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Computer Vision Research Awarded a Best Paper at International Conference

22 Jul 2014 - 11:56 in Achievement

Congratulations to a team of researchers from School of Engineering and Computer Science from being awarded a Best Paper on their computer vision utilising evolutionary computation work.

Muhammad Iqbal, Saud Syed Naqvi, Will Browne, Christopher Hollitt and Mengjie Zhang were awarded one of 11 best papers (out of 544 submissions ~ 2% awarded BP), which is voted on by peer reviewers and audience members at the presentation at GECCO 2014, Vancouver, Canada, July 2014. Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference (GECCO) is one of the most prestigious double-blind peer review conference in Evolutionary Computation. Based on its impact factor, GECCO is 11th in the rankings of 701 international conferences in artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, and human-computer interactions.

Their novel contribution is in salient object detection, which is equivalent to identifying the most important object in a photograph. This branch of artificial intelligence is gaining rapid importance due to applications as varied as 'Facebook' image identification to autonomous robotics.

Below is a series of pictures showing the raw image (ASD dataset), then human identified ground truth, followed by two alternative algorithms and the final column showing the state-of-the-art results produced by the developed algorithm.

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This work represents a collaboration between the Evolutionary Computational Research Group and the Vision, Image Computation, and Computer Graphics Group, which enhances the international reputation. Both groups are currently seeking excellent doctorate students to continue this research direction in computer graphics, vision techniques, evolutionary computation and robotics, where University scholarships are available for suitable candidates.

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http://www.sigevo.org/gecco-2014/papers.html

Summer Scholarships 2014

15 Jul 2014 - 13:13 in Research

If you’re a third year or above, interested and skilled in research, you could spend the summer supporting a research project and earn a valuable scholarship.

The Summer Research Scholarships offer a unique opportunity for you to obtain experience in research. Working with globally recognised researchers in a local setting, you will gain valuable real-world experience as well as an insight into what research is all about.

What’s involved

You will be expected to work on a research project for up to 10 weeks (400 hours) over the summer trimester, under the supervision of well-established researchers or a research team at the University.

What it’s worth

Victoria University will award up to 150 internally funded Summer Research Scholarships and an additional number of externally funded projects over the 2014/2015 summer trimester.

Each summer research scholarship includes a minimum tax-free stipend of $6,000.

Eligibility

The scholarships are open to students who have completed at least two years of their undergraduate degree and are currently enrolled full-time at any Australian or New Zealand University in an undergraduate, Honours or the first year of a Master’s degree.

Applicants should be intending to enrol at Victoria in 2015. Applicants must not hold a Victoria PhD or Doctoral Scholarship, nor a Victoria Masters Scholarship at the same time as this award.

Download the Summer Scholarship Conditions for a full list of the award regulations.

Applications

You must apply directly to your faculty or school (not the Scholarship Office). For further information on what projects are available and to find out how to apply, contact:

Margot Neas

Administrator - Science and Engineering Faculty Office

Taking charge in electricity research

07 Jul 2014 - 16:45 in Research

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A Victoria University engineering lecturer is shedding light on household power usage, as part of her research into improving the way New Zealand uses electricity.

Dr Rebecca Ford, from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, is part of a nationwide research team exploring the future of electricity supply and consumption in New Zealand.

The GREEN Grid project, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation, and Employment (MBIE), is a wide-ranging investigation into how New Zealanders use power, how demand can best be met using renewable sources, and how the national grid can be made smarter and more efficient.

Joining researchers from Auckland, Canterbury and Otago universities, Dr Ford will be helping to explore the potential development of a Smart Grid, which incorporates information and communications technology into New Zealand’s electricity infrastructure—advancements which, she says, are well overdue.

“We’ve currently got electricity infrastructure which is relatively ‘dumb’, in the sense that we have some elements of control but we don’t really know what’s going on throughout the entire network,” says Dr Ford.

It’s hoped that improved information about electricity flows will lead to increased flexibility and efficiency within the grid, putting more control in the hands of consumers and the industry.

“A consumer who had a smart meter would no longer get a bill once a month, but would be able to log on and see a chart of how much electricity they’re using every day.”

Dr Ford says a better understanding of how and when consumers are using power would equip them to have greater control of their electricity energy usage.

Power companies would also benefit from the information gathered by smart meters she says. It would provide them with a greater understanding of both their customer’s needs and the needs of the network in general.

Dr Ford says in the future this knowledge could lead to financial incentives for customers to use power in off-peak times when the network is under less strain. While this is not currently an option in New Zealand, the development of smart appliances could mean it is not far off.

“More and more home appliances are being developed with information and communications technology which means they can be switched on and off remotely. With this level of control, consumers could choose to run energy hungry appliances during off peak, lower cost periods to decrease their power bill and help out the network.”

Household electricity usage has been the focus of Dr Ford’s research, who completed her PhD in engineering at Oxford University with research that looked at how people can better manage the way they use energy in their homes.

“With our research, we want to get a better idea of what people are doing, how they’re using their appliances and then what options they have for better managing them and shifting patterns of demand. This could help people save energy and money, and could also help improve our overall management of the electricity grid.”

The research will inform new operating models for the wider electricity system which are being investigated by the New Zealand Smart Grid Forum, a group of industry stakeholders and customers. The Smart Grid Forum, established by MBIE and the Electricity Networks Association, is also looking at the infrastructure and commercial arrangements needed to benefit from new operating models.

Engineering School Outreach

01 Jul 2014 - 13:30 in Event

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Elf Eldridge is leading Victoria University's new engineering outreach programme for secondary school students and challenging stereotypes about what engineering is and where it can lead.

Elf, who is currently completing his PhD in Physics and was part of the University’s 2013 Know Your Mind recruitment campaign, was snapped up by the School of Engineering late last year and given the mission of exciting students about engineering.

Part of his role is visiting schools and communities to encourage students to do whatever they’re interested in, from animation and robotics, to game design and basic electronics. “My work aims to help students be well prepared if they choose to pursue engineering at university,” says Elf.

One of the challenges is that there are many students interested in engineering and science, but only localised pockets of knowledge. “You might find one school with an amazing teacher who is really gifted in all kinds of technology, and another school with a bunch of interested pupils but with no teacher that takes the lead,” he says.

One initiative aimed at tackling this problem is <Tek Ctrl/>, an after-school programme aimed at Year 10 to 13 students, giving young people a chance to play and learn about various technologies in an informal setting.

“I turn up and see who else turns up—it’s normally a mixed bag. Each student has a different idea of what they’d like to do,” says Elf.

“One of the toughest challenges is to get girls to continue on in the engineering field, which is why one tech group, based at the National Library, is targeted specifically at females and run by a female second year software engineering student.

“One of my favourite examples is a girl who is absolutely nuts for space and astronomy. She wants to build her own planetarium and software, which is great, but no one else at her school knows anything about doing it. I really want to enable her.”

Elf says it’s all about breaking down walls, particularly with female students. “A lot of young people tend to disengage, particularly with something like robotics, because it just looks complicated. If you sit down and build a fully functional robot in an hour, that's what I see as the value,” says Elf.

Teachers have also started to come along to <Tek Ctrl/> for support and to learn about digital technology. “Generally I’m trying to make it clear that if they want to try something technology based, like build a robot, and they’ve never done it before I say yes, go for it!”

Watch Elf’s Know Your Mind video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fx-7isGhxbQ

Postdoctoral Research Fellow (2 year fixed term)

26 Jun 2014 - 11:45 in Research

Applications are invited for the position of Postdoctoral Research Fellow in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. This is a two year fixed term position.

The main objective of this position is to conduct high quality research in Programming Languages and Software Engineering, particularly within the Grace project. This will include design, implementation, and support work on the Grace language, Grace libraries, interactive and livecoding development environments, and open-source community building. You will also be expected to contribute to teaching in Software Engineering and Computer Science.

Candidates must have a PhD in Programming Languages or Object-Orientation and a good research and publication track record in these areas.

For more information please contact Professor James Noble, School of Engineering and Computer Science on james.noble@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Applications close 31 July 2014

Victoria University of Wellington is an EEO employer and actively seeks to meet its obligations under the Treaty of Waitangi.

For more information and to apply online visit http://vacancies.vuw.ac.nz

Reference SECS089

Inside the world of a nanotechnology researcher

19 Jun 2014 - 20:09 in Event

Victoria University physics student Elf Eldridge will discuss the field of nanotechnology and provide a glimpse into the world of PhD study at a free talk in Napier this month.

Presented in association with the Hawke’s Bay Branch of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Elf will give a broad introduction to what nanotechnology is and why it's important, followed by a discussion of his own PhD research.

Elf will also provide insights into some of the issues facing science PhD students in New Zealand, and discuss how the MacDiarmid Institute for Advanced Materials and Nanotechnology, a Centre of Research Excellence based at Victoria University, is attempting to address these. This includes providing industry internships with companies in New Zealand and abroad, and offering short term scholarships to carry out research on a commercial project.

“I got to spend two weeks on a short term scholarship doing a feasibility study on a new technology developed at Victoria. That was great for me. I loved it,” says Elf.

“We were looking at the industry areas it could fit in, how big they were, what the competition was and what the intellectual property law was like. It’s an experience in a whole area you don’t get to touch on in science. But if you want to work as a scientist or an engineer in the technology field, you have to know about it.”

Elf, who was part of the University’s 2013 Know Your Mind recruitment campaign, is nearing the end of his PhD research in which he is using a device called the qNano to look at the characteristics of tiny invisible particles that can be found everywhere in nature (similar to viruses and bacteria).

In his role as senior tutor at Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, Elf's time is split between working with New Zealand secondary schools to encourage more students to consider engineering and computer science as a career, and supporting currently enrolled students with their studies.

As well as giving his own talk, Elf will also be attending the Victoria University information evening in Hawke’s Bay, and running workshops with year 11 to 13 students at local schools.

Details:

Connecting stargazing, nanotechnology and the future in New Zealand

Thursday 26 June, 7.30pm

Hawke’s Bay Holt Planetarium, Chambers Street, Napier

No RSVP required

For more information contact Elf Eldridge on 027 964 3575 or elf.eldridge@vuw.ac.nz .

From West Africa to windy Wellington

18 Jun 2014 - 13:19 in Research

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Wellington may be a long way from home for Nigerian PhD student Daniel Akinyele, but it’s providing the perfect location for him to research the potential of wind power.

Daniel’s research explores the use of micro-grids, which are small-scale power generators such as a solar panel or wind turbine, that can be located on residential or commercial buildings. They can be connected to the main network or operated independently.

Daniel is investigating how micro-grids can provide extra power to the network during peak times and act as a back-up source of energy should the main network go down after a natural disaster.

“In a major earthquake,” says Daniel, “Wellington could be left without power for days or weeks. If we had a network of micro-grids, the impact could be much less severe.”

Daniel says although New Zealand is not yet making the most of its outstanding wind resource, there has been progress.

“In 1993, the Brooklyn wind turbine was the first of its kind in New Zealand and today there are 17 wind farms around the country.”

Daniel says small-scale wind production is essential to the New Zealand Government reaching its target of 90 percent renewable energy production by 2025.

“The biggest challenge is making it attractive to home and business owners to install a small power generator such as a wind turbine.”

As well as his focus on Wellington, Daniel is investigating how microgrid technology could be used in less developed regions, such as his home country of Nigeria, where about 60 percent of the country does not have access to electricity.

“Development relies on energy,” he says, “and those who don’t have it are socially and economically handicapped.”

While Wellington and Nigeria are worlds apart, Daniel says the principles behind micro-grids can be used in both places. “In sub-Saharan Africa, however, it would make more sense to use solar, hydro or biomass power because the region has large resources of these.”

Daniel is part of a newly formed and rapidly expanding power and renewable energy systems research group at Victoria, led by Dr Ramesh Rayudu at Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Daniel was selected, along with fellow group member Hatem Alzaanin, to present his research at the New Zealand Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition that took place in Wellington in April.

Balancing physiotherapy and fun

10 Jun 2014 - 11:56 in Achievement

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A team of Victoria University of Wellington students and graduates have created a balance board that helps people stay motivated and have fun while undergoing physical therapy.

As part of the Viclink Digital Futures / Product Futures summer ‘boot camp’, an interdisciplinary team of engineers, marketers and designers developed Switchboard—a balance board that connects to a smartphone and allows patients to play games.

Numerous studies have shown that balance boards are an effective aid for muscle rehabilitation, which is why their use is often prescribed by physiotherapists. Switchboard addresses what is considered the biggest fault in traditional boards—the user’s lack of motivation to train consistently.

The solution in Switchboard is a suite of games which are custom made for the balance board controller, including snowboarding and flying, which users play while they are exercising.

“The user doesn't have to think about the fact that they are exercising, because they are having fun,” says engineering student and project manager Lukas Stoecklein.

“Additionally, having the balance data in digital form provides physiotherapists with insights about their patient’s progress. We can even change what exercises the games encourage you to do, according to what the physiotherapist or user wants, so people can train more efficiently.”

During the ‘boot camp'—designed to help graduates learn how to bring a product to market—the team met with Steve McHardy, General Manager at the International Rugby Academy, to give a demonstration to rugby players. “The players were keen on the idea and said they would enjoy using the board as part of their training,” says Lukas.

Alongside Lukas was a team of two media designers, one industrial designer, one electrical engineer, and two software computer scientists. The programme was led by Dr Edgar Rodriguez and Kah Chan from the School of Design, Dr Will Browne from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, and Alan Hucks from Creative HQ.

Switchboard has commercial opportunities on the horizon, with support from Viclink, Victoria’s commercialisation company. The team has also formed a start-up company called Swibo to continue work on the project.

Switchboard is currently in the prototype stage, and is being tested by Wellington physiotherapists.

Summer Scholarship Winner

05 Jun 2014 - 21:43 in Research

Summer Research Scholarships offer a unique opportunity for students to gain experience in research and obtain an insight into what studying for a research degree entails. Each scholarship gives a student the experience of working with established researchers in an area of interest to them, under the supervision of an academic staff member or a research team.

The School of Engineering and Computer Science hosts approximately 30 students each summer who undertake research for academics and industry on a wide range of engineering and computer based topics.

All Summer Research scholars are also invited to submit a poster, or video, describing their work and its results in a clear and interesting style similar to that used at many professional and disciplinary conferences. Communicating research and scholarly findings to a general audience is an essential part of academic and professional life.

Prizes are given out and the competition aims to recognise the work of our researchers in a way that demonstrates the varied research at Victoria University, and supports development of presentation and communication skills.

This summer an Engineering and Computer Science student, Matthew Betts, won the overall best summer scholarship poster. Working with the company Publons, Matthew's research looked at the development of a reviewer search tool to help journals to perform faster peer-review. (View Matthew's poster)

Publons works with reviewers, publishers, universities, and funding agencies to turn peer review into a measurable research output.

Victoria University student can find out more about summer scholarships here: https://www.victoria.ac.nz/study/student-finance/scholarships/summer-scholarships