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Wanted - Software Development Projects for SWEN 302 Students

20 Jun 2011 - 15:44 in Research

SWEN302 is a second trimester third year group project course for software engineering students. In SWEN302, students work in teams of around 6 - 8 people to develop prototype software for real projects, working for project sponsors from outside the software engineering group. The project course runs from July 11th to October 14th, and students will each spend around 7 - 8 hours per week on the course.

The ideal project is small enough to be feasible within the three months of the trimester, but large enough to be challenging to the student teams. Teams follow a process called Agile Development, which means that teams work with the sponsor on a weekly basis to ensure that the project is going in the right direction. The process is flexible, allowing the sponsor to change the focus during the course of the project. The process always involves the team creating a prototype system each fortnight that continually expands on the functionality provided. A consequence of this is that sponsors will get some working software early, and can decide what they want added to the working software on a frequent basis.

So, if you have an idea that needs programming to support your research or teaching or other activities, and are interested in sponsoring a project, or would like more information, please contact me ( stuart@ecs.vuw.ac.nz) by July 4th.

Regards,

Stuart Marshall

Victoria engineering students use technology to clean up the environment

18 Jul 2013 - 11:46 in Research

A smartphone app and website which the public could use to report livestock polluting waterways, rubbish dumping and overflows from outfall pipes have been developed by students at Victoria University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. The innovations are part of the River Watch project, carried out by a group of third-year engineering students, supervised by Professor Winston Seah.

The students have also been testing unmanned flying vehicles equipped with GPS technology to record incidents of pollution in New Zealand rivers, particularly those involving livestock. The smartphone app would allow people to upload photographs and automatically generated GPS coordinates of incidents they observed which, once verified, would be made publicly available online.

The students will speak about their work to improve environmental monitoring at a launch event on Wednesday 31 July at Victoria University.

River Watch began as part of a third-year engineering module where students apply their project management skills in a group project. The work continued as a summer research project supported by the Waterway Action Initiative New Zealand (WaiNZ).

River Watch project launch:

Date and time: Wednesday 31 July, 10am.

Venue: Hunter Council Chamber, Gate 2, Kelburn Campus, Victoria University.

If you would like to attend, please RSVP by Monday 29 July 2013 to Suzan Hall, School Manager, School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University: suzan.hall@ecs.vuw.ac.nz.

For more information on the River Watch project, contact Professor Winston Seah, telephone 04-463 5233 ext 8493 or email winston.seah@vuw.ac.nz.

To watch a TV3 news report on the River Watch project, click on the link below:

http://www.3news.co.nz/Unmanned-aerial-vehicle-monitors-river-pollution/tabid/1160/articleID/309479/Default.aspx

To read a Dominion Post article about the River Watch project, click on the link below:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/8931825/Drones-join-effort-to-track-river-pollution

Victoria University joins PlanetLab

29 Apr 2010 - 10:04 in Research

logo-nz.png At the start of the year Victoria joined the PlanetLab NZ project - part of the world wide PlanetLab. PlanetLab is a global experimental networking facility, designed for conducting cutting-edge research on current and future network technologies, such as Next Generation Networks (NGNs), Next Generation Internet (NGI), Future Internet, etc. Two planetlab nodes have been installed at Victoria.

Funding is provided by REANNZ and the local contact is Dr Qiang Fu.

Victoria University Tops Research Ratings

12 Apr 2013 - 14:01 in Research

Victoria University, including our School of Engineering and Computer Science, has demonstrated international excellence in research and has been ranked top New Zealand University for research under government backed criteria.

Victoria University has been ranked first in the 2012 Performance-Based Research Fund Quality Evaluation, which was published by the Tertiary Education Commission yesterday. A total of 27 tertiary education organisations were evaluated.

Our School of Engineering and Computer Science is delighted to be part of the top ranked group in Computer Science, IT and IS. This shows the broad range of subjects, such as information, technology, digital systems, computing, programming language development, cyber-security, gaming, artificial intelligence, communications and so forth, where we are a leading provider. We have a unique mix of offerings.

Please contact us to see where we are the best (please see research groups and staff pages). 70% of Victoria’s individual researchers are internationally or nationally recognised as being of high quality. This includes staff in the Engineering specialisations of Networking, Software, and Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering

The Vice-Chancellor Research, Professor Charles Daugherty acknowledged the hours of hard work put in by staff in assembling their research portfolios in order to achieve this result, and said it was a “wonderful day” for the University.

The top ranking will continue to enable the University to attract high achieving researchers from within New Zealand and from overseas. Please see our postgraduate pages for more details on how to join our exciting and leading research.

Victoria Researchers to Play Significant Role in Global Science Project

27 Nov 2013 - 12:09 in Research

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Victoria University of Wellington researchers are poised to make a significant contribution to one of the world’s largest science projects—the Square Kilometre Array (SKA) radio telescope.

In an announcement recently by Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce, Victoria University was named as one of two New Zealand research groups which will lead two work areas in the pre-construction of the multi-billion dollar SKA telescope. Auckland University of Technology is the other institution contributing to the research.

It is anticipated that, once operational, the SKA telescope will be the world’s largest, most sensitive radio telescope, capable of revealing new information about the origins and history of the universe.

Victoria University’s Dr Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, a senior lecturer in Astrophysics from the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, will lead a team of researchers which will contribute towards the Science Data Processor work package, working alongside other New Zealand and international experts.

Other members from the Victoria University team include Dr Christopher Hollitt and Dr Marcus Frean from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, as well as Postdoctoral fellows, PhD, Master’s and Honours students.

“The SKA project has now reached the detailed design phase, which involves groups across the world investigating how best to design the telescope,” says Dr Johnston-Hollitt.

“One of the greatest challenges associated with the SKA project is the ‘big data challenge’ and how we can maximise the scientific return from the vast amount of data generated.

“We’ll be working with our partners from across New Zealand to lead the work concerned with how to best extract information from data captured by the SKA, and determine the computation requirements needed to process it,” she says.

Professor Mike Wilson, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University’s Faculty of Science, is delighted the University’s expertise is continuing to contribute towards the development of the SKA project.

“The SKA radio telescope is currently one of the largest international science and engineering projects, and an exciting one for Victoria’s astrophysicists to be engaged in.

“Victoria’s involvement builds on the University’s track record in radio astronomy, algorithm development and large-scale computing, and will help build New Zealand’s position as a leader in software development and data analysis,” he says.

Dr Johnston-Hollitt has played a significant role in the global effort to develop cutting-edge radio telescopes. She is the New Zealand scientific representative to the SKA Board of Directors, and a primary investigator on the precursor Murchison Widefield Array radio telescope project in Western Australia, which became fully operational earlier this year.

Victoria Research Group Leads Agile Software Development Methods

20 Jun 2011 - 14:18 in Research

Computer scientists from the ELVIS Software Design Research Group at Victoria University are working in collaboration with experts from other New Zealand universities to develop more efficient, cost effective and flexible methods of software development.

This research is being conducted as part of a four year project funded by the ministry of Science and Innovation, with participation from industry partners.

Professor James Noble says that early methods of software development in the 1960s arose from cost overruns in the United States Defence Department as they sought to develop their own software in connection with the space race and weapons development.

However, these methods were hampered by the high proportion of time spent on planning, documentation and bureaucratic processes. The Agile approach to software development seeks to alleviate these problems through the use of self-organising teams that work collaboratively with customers to develop iterative and incremental work cycles.

Victoria Postdoctoral Fellow Dr Rashina Hoda has been researching the best ways for agile software development teams to organise themselves. She has identified the roles of "Mentor, Co-ordinatior, Champion, Promoter, and Terminator" as being crucial in the process of software development, along with support from senior management, and the active involvement of customers.

For more information about the ELVIS Software Design Group, click on the link below.

http://elvis.ac.nz/

Victoria Engineering PhD student Features in Dominion Post Article

03 Aug 2011 - 14:25 in Research

A recent article in the Dominion Post features Craig Anslow, a PhD student who has developed a 48-inch multi-touch table. Craig is conducting research into applications that help software developers visually map their programs and identify potential bugs. He plans to test the touch table over the next year or so, and then make it available for free use.

The article, titled “Bright Sparks Dim Futures?” highlighted the difficulties New Zealand scientists face in finding the institutional support and financial backing to develop their inventions into a marketable product.

To read the full article, please go to:

http://homepages.ecs.vuw.ac.nz/~craig/Site/Media/bright-sparks-anslow.pdf

Vic students help speed up Firefox web browsing

05 Mar 2012 - 17:32 in Research

Victoria University student brainpower is helping the Firefox web browser go faster. Victoria's School of Engineering and Computer Science has partnered with Mozilla Firefox's Auckland office to carry out research projects, some of which will help improve the performance of the world's second-most popular browser.

The collaboration was forged by Dr Alex Potanin, Senior Lecturer in Software Engineering, and internationally acclaimed New Zealander Robert O'Callahan who set up and runs Mozilla Firefox's New Zealand arm. The Auckland Mozilla office concentrates on hardware acceleration or improvements that allow browsers to quickly load big, graphic-rich websites.

Recent graduate Jan Larres, who came to Victoria from Germany to Complete his Master's degree, has conducted the latest project with his year-long research effort focused on accurate testing of the Firefox browser's speed. "Speed," says Dr Potanin, "is becoming one of the fundamental things that defines a browser. Google Chrome, for example, has a team dedicated to making its browser go as fast as possible."

Firefox is free, open source software meaning anyone around the world with enough skills and knowledge can contribute to its development. Mozilla carries out automated, round-the-clock testing to gauge which innovations from its community of developers are helping the browser run faster.

However, Jan, says even when two identical computers with identical set-up run the same tests, there are variations in the speed at which the tasks are completed because of "noise" or electronic interference. "That makes it difficult to judge which developments are really beneficial to the speed of the browser and which aren't."

Jan's research investigated how the Firefox product handles web browsing and the make-up of the software itself. He says some issues were relatively easily identified, such as the browser taking longer to load data for the first time than subsequent occasions when it loads information from the same source. Other issues, such as the complex scheduling that prioritises different actions a browser is performing, also have an impact but are harder to do anything about, he says.

In addition to giving Mozilla valuable new information about its testing programme, Jan carried out a statistical analysis that estimates how much variation in speed can be attributed to interference, allowing Mozilla to more accurately identify changes that are accelerating the browser. Mozilla recently flew Jan to the United States to present his findings To the annual get-together of its global development community.

Mozilla Firefox is currently the world's second most popular web browser, used by around 21 percent of people worldwide. Internet Explorer heads the list at around 50 percent, although its market share has been declining steadily in recent years. Google Chrome has a 15 percent share.

Dr Potanin says Victoria's relationship with Mozilla Firefox is giving students valuable, real-world experience. "Victoria hosts the leading southern hemisphere team with expertise in object-oriented programming languages. Robert O'Callahan's background as a programming language researcher at IBM's TJ Watson Research Center before joining Mozilla meant an existing collaboration with Victoria flourished once he opened a Mozilla branch in New Zealand. "As well as carrying out cutting edge research, students who work on projects for Mozilla often end up being offered a job, as the company's policy is to hire people who make a strong contribution to the development of its software."

For more information, please contact:

Dr Alex Potanin on 04 463 5302 or alex.potanin@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Jan Larres on jan@majutsushi.net

VUW Students Work with Greater Wellington Regional Council to Monitor Toxic Algae in Hutt River

06 Jan 2014 - 14:00 in Research

Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and Victoria University students are teaming up to trial the use of aerial imagery taken from a small unmanned plane to monitor the amount of toxic algae in the Hutt River this summer. Mark Heath is a PhD student with the School of Biological Science, and Jonathan Olds is a PhD student with the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

The trial will involve flying the plane (known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV) over three sites in the Hutt River and analysing the images taken to see whether toxic algae coverage in the river can be accurately estimated.

This work adds to eight years of toxic algae research in the Hutt catchment, which were discussed in a series of public science seminars jointly organised by GWRC, Upper Hutt Council, Hutt City Council and Regional Public Health. Click on the link below to listen to a Radio NZ interview with Mark Heath and Jonathan Olds.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/audio/player/2580570

The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

20 May 2014 - 11:34 in Research

The closing date for the Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship has been extended till the 28th May 2014.

To be eligible to apply, applicants must:
  • Be a female student enrolled in undergraduate or postgraduate study in the 2015 academic year.
  • Be enrolled in a university in Asia Pacific, excluding Greater China* where we have an additional scholars’ retreat in China Mainland. Citizens, permanent residents, and international students are eligible to apply.
  • Be majoring in computer science, computer engineering, or a closely related technical field.
  • Exemplify leadership and demonstrate passion for increasing the involvement of women in computer science.
For more information and application details please go to: http://www.google.com/anitaborg/apac/index.html

Teaching Robots to Navigate

01 Nov 2012 - 15:26 in Research

Teaching Robots to Navigate

Dr Will Browne (Senior Lecturer) and Henry Williams (PhD candidate) are researching ways to teach autonomous robots to learn to navigate themselves without human interaction. The process of a robot constructing a map of its surroundings and at the same time locating where it is positioned within that map is called simultaneous localisation and mapping (SLAM).

This research has important applications in a search and rescue situation, such as sending robots in to search collapsed buildings. Cheaper disposable robots could be used to map the building, and this information could then be used by a larger robot that is better equipped, say with a heat-seeking device.

Henry Williams is also working with a system called Rat SLAM, which uses visual inputs for map construction and localisation, e. g. the visual inputs from a 360° degree camera are weighted according to their usefulness, so images from the front of the vehicle, which change frequently are retained, while images of the sky or verges are discarded.

To listen to the broadcast and read the full accompanying article, click on the link below:

www.radionz.co.nz/ourchangingworld

Taking charge in electricity research

07 Jul 2014 - 16:45 in Research

rebecca ford.jpeg

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.

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

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

Students Update Classic Animation Technique

03 Dec 2013 - 11:57 in Research

Computer Graphics students at Victoria University have created an alternative to an animation technique used by studios such as Disney and Pixar.

The work is the result of a collaborative project by Byron Mallett, a Master’s student in the School of Design, and Richard Roberts, a PhD student in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, as part of Victoria’s interdisciplinary Computer Graphics Programme.

Byron and Richard have developed a new technique for the classic ‘squash and stretch’ convention, where the shape of a character or object is intentionally distorted to accentuate its movement.

Their alternative aims to overcome issues with current tools by automating much of the repetitive manual work, while maintaining the artists’ ability to customise.

Richard says collaborating on the paper was a great experience. “Our different backgrounds and strengths meant we could each contribute a different perspective to the project.”

“Byron’s expertise in animation meant he could provide content to work with, as well as critique the way the software worked for artists. My knowledge of programming allowed for fast iteration of the tool.”

Dr Rhazes Spell, lecturer of Media Design and Computer Graphics in the School of Design, says this sort of innovative work is the result of the Computer Graphics programme’s unique beginnings.

“Students benefit from taking classes and conducting research in both schools and working with local industry. Wellington provides an ideal learning and research setting for this cutting edge programme,” he says.

Byron and Richard presented their paper, entitled A Pose Space for Squash and Stretch Deformation, at the 28th International Conference on Image and Vision Computing New Zealand, held in Wellington from 27th - 29th November.

Find out more about the project here: http://computergraphics.ac.nz/sqst_article.php

ECS Student's Invention Harvests Energy from Earthquakes

07 Dec 2012 - 16:39 in Research

A wireless vibration sensor being developed by a Victoria University student could provide a low-cost solution for engineers to monitor the damage of buildings affected by earthquakes.

Daniel Tomicek wireless sensor

The wireless vibration sensor built by Victoria University engineering student Daniel Tomicek.

Daniel Tomicek, a fourth year Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering student, has been working on the innovative device, which harnesses the kinetic energy generated by earthquakes, as part of his final year research project. The wireless sensor Daniel has developed is designed to be placed in several locations of a building to monitor the stress sustained by different areas during an earthquake.

The sensor harnesses the energy of the building’s movement during an earthquake to power itself, measuring the acceleration of the movement, and transmitting information in the form of data packets to an off-site computer. The data can then be used by engineers to help assess the extent of damage to the building.

When earthquakes occur, the energy harvested from the vibrations activates the wireless transceiver to transmit the data packets which contain the sensor’s identifier. The greater the vibrations, the greater the energy harvested and the more packets that are sent. The device uses minimal energy—so when there is no movement, the sensor simply does not operate.

Daniel has been working with Professor Winston Seah and Dr Ramesh Rayudu from Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering to develop a prototype which is affordable, and can be easily fixed to different parts of a building. Currently, no sensor exists in the marketplace that doesn’t rely on batteries or electricity supply to run—meaning Daniel’s sensor is a major step forward. “The biggest challenge has been figuring out how to make the sensor work from a cold start—how to ensure the initial packet of information was sent, given that earthquake movements begin so suddenly,” says Daniel.

He has been testing the sensor’s capabilities recently at Te Papa’s Earthquake House in its Awesome Forces exhibit, where the device monitored ‘earthquakes’ at the house over the course of a week. “Testing at the Earthquake House was a real success. The device managed to sense each earthquake and send packets of information for each one.” “Being able to use the exhibit was a very handy way of testing the device, and the staff members at Te Papa were really supportive.”

Daniel says he was inspired to create a kinetic sensor after a friend worked on a similar project during a summer research scholarship at Victoria University. He had also heard about applications being developed in Europe, where special springs added to dance floors in nightclubs can harness an electrical current generated by the movement of dancers, which is then stored in batteries and used to run devices.

Daniel is looking forward to graduating next year and doing some overseas travel, before applying the skills he has learnt at university in the workplace.

Software Defined Networking Masters Scholarship

14 Aug 2014 - 22:52 in Research

A fully funded Masters scholarship position in Software Defined Networking (SDN).

SDN is a new networking technology, which greatly improves network programmability, that is changing how we design, build and operate networks. In this project, we will investigate the practical issues on the adoption of SDN in production networks. It is a great opportunity to work with SDN communities both locally and internationally.

Value of award: Up to $20,000 + tuition fees
Tenure: One year

Essential criteria:
*Strong programming skills in C/C++ or Java.
*Strong motivation for developing practical networking solutions

Contact person: Dr. Qiang Fu, qiang.fu@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Saving money and the environment at the lights

09 May 2014 - 10:08 in Research

James McCann is a software engineer with drive. During his final year of study at Victoria University of Wellington, James helped to develop a more cost effective model for New Zealand’s traffic lights.

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James McCann

Under the supervision of Dr Paul Teal, a senior lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, James created a model called the Priority Based Traffic Control system (PBTC).

But it’s not all about numbers for this 22-year-old from Timaru—he says he chose this as his fourth year project because he’s interested in how environmental and economic issues can be solved in tandem.

“If vehicles are driven more efficiently, they are more economic to run and create less pollution,” says James.

The Victoria graduand says there is a cost of waiting at an intersection, whether that’s a loss of productivity from being late for work or even just additional petrol costs. PBTC helps to minimise that cost by controlling traffic lights to make traffic flows more efficient.

Under the current system, traffic lights are reactive, with the duration of lights based on the number of cars which previously drove through the intersection. James’ model, however, is proactive, looking ahead to the cars approaching the intersection rather than the ones which have already passed through.

PBTC is based on having a controller at the intersection which would receive data and GPS coordinates transmitted wirelessly from vehicles. It would then look ahead for the best place, economically, for the lights to turn red. The system introduces a priority rating which adds up the priorities of all cars approaching the intersection and ensures the higher priority side gets a green light first.

“A large truck would have a higher priority rating than a car. A truck barrelling down the motorway costs much more to stop than a car because it takes longer to stop and start, uses more petrol, produces more exhaust and creates more wear on the road,” explains James.

Research gets gold

21 Mar 2014 - 11:44 in Research

Described as “the equivalent of a desktop version of a mainframe computer” the smart red Spinsolve machine sitting on a lab bench at Victoria University is evidence, say its designers, that the vision of the late Sir Paul Callaghan is coming to fruition.

Spinsolve is an early product resulting from a $4 million dollar investment in research being carried out by scientists at Victoria and Magritek, the Wellington-based company founded by Sir Paul which makes scientific instruments.

Spinsolve.jpeg
The Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectrometer can produce information on the structure of molecules in a fraction of the time, and at a fraction of the cost, that it takes to do the analysis on traditional equipment.

“It’s also portable (larger NMR spectrometers have to be housed in a special facility and are expensive to maintain) and beautifully simple to operate,” says Dr Robin Dykstra, a senior lecturer in Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“We are seeing the results of the foundation laid by Sir Paul—most of us working on this research completed our PhDs under Paul’s supervision and we are making a reality of his dream of using science and technology to create a world-class, home grown industry.

“Paul would have been exceptionally proud of the research we are doing and we are proud to be taking his work to the next stage.”

The project, which is led by Dr Dykstra and Dr Petrik Galvosas, senior research fellow in Victoria’s School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, has received a sought-after gold star rating from its funder, the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment, which indicates a very high standard of achievement in terms of science discoveries and impact.

“What we are aiming to do,” says Dr Dykstra, “is move Magnetic Resonance (MR) out of the lab and the clinic and open up possibilities for it to be used in a whole range of new industries such as oil and gas, geothermal, chemical processing and biotechnology.

“There is significant international interest in MR because it is non-invasive and rich in information. Our group has a real technology edge in this field.”

Made partly in Germany and partly in Wellington, Spinsolve is being continuously improved but the current version is already proving popular among researchers in educational facilities and pharmaceutical companies around the world.

“Its performance is less than the large, superconducting magnet-based machines but it’s perfect for those wanting quick turnaround to regularly monitor what they are doing,” says Dr Dykstra.

The highly-rated research project has a number of work strands—Spinsolve is at the commercialisation end of the spectrum while another initiative, led by Dr Galvosas, is early stage and exploratory.

He and his team of researchers, which includes a young scientist recruited from an internationally renowned research group in China, are investigating ways of applying knowledge about testing porous media (Magritek’s technology is already used for testing how porous rocks are) to detecting breast cancer.

“Tissue is porous,” says Dr Galvosas, “so in theory our technology can be used to track the way fluids move through the tissue, providing accurate information about its structure.

“Our vision is to develop a simple, portable device which would sit on a doctor’s desk and be routinely used for screening, alerting the doctor if there was abnormality in tissue which needed further investigation.”

The advantages, says Dr Galvosas, would be significant. “Current scanning systems carry some risk—we are aiming to develop a machine which is an alternative to X-ray and to MRI systems that use chemicals for improved imaging contrast which may not be tolerated by all patients.”

Dr Dykstra says a key strength underpins the success the research group is having.

“It is the benefit of a long-standing collaboration between Victoria University and Magritek. Between us, we arguably have the best capability in the world to take MR ideas from concept through to product that is successfully marketed worldwide.”

Craig Holmes, Senior Sector Manager of Manufacturing and Resources at the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, says an additional strength of the Victoria-based research is that it will deliver a competitive advantage to a range of New Zealand businesses.

“The Government is committed to ensuring we invest in purpose-driven research that benefits New Zealand, which is exactly what this work is doing. Firms which supply services and technology to Magritek will benefit from this research by gaining knowledge that will lift their technological capability, and, in turn, increase their international competitiveness,” he says.

For further information, please contact Dr Robin Dykstra, on 021-380 904 or robin.dykstra@vuw.ac.nz

Researchers Look at Rollout of New ICT Achievement Standards in NCEA

04 Dec 2013 - 14:31 in Research

The ICT syllabus was overhauled and new standards introduced into the New Zealand secondary schools in 2011-2013 and this month in IITP Techblog, Sarah Putt summarises two research papers that look at this in detail:The Role of Teachers in Implementing Curriculum Changes by David Thompson, Prof Tim Bell, Dr Peter Andreae and Prof Anthony Robbins, and Adoption of new Computer Science high school standards by New Zealand teachers by David Thompson and Prof Tim Bell.

Dr Peter Andreae (Pondy) is a Senior Lecturer at the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University of Welington.

http://www.techblog.co.nz/608-ResearcherslookatrolloutofnewICTAchievementStandardsinNCEA

Researcher awarded Internet New Zealand grant

08 Apr 2014 - 16:32 in Research

Dr Qiang Fu, from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, has been awarded a $20,000 grant for a project to understand the practical issues on the adoption of Software Defined Networking (SDN), technology that helps network administrators manage network services. Each year InternetNZ grants nearly half a million dollars to individuals and organisations who share its vision of a better world through a better internet.

High Value Manufacturing and Services Research Fund Success

25 Sep 2012 - 13:36 in Research

School of ECS senior lecturer Dr Robin Dykstra and his VUW colleagues Dr Petrik Galvosas (SCPS) and Dr Paul Teal (ECS) were awarded a grant of $880,000 per annum for 4 years from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's 2012 science investment round, the High Value Manufacturing and Services Research Fund. The grant will be used to support research in the field of Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR). This research will also be a collaboration with Massey University, New Zealand high-tech export company Magritek Ltd, and RWTH Aachen University in Germany.

The aim of the research is to progress nuclear magnetic resonance measurement science, analysis methods, magnet design and NMR electronic engineering. It is expected to lead to new hybrid analysis tools that will enhance process efficiency and quality, and the development of new export products in the core analysis, industrial processing, medical diagnostics, and pharmaceutical industries. Growth in these sectors will have significant benefits for associated New Zealand businesses.

The research will have four main areas of focus. The first is chemical spectroscopy, with the aim of making NMR spectroscopy more accessible to general chemists for routine measurement, and also developing the capacity for online chemical processing. The second is rock-core analysis, improving measurement and analysis for the oil/gas and geothermal industries. The third area is cancerous tissue detection, through development of NMR based hardware and methods that utilise the different morphology of cancerous tissue. The fourth area is Rheo-NMR product enhancement and protein structure determination method, through applying Rheo-NMR hardware and protocols to the measurement of Residual Dipolar Couplings.

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

Victoria and Weta Digital power growth in Wellington

05 Jun 2013 - 09:55 in Research

A new PhD scholarship in computer graphics at Victoria University, established by Weta Digital, will strengthen the drive by the two organisations to develop graduates who can power growth in Wellington’s digital industries.

The Weta scholarship, which covers PhD fees for three years and offers an annual $25,000 stipend, is also expected to provide opportunities for the successful recipient to work on research projects at and with Weta Digital.

Professor Neil Quigley, Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research), says the PhD scholarship is both an exciting opportunity for an individual and an excellent example of the benefits of universities and industry working together.

“Input from Weta Digital, an international leader in its field, helps ensure that the computer graphics programme that we offer is not only academically challenging, but also relevant to what industry needs.”

Weta Digital’s Chief Technology Officer, Sebastian Sylwan, says the PhD scholarship is part of Weta’s commitment to building a strong eco-system in the capital’s entertainment and digital industries.

“For anyone looking for a university where they will be supported to carry out leading-edge Computer Graphics research at the PhD level, a driving factor is the relevance and applicability of the research itself.

“This scholarship will allow someone to do high quality research and have a connection to an international leader in computer graphics.”

Victoria’s computer graphics programme is unique in Australasia in the way it blends computer science and design.

The content is also unique with students investigating a combination of technical and visual innovation that is ideally suited to the needs of New Zealand’s entertainment and digital technologies industries.

Weta Digital, together with other technology companies, has played a key role in developing the specialisation at Victoria, which is now in its second year. To initiate the programme, in 2011, Weta Digital organised a lecture series which brought top computer graphics researchers from leading research labs worldwide to speak at Victoria.

Courses in the computer graphics programme have been taught by staff from Weta Digital and PikPok (formerly Sidhe Interactive).

Computer graphics students have had feedback from staff at Weta Digital about their projects and Weta Digital expects to hire graduates from the programme. PikPok and Unlimited Realities, another digital industry technology leader, are also expected to consider graduates from the programme.

The successful applicant for the scholarship will be supervised by staff at Victoria University and will report regularly to Weta Digital.

Applications for the scholarship are open. To find out more, visit:

http://www.fis.org.nz/BreakOut/vuw/schols.phtml?detail+500707

Visit http://www.computergraphics.ac.nz for more on Victoria’s computer graphics programme.

To read the article posted on the Stuff website, click on the link below:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/8755921/Weta-Digital-offers-scholarship

PhD Position in Affective Robotics

09 Jun 2013 - 12:15 in Research

Open PhD position in Affective Robotics :

Victoria University of Wellington is pleased to announce a full doctorate scholarship to conduct research in analogues of emotion for robotic mapping, localisation and path planning at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand (VUW). VUW is ranked number one in New Zealand for research in the NZ Government Research Exercise 2013.

The PhD scholarship is scheduled to start in October, 2013. Candidates are invited to send an email with a letter expressing their interest for the proposed research and their CV, including full academic transcript, English-language test score and any publications, to the supervisors [Professor Dale Carnegie and Dr Will Browne, Dale.Carnegie@vuw.ac.nz, Will.Browne@vuw.ac.nz].

- Project Description -

The field of affective computing seeks to draw analogues of human emotions for the benefit of artificial systems. This may be in interaction with humans, communication or in decision-making, where the latter is the focus of the proposed research work. Analogues of emotion are to be utilised to develop an autonomous robot for mapping, localisation and path planning when exploring unknown, unfamiliar and/or dynamic environments with the potential application of search and rescue robotics. The work is to be grounded in theory of emotion, e.g. Plutchik, Rolls, Damasio and Darwin.

This position would suit a student who has an interest in autonomous robotics. It is preferred that the candidate have some computer programming, electronics and control systems experience. An interest in psychology is advantageous but not essential. The preferred candidate will have experience in research with supporting journal or conference publications.

Closing date: 10 August 2013

Persistence pays off for Smart City Network Project

24 Feb 2014 - 11:19 in Research

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University of Wellington is part of an international group which has been awarded a prestigious grant funded by the European Union.

The highly sought after Erasmus Mundus grant will allow PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and staff members to share and collaborate on their research by visiting partner universities.

The project theme is a ‘Smart City Network’, and it will be made up of a wide range of smaller individual projects that focus on information and communications technology (ICT). A city can be called ‘smart’ when it uses integrated ICTs to produce sustainable economic development and a high quality of life for its citizens.

Victoria is the sole New Zealand university in the group of 10 institutions from Europe and Australasia. Led by the University of Malaga in Spain, this is the consortium’s third attempt to secure project funding through the Erasmus Mundus grant. The group’s persistence has paid off with €1.188 million ($NZ1.96 million) granted to support the project for three years.

Professor Winston Seah, from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, has worked with the University of Malaga to put together each application and is pleased to see the consortium’s efforts rewarded.

He says the project provides an exciting opportunity for students and staff at the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

“This will benefit the faculty as a whole,” says Professor Seah. “Not only will it allow our students and staff to travel to partner institutions to enrich their studies, it will also mean we benefit from the expertise of visiting researchers who choose to further their work here at Victoria.”

Professor Dale Carnegie, Head of School, is thrilled at the affirmation of the quality of Victoria’s engineering programme. “This provides an exceptional opportunity to increase the collaboration opportunities of our world-class staff and to provide a unique experience for our growing student cohort,” says Professor Carnegie.

The first round of applications will be called for shortly meaning PhD students, post-doctoral researchers and staff members from the 10 partner institutions will have the chance to apply to have their travel expenses covered to continue their research at another university. Professor Seah says there has already been significant interest shown from international scholars keen to further their projects at Victoria.

Making the most of windy Wellington

17 Mar 2014 - 13:33 in Research

Windy Wellington is providing the perfect backdrop for two postgraduate students from Victoria University to research the potential of wind power.

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

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Daniel and Hatem are poised to raise the profile of the group’s work after scooping the only two available sponsorships to attend and present their research at the New Zealand Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition taking place in Wellington in April.

Dr Rayudu is excited two of his group will have a chance to present at the conference.

“It’s a great achievement for both of these scholarships to have gone to Victoria students—it shows we are becoming known as a centre of excellence in renewable energy and particularly wind power.”

Daniel, a PhD student originally from Nigeria, is researching the use of micro-grids in Wellington. A micro-grid is a small scale power generator such as a solar panel or wind turbine that could 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,” says Daniel.

Best Paper at International Conference on Evolutionary Computation

25 Jul 2013 - 11:27 in Research

Congratulations to researcher Muhammad Iqbal and his supervisors Dr Will Browne and Prof Mengjie Zhang on a Best Paper award at a leading International Conference on Evolutionary Computation.

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At the recent Genetic and Evolutionary Computation Conference, GECCO, Amsterdam, July 2013, they were awarded the best paper in the Genetics-based Machine Learning Track. GECCO is an Australian Research Council (ARC) A-rated conference. There were only 13 best papers awarded out of 570 submitted papers from the leading researchers worldwide.

The core idea of the work is to reuse already learnt information to solve increasingly harder problems, which the research team has shown to scale successfully to problems previously unsolved in machine learning. Surprisingly, nearly all other machine learning algorithms restart learning at the start of each new problem. This work introduces evolvable finite state machines into a problem's representation as a way of reusing cyclic building blocks, which are most appropriate for domains requiring repetitive patterns of knowledge. The work produced for the first time compact solutions that could solve any size problems in a number of important domains, such as parity problems.

Evolutionary Computation is a branch of Artificial Intelligence which takes its inspiration from Darwinian ideas of survival of the fittest as multiple solutions are tested and bred with each other until the fittest survive. The research team form part of the Evolutionary Computation Research Group (ECRG), Victoria University of Wellington, which is one of the largest and most successful groups of this type in the world - currently with available doctoral places and scholarships available.


Track: Genetics Based Machine Learning
Extending Scalable Learning Classifier System with Cyclic Graphs to Solve Complex Large-Scale Boolean Problems. Muhammad Iqbal, Will N. Browne, Mengjie Zhang
(muhammad.iqbal@ecs.vuw.ac.nz; will.browne@ecs.vuw.ac.nz; mengjie.zhang@ecs.vuw.ac.nz)

Abstract:
Evolutionary computational techniques have had limited capabilities in solving large-scale problems, due to the large search space demanding large memory and much longer training time. Recently work has begun on automously reusing learnt building blocks of knowledge to scale from low dimensional problems to large-scale ones. An XCS-based classifier system has been shown to be scalable, through the addition of tree-like code fragments, to a limit beyond standard learning classifier systems. Self-modifying cartesian genetic programming (SMCGP) can provide general solutions to a number of problems, but the obtained solutions for large-scale problems are not easily interpretable. A limitation in both techniques is the lack of a cyclic representation, which is inherent in finite state machines. Hence this work introduces a state-machine based encoding scheme into scalable XCS, for the first time, in an attempt to develop a general scalable classifier system producing easily interpretable classifier rules. The proposed system has been tested on four different Boolean problem domains, i.e. even-parity, majority-on, carry, and multiplexer problems. The proposed approach outperformed standard XCS in three of the four problem domains. In addition, the evolved machines provide general solutions to the even-parity and carry problems that are easily interpretable as compared with the solutions obtained using SMCGP.

Internet Scholarship

09 Jun 2013 - 12:20 in Research

Overview

Victoria University is pleased to announce a co-funded PhD scholarship position (approx NZ$35k/year for 3 years) in Software Defined Networks (SDN). The position based at Victoria University will provide research which is of practical benefit to the SDN community and the NZ networking community in particular. This may be via applied research of use and interest to REANNZ, and possibly international research partners like ESnet.

Possible research areas

  • Interdomain SDN (“east-west interface”): how to connect SDN networks in different administrative domains, including BGP alternatives

  • Optimal network design: how to design and test through the use of automated software optimal SDN based network designs based on specified constraints (Eg, number of routes, redundancy of critical links, etc)

  • Migration to SDN: how to migrate common ISP/carrier architectures from non-SDN to SDN (including network management)

  • SDN network management: how to manage an SDN network without needing legacy protocol support (Eg, streaming statistics replacing use of SNMP polling)

Skills

  • Systems/networking software experience preferred

  • Algorithm development including its software implementation

  • Software development experience in C++/Java (python advantageous)

  • Software engineering/test practices such as unit testing

  • SDN/OpenFlow experience advantageous but not necessary

  • Networking protocols (Eg, BGP) advantageous but not necessary

  • Basic familiarity with network architectures and protocols, some exposure to new Future Internet Initiatives like OpenFlow, Named-Data Networking, GENI etc.

  • Strong ability to articulate technical problems and solutions, using various communication mechanisms such as presentations, conference papers etc.

For further information contact Dr Will Browne, will.browne@VUW.ac.nz, who will pass on your details

Innovative Approach to Monitoring Hutt River Toxic Algae

08 Nov 2013 - 15:30 in Research

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Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) and Victoria University are teaming up to trial the use of aerial imagery taken from a small unmanned plane to monitor the amount of toxic algae in the Hutt River this summer. Toxic algae, or cyanobacteria as its scientifically known, has been linked with 11 dog deaths in the river since 2005.

The trial will involve flying the plane (known as an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV) over three sites in the Hutt River and analysing the images taken to see whether toxic algae coverage in the river can be accurately estimated. “If successful this method could be used to complement our weekly measurements of toxic algae cover we collect at swimming spots in the Hutt River over the summer months” says Summer Greenfield, GWRC Senior Environmental Scientist.

This work will add to eight years of toxic algae research in the Hutt catchment, which will be discussed in a series of public science seminars jointly organised by GWRC, Upper Hutt Council, Hutt City Council and Regional Public Health. “We’ve come a long way in our understanding of the toxic algae that have plagued the Hutt River in recent years and we’d like to share what we’ve learnt with users of the Hutt River” Mrs Greenfield says. Scientists from GWRC, Cawthron, Victoria University and GNS Science will share their collective current understanding of what causes toxic algae blooms and how people can keep themselves and their dogs safe.

Three seminars are being held; Mangaroa School on Sunday 17 November, The Dowse Tuesday 19 November and Upper Hutt City Library on Wednesday 20 November.

For more information on the seminars or toxic algae, check out www.gw.govt.nz/toxic-algae

or call GWRC on 496 734

Play it Again: Creating a Playable History of Australasian Digital Games, for Industry, Community and Research Purposes.

11 May 2012 - 11:58 in Research

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An interdisciplinary group of researchers including Ian Welch, Stuart Marshall and Susan Corbett (Commercial Law) from Victoria University have received an $AU 186,000 grant to by write histories of the early digital age, and preserving key artefacts.

‘Play It Again’ is the project of a Flinders-led consortium of researchers concerned with the history and preservation of early software, specifically, locally-written computer games from the 1980s. Digital games make up a significant but little known chapter in the history of the moving image in Australia and New Zealand. Early software houses had a remarkable record of content creation and games were important in acclimatising the public to the then new technology of computers.

Despite this, surprisingly little is known about the history of these local digital game industries, the predecessors of today’s industry which earns billions of dollars a year. To date, digital games have also not enjoyed the care accorded other historic screen based media by national institutions, such as the National Screen and Sound Archive. The turbulence of the games industry – where many companies are short lived and firmly future oriented – partly accounts for why it has not undertaken archiving activities. Enthusiasts play an important role as informal custodians, however, an institutional collection and preservation solution is urgently needed, as without adequate preservation procedures, these digital heritage entities will be lost.

The School of Engineering and Computer Science has been working on the technical aspects of preserving games since being part of the formation of the NZTronix group in 2004. The group was formed by Dr Melanie Swalwell who first started researching the local histories of digital games in 2004, when she was a Lecturer at Victoria University. Concerned about the future prospects of the unique digital game artifacts she discovered, Dr Swalwell involved Ian Welch and Stuart Marshall as well as Susan Corbett from the School of Accounting and Commerical Law in the formation of an interdisciplinary team to research the social, legal and technical aspects of games preservation.

The current project builds upon the successes of this earlier work and involves researchers from VUW, Flinders University, the Australian Centre for the Moving Image, the New Zealand Film Archive, and the Berlin Computerspiele Museum. The Australian Research Council is supporting the project over three years and has provided $AU 186,000 of funding. The team is highly multi-disciplinary, comprising Humanities scholars (Dr Melanie Swalwell, Assoc, Prof Angela Ndalianis, Helen Stuckey), Computer Scientists (Dr Denise de Vries, Dr Ian Welch, Dr Stuart Marshall), an intellectual property lawyer (Susan Corbett), and cultural heritage specialists (Andreas Lange, Dr Winfried Bergmeyer, and staff at ACMI and NZFA). They will undertake a diverse yet integrated plan of work relating to: the history of the local games industries; the collection and preservation of its products and supporting materials; the very important role of fans in this history; and the collecting, policy and preservation challenges such ‘born digital’ items pose for cultural institutions.

Digital preservation is a pressing issue of relevance to a range of areas and disciplines concerned with a digital past and its products. The project directly addresses the challenges that obsolescence of computer software and hardware pose for historic artefacts. The technical team will develop a source code converter so that software written in early dialects of the computer language, Basic, can be translated to the contemporary Java platform. This will make it possible for early games to again be played by the community. Meanwhile, the cultural and historical team will investigate the production and reception histories of early game titles. Much of this work will happen online, with fans, collectors and the general public invited to contribute to a purpose-built Popular Memory Archive.

Apart from the delivery of knowledge about the origins and products of this industry, and making early software accessible once more, the project will help to build capacity in both the academic and cultural sectors in the area of cultural heritage and the ‘born digital’. An international conference will be held on this topic in Melbourne in the second half of 2013. Knowledge transfer workshops will be conducted in Melbourne and Wellington, to share learning from the project with industry professionals.

Contact: ian.welch@vuw.ac.nz or stuart.marshall@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Google Sponsorship

16 Mar 2011 - 08:47 in Research

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science would like to thank Google for the donation of 50 Android mobile phones for student research.

The phones will be used for teaching networked applications courses at 200 and 300 level. Students will learn the basics of app development on the Android phones and then in the final project at 300 level they will create their own location aware geographic enabled Android applications - the choice of the application is up to the students themselves. The phones are Google Android Nexus 1 phones capable of 3G data, GPS and include inertial sensors - the possibilities for students projects are endless.

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.

Finding a passive way to measure Foetal Heartbeats

03 Feb 2009 - 13:57 in Research

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Paul Teal has recently featured in the Dominion for his research on developing a less invasive way of monitoring foetal heart beats. Senior Lecturer Paul Teal says his aim is to find a more passive method of determining the heart beat of infants in the womb than the active method currently used by physicians and midwives.

“A popular method used in New Zealand is the SonicAid, which is a Doppler device that puts an ultrasound pulse into the mother. You can tell what the heart is doing from the change in frequency of the reflected sound.”

Paul says most clinicians believe that Doppler ultrasound is perfectly safe, but anecdotal evidence suggests many mothers don't like this method, as it actively puts energy into their bodies, and many midwives report that babies aren't too keen on it either.

“So I've been looking at a passive way to measure the foetal heart rate. You can do this either by putting electrodes on the mother and then detecting the Electric Cardiogram (ECG) signal, or by listening with microphones, which is what my research has focused on. This is more like using the Pinard – the foetal stethoscope that midwives used before the invention of Doppler ultrasound, but much more reliable and easy to use.”

Paul, who previously worked at Industrial Research Limited (IRL) in Gracefield, has been collaborating with his former colleagues to develop a method of using microphones to separate out the mixture of signals emitted from the womb by using a technique called Blind Source Separation.

“This isolates the foetal heart rate from the mother's heart rate, and the background noise. It's also a more passive method of monitoring that doesn't negatively impact upon either the mother or the baby.”

Paul says he and his IRL counterparts are now working closely with Wellington midwives to collect data from mothers using this less invasive method.

“We've proved the method works in the last few weeks of pregnancy, but we're hopeful that eventually we will be able to use it from when a foetus is 18 weeks. Doppler ultrasound can work from about 12-14 weeks, but the important stages are later in the pregnancy.”

Facebook: Social Cloud Computing

02 Aug 2010 - 16:16 in Research

Kyle Chard and Kris Bubendorfer have recently featured in the IEEE Spectrum Magazine on the development of a "social cloud," which would facilitate the sharing of information, hardware, and services by using the computing resources of a person's online network "friends."

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The researchers say that existing friendships on social media sites like Facebook could provide a reliable framework for long-term, regulated resource sharing. However, social networking would have to be combined with certain market controls like financial payments, social ranking, or credit trading to encourage appropriate behavior in such a setup, they say. Sharing within a network of friends, according to the researchers, could cut down on privacy concerns and certain inefficiencies inherent to conventional cloud computing.

The full article can be accessed at: IEEE Spectrum

Engineering Student's Robotic Bass a YouTube Hit

10 Dec 2012 - 09:31 in Research

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A video clip demonstrating the MechBass robotic bass guitar designed by Victoria engineering student James McVay has attracted nearly 500,000 views on YouTube in just two weeks. The fourth-year student designed and built the robotic bass guitar, which sounds like the traditional instrument but looks like a stack of aluminium extrusions, illuminated circuit boards and a web of cables.

The idea was one of a number offered to Honours students for their full-year research topic and, says James, “it looked like fun”. James’ supervisor Professor Dale Carnegie gave him plenty of room to get creative and the resulting instrument is about one metre wide, 60 centimetres tall and is a full four-string bass guitar.

Being computer-controlled, James says the instrument is not bound by the limitations of a human player. “It can play much faster—it does 60 picks per second—and does other things on the strings a human hand wouldn't be capable of. “But the great thing is that if you weren't looking at it, you would think you were listening to a normal bass guitar.”

It turned out to be a bigger undertaking than James had anticipated—he estimates he has spent at least 1,000 hours working on the project. “There are over 800 bolts in it, lots of cables, and I spent hours designing control boards and laser cutting different designs and 3D printing them to see what worked and what didn’t.” But he’s happy with the result. “It’s quite fascinating to watch all these different components working together and producing good music.”

James and Professor Carnegie will present the project at the Electronics New Zealand Conference in Dunedin later this month.Next year, James plans to continue his studies at Victoria by completing a Master’s degree in Engineering. He will work with Professor Carnegie developing search and rescue robots.

To see James’ invention in action, the link to the YouTube clip is: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UYMnzXQEtw.

Engeering helps little spotted Kiwis

13 May 2013 - 10:49 in Research

New study shows kiwi call in perfect harmony

A group of researchers at Victoria University studying the little spotted kiwi are uncovering surprising results about our national bird’s behaviour.

little spotted kiwi calls monitored by Engineering - Kiwi dating service?

Dr Andrew Digby, Dr Ben Bell and Dr Paul Teal [SECS] have conducted the first ever acoustic study of little spotted kiwi, New Zealand’s second rarest kiwi. Over a period of three years, they measured hundreds of calls made by a population of the birds living at the Zealandia sanctuary, in Wellington.

Their research has found that the kiwi, which live in pairs and are thought to mate for life, call in harmony with each other using a previously unknown form of vocal ‘cooperation’.

Dr Digby says the analysis demonstrates that, in contrast to what has previously been thought, size differences between male and female kiwi are not the sole cause of the differences in the frequency, or pitch, of the calls the birds make.

“Instead, male and female kiwi appear to call for different reasons, with male kiwi using their calls for long-range purposes, such as defending their territory from other kiwi, and female birds using calls for close-range purposes, like staying in contact with their partners.”

The researchers also discovered that male and female little spotted kiwi can synchronise their calls and have complementary call frequencies, meaning that when they call together they are more effective at repelling intruders. This is the first time such cooperation in frequency and time has been reported in bird ‘duets’.

The research has made up the focus of Dr Digby’s PhD, which is using kiwi calls as the basis for revealing more about kiwi behaviour and to help provide new tools for their conservation, and has recently been featured in the world’s leading ornithological journal, Ibis.

He is also investigating whether little spotted kiwi have a call ‘signature’ which can be used for identifying individuals, and is studying kiwi in different locations to see if unique regional dialects are developing.

“Calls are an important part of kiwi conservation since they provide an inexpensive, efficient and non-invasive way to monitor these mysterious birds,” says Dr Digby.

“But, we actually understand very little about why kiwi call, and the calls of most kiwi species have never been studied, so this research is important for helping us gain a better understanding of one of our national icons.”

Research collaboration between Victoria University and Zealandia has taken place over many years, and the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the two organisations in 2011 has established closer links. Areas of research have included native birds such as the little spotted kiwi, the breeding of tuatara and the study of biodiversity restoration and management.

For more information, contact Dr Andrew Digby, phone 021 183 5852 or email andrew.digby@vuw.ac.nz; or Dr Ben Bell, phone (04) 463 5570 or email ben.bell@vuw.ac.nz.

Issued by Victoria University of Wellington Communications & Marketing. Elizabeth Bush-King, Communications Adviser, can be contacted by emailing elizabeth.bush-king@vuw.ac.nz or phoning (04) 463 7458 or 027 563 7458.

Victoria University of Wellington: New Zealand’s most research-intensive university.

ECS Researchers Involved in Google Summer of Code

24 Mar 2009 - 09:56 in Research

Victoria University security researchers are excited to be involved in Google Summer of Code (GSoC) this year. Peter Komisarczuk and Ian Welch currently lead the New Zealand chapter of the Honeynet Project which has been selected as a GSoC mentoring organisation and two of the projects are focused around work from Victoria University.

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Ian and Peter lead a team of post graduate developers at the Network Engineering Research Group at the School of Engineering and Computer Science that are researching and developing client honeypot technology to detect drive-by-downloads and determine web servers that are compromised. Drive-by-downloads have become one of the most used mechanisms through which Internet users machines are compromised. In a drive-by-download a user navigates to a web site, which responds with a web page that includes code that attempts to compromise their computer. For example this may install a key logger program that captures your user names and passwords, or recruits your machine to a botnet that can be used to send spam or launch distributed denial of service attacks against other users on the Internet.

Growing out of Christian Seifert's PhD research, the team from Victoria, along with other volunteer developers, have created several open source systems (Capture-HPC, Capture-BAT and HoneyC) that are used worldwide by researchers and security professionals. The Google Summer of Code projects will develop this software further. The Honeynet proposed projects are available from the Honeynet project GSoC web site. Victoria University researchers also run a scan of the .nz domain to detect compromised web servers and attacks that are based on New Zealand web sites which is sponsored by InternetNZ. This work was recently reported in Computerworld.

Potential students who would like to be part of GSoC and work on the development of client honeypot technology should look at the GSoC FAQs for more information. Applications are made through Google SoC 2009 and opens on the 23rd March and closes on the 3rd April.

The Honeynet project is a largely volunteer run organisation that aims to “learn the tools, tactics and motives involved in computer and network attacks, and share the lessons learned”. The Honeynet Project is an international, non-profit research organization dedicated to improving the security of the Internet at no cost to the public. It was founded in 1999. The New Zealand chapter consists of researchers across New Zealand as well as some members based overseas.

ECS Professor Awarded James Cook Fellowhip

11 Nov 2013 - 12:23 in Research

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Professor James Noble is one of two academics to be awarded a James Cook Fellowship for his research project entitled "Reliable Software Via Patterns and Ownership". His research aims to address software failures by identifying recurring design patterns in the specification of design of software systems. The Fellowship is worth $100,000 plus $10,000 in relevant exenses per annum for two year.

For further details, click on the link below:

http://www.royalsociety.org.nz/programmes/funds/cook-fellowships/news/

ECS PhD Student awarded Sponsorship to Attend 2014 NZ Wind Energy Conference & Exhibition.

11 Dec 2013 - 14:23 in Research

* Daniel Akinyele:
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Daniel Akinyele has been awarded one of two student sponsorships to attend the 2014 NZ Wind Energy Conference and Exhibition, which will be held from the 14th-16th April at Te Papa Tongarewa in Wellington. In addition to presenting his proposal at the conference, Daniel will spend a day at Transpower, meeting staff and learning about the company, and about the electricity market and transmission planning and investment.

Daniel’s proposal focuses on the intergration of wind power into distribution networks in New Zealand from the end-use and wider application perspectives. His research will model and simulate grid-connected micro and commercial-scale generation from residential and commercial premises respectively. It also considers microgrids connected to local grids for city-wide applications, which may also be disconnected from the network and operated independently in the event of a disaster.

New Zealand probably has the most abundant wind energy resource in the world. Harnessing this natural resource for widespread distributed power generation (DPG) in New Zealand will not only provide support to the electrical network, improve the reliability and efficiency of the electricity supply and offer environmental benefits, but also aid the achievement of sustainable and future smart grid and help the government realize its goal of 90% renewable power by 2025.

Daniel holds a National Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering with Distinction from Osun State Polytechnic, Nigeria in 2002. He holds a First Class Degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering from Nigeria’s Premier University, the University of Ibadan in 2008. He attended Loughborough University, UK for his Masters Degree in Renewable Energy Systems Technology, graduating with Distinction in 2010.

He was a Senior Engineer in the renewable energy research group of the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) under the umbrella of the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology, Nigeria. He was responsible for renewable energy systems design and installation. He then joined the Department of Electrical and Information Engineering, Covenant University, Nigeria, as an assistant lecturer, teaching the fundamentals of Electrical Engineering and Network Analysis. He is currently a PhD student in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, Victoria University of Wellington, under the supervision of Dr Ramesh Rayudu.

ECS Mechatronics Group Develops Rescue Robots

09 Apr 2013 - 14:32 in Research

The ECS Mechatronics group, head by Professor Dale Carnegie, has developed a system of robots, called "rubblebots" for use in search and rescue situations. The impetus for the research was the failure of robots to find survivors in the World Trade Centre disaster zone after September 11th 2001. Dale Carnegie explains that robots subsequently developed for search and rescue are just too big and expensive, and are designed to do too much. When searching for survivors after a disaster, the first 48 hours are crucial. The ECS mechatronics group has therefore developed a hierarchical system of robots which are designed to perform specialist tasks, and cover a lot of ground as quickly as possible.

To read the full article which was posted on www.stuff.co.nz on the 4th April, please click on the link below:

http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/unlimited/8223268/Cool-Kiwi-science-Rescue-b

David Pearce Interviewed by VBC Radio

02 Aug 2012 - 09:25 in Research

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School of ECS senior lecturer David Pearce was interviewed (mp3) for VBC Radio recently. VBC is a student radio station run from Victoria University’s Kelburn campus. The interview features a 60 second research seminar followed by a discussion of David’s research.

In the interview, David talks about his 3-year research project on Whiley, a programming language he has developed, and the need to improve programming languages to make then more reliable and more resistant to hacking.

David also explains how he became interested in computer programming, and the advantages of doing a 4 year professional engineering degree through Victoria university of Wellington.

CAPEd crusader addresses online security

26 May 2014 - 10:07 in Research

CAPEd crusader addresses online security

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Professor James Noble

Security breaches are becoming more frequent and serious as our dependence on computer systems increases. Anyone concerned about the security of their data may view Professor James Noble of Victoria University of Wellington as a hero. He has been awarded a Marsden Fund grant to develop a new way of keeping computer systems more secure.

Any program reachable via the Internet will typically have a number of trusted objects (like the core of a web browser) that interact with untrusted objects (like the animation scripts displayed on a web page). A crucial security requirement is to ensure that the trusted parts can’t be compromised by the untrusted parts – viewing a web page should never leak the user’s address book or passwords.

Most current computer systems use security based on “capabilities”. These are unforgeable “keys” that provide access to system services and resources. The problem is that they are scattered throughout the code of programs. Any part of a program that uses an object may (by oversight, error or fraud) hand that object to an untrusted part, particularly where the program has multiple components from different suppliers.

Professor Noble will work with programmers to develop Capability Policies Explicit (CAPE) – capability policies that will explicitly state which objects are trusted, which are untrusted, and which keys can be accessed by which object.

He will also design programming language features that will support component security, meaning that a program will be secure, even when it is being used with other programs in an untrusted environment.

This timely work will make developing secure programs easier and help stop future breaches.

Researchers: Professor James Noble, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140

Email: james.noble@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Victoria part of international bid to understand hearing defects

27 Mar 2013 - 16:43 in Research

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A Victoria University researcher’s investigations into improving the diagnosis and treatment of hearing defects will take a leap forward as a result of winning funding from the European Commission.

Dr Paul Teal, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, is part an international research team that has been awarded €2.9 million (NZ$4.5 million) by the 7th Framework Programme for Research, which funds research and development that creates high quality knowledge.

The team will build a finite element model of the cochlea, a spiral chamber located inside the ear that turns sound vibrations into electrical signals which travel along nerves to the brain and allow us to hear.

Victoria is the only university outside Europe to have a researcher as part of the successful bid. Dr Teal’s inclusion is also exceptional because the Commission, which represents the interests of the entire European Union, usually only pays for collaborators based outside Europe to travel there, but not for their time.

Dr Teal, who receives nearly $188,000 of the funding, was asked to join the team because of his world-leading research into better ways of measuring the cochlear microphonic, which is the electrical signal generated inside the cochlea. His work could lead to the development of new techniques to more accurately assess hearing loss.

The project, which will provide a realistic, three dimensional model of the physics of motion in a working cochlea, involves researchers from six European universities and two European companies, including a team at the world-leading Institute of Sound and Vibration Research at the University of Southampton.

Dr Teal’s input allows electrical components to be added to the model which would otherwise be only mechanical and acoustic. The cochlea project comes under the Virtual Physiological Human (VPH) framework which is developing open source digital data on the entire human body.

Sections of the cochlea have been modelled before but no one has yet developed a complete picture. If the team succeeds, Paul says it will answer a lot of questions. “There is still a lot of dispute about how the cochlea even works. It’s hard to study because of where it is in the body and the complex processes at work.

“The fact that the data will be open source is important. The VPH framework allows observations made in laboratories all over the world to be included and analysed. The models developed as a result of that will ultimately be able to be matched against data about an individual to find out exactly what is taking place with a patient.”

Dr Teal’s research takes advantage of recent advances in electronics to find ways of collecting an electrical signal directly from the cochlea. He says the tests most commonly used to measure hearing loss at the moment are non-invasive and record the sounds the ear produces. “However they don’t define the full spectrum of sounds people hear, and the prescriptions given as a result are based on population averages rather than an individual’s condition.

“My vision is that we will one day be able to hook people up to a device that plays them tones and sounds and gives an automatic read-out on the make-up of the hearing aid they need. “Developing the first, full model of a working cochlea will bring us closer to realising that vision.”

Dr Teal will be working on the project for the next three years.