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Research to provide hapū with renewable energy options

27 Aug 2015 - 11:09 in Research


Remote Māori communities could soon benefit from cost-effective energy solutions when a project by Victoria University of Wellington researchers investigating the cultural influence of energy consumption goes ahead.

By comparing Māori practices with those of communities in Papua New Guinea, India and Nigeria, Dr Ramesh Rayudu, senior lecturer at Victoria University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, and Dr Maria Bargh from the University's Te Kawa a Māui School of Māori Studies are researching how culture plays a role in energy usage.

The researchers plan to visit North Island hapū to collect data on energy usage, and state that the long-term goal of the research is to develop community-based renewable energy solutions that are safe, secure, reliable and cost-effective.

One of the case studies for the research will involve Dr Bargh's own marae located at Horohoro, south of Rotorua, which is already generating its own electricity from a recently built micro-hydro generator.

“From a Māori perspective, it is important to design energy solutions considering cultural principles around protecting native species. For example, at Horohoro, protecting eels and koura is important, alongside micro-hydro generation,” says Dr Bargh.

“Each marae also has a unique energy usage pattern which is crucial to consider when developing renewable energy solutions for Māori.”

The ultimate aim is to incorporate cultural identities in the technological design of renewable energy sources.

“In New Zealand this means identifying resources and solutions that can help develop the resilience of remote Māori communities through their electrical behavioural patterns and demands,” says Dr Rayudu.

Research shows culture seems to be a factor determining why electrification of remote villages and developing nations often fails within a few years of installation.

According to Dr Rayudu, the world's energy production and supply is on the verge of a notable change with the introduction of cheaper renewable energy solutions such as solar and wind energy.

“Residential consumers can now install their own power generation units,” says Dr Rayudu.

“In New Zealand this means identifying resources and solutions that can help develop the resilience of remote Māori communities through their electrical behavioural patterns and demands.”

Research shows culture seems to be a factor determining why electrification of remote villages and developing nations often fails within a few years of installation.

For example, in Papua New Guinea, it was hard for local communities to realise the concept of 'saving' power for the future. Similarly, in Nigeria, experience revealed a preference for switching off refrigerators to save power rather than televisions.

“We have incorporated aspects like this into our design,” says Dr Rayudu.

According to Dr Rayudu, the world's energy production and supply is on the verge of a notable change with the introduction of cheaper renewable energy solutions such as solar and wind energy.

“Residential consumers can now install their own power generation units.”

Associate Professor Will Browne in Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science was on the selection committee that awarded Dr Rayudu and Dr Bargh a University Research Fund grant to conduct the study.

“Not only was this research rated as internationally leading, but it was also chosen for the positive impact on the community,” says Professor Browne.

For comment please contact Dr Maria Bargh on 04 463 5465 or

For a high-resolution photograph or any additional information please contact Jennifer Niven at

Victoria student lights up international stage

24 Aug 2015 - 16:46 in Achievement

A Victoria University of Wellington PhD student is creating waves around the world with a win in the 2015 Sonic Arts Award.

mhz ensemble.jpeg

Mo Zareei won first place in the Sound Art category of the international competition for his piece Rasping Music, based on a video entry of the work exhibited in the 2014 Wellington Lux festival.

The Sonic Arts Award is dedicated to the art of sound. It has four categories—Sound Art, Sonic Research, Soundscapes and Digital Art—which are judged by a panel of internationally-renowned artists.

Mo, who is pursuing his PhD in music, has won €1,000 and the possibility of travelling to Rome to showcase his work.

“It’s very exciting. It’s a big award for sound art, which is a relatively new field. It’s especially nice to be recognised by the judges as they’re quite well-known artists,” says Mo.

Mo’s piece was inspired by musician Steve Reich whose work Clapping Music has performers clap a simple rhythmic pattern which shifts out of sync to create complex rhythms. Instead of clapping, Mo uses his own invention called Rasper, a noise-generating instrument involving mechatronics and micro-controller programming.

Rasping Music was originally composed as an installation piece, but it was also realised as a live performance at last year’s composers competition at the Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music (NZSM), which resulted in a shared third prize. I have written a paper on the piece which I’m presenting at a conference later this year,” he says.

Mo’s achievement extends on the success of the NZSM in Sonic Arts, with Dr Ted Apel having been awarded the 2013 Foundation for Emerging Technologies and Arts Prize in Sound Art.

As part of his PhD, Mo is developing an ensemble of mechatronic sound sculptures, among which Rasper is the first instrument. He works in both Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science and the NZSM to carry out his research, supervised by Ajay Kapur, Professor Dale Carnegie and Dr Dugal McKinnon.

“I have three supervisors from three different fields helping me. It’s great to have the flexibility to work with them all,” says Mo.

Mo is currently working on a new piece for this year’s Lux festival alongside Jim Murphy, a recent PhD graduate and teaching fellow at Victoria.

A video of Rasping Music can be found here.

For more information or to contact Mo Zareei go to .

Software Defined Networking Scholarships

17 Aug 2015 - 19:56 in Research

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

Scholarship opportunities.

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

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

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

More details about potential research topics are listed on our research group’s web page:

Conditions and Requirements.

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

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

Next Steps.

You should contact either Dr Ian Welch ( or Dr Bryan Ng (

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

Teaching excellence award for Victoria’s Dean of Engineering

13 Aug 2015 - 11:20 in Achievement

Dale.jpg Professor Dale Carnegie accepts his prestigious teaching award from Hon Steven Joyce at Parliament. Photo credit: Ako Aotearoa.

Victoria University of Wellington’s Dean of Engineering has received one of the highest teaching honours in his profession—a 2015 Ako Aotearoa Tertiary Teaching Excellence award.

Professor Dale Carnegie, who judges commended for his motivational teaching style, caring attitude and holistic approach to learning, was presented with the award at a function at Parliament this week.

Over a teaching career that has spanned 25 years, Professor Carnegie has taught engineering-related courses at all levels, from first-year undergraduate to postgraduate and doctoral students.

He says he takes pride in providing the best learning environment possible for his students.

“Every teaching opportunity is an occasion to lead by example, to clearly demonstrate that I enjoy being with my students, that I am passionate about the material I am presenting and that I deeply care about their individual learning.”

That approach clearly resonates with Professor Carnegie’s students who supported his award nomination with endorsements of his “engaging and full on” style, his “infectious enthusiasm” and his passion, with one student describing him as “the cool uncle you don’t want to disappoint”.

“I don’t stand behind a lectern,” Professor Carnegie says. “I wander round all the time—it’s all about being interactive and requiring full engagement from all students. It is just as important to me to inspire a failing student as it is to help a good student become the best they can be, hopefully to eventually outperform me.”

Professor Carnegie joined Victoria University in 2005, coming to the capital from a role at the University of Waikato.

He was appointed Deputy Head of School when the School of Engineering and Computer Science was established in 2009. While holding that role he led a national research programme to better understand student recruitment and retention issues in engineering.

“Students enrol in engineering with a certain set of expectations and our courses must meet those expectations. Engineers want to build, to create, to make a difference. Engineering staff and our colleagues in Mathematics took on this challenge and created a suite of new courses. Student satisfaction levels, and pass rates, soared,” Professor Carnegie says.

In 2012, Professor Carnegie became head of Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, taking over as Dean of Engineering at the beginning of 2015.

Victoria University Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford says the recognition for Professor Carnegie is well-deserved.

“Dale is not only an outstanding scholar but also an inspirational teacher who excites and inspires his students.

“Under his leadership, Engineering at Victoria, which is centred on the digital world, is going from strength to strength, with our students going on to work in industries at the cutting edge of this rapidly developing area.”

Professor Carnegie says the award is hugely important to him.

“I’m honoured at the recognition for myself, but also very proud of the endorsement of what we are doing in engineering.”

Check out Professor Carnegie's inspiring application video here:

Opportunities explode for game development and gaming

05 Aug 2015 - 10:33 in Research


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Riding high on a great idea

29 Jul 2015 - 15:23 in Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovate and create: Kate's GovHack experience

22 Jul 2015 - 12:25 in Achievement


When you hear the words 'government' and 'hack' in the same sentence, you could be forgiven for thinking there is questionable business afoot. But third year Computer Science student Kate Henderson assures us the recent GovHack weekend in Wellington was all above board. Here's what she has to say about her team's success at the competition...

“GovHack is an event run across Australia and New Zealand where participants use government data to build projects. We pitch ideas, form teams and create a product in just one weekend. The word 'hack' traditionally has negative connotations, but here it is used in the old-fashioned sense of the word, where you 'hack' something together to get it working.

GovHack was attended by ideas people, community members and business and marketing experts, as well as developers and designers. I was part of Team Working Title. It was great to work with a mix of people, including students from Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria. We worked well together because we knew each other from our university courses.

Our project was called “What's Next?”, a career tool for high school students. Because many of us are at university, we can remember trying to make important decisions about the future. We turned NCEA subjects into interest groups and our tool suggested career options. It also supplied average incomes for that career and the average student loan expected. The government data we used was supplied by NZQA, MBIE and the IRD.

It was great to see just what's possible over just one weekend. We managed to build a functional, interactive web page, as well as a three minute video demonstrating our proof of concept. Working on a project for three days and having it turn out well at the end is a great feeling of accomplishment.

There is no chance before GovHack that I would have been offered links to government to pitch a project. It was a great opportunity. A lot of the people involved are in the industry already, and you might be working for them in the future. It's cool to meet those people and see what different companies are doing.

We were stoked to be awarded 'Best Team' and we were also named as the Wellington nomination for the national award. I would encourage other students to go along to events like this, even if you have no idea what to expect. Hackathons are just too much fun to pass up!”

Leading from the front: Daniel's Startup Weekend success

15 Jul 2015 - 12:27 in Achievement


We asked Daniel Yeoh, a fourth year Electrical and Computer Engineering student, to share his impressions of the recent Wellington Science and Research Startup Weekend. This is what he had to say...

“The Science and Research Startup Weekend was a New Zealand first, where a bunch of different people competed to create a viable startup business in just one weekend.

It began with everyone who wanted to pitching an idea to the room. Then all the people who didn't pitch an idea chose a team to join. That's how I became a team captain, with other participants choosing to join my team if they liked my idea. I assigned roles to my group. I like leading from the front, so I used individuals' specialisations and backgrounds to allocate the roles.

My original idea was a window-cleaning robot that would scale the outside of a building. We came up with the design on the Friday night, but we discovered that there was a company in America already doing exactly the same thing. I wanted to come up with something completely new.

I decided to pivot towards a robot that, instead of cleaning windows, would climb the inside and outside of the building to scan the structure and create a 3D model. This would allow it to ascertain the structural integrity of the building by measuring, for example, the interior wall densities.

I was inspired by the opportunity to be my own boss. It meant a lot to me that the team was working on my idea. The friendships, connections and resources I gained were invaluable. Now I know that I can approach Wellington companies like Creative HQ and BizDojo to pitch ideas or ask for help from their mentors.

I think our idea was the best; the most profitable, and helpful for the community. We also got a special mention for scientific innovation from Helen Anderson, ex-CEO of BRANZ. It is a product that would help a lot of people, especially in the current New Zealand market with the earthquake strengthening taking place.

I hope to pursue the project at the VicLink Entrepreneurial Bootcamp at the end of the year. If you are a student and plan to attend a future Startup Weekend, I would say make sure to pitch your own idea. It makes the experience more meaningful and you feel like you own a piece of the process.”

Prolific Computer Science pioneer named Emeritus Professor

07 Jul 2015 - 09:35 in Achievement

20647 John Hine copy.jpg

Nearly 40 years since he began lecturing Computer Science at Victoria University in 1977, Professor John Hine has become an integral part of both the academic environment and the daily hustle and bustle of university life. You could describe him as a greatly-respected 'part of the furniture' – in the most positive sense of the phrase – although the enterprising academic does not sit still for long.

Now Professor Hine, widely regarded as a pioneer of the Internet and a leading advocate of Computer Science education in New Zealand, has been awarded the honorary title of Emeritus Professor. The accolade follows a long, illustrious career spanning many decades and including numerous services to his field and, in particular, to Victoria University.

Professor Hine's contribution began in the 1970s when organisations began to realise that it was necessary to educate more people in the field of Computer Science. He responded proactively to that need and in 1984 was appointed the foundation Professor of Computer Science.

Since then Professor Hine's multiple roles have included Chair of the Department of Computer Science, Head of the School of Mathematics and Computer Science, Head of the School of Engineering and Computer Science, Dean of Engineering and Director of eResearch.

He has also been involved in the development of the Internet in New Zealand, including establishing an inter-university online network in the early 1980s. This later evolved into the backbone of New Zealand's Internet and email services. Professor Hine's associated commercial company Netlink was sold in 1999, bringing a substantial financial boost to Victoria.

In the late nineties, Professor Hine was a member of the Domainz Board, the company that initially managed New Zealand's domain name space. From 2000 he was instrumental in founding the Kiwi Advanced Research Network (KAREN) and has since been made a KAREN fellow.

Professor Hine's contribution to the development of Computer Science education and the Internet in New Zealand is truly exemplary and an example of academic leadership at its best and most exciting. He is held in high regard by staff, students and the ICT community both in Wellington and more broadly in New Zealand.

We ask you to join us in congratulating him on being awarded the status of Emeritus Professor in recognition of his outstanding achievements.

Top conference award a milestone for PhD student Harith

30 Jun 2015 - 10:51 in Achievement

harith final.jpeg

Sushi wasn't the only thing Computer Science PhD student Harith Al-Sahaf got a taster of when he travelled to Sendai, Japan in May this year. The trip to the IEEE Congress on Evolutionary Computation (CEC) represented Harith's first overseas conference. He and a team of collaborators from New Zealand and Australia presented a prize-winning paper to an audience of top researchers and practitioners from around the globe. The conference is the largest of its type and covers diverse applications of Evolutionary Computation ranging from medical to military.

Harith, who completed his undergraduate study at the University of Baghdad in his home country of Iraq, moved to New Zealand in 2006 to pursue post-graduate study in Computer Science at Victoria University. While he has attended domestic conferences before, his team's 2015 Overall Best Paper Award, bestowed within such a prestigious global context, was an exciting milestone. The research his team presented was considered “a big jump within the field”, he says.

The award-winning paper was concerned with Computer Vision, one of Harith's main research interests. “Computer Vision is about replicating human visual systems to make machines that have the ability to 'see' things as humans do”, he explains. The project could also be described as advancing 'texture classification', where materials of the same texture type are grouped together. Analysing images to generate data from the real world is in turn is used to make decisions in real-life applications.

Such real-life applications of this ground-breaking research include roadside vegetation classification for assessing fire risk, and even facial recognition technology. “But one of the most important applications is within the medical field for cancer detection”, explains Harith. “Using this technology, we can detect cancer based on the texture of the tissues which are quite different from normal tissues.”

So where to now for the enterprising Harith? He is busy with his PhD research, extending the original image classification method to handle the rotation and scaling of the textures. “It's a complex problem”, he says. Harith is also keen to attend more international conferences where he enjoys making connections, sharing information and organising collaboration on future projects.

Watch this space – we're sure to hear more from Harith soon.