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Postdoctoral Fellow: Introducing Hamed Sadeghi to ECS

23 Feb 2017 - 11:53 in Achievement


Name? Hamed Sadeghi.

Born in? Iran.

Lived in? Iran and Canada.

First job? Tutor at the University of Toronto.

Position at VUW? Postdoctoral Fellow.

Most looking forward to at VUW? Exciting state-of-the-art research.

Key research interests? Machine learning, Deep learning.

Why Wellington? It's a beautiful city!

Favourite movie? 'Hacksaw Ridge'.

Favourite musician? David Garrett.

Quote to live by? "The sky's the limit" (Cervantes).

Senior Tutor: Introducing Morgan Atkins to ECS

23 Feb 2017 - 10:36 in Achievement


Name? Morgan Atkins.

Born in? I was born in sunny Napier, famed for its orchards, wineries, and Art Deco style buildings.

Lived in? Other than Napier, I’ve lived in Central Hawkes Bay, Wellington and Lower Hutt. Of those, I love Wellington the most.

First job? My first job was delivering newspapers, way back when. My first full-time job was as a programming intern for SpikeFin - a job I got through what was then called ‘Summer of Code’.

Position at VUW? Senior Tutor, and part of the pastoral team under Craig Watterson. I’ll be heavily involved with the 200-level Software Engineering and Computer Science courses.

Most looking forward to at VUW? The challenges and learning experiences my position will bring. I’m looking forward to being able to run tutorials and do some teaching here and there, and being a part of the pastoral team.

Key research interests? My prior research has been in Artificial Intelligence and Concurrency, but I’ve also picked up an interest in education research.

Why Wellington? I’ve lived in Wellington since I moved here for university back in 2006. It’s got such a great atmosphere, and it’s just one of the easiest places to live.

Favourite movie? Song of the Sea (2014). A beautifully hand-animated masterpiece from director Tomm Moore that tells a very Irish fairytale.

Favourite musician? Right now? It’s probably Ramin Djawadi. Good music to do work to!

Favourite food? I have a bit of a soft spot for takoyaki, but there only a few places in town that do it.

Quote to live by? "We are not what other people say we are. We are who we know ourselves to be, and we are what we love" (Laverne Cox).

How to rock Orientation 2017

21 Feb 2017 - 12:16 in Achievement


Don’t miss the Bachelor of Engineering with Honours and Computer Science majors orientation on Thursday 2 March from 3-5pm in Maclaurin Lecture Theatre 101, followed by a welcome BBQ outside the Hub (gym side)…

Welcome to Victoria University of Wellington! If you’re new to Vic in 2017 you can settle in with the New Students’ Orientation programme held at the start of Trimester One. A huge range of activities, workshops and events have been scheduled to help you get your bearings, prepare for academic life, meet new people - and have fun along the way. This really is the best way to see what Victoria can offer you!

Orientation takes place the week before official classes begin and will run from Monday 27 February to Friday 3 March. You’ll also be sent a copy of the New Students' Orientation booklet with your confirmation of study from late-January 2017.

To really make the most of Orientation, take a look at the Orientation timetable to figure out what events and workshops you would like to attend during the week so you don't miss out. Most Orientation events are held at our Kelburn campus and we recommend that you attend as many as you can.

Don’t miss the Bachelor of Engineering with Honours and Computer Science majors orientation on Thursday 2 March from 3-5pm in Maclaurin Lecture Theatre 101, followed by a welcome BBQ outside the Hub (gym side). This is your welcome to the Faculty, where you’ll meet your lecturers and tutors, hear about what to expect in your first year, plus receive info on our student support services. This is also a good chance to ask any questions you may have and find out how you can make the most of your lectures, tutorials and labs.

Other helpful things you can do during Orientation week include confirming your lecture timetable, finding your lecture theatres, visiting your Faculty office, buying your textbooks at Vic Books, and checking out student services including the Accommodation Service, Disability Services, and the Student Health and Student Counselling services.

Study skills and IT workshops are also available for note-taking, essay writing and academic tips and to get you set up online to help you make the most of your studies. You can also take a tour of Victoria’s campuses and the central library so you can get your bearings before classes start. Māori, Pasifika, refugee-background and mature students have independent Orientation events, so if that’s you, check them out on the Orientation timetable.

Social events include the Campus Coaches kick-off, WGTN Hall events, and the Welcome Festival, plus you can find out what’s happening at Victoria Recreation, the popular gym on Kelburn Campus. Additionally, ‘Get Involved’ workshops are student-led sessions covering leadership opportunities, volunteer work, clubs, sports and overseas exchanges available to you during your time at university.

And finally, it wouldn’t be Orientation without Victoria University of Wellington Student Association’s ‘OWeek’ programme. OWeek is spread over a fortnight during which time you’ll experience great entertainment, from the annual Toga Party and campus stalls, to international music shows and comedy nights. This year, a number of local Wellington festivals are also part of OWeek, so you can get to know the city.

And, for the first time at Victoria, for five days, you and your friends can gather at the ‘Fringe At Victoria’ depot for guided tours of a variety of fringe shows held around the university.

So get stuck in, get involved, and get set up for a wonderful year of new experiences and academic success.

What now for newbies

03 Feb 2017 - 09:44 in Achievement


After our busiest year yet in 2016 and a well-deserved Christmas break, Engineering Faculty Dean Professor Dale Carnegie is predicting exciting times for staff and students of the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS)…

“Welcome to 2017! I hope you had a relaxing festive season and are feeling refreshed and pumped to take on the new year. An especially warm welcome to those of you who are on campus for the first time. We hope to provide a setting for you to learn, to grow, and to think about where you are going in the world. We can’t wait to show you what ECS has to offer you!

Although I'm not big on resolutions, the start of a new year does make me think about the things I want to achieve. Personally, once this weather settles, I want to get out on the harbour a little more - I need the exercise to offset the chocolate-eating that was forced upon me at Christmas. Rather than work out at the gym, I've also invested in some seriously sharp power tools to help with the gorse explosion - plus power tools are an amazing form of stress relief. I'm not so sure my wife agrees - but that's the price she pays for being married to a practical engineer!

Work-wise it's going to be a really full-on year for ECS. Student numbers are growing, and in fact, we're the fastest-growing Engineering faculty in New Zealand - and probably Australasia. We have developed a well-deserved reputation for the quality and employability of our grads, with many of our alumni pursuing amazing careers all over the world. Yet from my own experience, I know how important it is that, as new students, you feel a real belonging to your faculty from the very beginning; that your lecturers sincerely care about your progress, and that there is support there when you need it.

Our pastoral care programme is second to none. So if you are a new student this year, please touch base with Craig Watterson and Howard Lukefahr at the first year orientation. Craig and Howard are employed specifically to help you get ready for the challenges that are coming your way in your first year of university. It's absolutely normal to be overwhelmed, for things to go wrong, for flatting to go awry, or to miss your family. You'll be amazed at how many students have exactly the same worries as you - and how easily Craig and Howard can help out.

Technology is changing all the time, and I keep hearing that most of the jobs that will exist in 20 years' time have yet to be invented. But that is our challenge. We will be New Zealand's leading institution for high-tech ICT and Engineering training and research. While other universities might offer civil, structural or other ‘classical’ forms of Engineering, we only focus on the new, modern, high-tech forms - to prepare you for those jobs of the future.

To achieve this, we are already hiring new staff under two new majors: Cyber Security and Sustainable Energy. In a year’s time we will be offering Mechatronics. We will also provide a major in Victoria’s new health degree so that we are training specialist graduates capable of creating new software systems to improve New Zealand's health systems. We will be working with several other university programmes as well to help inject state-of-the-art technology training to a wide variety of Victoria’s degrees.

Last year we also introduced a BSc major in Computer Graphics and we were extremely fortunate to lure Professor Neil Dodgson away from Cambridge University to lead this programme. We more than tripled the expected number of students in the first year it was offered! That we can get staff of this calibre is a real testament to the quality of the education you will get from us. In fact, another indication of the quality of our staff is the number we have said ‘no’ to. We only want the best. We also have supporting professional staff who are the envy of many other schools at Victoria. And we are all here to help you succeed!

This year will be challenging, and personally, I will have to keep an eye on my work/life balance. My three year old daughter still wants my time, and my wife tells me that she enjoys my company - when she manages to drag me away from the power tools. I'd like to encourage you to make sure you get a good work/life balance as well. You will definitely need breaks from studying, but fifty hours of gaming a week is not going to get you a degree! Balance is the key.

So on reflection, my resolution for 2017 comes down to ensuring that we are New Zealand's best high-tech Engineering faculty - and that student well-being is at the heart of all that we do.

It is a real privilege to be the Dean of such a buzzing faculty full of dedicated staff and outstanding students. Have a great year and I sincerely look forward to announcing your name at one of our graduation ceremonies in years to come.”

Gareth's good thinking about drinking

30 Nov 2016 - 10:52 in Research


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.”

Operation Zombie saves the day

21 Nov 2016 - 10:18 in Research


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!””

Executive Assistant: Introducing Robyn Armstrong to ECS

09 Nov 2016 - 14:30 in Achievement


Name? Robyn Armstrong.

Born in? Sydney, Australia.

Lived in? Sydney, The Hague in Holland, London – I’m a keen traveller!

Education? First class Honours degree in Fine Art, majoring in Print Media and Object Design from Sydney College of the Arts, part of the University of Sydney, and a Certificate in Public Relations from the University of Technology in Sydney.

First job? Shop admin assistant for Kodak one hour film service – basically we printed photos in an hour!

Position at VUW? EA to Dale and Stu.

Most looking forward to at VUW? The awesome environment!

Why Wellington? We relocated our family from London to Wellington for my husband to work at Weta because he believes they are the world leaders in their field.

Favourite movie? We watch so many movies as a family that I couldn’t choose just one!

Favourite musician? Adele – we call her ‘Del’ at home…

Favourite food? Gluten free – yum! (Not…)

Quote to live by? “Do what you love – and love what you do!”

Making sensor of the Internet of Things

09 Nov 2016 - 10:59 in Research


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…”

ECS lecturers the best

26 Oct 2016 - 11:02 in Achievement


The School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) was twice recognised for teaching excellence at the Student Representation Celebration held by the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (VUWSA) recently.

From more than 100 nominations, VUWSA's selection committee awarded ECS's Dr Elf Eldridge the prestigious Lecturer of the Year Award, while Senior Tutor Dr Howard Lukefahr received an Honourable Mention.

It was the first time that Victoria's outstanding lecturers were recognised at the awards, alongside the achievement of exceptional student representatives and student leaders.

Annaliese Wilson, VUWSA's Education Officer, said the time was right to celebrate Victoria's unsung heroes with a formal awards ceremony.

"We wanted to recognise the quality of our talented teaching staff and the time and effort they put into making their lectures useful and engaging", Annaliese said. "The Education Team had a tough time selecting the winners becaues of the high calibre of the candidates".

Elf Eldridge, a well-known personality around campus and an ECS institution in his own right, is currently teaching ENGR101 (Introductory Engineering) and ENGR110 (Engineering Modelling and Design). He is also actively involved in many of the student hackathon events held throughout the year and frequently uses social media to engage with students.

Students nominated Elf - one describing him as "hands down the best lecturer I have ever had" - for always making lectures enjoyable, for his clear and accessible teaching style, and for going above and beyond the call of duty when students need extra help.

"Elf is very passionate about engineering, friendly and empathetic - and he makes every class interesting", said one student. "He can explain difficult concepts well, he is entertaining to listen to, and he captivates the audience no matter what the topic".

"Elf really enjoys the subject he is teaching, which makes for a good vibe in class", said another student. "When I queried a grade, he sat down and remarked my assignment with me, giving me personal feedback as he went".

Elf himself says the best thing about being an ECS lecturer is working with students who have a great mix of enthusiasm and humour - and teaching a subject that is so relatable.

"Engineering and Computer Science is so easily connected to modern life; be it from examining content throttling by Internet Service Providers, to discussing the effect of bugs in games; from the design of new graphics cards to the ethics of probing the security of a network", he says.

Elf has also honed his teaching technique to get the best from his students.

"I try to acknowledge that my students are human - for example, I split my lectures into two 20-minute chunks with a break for a discussion or a video in between, so it's easier to concentrate", he says. "I also use my class reps to keep track of how busy students are; I sometimes cancel lectures to give students more time, and I visit the labs regularly to keep tabs on their progress."

Senior Tutor Howard Lukefahr's students were equally quick to point out his commitment to helping students achieve highly in the four 100-level Engineering courses he teaches.

"Howard has gone out of his way to help us get through our first year of engineering and our first set of university exams", said one student. "He even ran extra tutorials before assessments".

Students also commended Howard for making sure that no one is left behind.

"He always makes sure that everyone understands the concepts by teaching in an engaging, fun and informative way. I am nominating him because he is the most involved and passionate lecturer I have ever had.

"It's because of him that I have succeeded this year".

Howard himself says it is a "great honour" to receive the Honourable Mention from VUWSA.

"I get to work with very keen and able students everyday - they like learning and I like helping them learn", he says.

Kittens make game from scratch

06 Oct 2016 - 10:47 in Achievement


Two ECS students were part of team Wise Kittens that won first place at the recent PxlJam 48 Hour Game Design Competition held at Victoria University. We asked third year Software Engineering students Hannah Craighead and Tana Tanoi to share their thoughts on the competition - and their road to game-making success…

“PxlJam is a whirlwind event where teams have to design a game in just 48 hours based on a given theme. This year’s theme was “It’s not a bug, it’s a feature!” We competed last year after we were encouraged to get involved by one of our tutors - and we enjoyed it so much we decided to have another crack this year.

Our team consisted of us coders – Hannah and Tana – as well as designers Nicola Yeo and Gerrit van Rooyen, and our friend Jackson Cordery, who studies musical composition. There’s a great mix of people who take part, from first years who we’ve tutored ourselves through to PhD students who’ve tutored us. There are even people outside of the University who come along because they have a passion for game-making.

After the theme was announced, we spent the first few hours coming up with an idea for the game, which we found really challenging to begin with. The theme could be interpreted so many different ways and we wanted to come up with something unique. So we deliberately built bugs into our game, but gave players the ability to turn those bugs into tools they could use to complete each level.

Although we probably got more sleep than the majority of competitors, time management was still the biggest issue. We spent a lot of time getting the game mechanics to work - and we still didn’t have any levels designed three hours out from the end of the competition!

There were so many awesome games and it was amazing to see what other people came up with. One of the highlights was collaborating with the two designers in our team – they were great to work with and they also created some really cool content that was key to our success. Jackson’s compositions were also a real selling point: his music was amazing and everyone who played our game commented on how nicely the different pieces of music complemented the overall experience.

We didn’t expect to win overall – we were just there to have fun making games with our friends – but we were so happy to place first after last year, when our game was nowhere near as good. This year’s competition was sponsored by Victoria University, Victoria Engineering Club, Acidic website developers and Powershop, so we got to choose from a big pool of prizes: everything from Nerf guns with foam ammo to Steam gaming vouchers.

We’d love to revisit our game in the future to really flesh it out. We need to fix up some bugs and create some more levels and content. We met some awesome people, got great content for our portfolios – and it was some of the best fun we’ve had this trimester!”