New Zealand team, led by Dr Taehyun Rhee from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, will be made up of researchers from across Victoria and the University of Canterbury.

“4D is already popular in cinemas in Korea. What we’re doing could bring that technology into people’s homes.” Says Dr Rhee who, prior to his role as a lecturer, worked in the Korean technology industry for 17 years.

Dr Rhee says at the end of the project, the team hopes to have a prototype which allows people to reach out to touch and manipulate what’s on the screen in front of them.

The user would need to attach a haptic feedback device to their fingers while wearing a head mounted virtual display such as an Oculus Rift. They would then be able to see their own hand as part of the action and reach out to touch what is happening in front of them.

Dr Rhee said it is too early to know how much can be achieved but it’s possible users will be able to feel texture as well as force.

Both the New Zealand and Korean teams plan to collaborate with potential industry partners with the potential to commercialise the prototype after the project is complete. Dr Rhee says once the technology at this end is developed, the entertainment will need to catch up.

“Movies with this kind of interactive technology are not out there yet. They will be a bit like a mix of a film and a computer game.”

The research is being made possible by a three-year grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The Korean team, from Korea University and Ewha Woman’s University, will be funded by the Korean government.

The funding of $150,000 per year will go towards supporting one PhD student and up to nine Master’s students to work on the project over the next three years. An important aim of the grant is to broaden New Zealand’s research base to enable sustainable partnerships with South Korea.

For more information contact Dr Taehyun Rhee on taehyun.rhee@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Connecting with Wellington’s tech industry

27 Jan 2015 - 22:50 in Event

Victoria University of Wellington is running a workshop aimed at getting Wellington’s tech community up to speed with the latest in network technology.

The two-day workshop, to be held on 18 and 19 February, will give participants an understanding of Software Defined Networking (SDN), an emerging paradigm which allows software to be accessed and changed remotely.

The workshops content has been adapted from a semester long course at Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

It is early days for SDN technology, but industry leaders such as Google are already making use of it, citing flexibility and that it creates an environment for innovation as reasons for adopting the technology.

Dr Bryan Ng, an Engineering lecturer at Victoria, is organising and presenting at the workshop. “It used to be that to make a change to how a device worked you had to physically replace the hardware. With SDN, developers are not restricted by the limitations of current hardware.”

Dr Ng says connecting academics and Wellington’s growing technology industry is an important driver for holding the workshop. Presenters and contributors to the workshop include industry representatives from Google, REANNZ (Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand Ltd), Pica8 and Catalyst.

“With this workshop we are trying to narrow the gap between industry’s needs and what researchers are doing to meet those needs,” says Dr Ng.

Along with experts in the field, two Victoria students will have the chance to present their work. The pair gained funding through Victoria’s summer scholarship programme to look at specific areas of SDN and will present their findings at the workshop.

Dr Ng says another reason for holding the SDN workshop is to provide people with the skills to enable them to participate in ‘SDN Con’ which takes place in Wellington later in the year.SDN Con will offer developers the opportunity to work in teams to build SDN solutions. The inaugural SDN Con ran successfully in 2014 and it is hoped that with further knowledge of SDN this year’s event will be even bigger.

2015 Wellington SDN Workshop

When: Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 February 2015

Where: Pipitea Campus, Victoria University

Register: By Friday 13 February, $50 per person

Find out more: http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/Events/SDNWorkshop

For more information contact Dr Bryan Ng on 04-463 9998, or bryan.ng@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Sponsored by:

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Cybersecurity

23 Jan 2015 - 16:04 in Event

Dr Ian Welch from Victoria University of Wellington and Prof Xun Yi from RMIT have organised an upcoming cybersecurity workshop and conference as part of the Australasian Computer Science Week at the University of West Sydney. This is a hugely topical subject in light of recent cyber attacks involving governments such as North Korea and organisations such as Anonymous.

Invited speakers include Dr Mike Davies (Research Leader, Cyber Assurance and Operations, DSTO) who will talk about "How do we form a stronger base of national cyber S&T security?” and Dr Jonathan Oliver (Senior Architect at Trend Micro) who will talk about "Recent TorrentLocker outbreaks in Australia”. They will be joined by Vijay Varadharajan (Microsoft Chair Professor in Innovation in Computing) for a panel discussion around the theme of “Preparing for upcoming cyber security threats and challenges”.

The workshop takes place on the 28th of January and proceedings of the conference will be published by the Australian Computer Society.

Further details about the day are available here:

http://homepages.ecs.vuw.ac.nz/Users/Ian/ACSW_AISC2015

Chime Red - making music with Tesla coils

17 Dec 2014 - 14:16 in Achievement

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science staff and students are creating unique musical performances involving a trio of Tesla coils.

Tesla coils, invented by Serbian-American Nickola Tesla in the 1890s, produce high voltage electricity and have inspired many kinds of research and musical performances.

The coils can play a range of original compositions written by PhD students from Victoria’s Sonic Arts Engineering programme, along with a few covers.

The control software that drives the coils’ has been developed by Josh Bailey, a software engineer, who also owns two of the Tesla coils used for the performance. The name of the performance—Chime Red—comes from the control system used to transmit the software to the coils, which was built by Mr Bailey and Victoria Masters graduate and staff member James McVay.

While music has been made with Tesla coils before, Mr Bailey’s software has taken things to the next level, with up to 16 notes able to be played simultaneously.

“As far as we know, there is no other system quite like this,” says Mr McVay. “Previously, the maximum number of notes that could be created was seven. Josh has more than doubled that.”

The whole performance is run from computers and, although songs can be played live, the compositions which make up Chime Red is programmed ahead of time. Computers, running standard music software, are connected to each Chime Red controlling a coil, which precisely controls the timing of arcs to achieve the desired notes.

“The faster you fire the coil, the higher the frequency you get. It’s hard to explain the sound. It’s very electronic, it doesn’t sound like any instrument I can think of,” says Mr McVay.

Along with an arc of electricity, Tesla coils also produce radio frequencies that can interfere with electronics. Each coil will have a cage on top of it to substantially reduce these frequencies but Mr McVay says other precautions will also be taken.

Radio New Zealand interviews James McVay, Jim Murphy and Jason Long:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ourchangingworld/audio/20157713/music-for-tesla-coils-and-robotic-bass-and-drums

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.

The Victorias Awards - Celebrating Excellence at Victoria University

12 Dec 2014 - 19:59 in Achievement

The Postgraduate Student Association (PGSA) has a long standing tradition of recognising postgraduate excellence through the Victorias Awards which was hosted on Thursday 27 November 2014 in the Hunter Lounge. The Victorias Awards provide the opportunity to celebrate excellence in postgraduate research within Victoria University. They also recognise the support of postgraduate students, academic and general staff who inspire students with their verve and passion.

Congratulations to Engineering PhD student Henry Williams for being awarded the Landers Postgraduate Award.

Henry’s past leadership and continuing mentoring of Victoria Engineering Club is particularly noteworthy as it provides not only a forum for postgraduates to interact/network/socialise, but also link with undergraduate students. This link is vital in research led teaching, setting aspirational standards and encouraging our students to become postgraduates researchers themselves. His leadership of the NI-ARC (National Instruments-Autonomous Robotic Challenge) team directly resulted in it winning the Australasian competition in 2013, which gave widespread credibility to our postgraduate programmes. Henry is a well-regarded first year tutor, where he engages and encourages students through his passion for the subject. His volunteering for FutureInTech has helped our outreach demonstrate to secondary school students that studying at university, including eventual postgraduate study, is an awesome goal within their reach. Henry is also the student chair of the IEEE chapter of the Computational Intelligence.

Wellington Security Defender Day

12 Dec 2014 - 16:12 in Event

The School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) hosted the first Wellington Security Defender Day.

Worldwide, the economic impact of cybercrime is estimated at $523 billion (http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/60096249/cybercrimes-cost-at-523b-worldwide) and as New Zealand ICT companies grow so does their exposure to cybercriminals.

Fighting back against cybercrime requires web security experts to share their expertise and Wellington Security Defender Day was organised to provide this opportunity.

Wellington Security Defender Day was organised by Mr Kirk Jackson who is a well known Wellington computer security expert, and the School was pleased to be able to support this initiative by hosting the day at our Pipitea Campus. Kirk who currently works for Xero is a former student and staff member of ECS.

Kirk timed the day to coincide with Kiwicon, an annual gathering of people from the New Zealand security community that takes place in the Wellington CBD on December 11th and 12th.

The day was a mix of informal presentations and discussions between computer security experts and academics. Activities such as this build upon and enhance the work completed by ECS security researchers. Since 2006, collaborative web security work at the School has resulted in the development of open source tools for academics and security professionals.

For more information please contact Dr Ian Welch: ian.welch@vuw.ac.nz