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Classes kick off at Wellington ICT Graduate School

26 Jul 2016 - 12:05 in Achievement

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It’s an exciting week in the Victoria University calendar. From Monday, the first cohort of students officially begin classes at the Wellington ICT Graduate School, located in a new space on Wigan Street in the heart of Wellington’s CBD.

As our world becomes increasingly digitally-dependent, graduates with strong digital skills are more in demand than ever. The School – a partnership between Victoria University, WelTec and Whitireia – is offering four brand new Master’s programmes: a Master of Software Development, a Master of Engineering Practice, a Master of Professional Business Analysis and a Master of Information Technology.

Wellington is widely known as the ideal place to study ICT. It boasts a creative and innovative environment, with significant local digital, film and gaming industries, alongside a strong start-up culture. While New Zealand’s ICT industry is booming, Wellington is at the heart of the growth with more than 13,000 full-time ICT jobs in the wider region.

Rees Ward, Director of the School, says New Zealand’s industry leaders have identified the need to grow the ICT workforce.

“The Wellington ICT Graduate School will expose students to the industry as they undertake their study, to ensure they join the workforce attuned to the latest trends and practices”, says Mr Ward. “Industry partners will be able to connect with students through scholarships, mentoring opportunities, internships and project work”.

The Master of Software Development, for example, is a one-year, 180 point Master’s degree delivered through a combination of coursework, and Research and Development (R&D) projects with industry partners. The course will also include a range of case studies from Wellington’s software development industry.

About 18 of the programme’s enrolled students recently completed SWEN131, a programming ‘bootcamp’ designed to develop their basic skills, prepare them for their coursework and give them a taste of what is to come. Students learnt to design and debug small programmes and work on larger software projects in groups while applying software development methodologies and tools.

Professor Mike Wilson, Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculties of Science, Architecture and Design and Engineering at Victoria, is welcoming the new classes.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Wellington and for us all to combine our existing networks, resources and education capabilities", he says. ”Our aim is to develop a school that will create a pool of ICT talent and develop research partnerships, not just for the benefit of Wellington, but for all of New Zealand".

For more information, check out https://www.wellingtonict.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

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

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.”

Fully-funded PhD position in 5G mobile networks

20 Jun 2016 - 11:48 in Administrative

The Networking Research Lab (NRL) is offering a fully-funded PhD scholarship in 5G mobile networks.

The successful candidate will be supervised by Dr. Qiang Fu, and work with industry sponsors Spark (Telecom NZ) and Harmonic Analytics.

The candidate will conduct research within the following areas:

*Core Networks and Radio Access Networks utilising the technologies such as:
-Content/Information Centric Networking (ICN)
-Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV)
-Software Defined Networking (SDN)
-Self-Organising Networks (SON)
-Cloud RAN

*Resource management (resource block scheduling)

*Cross-layer optimisation

*Networking mechanisms for 5G mobile networks to support:
-Multimedia applications (IPTV, VoLTE, Video Streaming, AR/VR)
-Machine-to-machine communications
-Vehicular networks
-Social networks

Essential criteria:


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

*Strong motivation for developing practical networking solutions

*Good knowledge of computer networks

Desirable criteria:

*Good knowledge of cellular systems

*Good analytical background in modelling and optimisation

Please contact Dr. Qiang Fu at qiang.fu@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Third year rocket project blasts off

10 Jun 2016 - 09:08 in Achievement

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Six enterprising Engineering students are tackling a year-long rocket project to help launch them into exciting careers when they graduate.

Marcel van Workum, Lauren Hucker, Tré Kani, Chelsea Miller, Harrison Jones and Jamie Sanson are building a small-scale rocket to fly over the Wairarapa region for ENGR301, a project management paper.

“The rocket project piqued our interest because it was a new idea”, says Marcel. “And how many people can say they’ve built a rocket from scratch?”

Often rockets will tip over after they are launched. The team wants to find a way to stabilise the rocket and keep it travelling straight, making sure that all of its energy is used to get it flying as high as possible.

“Larger rockets are usually stabilised, but if we can get it going well on a small scale it could be popular with amateur rocket enthusiasts”, says Marcel. “Building something that works well without NASA’s budget will be a cool challenge.”

They aim to slowly increase the performance of the rocket by using larger and larger motors, under the watchful eye of their mentor, Victoria’s Andre Geldenhuis, who has experience with avionics. Holly Ade-Simpson, a fourth-year student, is also providing guidance to keep the team on track.

But group work can be challenging – especially as the students are pursuing different majors under the Engineering degree – so they need to make decisions democratically, split the workload, and play to their strengths.

“The advantage of combining multiple majors into a single project is that you get a large pool of technical knowledge to work with”, says Marcel. “Even within the disciplines, everyone has their own speciality. With such a diverse group, when we encounter a problem, someone always knows how to fix it.”

The team has until the end of the year to complete the project, which will likely be improved by next year’s class. At the moment the students are designing a trial rocket, with test flights and simulations on the horizon. There are also health and safety considerations to comply with.

“There is a long list of things that could go wrong, so we created a risk register to minimise the chances of that happening”, says Marcel. “We’ve learnt a lot about legally launching a rocket - and also specific technical knowledge relating to the project. We want to end up with a stabilised, fully-functional rocket that can transmit data via radio communications”.

The students have varied ambitions for the future, from pursuing rocketry and building high performance cars and aeroplanes, to working for one of the large aerospace companies in Europe and for NASA in Artificial Intelligence and communications.

“This project shows that we can work together as a team, which is an essential part of being an engineer”, says Marcel. “It also shows off our technical know-how to employers.”

It’s clear the rocket project will get these students off the ground: watch this space as they take flight!

Team 'FrontDoor' fronts up at Android Hackathon

17 May 2016 - 09:11 in Achievement

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We asked third year Bachelor of Engineering Honours student Divya Patel to tell us about the recent Android Hackathon held for VUW students. Divya, a Software Engineering major, was excited to share her experiences of being part of ‘FrontDoor’, the team that won second place at the final prizegiving...

What was the Android Hackathon?

The Google-sponsored Android Hackathon was a ‘hackfest’ for students where we had 48 hours to develop an Android app using a programme called Android Studio. We also had the chance to make connections with each other and with industry mentors.

How did you get involved?

Word of mouth! I found out about the hackathon through a friend, and I had always wanted to learn how to make an app, so I signed up. I enjoyed working with my team members David Barnett, Daniel Braithwaite and Jack Bannister Sutton.

What was your team name and why?

We called ourselves ‘FrontDoor’. The name came up as a joke when we were discussing ideas with our mentor. It suited what we were trying to achieve, which was to connect to networks directly without knowing the passwords.

What happened across the weekend?

We presented our ideas for apps and then formed teams by choosing the projects we were most keen to develop. Next, each team decided on a plan of attack and split the tasks among team members. My job was to work on the front-end of our app, creating the front page and implementing the display.

Tell me about your app.

The app we created is a network hacker. It scans for wireless networks in the area, and for each network found, attempts to connect to it by trying the passwords on the ‘100 most common passwords’ list.

What is the purpose of the app?

It’s basically an academic research tool to gather interesting information. The app wirelessly monitors and probes network connections. It helps to point out how vulnerable some passwords are, and also identify gaps in security that individuals and organisations need to be aware of. The information gathered could also be used to educate the public on how to pick strong passwords.

What were some of the other apps that grabbed your attention?

There was one to control robots which was pretty cool, and another to make Metlink travel information like timetables and updates more accessible. Considering I often travel by bus, having that information available offline would be very handy.

Was there a grand prize?

The winning team ‘WeLoveKids’ made an app to teach children maths through fun, interactive games. Each of their team members won a Google Developer License to pursue the project. The licence allows them to publish their app publicly to the Google Play Store.

What was the whole experience like for you?

It was a great opportunity to learn how to do something I’d never done before. It was so rewarding to make our idea a reality over the course of just one weekend.

Would you attend another hackathon like this in the future?

Yes, definitely! It’s a lot of fun and you learn so much in such a short period of time.

What advice would you give to other students interested in getting involved?

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have any experience with the technology because it’s supposed to be a learning experience. Everyone is in the same boat so it’s ok to ask the mentors for help. Just go for it!

Bringing Google to life at VUW

09 May 2016 - 11:14 in Achievement

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This year’s Google Student Ambassadors are a passionate and organised bunch. We asked Joanna Rubi what makes her and her fellow ambassadors Bianca Fraser, Mayur Panchal and Charlene Leong tick...

What is the Google Student Ambassadors programme?

It’s a bridge between Google and the University. We act as the voice of Google on campus, promoting the products and services that Google has to offer, and keeping the university updated on all Google-related news.

Is this a global initiative?

Yes – there are approximately 1000 student ambassadors across 65 countries. It allows universities from countries across the world to connect with Google and with one another.

What makes a good Google Student Ambassador?

A good Google Student Ambassador is someone who is passionate about technology and who is actively involved in their university and wider community.

How did you get this opportunity?

I went to several Google events and found out about the programme. It was a dream of mine to work for Google so I applied online and my dream came true – this is the best thing to happen to me since Gmail!

Who is on your team and what do you do?

I work with my fellow students Bianca Fraser, Mayur Panchal and Charlene Leong. We host events to champion Google’s products and programmes on campus. We also manage a Facebook page called ‘Google at VUW’.

What are the perks of the job?

We get the chance to improve our leadership and communication skills and add the experience to our CVs.

What do you guys hope to achieve this year?

We want to promote Google as much as we can by creating fun, informative and helpful events for Victoria University students.

What was the ‘Google on Campus’ event?

Some Googlers from the Sydney office came to Victoria recently to promote opportunities for students including their graduate programme and other internships and scholarships. They also ran a Code Lab where students created a real-time web chat app.

How did it go?

The Googlers told us we had the biggest turn out they’d ever seen - our 300-seat lecture theatre was overflowing!

And what about the ‘Android Hackathon’ event recently?

Our students spent a weekend hacking together a basic Android app. They had to pitch their idea, design the app and then build the code as a team. Most importantly this event was to promote our upcoming AdMob challenge.

So what is the AdMob challenge?

If you’re a student with a great idea for a mobile app, this is your chance to build it, learn how to make money from it - and win awesome prizes. The Grand Prize winner will score a week-long trip to San Francisco, including a visit to Google’s headquarters in Mountain View.

What other kind of events will you host this year?

We hope to host a big mix of events including educational seminars and social events. Students always flock to get the free Google gear and pizza. Like us on our Facebook page ‘Google at VUW’ so you don’t miss out.

What would you say to our ECS students thinking of attending your events?

Get ready for heaps of fun and also to learn lots about how Google can help make life easier for you and your community.

And finally, what would you say to someone thinking of becoming a Google Student Ambassador?

Just get yourself out there and do it!

Wellington ICT Graduate School #open4bizness

04 May 2016 - 11:12 in Achievement

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The new Wellington ICT Graduate School has been declared open for business.

The school is a partnership between Victoria University of Wellington, Wellington Institute of Technology and Whitireia Polytechnic, with strong collaboration from key players in the ICT industry.

It will support the rapidly growing ICT sector and deliver industry-focused education and graduates with work-relevant, business-focused skills and was officially launched by Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Steven Joyce.

“Wellington is home to some highly successful technology-based companies, and the Wellington ICT Graduate School has the strong backing from the ICT industry who are represented on the governing board, and thriving relationships with local companies and networks.”

The launch event on Tuesday 3 May in central Wellington was attended by over 200 people, including local and national government officials, academics, and key players in the lCT industry.

“The success of the event illustrates the value that the Wellington region places in its rapidly growing ICT industry,” says Rees Ward, Director of the Wellington ICT Graduate School.

Industry leaders have identified the need to grow the ICT workforce in New Zealand.

“The Wellington ICT Graduate School will address this gap by exposing students to the industry as they undertake their study, to ensure they join the workforce attuned to the latest trends and practices. Industry partners will be able to connect with students through scholarships, mentoring opportunities, internships and project work,” says Mr Ward.

Professor Mike Wilson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Faculties of Science, Architecture and Design and Engineering at Victoria University, is welcoming the launch of school.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Wellington and we are excited to join with WelTec and Whitireia to leverage our existing networks, resources and education capabilities to develop a school that will lead to a pool of ICT talent and collaborative research partnerships.”

In 2016, the Wellington ICT Graduate School will offer five Master’s-level degrees, with graduates becoming experts in software development, business analysis and engineering—vital disciplines for the ongoing growth of the regional and national ICT sector.

http://www.wellingtonictgraduateschool.ac.nz

Cyber security short courses for professionals

04 May 2016 - 09:10 in Event

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Victoria University of Wellington is offering Software Engineering Institute (SEI) certified cyber security courses in New Zealand for the first time.

Cyber security is seen as one of the greatest commercial threats to New Zealand. With the increasing imperatives for New Zealand business and government to be protecting themselves in the cyber space, the short courses will provide specialised training opportunities.

The courses are run at Victoria’s Centre for Lifelong Learning, in partnership with Total Risk Management.

Total Risk Management has recently become Asia-Pacific’s only Carnegie Mellon University SEI Partner—one of only nine partners worldwide in the last 30 years.

The SEI is a not-for-profit Federally Funded Research and Development Centre at Carnegie Mellon University, specifically established by the United States Department of Defense to focus on software engineering and cybersecurity.

SEI courses are the recognised industry standard for the best continuing education and credentialing for engineering and software professionals in government, industry and higher education.

The courses at Victoria range from one to five days, and are crucial professional development for anyone from CEOs and CIOs wanting to understand the cyber security risks around information, through to IT professionals managing and dealing with cyber security incidents.

Offered in Wellington and Auckland, and run in-house for organisations, the five key courses cover assessing information security risks, overview of incident response teams, creating and managing incident response teams, and incident handling.

The full course outline, registration details and dates can be found online at http://ped.victoria.ac.nz/course-catalogue/27-cyber-security