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Introducing Dionysis Athanasopoulos to the ICT Graduate School

11 Aug 2016 - 15:19 in Achievement

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Name? Dionysis Athanasopoulos.

Born in? Greece.

Education? I received my PhD from the Computer Science & Engineering department of the University of Ioannina in Greece in 2014.

Work? Previously, I worked as a Post-Doc researcher in the Department of Electronics, Information and Bioengineering at Politecnico di Milano in Italy. During my MSc and PhD studies, I worked as an R&D Software Engineer on several large-scale research projects (e.g., EU-funded FP7 ICT IP projects, ‘CHOReOS’ and 'SeaClouds'). I have also taught at several technological institutes and high schools.

Position at VUW? Lecturer in Software Engineering for the ICT Graduate School.

Key research interests?
  • Software engineering, esp., maintenance (software refactoring)
  • Service-oriented & object-oriented architectures
  • Data engineering, esp., service & schema matching
  • Green-aware engineering of service-oriented software
  • Software-as-a-Service architectural model on the cloud
  • Software design principles & patterns.
Why Wellington? Because it is one of the most lively capital cities in the world and Victoria University is among the top universities worldwide.

Favourite movie? Good Will Hunting.

Favourite musician? Andrea Bocelli.

Favourite food? Grand tortellini al tartufo – tortellini with truffles!

Victoria University launches new cyber-security initiatives

03 May 2018 - 11:07 in Research

Staff from Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Engineering and Computer Science are in Samoa this month as part of an initiative to bring cyber-security education to the Pacific and beyond.

The group is installing 10 wireless network points to create a permanent wireless network at the National University of Samoa in Upolu, and will also advise on cyber-security.

“Having these units will open up new learning and teaching opportunities for the University,” Associate Professor Ian Welch says. But he says cyber-security education must be delivered alongside the initiative. “With their new high speed internet connection they are vulnerable to cyber-attacks, which could have devastating economic consequences.”

He and Matt Stevens, Teaching Fellow at the School of Engineering and Computer Science, will run workshops on cryptography—the process of securing online communications—and cyber-security for staff and students at the National University of Samoa.

A group led by School Manager Suzan Hall will also travel to schools in Samoa to teach students and teachers about digital technology. This initiative was first suggested by Assistant Vice-Chancellor (Pasifika) Hon. Luamanuvao Winnie Laban.

“This project will strengthen our relationship with the National University of Samoa,” says Hon. Luamanuvao Winnie Laban. “Along with the other initiatives and partnerships we have in the region, this cyber-security and digital education project is a wonderful opportunity for us to connect with our neighbours in the Pacific and play our part in helping our Pacific region to grow.”

Victoria University have also recently launched a 100-level paper in cyber-security—the first in New Zealand. This paper was developed in conjunction with CyberToa and other industry partners to fill what Associate Professor Welch refers to as a “huge skills-shortage”.

“We worked with industry to develop this paper to give students an understanding of the people, information, and processes behind cyber-security and train the people needed to fill jobs in the cyber-security industry,” says Associate Professor Welch. “We’re excited to see over 400 students studying engineering, information systems, and even a small group from law taking the paper this year, and we look forward to continuing to help our students gain these globally relevant skills.”

These two projects are part of ongoing international work and industry partnerships. Victoria University also offers cyber-security education in Fiji through its partnership with Wellington business CyberToa. Dale Carnegie, Dean of Victoria University’s School of Engineering, helped CyberToa connect with the University of the South Pacific, where they now teach four postgraduate courses.

Chris Ward, co-founder of CyberToa, says, “Our partnership with Victoria University helps us expand our business in the Pacific and improve cyber-security training in that area. In turn, Victoria University has access to some of our international connections.”

One of these international connections is with the Software Engineering Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, one of the world’s leading providers of cyber-security training. Victoria University drew on the expertise gained through this partnership to develop its 100-level paper, as well as working on several joint research projects with Carnegie Mellon.

“Through this partnership we have access to leading researchers, United States funding, and several exciting projects,” Associate Professor Welch says.

A summer to remember: Welcoming our ECS Summer Scholars

14 Nov 2017 - 09:48 in Research

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Students from the School of Engineering and Computer Science will spend the summer working alongside globally-recognised researchers gaining valuable experience in research through Victoria’s Summer Scholars Scheme.

Students are selected for the Scheme based on their academic results, experience in the research area and recommendations from the staff who propose the research projects.

The projects represent a unique opportunity for external organisations, academics and students to work together in research. This year students will be supporting research projects ranging from surveying recent graduates and validating Fitbits to developing an automated inventory tracker for ambulances and finding ways to use virtual reality to assist in healthcare education.

Professor Neil Dodgson, who will be supervising one of the summer projects, says that the Scheme will take students to new and exciting places.

“Research provides our students an opportunity to apply what they’ve learned as undergraduates to work at the cutting edge of knowledge,” he says.

Students will gain a variety of skills, including practical programming experience, data collection and analysis, writing literature reviews, interviewing techniques, learning to use specialised software, and acquiring specialist skills in the laboratory. But what’s more important, says Professor Dodgson, is learning to take a flexible attitude.

“It is a vital step in growing up to realise that there is more to life than just assimilating knowledge and skills that others have: there are places you can go where things are truly new and unknown.

“The nature of research means that successful Summer Scholars need to be adaptable and ask lots of questions of everyone around them,” says Professor Dodgson. “You never know who is going to provide the nugget of knowledge that helps you crack the problem.”

Victoria University awards up to 115 internally-funded Summer Research scholarships and around 150 externally-funded projects over the summer trimester.

Information about 2018/2019 Summer Scholar applications will be available in 2018.

School of Engineering and Computer Science Summer Scholars 2017/18

Brendan Julian
Survey & Interviews of Recent ECS Graduates
Chelsea Miller
Pilot Contamination in 5G Massive MIMO Systems
Benjamin Evans
Evolutionary Machine Learning and Data Mining
Ryan Curry
Study of Industrial IoT applications and use cases in NZ
Mansour Javaher
QoS-aware Web Service Location Allocation
Tao Shi
QoS-aware Web Service Location Allocation
Kathleen Griffin
Automated training of orchestral conducting
Daniel Forbes
Validating Fitbits
Shaun Swan
Microfluidic testbed for plasmonic sensors
Samuel Devese
Lead-free ferroelectrics for tunable capacitors, acoustic transducers and data storage
Benjamin Selwyn-Smith
Virtual Reality Simulation for Healthcare Education
Jordan MacLachlan
Evolutionary machine learning for dynamic vehicle routing problem
Luke Johnson
Evolutionary Feature Selection and Dimensionality Reduction for Large-Scale Classification
Ching Ke
Physiological signal processing
Ikram Singh
Electrical Standards MSL Software and Measurement Systems
Hamish Gibb
Electrical Standards MSL Software and Measurement Systems
Aran Warren
Developing a Motion Sensor
Julian Schurhammer
An automated ambulance critical inventory tracking and alerting system
Janice Chin
Harmonic Scale Development
Dipenenkumar Patel
Analytics Harbour Development
Jonathan Carr
TrafficVis: Visualizing Network Traffic Resilience
Daniel Braithwaite
Transport Network Resilience Proof of Concept
Li Li
Transport Network Resilience Proof of Concept
James Miller
Real time video stitching for live 360 video VR streaming

A year in reflection from Dean of Engineering, Professor Dale Carnegie

21 Dec 2017 - 12:45 in Achievement

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Dean of Engineering, Professor Dale Carnegie, wraps up a busy 2017 and prepares for 2018…

It’s December already (or maybe–finally) and as everything starts to wind down, I’d like to reflect on the past year and look towards the future. It’s certainly been a busy and extremely productive year for the Faculty of Engineering. We have achieved an enormous amount.

First to mention is our tremendous rate of growth. We are New Zealand’s fastest-growing Engineering faculty and we have seen a significant increase in student numbers. I am proud that Victoria University is a place where new ICT/High-tech students want to study.

The thing I enjoy most about being Dean of such a buzzing faculty is seeing the development of students who come to us straight from secondary school, and watching them flourish into well-equipped graduates ready for the real world and all kinds of exciting careers. I am also proud of our exemplary pastoral care programme which provides to support to students when they need it.

Other highlights of the past year include the addition of the Robinson Research Institute into our Faculty and the announcement of the Computational Media Innovation Centre, which will soon grow to a team of 30 students and staff.

On top of this we have been busy supporting exciting developments in our new Cybersecurity and Renewable Energy programmes. These programmes are unique in Australasia and further cement Victoria’s status as the place to study in 2018. We are also seeing the potential for growth in other areas, such as Artificial Intelligence and Robotics. We’ll meet regularly next year to discuss how best to progress these.

None of our achievements would have been possible without the passion, expertise, drive and determination of all of our staff. I would like to personally thank everyone in the Faculty for contributing so much to our success, and congratulate those who have received awards for teaching and/or research, best paper prizes, or distinguished fellowships. There is no doubt our students are getting the best tuition possible, and at the cutting-edge of technology.

After such a full on year, I encourage staff and students to take a well-deserved break over the festive season - and take the opportunity to regroup and refresh for the New Year. So again, thank you everyone. You have made the Faculty of Engineering a fantastic place to work and study. I look forward to seeing you all in the New Year.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Introducing Adrian Pekar to ECS

21 Dec 2017 - 08:52 in Achievement

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Name? Adrian Pekar.

Born in? Kralovsky Chlmec, Slovakia.

Lived in? Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, New Zealand.

First job? Data Centre and Network Function Virtualization Engineer.

Position at VUW? Postdoctoral Research Fellow.

Key research interests? Network Traffic Classification, Management and Engineering, QoS, IPFIX/NetFlow, Software Defined Networking, Data Centre and Network Function Virtualization.

Most looking forward to at VUW? To give and to receive! That is, to share my expertise and knowledge while developing my career.

Where can people find you at VUW? AM407.

Why Wellington? See the quote to live by below!

Favourite movie? The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.

Favourite food? Cabbage soup (Slovak: kapustnica).

Quote to live by? “I rarely end up where I was intending to go, but often I end up somewhere I needed to be” (Douglas Adams).

Postdoctoral Research Fellow: Anuroop Gaddam

20 Dec 2017 - 09:26 in Research

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Born in? India.

Lived in? I lived in Hyderabad, India, before moving to New Zealand in 2006. Since then I have lived in Palmerston North, Auckland and Hamilton.

First job? My first job was straight after finishing my PhD. I worked as a lecturer of Electronics Engineering at the Centre for Engineering and Industrial Design at the Waikato Institute of Technology in Hamilton.

Key research interests? I have broad interests within Smart Sensors, Wireless Sensor Networks, Internet of Things, Activity detection and wellness pattern generation using ad hoc Wireless Sensor Networks, e-Learning - and last but not least - educational game development.

Why Wellington? Wellington is a great place to live and work, with amazing scenery.

When did you begin at Vic? I started as a Postdoctoral Research Fellow in June 2017.

Where can people find you at VUW? EA 107.

Who have you been working with? I am working with Dr Karsten Lundqvist as a member of the e-Learning Research Group within the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

What have you been working on? Creating tools to improve teaching and learning within various cultural settings, including the use of games and gaming methods in education, and especially for engaging Maori/Pasifika students in Computer Science learning.

What have you enjoyed the most so far? Developing culturally-relevant games for Māori/Pasifika students who are still in school. This is because creativity is the foundation of what we do - and it is what makes creating games so exciting. Other than that, a highlight for me has been learning to speak and use Te Reo Māori for research purposes.

What are some of the challenges you have faced? Coming from an Electronics Engineering background, taking up a role in Computer Science was initially a challenge – but surprisingly, what I have learnt is that when you are motivated and push yourself to try something difficult, it becomes a passion rather than a challenge.

What are you looking forward to in the future? I am looking forward to using the latest technology alongside cultural diversity to advance teaching and learning. I would also like to build on my existing skills and continue my involvement in many professional associations.

Farewelling Elf Eldridge

19 Dec 2017 - 11:03 in Achievement

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After years of outstanding service, Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) is sad to be farewelling one of its most well-loved lecturers.

In his time at ECS, Elf Eldridge has amassed an enthusiastic following comprising the students he has taught and nurtured since their first year, as well as being popular with his colleagues.

Elf first joined the School while finishing his PhD in Physics to take up a role in the outreach and pastoral care team. He was instrumental in inspiring high school students to study at ECS, then providing academic support for them when they arrived at university.

In 2015 Elf joined the permanent academic staff as a lecturer, with a unique vision for first-year engineering courses. Since early 2017 he has also served as the first-year programme director.

Elf says his favourite thing about working at ECS has always been students who have an appetite for knowledge, be it for games, programming, videos, machine learning, hacking, robotics—anything!

“First-years, in particular, are just as excited by new technology as I am. While they have a range of abilities, the common thing about them is that they are genuinely interested in learning new things and finding clever solutions to the problems they encounter.”

Elf also says the Faculty’s good sense of humour creates a unique learning environment.

“The students are comfortable enough to ask for help if they need it, but also to laugh it off if they or I make a mistake.”

Head of School Dr Stuart Marshall says Elf will be sorely missed.

“It is regrettably time to say goodbye to an extremely valued member of our School community,” says Dr Marshall. “Elf has been an outstanding and engaging colleague and has contributed highly to our School culture, never afraid to put forward ideas and suggestions for improvement.”

Elf’s ‘Lecturer of the Year’ award from the Victoria University of Wellington Students' Association (VUWSA) in 2016 is also a testament to his commitment to his students and inspiring teaching style, says Dr Marshall.

“Elf won this award for his hard work, dedication and engagement with students, and he is incredibly well-liked by students and staff alike. We wish Elf all the best for the future and reflect on the times we have shared with him.”

Elf also has a busy 2018 planned. He hopes to spend time at the beach, perform in a circus show and tramp in the Andes. He also intends to keep running robotics outreach events and public science outreach.

“That should be enough to keep me busy for the short term!”

A taste of future robotics

14 Dec 2017 - 09:01 in Research

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Did you know that robots can now ‘taste’ as humans do? We do now, thanks to Victoria Honours student Michael Pearson.

Michael’s ENGR 489 project gave robots the ability to mimic a human’s inquisitive nature—a nature which normally enables us to recognise objects much better than artificial systems can.

Robots are an increasingly prevalent part of our society, but they struggle to achieve some tasks which are trivial to humans, says Michael.

“Anecdotally, humans don’t just use vision to recognise objects, so why should robots?” says Michael. “My project explored how we can add more senses to a robot to improve its ability to recognise those objects too.”

In the project, which included machine learning, networking and electronics, Michael created a multi-sensory robot using a low-cost spectrometer to allow basic recognition of objects, such as a cricket ball compared to a nectarine.

Mimicking a human’s sense of taste in this way could be described as using a crude approximation of an artificial ‘mouth’, says Michael.

“When humans taste food we immediately get a sensation of how sweet, sour or perhaps bitter it is. The sensor used in this project is able to crudely detect molecules just like a human's tongue. From this information the sensor can then make a prediction as to what has been scanned.”

This classification system has varied uses, including in the self-checkout aisle of supermarkets if a customer were to weigh and scan other items to receive a cheaper price than their actual product. Michael’s robot can tell a carrot from a cucumber, for example.

The end goal of the project was to improve the accuracy of existing classification systems, says Michael. He used a lot of the knowledge he gained studying at Victoria, especially his 400-level Artificial Intelligence papers, which gave him the understanding of the algorithms necessary for the project. However, it turned out to be a challenge.

“Often there was a lot of learning required before progress could be made.”

The facilities provided by the University were also invaluable, from the software Michael used while studying, to the hardware to run his experiments.

He also has some advice for future students: “Make sure you don’t forget to document all of the small decisions that seem obvious to you. Every aspect of your project is important—and the more you can communicate what you did, the happier you’ll be with your final report.”

Being in Wellington also means Michael is close to several high-profile technology companies, including TradeMe and Xero, which could now feature in his future.

“I’d love to work on embedded systems, with some aspect of machine learning,” he says. “This project has given me so many skills that I hope to use in my future, both personally and professionally.”

Senior Lecturer: Introducing Alvin Valera to ECS

12 Dec 2017 - 09:24 in Research

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Name? Alvin Valera.

Born in? The Philippines.

Lived in? First 24 years in the Philippines and the rest (up until November) in Singapore.

Position at VUW? Senior Lecturer.

Key research interests? Internet of Things (IoT), wireless ad hoc and sensor networks.

Most looking forward to at VUW? Working with students to design and build novel IoT systems.

Where can people find you at VUW? AM 401.

Why Wellington? When I visited Wellington two years back, I was mesmerised by its beautiful harbour.

Favourite movie? Star Wars (Return of the Jedi).

Favourite music? Sailing by Christopher Cross

Favourite food? Lechon - Philippine-style roast pork.

Quote to live by? “A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

Student’s smoking hot idea adds fire to DJ scene

07 Dec 2017 - 09:06 in Research

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A Computer Graphics student has created a fully interactive tool for DJs and artists where a digital smoke simulation reacts to music in real-time.

Jack Purvis’s Honours project looked at the challenge of simulating smoke using computer graphics techniques, and how the effect can be influenced by a dynamic input like music to create an appealing visualisation.

Jack came up with the project himself, combining his passions for computer graphics and music.

“I had built music visualisers in the past, but I wanted a deeper understanding of how audio processing works,” explains Jack. “I designed a program which reads audio from an input device, allowing a livestream of music to be visualised.”

Jack also wanted to learn more about the computer graphics techniques that enable smoke simulation. Fluid dynamics and its associated mathematics can be used to simulate the physical properties of real-world fluids. As smoke is often used as a practical effect in live performances it served as a good candidate for application in a music visualisation.

Properties of music such as the volume level, beats and frequency information can be used to influence the smoke effect to produce a visualisation. The smoke simulation implementation is based on the Navier-Stokes equations, which describe the motion of fluids—like smoke—over time.

“Implementing the smoke simulation showed that I can use my passions to motivate myself to solving a complex engineering problem,” says Jack. “People really enjoyed watching the visualisation, so I received a lot of positive feedback on the final output.”

The tool is ideal for use on screens in clubs or at gigs, or to create music videos.

Jack’s supervisor, Professor Neil Dodgson, helped him design the project and supported him along the way with tips on mathematics, as well as presentation and technical writing skills.

Jack also credits his university courses with providing him with the skills to complete the project, not least the ability to self-manage and implement a large project independently.

“From the Computer Science and Engineering side, I learnt how to solve complex problems by breaking them down into smaller, logical steps,” he says. “From the Design side, I was able to apply my design thinking to create an appealing visual effect that engages the audience.”

Jack’s dream job would to be to combine his skills in computer science and design to build audio-visual experiences for live performance or exhibitions. For now he loves living in Wellington and being a Victoria student where he is exposed to new fields of research and connections with the industry.

“Victoria has many leading researchers who are exploring exciting new technologies,” Jack says. “If you are passionate about a certain topic you can propose your own project idea. A project that is tailored to your own interests is highly motivating and can lead to a highly successful Honours year.”

Teaching Fellow: Introducing Saeed Mirghasemi to ECS

05 Dec 2017 - 10:01 in Research

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Name? Saeed Mirghasemi.

Born in? Tehran, Iran.

Lived in? Iran and NZ.

First job? Electronic designer.

Position at VUW? Teaching Fellow.

Key research interests? Computer vision - Data analysis.

Most looking forward to at VUW? Teaching a lot and learning a lot.

Where can people find you at VUW? My office! EA 108.

Why Wellington? It was an accident, but I am glad I ended up here.

Favourite movie? There is no such a thing as a single favourite movie, but I like Fight Club very much.

Favourite music? Persian traditional. Get a glimpse of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9zy_eureGs

Favourite food? Mirza Ghasemi. See the recipe: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XQzx0XLr2ps

Affirmation to live by? “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world” (Nelson Mandela).

An energy for energy: Welcoming Daniel Burmester back to ECS

25 Oct 2017 - 10:30 in Research

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We are delighted to announce that a former PhD student with a passion for renewable energy has returned to the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) as a lecturer in exactly that subject.

After studying Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering at undergraduate level, Daniel Burmester also completed his doctorate in Renewable Energy Systems at ECS under supervisor Dr Ramesh Rayudu. Renewable energy is energy from a source that is not depleted when used, such as wind or solar power.

While he’s always had a passion for electronics, Daniel’s PhD research focused on creating residential renewable energy systems with the aim of making renewable energy financially viable for homeowners. Now he even lives off the grid with just solar power - and wants to lead the fight against climate change for his daughter’s generation.

“In New Zealand, selling power back to the grid is not economical,” Daniel says. “But if we can break it down to deliver a system that saves people money within a reasonable time frame, it will be an incentive for people to switch to carbon-neutral options to run their homes.”

Daniel credits being awarded a summer scholarship project in his third year with igniting his passion for all things renewable energy, as it was then that his ethics and research interests aligned for the first time, changing the whole focus of his studies.

“The project was to install a micro wind turbine at Victoria - and I enjoyed delving deeper into the subject later when I was awarded a Victoria Doctoral Scholarship to do my PhD,” Daniel says. “Most people know about climate change, but they feel like they can’t make a difference on an individual level.

“To get value for money from a solar installation, the best bet for a homeowner is to use as much of their produced power as possible. The system I worked on shifts around background household appliances to make the most of solar power being produced throughout the day, and to reduce the grid power consumed.”

Daniel later decided he would like to return as a lecturer to continue his research and pass on the knowledge he gained during his PhD, especially as renewable energy is advancing so quickly. There is now the opportunity to reduce New Zealand’s carbon footprint and reduce the power bill for the average home owner at the same time.

“There is just so much happening and so many research avenues in renewable energy,” says Daniel. “In just my first week in my new position I went to Opotiki to discuss solar energy options with local Iwi.

“I’m excited to be involved in research which has a positive effect on New Zealand’s environment and communities, and I’m also passionate about ensuring ECS students continue to have the same great opportunities I did.”

Conference success leads to valuable connections for Victoria

29 Nov 2017 - 09:04 in Research

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Victoria’s Evolutionary Computation Research Group (ECRG), based in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, put on a strong performance at the annual International Conference on Simulated Evolution and Learning (SEAL 2017).

The conference, held at China’s Southern University of Science and Technology (SUSTech) this month, represented an opportunity for Victoria researchers to connect and collaborate with their counterparts from around the world.

Postdoctoral fellow Dr Harith Al-Sahaf and staff members Professor Mengjie Zhang and Dr Bing Xue won the overall Best Paper Award for their contribution on the topic of genetic programming, particularly texture image classification.

“Winning this award shows that the work done at Victoria by the ECRG is new, well-recognised by experts in Evolutionary Computation, and has made a valuable contribution to the field,” says Dr Al-Sahaf.

The first workshop on Evolutionary Optimisation and Learning, held jointly between SUSTech and Victoria, was also successful, with more than 100 conference attendees taking part. Professor Zhang provided an overview of Victoria’s ECRG/Artificial Intelligence (AI) groups, while group members gave presentations on five strategic directions and related research.

During the conference, five ECRG group members each chaired a session in their strength, while Professor Zhang chaired several keynote speeches and tutorials.

“Many people came to talk to us about collaborating on research, or taking up a PhD or postdoctoral position with us, further enhancing Victoria’s reputation,” says Professor Zhang. “Several staff members also established new research collaborations and contacts which are extremely valuable to the University.”

Dr Al-Sahaf also notes the importance of networking to the research field, including attracting funding to explore new research avenues, and collaborating with industry partners to solve real-life problems.

“Networking is a very important factor that allows researchers to share ideas and engage in deeper discussions with authors from around the globe. Having external collaborations shows the exemplary quality of research at Victoria, and allows us to benefit from the experience of other researchers.”

After the conference, group members visited Shenzhen University to seek further collaborations.

Professor Zhang is now in Hanoi to give a keynote speech for IES 2017: The 21st Asia Pacific Symposium on Intelligent and Evolutionary Systems. While in Hanoi he will also visit the Dean and President of Le Quy Don Technical University to discuss research collaborations in AI and security.

Staff from Le Quy Don visited Victoria last year, and will send a student to take a Master’s at the School of Engineering and Computer Science, as well as one or two staff members to do a PhD in AI and security using a Vietnamese Government Scholarship.

Learning to programme: To touch or not to touch?

30 Nov 2017 - 09:43 in Research

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A Computer Science student has explored the potential of using interactive touch tables to teach programming compared to traditional mouse and keyboard versions, fulfilling a long-held aspiration to investigate how people learn best.

Master’s student Ben Selwyn-Smith, who cites a keen interest in education, found that the benefits of the new approach include the ability for multiple users to code at the same time, something which was previously impossible.

For these purposes, a visual, block-based programming language called Tabletop Grace was used, an extension from an existing mouse and keyboard block language called Tiled Grace. Block-based languages, including one called Scratch, have previously been used to teach children how to code, as they provide an easy way to create games and animations with no syntax errors.

“The main motivation behind this project was to combine block-based programming with pair programming, where two people can code at the same time, and also with interactive touch tables,” explains Ben. “Research has shown that each of these is individually worthwhile, but combinations of all three did not exist.”

Previously, pair programming with block languages was typically done either with two individuals sharing one single-user device, or two devices with remote collaboration, whereas using an interactive touch table allows users to collaborate from the same location.

“This project is great in that I got to combine software development and design with research, including experience in conducting that research, formal presentations and software demonstrations,” Ben continues. “I now feel much more prepared for future endeavours—if I decide to pursue a career in programming or research I have a good grounding in both.”

Ben also enjoyed working with his two supervisors from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science: Dr Craig Anslow, with his extensive knowledge of interactive touch tables, and Dr Michael Homer, the creator of Tiled Grace, the block-based language that formed the basis of Ben’s new software, Tabletop Grace.

“Getting to work alongside my supervisors was great, as well as being a collaborator on a paper that was accepted by the Blocks and Beyond 2017 Workshop,” says Ben. “Tabletop Grace was considered to be as usable as Tiled Grace, so the transition to touch tables was successful. Also, 70 percent of participants in my user study said they preferred working on the tabletop, as it was less frustrating and more enjoyable, intuitive and novel.”

Ben credits Victoria’s 24-hour access computer labs with keeping him on task during the project.

“The coolest thing about being an student at Victoria is that if I feel like coming in and doing some work at 4am, I can!” he says. “Also living in Wellington, everything I need is within easy walking distance, which keeps me healthy despite long hours working at a computer.”

“As I did a second major in Japanese at undergraduate level, my dream job would be somewhere where I can combine my language skills with computer science, either here or in Japan.”

A buzz about high tech hives

28 Nov 2017 - 09:24 in Research

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An enterprising Network Engineering student spent his Honours year designing a new way to help beekeepers monitor their hives from a distance.

Reuben Puketapu’s ENGR 489 project, titled Internet-connected beehives, addresses the problems faced by beekeepers with beehives in remote locations, fulfilling his long-term goal to use technology to “make people’s lives easier”.

There is currently a lack of resources to help beekeepers know when their hives require attention, says Reuben, as well as a recent spate of thefts throughout New Zealand that have robbed beekeepers of hard-earned revenue. Honey from hives is one of New Zealand’s main agricultural exports, with over 700,000 registered beehives.

Reuben ‘smart’ beehive solution has internet connectivity and uses sensors to monitor key metrics for the beekeepers. These metrics include tracking colony activity and swarm health, and providing real-time alerts for threats to the hive.

“I wanted to create an entire system to solve the problems that beekeepers are currently facing,” Reuben says. “Because there are so many elements to the system, making everything work in harmony was a challenge. I used all the skills I learnt through my university courses, from Arduino programming in first year to cloud computing in fourth year.”

Reuben used Amazon Web Services (AWS) to make a cloud database and a web application for accessing beehive metrics through a simple interface, supported by AWS Advanced Consulting Partner, API Talent.

He says that he wanted to create something using both the ‘Internet of Things’, where objects are connected to the internet, as well as the ‘cloud’ where the data is stored, as both are cutting-edge technologies.

“I’ve loved the whole experience of this project, especially working with API Talent and learning about AWS which is a massive game-changer at the moment,” says Reuben.

“Learning from the best in the industry really made me understand what it takes to be an engineer. It’s awesome to have experience of the process involved in designing, implementing and evaluating a solution to a real-life problem.

“This experience has inspired me to keep expanding my knowledge, and I’m excited for what’s to come in the technology field.”

Software hackathon hits NZ Cricket Museum’s challenges for six

15 Nov 2017 - 10:10 in Achievement

Software Development Masters students from the Wellington ICT Graduate School are on the way to solving the NZ Cricket Museum’s challenges after a two-day hackathon.

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Master of Software Development students visit the NZ Cricket Museum with Museum Director, Jamie Bell (below left), and work in teams to develop new tech ideas and solutions for the Museum.

If two heads are better than one when solving tricky problems, then 30 heads must surely be even better.

Over Thursday and Friday [November 9–10] the 30 Master of Software Development students, completing a one-year conversion Masters from the Wellington ICT Graduate School, teamed up to solve challenges put forward by the Wellington-based New Zealand Cricket Museum.

The two-day hackathon — essentially a brainstorming session to come up with new technology ideas and solutions — builds on the students’ learnings from their day-to-day studies.

“Hackathons allow students to use what they have just learned to solve real problems in innovative ways. They are given problems and then see how they can solve them using the skills and technologies they have learned”, says Dr Karsten Lundqvist, a Senior Lecturer at Victoria University.

During this hackathon students considered two main issues. Firstly, how to make static displays more dynamic by better linking the items back to the action that made them worth collecting, and also how to streamline the software museums use to manage their collections.

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How do we make static displays more dynamic? Masters students check out objects on display at the NZ Cricket Museum.

“These problems are common to all museums, not just us and not just small museums,” says the NZ Cricket Museum Director, Jamie Bell.

“Museums are about providing context and connection. With our collection being focused on something as dynamic as cricket, we want to find ways to improve the connection between an object that sits in a static museum display and the on-field action that made it worth collecting.

“For example, we have many cricket bats that were used in significant matches — like the one Grant Elliott used to hit New Zealand to a Cricket World Cup final. How do we recreate the hair-on-the-back-of-the-neck feeling from when that bat was used in that moment?”

Jamie also sought the developers’ help for when the items get collected and logged in the museum’s database.

“Most museums use one of three or four collection management systems, but they all have the same issue — they’re too complicated, especially for volunteers or novice students. With about 150 fields available in the software, where most museums will only use a small proportion of these, the breadth of information requested can be daunting.”

Photographs are also important, particularly in an increasingly digital world, Jamie says.

“We need to photograph our items to detail their condition and to make them available for researchers. We’re also increasingly moving our museum experience online so we want to make more of our items publicly accessible via our website.

“But there are currently too many steps between taking a photograph and uploading it. It’s time-consuming and clunky, so I asked the students to find a solution.

“I really like working with students, giving them an opportunity to develop their skills. I like their ability to think laterally,” Jamie says.

Mahuki, Te Papa’s innovation accelerator hub, sponsored the hackathon, which is a part of the students’ study programme. As well as nutritionally fuelling the students — a vital element in a hackathon — Mahuki’s representatives helped assess the viability of the teams’ concepts alongside Jamie Bell at the end of the second day.

After two days of working in teams, devising and designing ideas, the winners were announced.

The winners were team Crickmo, who developed a geo-location app to create an interactive mobile treasure hunt for fans at Wellington’s Basin Reserve.

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The winning team, Crickmo, accept their trophy from NZ Cricket Museum Director, Jamie Bell (above left) and pictured with Mahuki’s Outreach Coordinator, Sulu Fiti (below left). The Hackathon Champ trophy stands in full glory (right) while students present their final concepts to the judges.

Acting Director of the Wellington ICT Graduate School Susan Andersen congratulated the students on their hard work.

“This is a great opportunity for our students to build a Proof of Concept that can then grow into a start-up idea.

“This is where Mahuki can get involved, as afterwards the students can take what they have and apply to be part of the next Mahuki incubator programme, beginning in August 2018.”

NZ Cricket Museum Director Jamie Bell says he was impressed with the concepts and solutions the students put forward.

“All of the teams came up with unique solutions to the problems put to them. Some focused on a core element and developed a simple solution, others created an engaging experience related to the Museum, and some thought laterally to how a concept could fit our brief but develop into a product in its own right.

“It’s been great for the Museum to be part of this hackathon, following on from our burgeoning relationship with Mahuki and some of the teams there. The creativity and skillset these students have shown offers an exciting future for museums, heritage, and storytelling.”

nzcricketmuseum.co.nz

Our 12-month Master of Software Development (MSwDev) is open to anyone with a Bachelor’s degree. This conversion programme has been designed for people from non-information technology disciplines who want to become software developers.

Next intake for MSwDev is July 2018 — June 2019.

Applications for 2018 are open now. Book an advice session to find out more about the programmes we offer.

New Administrator: Introducing Monoa Taepa to ECS

07 Nov 2017 - 10:49 in Research

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Tēnā koutou katoa

Ko Te Arawa, ko Te Ātiawa, ko Ngāti Kahungunu, ko Kōtarani, ko Ngāti Whātua, ko Te Rarawa, ko Te Ātihaunui a Pāpārangi ōku iwi

Ko Hōhepa Taepa, ko Laura Black, ko Aperahama Paraone Kena, ko Meri Mare, ko Keita Te Hira ōku tūpuna

Ko Hōhepa rāua ko Makere ōku mātua

Ko Aperahama Hōhepa tōku tungāne

Ko Kuraimonoa Taepa tōku ingoa

Born in? Ōtaki.

Lived in? Ōtaki, Peka Peka, Waikanae, Timberlea, Kohimarama, Sandringham, Manurewa, Papatoetoe, Wellington.

First job? Chicken, liver and giblet packer at Golden Coast Poultry in Te Horo.

Position at VUW? Administrator.

Where can people find you at VUW? CO343.

Why Wellington? Close to whānau.

Favourite movies? This Way of Life, Peaceful Warrior, Avatar, Inside Out.

Favourite musicians? Maisey Rika and Kenny Dale.

Favourite foods? Mum’s: tītī (mutton bird) with watercress, kumara and pumpkin; lambs fry and bacon with mashed potato and veges.

Affirmation to live by? “All is well in my world” (Louise Hay).

Teaching Fellow: Introducing Kerese Manueli to ECS

02 Nov 2017 - 09:37 in Research

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Name? Kerese Manueli.

Born in? Rotuma, Fiji.

Lived in? Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.

First job? IT/Helpdesk support.

Position at VUW? Teaching Fellow.

Key research interests? ICT for sustainable development.

Most looking forward to at VUW? Supporting students at XMUT/VUW to achieve their academic aspirations.

Where can people find you at VUW? Office EA104.

Why Wellington? It’s got a good blend of nature and urban planning.

Favourite musician? Bob Marley.

Quote to live by? “Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school” (Albert Einstein).

New digital media centre one of first recipients of Government’s Entrepreneurial Universities funding

22 Sep 2017 - 13:12 in Research

A leading member of Japan’s digital media industry is joining Victoria University of Wellington as Director of a new Computational Media Innovation Centre (CMIC).

The Centre will be based in Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering and was today announced by Minister for Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Hon Paul Goldsmith as one of the first three recipients of funding from the Government’s $35 million Entrepreneurial Universities initiative.

The initiative aims to attract world-leading entrepreneurial academics to New Zealand in order to foster cutting-edge research and university-led innovation and entrepreneurship.

CMIC Director Professor Ken Anjyo set up and headed the research and development (R&D) division of OLM Digital, the Tokyo production company famous for the Pokémon movies, as well as for 3D animated feature films.

Professor Anjyo later became the company’s Chief Technology Officer and is now its executive Research and Development adviser. He has contributed to Japan’s digital media industry for many years, including between 2009 and 2014 as a technical committee member of the Computer Entertainment Supplier’s Association, the largest association of Japanese game companies. He is a board member of VFX-JAPAN, the Japanese association of domestic digital production companies, and a member of the Visual Effects Society in the United States.

Professor Mike Wilson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Engineering, says Victoria’s successful application for Entrepreneurial Universities funding and ability to attract an industry figure of Professor Anjyo’s standing are an endorsement of the entrepreneurial spirit already at large at Victoria and of the ground-breaking research into innovative digital media taking place at the University.

“Professor Anjyo will be heading a team that includes some of our many stars in this field, including as Deputy Director Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee,” says Professor Wilson.

“Associate Professor Rhee himself came to us from a strong industry background, at Samsung, and has been conducting pioneering virtual and augmented reality (VR/AR) research that just last week received $1 million for one of its projects from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s latest Endeavour Fund science investment round.”

CMIC will incubate potential startups and industry pipelines to strengthen New Zealand’s computing and media ecosystem, placing it at the forefront of an emerging global digital media market, says Professor Anjyo.

It aims to develop extensive links with a variety of renowned gaming and anime companies and institutes in Japan, the United States and elsewhere, he says.

“Although creativity and artistic skills for creating digital media are important, the core research activities for providing competitive media are based on scientific efforts, including new algorithms, computational models, simulation methods based on computer science, computer vision and computer graphics.

“The Computational Media in our Centre’s name emphasises computing’s significant role in communications and its expression in digital media.

“We will conduct fundamental research in computational science, including computer graphics, computer vision, machine learning and applied mathematics, in response to industry needs. We will apply our research to new and existing digital media technologies. And we will ensure technology transfer from research to industry to strengthen New Zealand’s capability in interactive media such as virtual reality/augmented reality, as well as films and computer games.”

Also joining CMIC, as Executive Adviser, is James Foley, internationally respected as a computer science and graphics pioneer, and Professor in the School of Interactive Computing at Georgia Institute of Technology in the United States.

In 2007, Professor Foley received a lifetime achievement award from the Association for Computing Machinery, the world’s largest educational and scientific computing society, with his citation saying: “It is difficult to think of anyone who had a larger role in the institutionalisation of HCI [human-computer interaction] as a discipline.”

He is a member of the United States National Academy of Engineering; a former chairman of the Computing Research Association, an organisation of more than 200 computer science and computer engineering university departments, professional societies and industrial research laboratories; and a former chairman and chief executive of the Mitsubishi Electric Information Technology Center America, where he led corporate research and development across four laboratories.

The programme to establish Victoria’s Computational Media Innovation Centre will begin in January 2018, with the Centre opening in June 2018.

It will complement the activities of the recently launched Victoria University of Wellington Miramar Creative Centre, which offers students the opportunity to gain unprecedented insights into the inner workings of the creative industries and interact with world-leading practitioners in the heart of Wellington’s film and digital media industry.

Together, the Centres confirm ‘Spearheading our digital futures’ and ‘Cultivating creative capital’ as two of Victoria’s areas of academic strength and distinctiveness.

New $29 million funding fuels hybrid-electric jet engine and other research projects

14 Sep 2017 - 09:05 in Research

Development of technology to help build the world’s first hybrid-electric passenger jet plane is among Victoria University of Wellington projects to receive nearly $29 million in the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment's 2017 Endeavour Fund.

Five Victoria projects have been successful in this year’s science investment round, announced this morning by Science and Innovation Minister Hon Paul Goldsmith.

Dr Rod Badcock from Victoria’s Robinson Research Institute is leading the jet plane project, which was awarded $6.3 million over five years.

The Institute is an international leader in the field of superconductivity—a key mechanism needed to develop cleaner aviation technologies, says Dr Badcock.

“Electric planes pose a big challenge as they will require very high-power propulsion systems which are subject to stringent weight constraints. Existing electrical machines are simply too heavy. The only feasible approach is high-torque, high-speed machines that employ high temperature superconductors.

“We’re planning to develop a motor for a Boeing 737-sized passenger plane. This will use an electric drive-train to connect high-speed electric motors with a fuel-powered generator running at maximum efficiency. A superconducting motor will deliver the all-important power-to-weight ratio.

Dr Badcock and his team will collaborate with experts in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan. “Flying is the most climate-intensive form of transport,” he says. “It’s important that a clean alternative is found—and fast. It would have a huge economic impact not only for New Zealand but around the world.”

Professor Colin Wilson from Victoria’s School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences is leading an $8.2 million five-year multi-institution consortium programme that aims to reduce the uncertainty around future supervolcano eruptions.

“Unlike normal-sized volcano systems, the behaviour, impacts and probabilities of supervolcano eruptions remain poorly understood around the world,” says Professor Wilson.

“Global hype assumes any activity at a supervolcano will lead to catastrophe—however, history and the geological record shows that their impacts can be managed. Our project will develop a new framework for estimating the size, timing and impacts of future unrest or eruptive events, and provide resources to improve education, resilience and decision-making for our communities.”

Dr Simon Hinkley from Victoria’s Ferrier Research Institute is leading a team that has been awarded $6.2 million over five years to generate new compounds for use in products that accelerate bone and tissue repair.

“Current therapies have undesirable side effects, low efficacy, high cost, low biological stability and dubious overall benefit,” explains Dr Hinkley.

“Our project will explore the use of complex sugars called heparan sulfates in producing more effective and rapid tissue regeneration. Heparan sulfate has been shown to be an essential ‘match-maker’ in coordinating growth factors that mediate the repair processes. With our partners at the University of Otago and in Singapore, we will build on our current research activities to develop materials that assist in tissue repair processes.”

Professor Tim Naish from Victoria’s Antarctic Research Centre is leading a project that will receive $7.1 million over five years to develop a national set of sea-level rise estimates.

Professor Naish says there is currently a number of knowledge gaps that are hampering our ability to anticipate and manage future sea-level rise in New Zealand—including a lack of understanding of the influence of vertical land movements and changes in sea-surface height.

“A team of leading experts will aim to address these knowledge gaps, and to generate a set of probabilistic sea-level rise scenarios. This will improve our assessment of the physical impacts and risks of increased coastal flooding and rising groundwater levels.”

In addition to the four successfully funded research programmes, Associate Professor Taehyun Rhee from Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering has been awarded Smart Ideas funding worth $1 million.

This three-year project will examine how to capture real-world lighting and reflections in augmented and mixed reality applications.

“Generating realistic representations of the world is essential for the visual effects industry to seamlessly blend virtual objects with real ones—but doing this accurately is very challenging,” says Associate Professor Rhee.

“We propose a novel method of automatically producing real-world lighting using what is called image-space analysis. Our project will ensure far more realistic visual output in immersive augmented and mixed reality and will vastly improve the visual quality for interactive applications including computer games, virtual simulation and training.”

Victoria’s performance in this year’s Endeavour Fund represents 12 percent of the total $248 million awarded to 68 projects from 17 universities, research institutes and other organisations.

“This is a stunning result for Victoria and testament to the quality of our science and technology at New Zealand’s number one-ranked university for research excellence,” says Professor Mike Wilson, Pro-Vice-Chancellor for the Faculty of Science.

Professor Kate McGrath, Vice-Provost (Research), says the result reflects the exceptional leadership of Victoria's researchers in the scholarly community and beyond.

“Our researchers are utilising an expanding base of fundamental science and engineering to create valuable solutions to global problems and to boost high-value manufacturing in New Zealand.”

More information on the 2017 Endeavour Fund can be found at: http://www.mbie.govt.nz/info-services/science-innovation/investment-funding/current-funding/2017-endeavour-round

Victoria students compete at New Zealand Cyber Security Challenge

02 Aug 2017 - 08:18 in Event

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L-R: Liam Dennis, Jack Moran and Tom Clark

Three students from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science recently travelled to Hamilton to compete in the 2017 New Zealand Cyber Security Challenge.

The challenge saw 150 top students from around the country invited to compete in three stages—hacking into programs, grappling with policy-based problems, and securing at risk systems.

Third-year Software Engineering student, Liam Dennis, says the event was a valuable opportunity to gain some hands-on training.

“Cyber Security is a fascinating topic, and being part of a team and working together to solve problems and crack codes was rewarding and satisfying, especially in the moments when our toil proved fruitful and we completed a stage.”

Also competing at the event were Network Engineering students, Jack Moran and Tom Clark, who both plan to work in the Cyber Security industry after graduating.

Tom says, “The whole event was great, but the last round of war games with 5 teams defending their systems against industry testers was awesome to see. It’s definitely an industry I want to be in. I'm aiming to do ‘Red Teaming’, and even create new security products to help secure private and public systems.”

Jack adds, “What we’ve learnt at Victoria, about networks, security, and programming languages gave us the skills we needed to compete in the challenges. Cyber Security is a really interesting area; one of my passions is finding flaws in the technology we rely on every day and demonstrating the potential that they have to damage our infrastructure.”

Head of School, Dr Stuart Marshall, says Cyber Security is an area of rapidly increasing interest and potential for students.

“Recent reports have estimated a shortfall of more than a million trained cyber security experts in the coming years. That’s a significant challenge for the world as we become more connected and the internet of things becomes ever more present there is a need to protect those systems, and that information.

“We teach Cyber Security throughout our degrees, and we’re looking at ways to increase that further to ensure that our students are well placed to take up those opportunities when they graduate.”

The event had high-profile guests, including Andrew Hampton, Director of the Government Communications Security Bureau, who spoke to the students about the rising demand for students with cyber security skills, and representatives from Interpol, the world’s largest international police organisation with 190 member countries.

Victoria students vying for national title in IT Challenge

30 Jun 2017 - 10:27 in Achievement

In between studying and sitting exams, eight students are preparing to take on other tertiary students in the annual National MYOB IT Challenge in Auckland next week.

The students represent the two winning teams of the preliminary round at Victoria run by cloud-based business solution provider MYOB.

The preliminary competition for Victoria students in May gave teams five days to develop a technology solution to a real-world business problem. Each team then presented their solution and business plans to a panel of judges from MYOB and professional services firm PricewaterhouseCoopers.

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L-R: Nanda, Liam, Mona and Adiraj

Team ‘Mind Me’ shared the top honours after impressing judges by developing a virtual reality assistant. The assistant is designed to help people navigate cloud-based accounting software by providing advice and answering questions from the software’s users.

‘Mind Me’ consists of third-year Engineering students Liam Dennis, Mona Ruan, Adiraj Gupta and Nanda Hibatullah.

Liam says the challenge demanded a range of skills including coding, business, marketing and presenting, in addition to their shared engineering background.

“You need to have a good skills across the board and everyone in the team was able to bring something different, like Mona for example, who was able to pitch the team’s concept to her employer as part of market validation.”

Liam and Adiraj are both also studying a Bachelor of Commerce and as well as contributing business knowledge, they had the extra advantage of being in the winning team of last year’s national competition.


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L-R: Nikkitesh, Dipen, Fatemah and Michael

The other winning team from Victoria ‘Team IV & CO’ comprises Bachelor of Commerce students Michael Kotlyar, Fatemeh Saleh and Nikkitesh Gurnani, and Software Engineering student Dipen Patel.

‘Team IV & CO’ secured their spot at the national final by designing an app called ‘MYOB Recruit’ that streamlines the recruitment process for small to medium businesses.

Michael says the app fills a gap in the market by being an “all-in-one app that organises finding the applicants, completing forms and finalising the contract”.

The app makes the hiring process easier, quicker and cheaper as businesses would no longer have to use multiple services.

Michael adds there’s still work to do ahead of nationals as they need to develop their prototype, refine their business plan and practise their presentation ahead of the finals.

Both teams are being flown to Auckland to compete in the national final against teams from University of Auckland, AUT and University of Canterbury, each hoping to pocket some of the $5,000 prize money.

Wellington scientists getting hybrid planes off the ground

26 Jun 2017 - 15:27 in Achievement

A team of Victoria University of Wellington researchers is hoping to use their technology to help build the world’s first hybrid-electric jet plane.

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Victoria’s Robinson Research Institute is an international leader in the field of superconductivity—a key mechanism needed to develop cleaner aviation technologies, says principal engineer and Deputy Director Dr Rod Badcock.

“Flying is the most climate-intensive form of transport and contributes hugely to global warming. Emissions from planes have grown by 75 percent since 1990, double the rate of other sectors of the economy. It’s important that a cleaner alternative is found—and fast.

“Electric vehicles have been around for a long time. However, electric planes pose a bigger challenge as they will require very high-power propulsion systems which are subject to stringent weight constraints. Existing electrical machines are simply too heavy.

“The only feasible approach is high-torque, high-speed machines that employ high temperature superconductors.”

The Institute’s international reputation for superconductor science and engineering has caught the eye of NASA and the United States Air Force, which are part of global efforts to develop the world’s first hybrid-electric jet plane.

Three researchers from the Institute have been invited to talk to a NASA special session in Wisconsin next month, about the development of electric aircraft using superconducting technology. Two members of the Institute have been part of the team working on NASA’s Electric Aircraft Technology Roadmap.

A hybrid-electric aircraft would increase aircraft fuel efficiency by more than 33 percent over today’s jet engines, by employing high-speed electric motors to drive aerodynamically optimised turbo-fans.

“We’d like to take our technology to the next step, and develop a motor for a Boeing 737-sized passenger plane. This will use an electric drive-train to connect high-speed electric motors with a fuel-powered generator running at maximum efficiency. A superconducting motor will deliver the all-important power-to-weight ratio,” says Dr Badcock.

“We have collaborations with experts in the United States, United Kingdom and Japan. We’re all using our knowledge and technology to make it a reality.”

Dr Badcock works at Victoria’s Lower Hutt-based Robinson Research Centre alongside a skilled team of engineers and applied physicists, which includes Drs Chris Bumby, Simon Granville, Zhenan Jiang and Stuart Wimbush.

The Institute’s work on high temperature superconductors has also led to a myriad of other potential applications, including high-speed trains, large wind generators, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) systems.

Helping to build the world’s first hybrid-electric jet plane would have a considerable impact on the New Zealand economy, says Dr Badcock.

“New Zealand depends on aviation. Whether we’re exporting high-value products to the world, or welcoming tourists to our shores, we rely on airlines to serve us. International restrictions on air travel would have a devastating effect.

“Furthermore, New Zealand must implement a step-change in fuel efficiency to maintain emission levels promised in the Paris Agreement—a 30 percent improvement in aircraft efficiencies is required by 2035. This would help protect our growing international tourism industry that brings $12 billion into the economy, and save New Zealand $276 million a year in fuel.

“Developing new, cleaner aviation technology is a demanding goal, but it offers potentially transformative outcomes for New Zealand. There are opportunities for local companies to contribute to and earn from this pressing global problem, including the growth of a new export market that manufactures specialised pieces of machinery.”

Local start-up’s valuable Victoria connections

22 Jun 2017 - 13:10 in Alumni

A local start-up is praising Victoria University of Wellington’s Software Engineering programme for delivering hard-to-find job candidates.

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L-R: Victoria University alumni Stephen Nelson, Tim Jones and Luke Inkster at Montoux.

Montoux offers software that provides insights into life insurance companies’ products, pricing and profitability. The fast-growing Wellington-based business has clients in New Zealand and Australia.

Dr Stephen Nelson was hired at Montoux as a software engineer fresh after his graduation from Victoria in 2012.

Stephen completed a Bachelor of Science with Honours, and a PhD in Computer Science.

“When I was job hunting I had a few different offers but decided on Montoux because it was a start-up. That was attractive to me,” he says.

Stephen joined co-founder Gert Verhoog and fellow Victoria alumni Simon Doherty in a small office in Lyall Bay. Montoux’s development team has since grown to eight developers and the team has moved to the central city.

“At the start, it was really an idea. Gert had developed a prototype that they wanted to turn into a product. I spent my first six months creating a web platform that was useable for non-technical people,” says Stephen.

“I’m a full stack developer, which is a relatively rare role in New Zealand. I really like that my job is varied and I get to work on pretty much everything. And now working as team leader I get to contribute even more.”

Stephen isn’t the only Victoria alumni at Montoux. The company currently employs four graduates and one former postdoctoral researcher from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. Another three alumni have moved onto other positions elsewhere.

Montoux is now starting an office in New York, and hiring a software engineer/data scientist to be based there.

“Our connection to the University is very valuable to us. We've employed quite a few Victoria graduates—all positive experiences,” says Gert.

“We hire senior software engineers because of the complexity of the work that we do and technology we work on. It seems to be a big jump from having an undergraduate degree to working on our large systems. This says a lot about the calibre of Victoria graduates.”

This is why Montoux, similarly to companies like Google and Facebook, often hires candidates with postgraduate education.

“The skills students gain through research is important—we apply a lot of research and theory to the problems we solve,” says Stephen. “Our employees learn a lot on the job, whether it’s programming languages or tools.”

Victoria graduates Tim Jones and Luke Inkster agree. They were both hired as software engineers at Montoux in early 2017.

“I’m enjoying the opportunity to be part of a company that’s doing cool things, in an environment that means your work is thorough and has to be constantly critiqued,” says Tim, who is in the process of completing his PhD in Software Engineering.

Luke, who previously worked at Xero, says he really liked the idea of working at a start-up.

“It’s interesting to build things from scratch and to be involved in the development of processes. At this point I still only know a tiny chunk of what the whole company is learning—you really have to apply yourself at Montoux. It’s great.”

Victoria University is home to one of the leading programming languages research groups in the Southern Hemisphere.

Welcoming Fanglue Zhang to Computer Graphics

16 Jun 2017 - 09:56 in Achievement

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) is delighted to welcome Dr Fanglue Zhang who has arrived from China to take up the position of computer graphics lecturer.

Fanglue holds a doctoral degree from Tsinghua University where he subsequently spent two years as a post-doctoral researcher. His research interests include computer graphics, computational photography, and image and video analysis and processing.

“Wellington is a great city with beautiful scenery and friendly people”, says Fanglue. “I hope I can make a valuable contribution to teaching and research at Victoria”.

Professor Neil Dodgson, Director of ECS’s computer graphics programme, is thrilled to welcome Fanglue to the team.

“Fanglue comes to us from the top university in China for science and engineering, and has been publishing in the best research journals for computer graphics for several years”, says Neil. “He brings complementary expertise to the research group and together we expect to do great things!”

It just goes to show

26 May 2017 - 09:14 in Achievement

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Engineering and Computer Science graduates Glen Peek and John Gelbolingo were two of the innovative entrepreneurs who took part in the Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp Final Showcase recently, taking their smart business ideas from the whiteboard to the tech world with the help of Viclink, Victoria’ commercialisation office…

It was the show that had it all—from romance and entertainment, to altruism and humanitarianism—and it was all in the name of helping Victoria graduates to think like entrepreneurs.

The Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp Final Showcase represented the culmination of 12 weeks of intense exploration and discovery by ten teams of Victoria’s most innovative graduates and students, who presented their range of business ideas to a packed audience at the BizDojo in February.

“Each team starts out with an idea that they hope to turn into a business,” explains Emily Grinter, Viclink’s Entrepreneurship Manager, and Programme Manager of the Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp. “Whether they achieve that or not is not actually our primary goal—it’s the learning along the way that is important. We want to grow these young people into entrepreneurs who have the skills to take virtually any idea and work through the process to determine its viability.”

One of those ideas started out as a romantic gesture—“I wanted to find a way to leave messages for my girlfriend to collect around town”—but led Glen Peek to create ‘Stash’, an app that enables people to stash images, videos and text for others to find, anywhere in the world. While investigating different ways to create revenue from his product, Glen landed his first job—for Victoria University—delivering a digital scavenger hunt for students taking part in New Students' Orientation week. Stash is now available for download from Google Play and the App Store.

Also in the tech space, John Gelbolingo from Sweet Tea Interactive introduced his augmented reality app, which he is targeting at the GLAM (Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums) industry. “Museums can use it to engage visitors with their exhibitions, and help them to experience art in a new and different way,” says John. And because the app’s motion capture sensors enable people to virtually ‘try-on’ costumes or garments, the team is approaching New Zealand Fashion Week and the World of Wearable Arts (WOW) to discuss future opportunities to work together.

Wanting to help tertiary students to better manage their money was the initial motivation behind team Blume’s app, ‘Teller’; however, significant market research proved their prototype wasn’t viable. The team has since identified another potential avenue for the product, and is looking at partnering with a financial advisory firm who may use the app to improve the way it engages with its customers (who are also looking to manage their money more successfully).

Team Par’s mentor-matching idea gained ground after their market research survey of 500 mentors found that 40 percent of volunteer mentors were still waiting to be matched with mentees. Par’s programme enables mentoring organisations to manage their recruitment, training, matching and managing processes more quickly and efficiently, so they can stay focused on the people that they are striving to help. Already working with the Primary ITO, among others, they are interested in talking to anyone who has a mentor-matching problem to solve.

Lack of access to sanitary products in New Zealand has been a hot topic in the news for a while now, but team Dignity have used the Bootcamp experience to do something about it. Their business model involves selling corporate subscriptions for businesses to receive regularly deliveries of environmentally-friendly sanitary items—and for every pack bought, another is donated to schools, so that girls won’t have to miss school due to lack of sanitary products. The team has already signed up a number of Wellington businesses who see the service as aligning with their value of corporate social responsibility, while Dignity’s idea has also been picked up in Auckland by the NZ Herald.

Climate change is an issue that, for many, seems just too big to tackle, with no easy way to take meaningful action. Enter team Colibri, whose winning idea from Climathon 2016 is focused on enabling individuals to offset the carbon footprints of their purchases with a small contribution that goes towards local climate change mitigation projects. Given that one third of environmental impact occurs on our plates, the team is now talking with local cafes and restaurants about using the Colibri e-commerce platform to collect those contributions.

Other presentations included: a social gathering platform (FlockIn) to connect exercisers with others to work out with; a 24/7 marketing tool (Maax) which combines human knowledge with external data sources to anticipate which products customers want, and when; a drink straw (Majiic Juice) that flavours the water with fruit juice when sipped through, and a programme (Exchange Link) that enables Kiwi university students to study abroad stress-free.

“The students in this intake have shown really impressive dedication to the programme,” says Emily. “Every single participant has taken advantage of the awesome opportunities that are made possible by our partners and sponsors such as the BizDojo (who allow our teams to pretty much live there while Bootcamp is on), Deloitte Private, Chapman Tripp and 1st Assembly. We simply couldn’t do it without them.”

To find out more about the Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp please contact Emily Sullivan at emily.sullivan@viclink.co.nz

Engineering Dean's List celebrates student success

02 May 2017 - 09:42 in Achievement

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The Faculty of Engineering is pleased to announce that the Dean’s List 2016 has been published.

Introduced in 2011, the Dean's List celebrates academic excellence for students enrolled in an undergraduate degree at Victoria University, with each faculty preparing its own list.

Dean of Engineering, Professor Dale Carnegie, says the Engineering Dean’s List is a way of recognising exemplary student achievement within the Faculty.

“We are very proud of the considerable efforts of our students and congratulate each and every one of them who has been included on the Dean’s List 2016”, says Professor Carnegie.

“The list is a formal, published record of excellence within Victoria University and recognises the hard work, dedication and commitment to academic success that we encourage in all our undergraduate students.

“These students are now well-prepared for further study within the faculty and I am confident that this academic discipline shown early on will lead them into successful careers at the forefront of global technology.”

Engineering: Dean's List 2016

Ade-Simpson, Holly  
Baker, Jaiden  
Barnett, David  
Barnett, Logan  
Bennett, Bryn  
Blair, Riley  
Byrne, Liam  
Campbell, Bob  
Carr, Jonathan  
Chin, Janice  
Chong, Dylan
Clay, Gareth  
Cooper, Davis  
Craighead, Hannah  
Curry, Ryan  
Dennis, Liam  
Diputado, Eric  
Dobbie, David  
Edwards, Tom  
Fuge, Thomas  
Greenwood-Thessman, James  
Hack, David  
Hammond-Blain, Matt  
Hanna, Brady  
Huang, Joely  
Inkster, Luke  
Klapaukh, Benjamin  
Li, Callum  
Liang, Megan  
Libunao, Maria  
Matchett, Matt  
Miller, Chelsea  
Moody, Connor  
Moshi, Ewan  
Muller, Brandon  
Palado, Gabie  
Patel, Divya  
Pearson, Will
Phillips, David
Phillips, Tessa  
Robinson, Jack  
Russell, Ben  
Sanson, Jamie  
Savill, Patrick  
Schurhammer, Julian  
Singh, Harman  
Solomon, Rhaz  
Steffensen, Callen  
Tildesley, Joe
Yang, Rock  
Young, Dan

Postdoctoral Research Fellow vacancy in e-Learning

26 Apr 2017 - 10:25 in Administrative

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand's top ranked research University is seeking to expand its engineering programme. We are a School that prides itself on its collegiality and multidisciplinary collaborations with many of New Zealand's top ranked research clusters. This is an opportunity for you to develop your career at a quality institution in one of the most liveable cities in the world.

We are looking to recruit a Postdoctoral Fellow for a two year fixed term position to provide research support as a member of the newly established e-Learning Research Group within the School of Engineering and Computer Science. The Postdoctoral Fellow will conduct high quality research and develop tools for engaging Māori and Pasifika computer science teaching and learning. New Zealand schools are currently being encouraged to teach computer science topics as part of the curriculum. There is a lack of Māori and Pasifika material in this area and it is expected that the Postdoctoral Fellow will help in the development of engaging and supportive e-Learning tools (ranging from full courses to individual tools) based on Māori and Pasifika cultural concepts.

Preference will be given to candidates with a strong computer science background, particularly in e-Learning who can demonstrate an understanding of te reo Māori me ona tikanga.

Minimum Requirements:

• A PhD in computer science or related discipline such as e-Learning, graphics, games development and/or programming languages will be preferred  
• Proven research and publication track record within areas e-Learning, graphics, games development and/or programming languages over the last five years  
• Excellent written and oral communications skills in English.  
• Demonstrates strong interpersonal skills especially across cultures

For further information on the position contact: Dr Karsten Lundqvist, School of Engineering and Computer Science, at:
karsten.lundqvist@ecs.vuw.ac.nz / Tel : +64 4 463 5233 ext 8018.

Please do not send applications to this email address.

Applications close on Thursday, 18 May 2017.

For more information and to apply online visit http://www.victoria.ac.nz/about/careers/

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

Software engineer wins top student award

10 Apr 2017 - 09:06 in Achievement

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Victoria University of Wellington graduand Jack Robinson has won the Institute of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ) Ray Meyer Medal for Excellence in Student Design.

The 22-year-old was awarded the prize at a ceremony last week for his final year project. His project simplifies the creation of traffic management plans for roadwork sites.

“Whenever a contractor or event organiser would like to conduct work or hold an event on, or near a road they have to complete a Temporary Traffic Management Plan (TTMP). These are ten page documents often with hand drawn diagrams of the site,” says Jack.

“My project moves the whole process online and makes it much easier. Users can specify work sites on a Google Maps-like page and generate a fully contextual work site.”

The Ray Meyer Medal is IPENZ’s top award for students, and aims to encourage a new generation of innovative engineering designers.

The judges said Jack stood out as a clear winner of this award, with a well-presented project that had excellent commercial potential. They also commented on the excellent level of user-testing that Jack had engaged in.

Jack’s project was supervised by Professor Dale Carnegie, Dean of Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science and senior lecturer Dr David Pearce.

“Jack was very motivated from the beginning and worked hard throughout the project,” says Professor Carnegie. “The award is great recognition of the work he has done—one that solves a real world problem. Jack displays all of the qualities we hope to instil in our Engineering graduates.”

Jack, who is now working as a graduate developer at Xero, will graduate with his Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Software Engineering in May.

Huawei 2017 Seeds For The Future Programme

03 Apr 2017 - 11:40 in Achievement

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We are pleased to announce that applications are now open for the Victoria University of Wellington and Huawei 2017 Seeds for the Future Programme.

The programme provides a vital link between classroom learning and the type of real world situations students will face once they enter the workforce. It aims to challenge and inspire students who are considering a future in technology, and to provide an immersive experience of life at one of the world’s leading technology companies.

Up to four recipients from Victoria will be invited to attend this programme in 2017, with preference given to third and fourth year students.

Successful candidates will attend a two week study programme based in Shenzhen, China, spending time at Huawei Headquarters and at its research and development laboratories. They will learn directly from those who are busy creating the next generation of consumer, enterprise, and network technology.

Recipients will also spend a week in Beijing to experience Chinese history, culture and language, and to gain an understanding of New Zealand’s largest trade partner.

As part of the study programme, Huawei will cover in full the cost of recipients' air travel, accommodation, travel insurance, entry visas and all meals. The date for the trip is yet to be confirmed but it will take place in the break in late August/early September 2017.

Please read the background information document and return your Expression of Interest form by 5pm on Sunday 9th April 2017 to Suzan.Hall@vuw.ac.nz

Students keep their eyes on New Zealand's water quality

29 Mar 2017 - 10:43 in Achievement

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A water quality testing device created by third-year Engineering students will be developed for a wider audience after winning a World Wildlife Fund Conservation Innovation Award.

The River Watch Water Testing Device, which provides users with real-time data about the health of their waterways, was developed by students Matthew Hammond-Blain and Aidan Bennett-Reilly in one of their Engineering classes.

The pair began with two water-testing prototypes developed by previous students, and integrated the best of both into one watertight, user-friendly, higher quality device. They also worked alongside fellow team members who created an integrated Android app that can remotely read the data gathered by the device.

Dr James Quilty, a Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computer Science, says both the device and the app are open-source and freely available to the public.

“It’s out there if people around the world want to build on this device. They can take the schematics and source code and make improvements, providing they honour the agreement to return the improvements back to the community.

“It really is citizen science.”

The device was created in collaboration with grassroots citizen science organisation Water Action Initiative New Zealand (WaiNZ), which has worked alongside Victoria Engineering students for five years.

WaiNZ will use the $25,000 WWF prize money to develop the device into something that can be used on a wider scale—both within New Zealand, and around the world.

More information is available at www.wainz.org.nz

Taming tutorials: your secret weapon

21 Mar 2017 - 10:54 in Achievement

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“My name is Howard Lukefahr and I’m a Senior Tutor within Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

My job is to help students do well in their first year Engineering papers and gain admission to second year programmes. To do this, I work with the academics to develop and teach tutorials, labs and review sessions for a range of first year classes. I also offer individual help to anyone who needs it. If I am not busy teaching, I am always available to students who come to see me for help with learning.

University is very different from secondary school. It’s a lot more fun! Instead of memorising facts and equations, you get to really understand how they work, and then use them creatively to design useful devices. It’s certainly challenging, but also very rewarding.

In your college maths and science classes, you probably came across some pretty hard problems. But the exam problems were always the same as the assignment problems and the examples in class. At university, the test and exam problems may use the same concepts as the assignment problems, but they will be quite different. So new students also have to make the transition from remembering solutions to inventing solutions themselves. But once you’ve solved some problems yourself, you’ll really want to solve more – it’s addictive!

We also have some really capable student tutors. These are second, third and fourth year, and postgraduate students, and they have completed the same papers you’ll be taking. You’ll see them in your labs and tutorials, and also around campus. They are a hugely valuable resource to you, so get to know them. University is all about learning as much as you can, so we pick our tutors carefully to maximise your learning. Make use of them!

Another important part of the first year experience at ECS is the evening workshop tutorials. These run twice a week for a few hours each time. Students work on assignments, forming small groups to collaborate if they wish. Help is available for all first year students from multiple tutors, and as a bonus we provide students with snacks and refreshments at these sessions. Generally these tuts are a lot of fun. It’s a great way to catch up with your friends as well as staying on top of the first year workload.

It’s very important for students to get involved with all aspects of academic life as early as possible. Arrange study groups, come to the evening tutorials, and make the most of all the resources available to you, and you’ll hit the ground running. It’s a lot harder to catch up than to stay on top of things, so don’t wait until a small problem becomes a big problem. We are always happy to see students who need help, want to learn more, or just want to chat.

I also work closely with our ECS Pastoral Support Manager, Craig Watterson. If it all gets too much, he is your first port of call and also your most important contact in your first year, so you should get to know him as soon as possible. If you need academic help, he will refer you to me or another one of our tutors. If it’s something else bothering you or one of your friends, he will work with you to find a solution that you are happy with.

Our motto within the Engineering school is “Think it! Plan it! Build it!” This motto of course refers to technology, such as the awesome robots you will be designing in your first year, but it also applies to your academic career: Think about what you want! Plan how to get there! Build the skills and tools you need to do so!

For more info or to have a chat, you can email me at howard.lukefahr@ecs.vuw.ac.nz or visit me in CO261.”

4D visit from South Korean government

07 Mar 2017 - 14:37 in Achievement

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A representative for the South Korean government recently visited Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science to observe research taking place in computer graphics.

Mr Kim Byoung-Gwan, this Prime Minister’s Fellow for Korea, viewed research which is part of a Korea/New Zealand government-funded project, HDI24D: Human-digital content interaction for immersive 4D home entertainment.

The project is a collaboration between Victoria University, the University of Canterbury and three Korean universities: Ewha Women’s University, Hongik University and Korea University.

The research is to develop techniques for novel home entertainment using mixed reality technology, to provide immersive visualisation and tangible interaction between viewers and digital content.

The New Zealand part of the project is led by Dr Taehyun Rhee, director of Victoria’s Computer Graphics Laboratory. His research focus is on perception-based rendering, specifically lighting and composition that allows seamless incorporation of computer-generated objects into live video. He is also investigating ways to reduce visual discomfort in users wearing virtual reality headsets.

Mr Kim, who has extensive commercial experience with computer graphics techniques, trialled one of Dr Rhee’s demonstrations of real and computer-generated objects. When asked which were computer-generated, he was impressed to find that he was unable to tell the difference.

Computer Graphics Programme Director, Professor Neil Dodgson says, “Dr Rhee’s research is at the cutting edge of computer graphics. Even with the power of modern graphics cards, it is stunningly difficult to get virtual objects embedded in video, in real time, with correct lighting and shading.

“This project exemplifies the sort of international research collaboration that Victoria is so good at. We were delighted to have Mr Kim visit and to have his input on the ongoing work of our collaborative project. We look forward to future successful work in this area between Korea and New Zealand.”

Oscars win for Victoria researcher

27 Feb 2017 - 09:33 in Achievement

Adjunct Associate Professor John Lewis of Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science has won a Science and Technical Award from the Academy® of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, in a pre-Oscars ceremony recognising technical achievement in filmmaking.

John, alongside Weta Digital colleagues Luca Fascione and Iain Matthews, was recognised for the development of the software ‘Facets’.

Facets enables animators to bring live performance facial expressions to animated characters.

The trio designed, engineered and developed the software at Weta Digital for the making of the movie Avatar. It has since been used in many films including The Adventures of Tintin, The Hobbit movies, The BFG and The Planet of the Apes series.

"Avatar introduced the practice of capturing the actor's facial motion at the same time as the body, by using a head-mounted camera and computer vision techniques," says John.

“The actor's motion is then solved into muscle motions, and these muscle motions are replayed on the animated character.

“The system is also engineered to allow artists to easily adjust the animation if needed—something that is not possible with many motion capture approaches.”

18 scientific and technical achievements were recognised at the ceremony in Beverly Hills.

This is John Lewis's second Academy® Award. He was previously awarded for pose space deformation, a technique for flexibly simulating the skin shape of a moving character. The technique has become widely used in movies and games.

Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science offers degrees in collaboration with Victoria’s School of Design, uniting design, computation and mathematics.

The University recently announced the establishment of a new state-of-the-art facility in the heart of Miramar’s film sector, in collaboration with Weta Digital and Miramar Creative Ltd. The Centre will initially be the base for two of Victoria’s Master’s programmes—the Master of Design Technology and the Master of Fine Arts (Creative Practice).

Postdoctoral Fellow: Introducing Hamed Sadeghi to ECS

23 Feb 2017 - 11:53 in Achievement

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Name? Hamed Sadeghi.

Born in? Iran.

Lived in? Iran and Canada.

First job? Tutor at the University of Toronto.

Position at VUW? Postdoctoral Fellow.

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

Key research interests? Machine learning, Deep learning.

Why Wellington? It's a beautiful city!

Favourite movie? 'Hacksaw Ridge'.

Favourite musician? David Garrett.

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

Senior Tutor: Introducing Morgan Atkins to ECS

23 Feb 2017 - 10:36 in Achievement

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Name? Morgan Atkins.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How to rock Orientation 2017

21 Feb 2017 - 12:16 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.victoria.ac.nz/students/new-students/orientation

What now for newbies

03 Feb 2017 - 09:44 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gareth's good thinking about drinking

30 Nov 2016 - 10:52 in Research

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An Honours-year Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering student won’t find his good ideas drying up any time soon. That’s because this year, Gareth Clay built a ‘Bioimpedance Hydration Measurement Device’ that could prove handy for emergency department doctors treating dehydrated patients on the go.

Gareth’s device enables doctors to form an accurate picture of the volume of fluid within a person’s body by measuring their ‘body impedance’, or the resistance and reactance of the body.

The hydration level of a patient is extremely important to the treatment options prescribed, especially on admission in an emergency room setting. Low levels of hydration in patients who are already weak due to sickness or injury can lead to complications that compromise patient health.

“I’ve made a unique device using all the skills I’ve learnt from my university studies”, says Gareth. “It could really help doctors in their day to day work. A lot of people are interested in developing it further”.

The project was proposed by Dr Sapi Mukerji, an emergency department doctor working at Lower Hutt hospital, who contacted Victoria about the potential to collaborate on developing some biomedical products he had been thinking about.

Several clinical techniques already exist to measure the hydration levels of a patient. However, Gareth’s new technique has been praised for being less invasive and less expensive than current commercial bioimpedance devices. His device was also found to be precise to within 1%.

“It’s always nice to have a real world application for a project – it’s really motivating!” says Gareth. “It was easy to see how this device would be helpful to doctors and that made the project all the more appealing and interesting to be part of”.

Gareth has already landed his dream job at Fisher and Paykel Healthcare, which he says was “definitely” helped by the fact that he had developed a medical device at university.

“It was a lot of fun and a great learning experience because it’s the first chance you get as an Engineering student to develop a large project independently”, he says. “It was also a time to refine all my learning, solidify the theory and practise the practical stuff I needed to hit the ground running when I entered the workforce”.

Gareth’s advice to other Honours students is to get as much done as early as possible.

“I put a lot of work into the first trimester, when the workload was easier, and it really paid off”, he says. “It meant I had time for setbacks and to refine my ideas, including actual testing with patients in the final stages of the project.

“The next step in the process is to decide the feasibility of further development - I would love to see a new commercial product on the market as the result of this idea.”

Operation Zombie saves the day

21 Nov 2016 - 10:18 in Research

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A group of enterprising third year Engineering students are the ‘brains’ behind Operation Zombie, a project to develop cutting-edge technology for use in search and rescue training scenarios.

The project was one of several available to students to choose as part of a compulsory year-long project management paper, where students were asked to combine their electronics, software and networking expertise to solve a problem for an external client.

A team comprising Patrick Savill, Layne Small, Callum Gill, Miten Chauhan, Kandice McLean and Marc Laroza created a product for the New Zealand Fire Service’s Urban Search and Rescue team that simulates human behaviours for search and rescue training exercises.

All of the team members are studying Engineering, but as they are pursuing different majors, they each brought something different to the table. The project was called ‘Operation Zombie’ as it is targeted at replacing humans during training operations. Real people cannot be placed in realistically dangerous scenarios for fear of physical harm - and using dummies to simulate these scenarios is currently too expensive.

Patrick, the team’s spokesman, says they were aiming to produce a simple and cheap solution to the problem, by creating a small, self-contained motorised control box that can be operated wirelessly from a website. Instead of using a real person, the motorised box can mimic heat loss from the human body that might occur due to exposure in an emergency situation, as well as providing a realistic rescue scenario where someone is trapped in a river or under rubble. The group’s design was praised for being robust, waterproof and able to be operated at long-range.

“We had to build the hardware, configure the network, and design software to run the web page, so we were able to utilise our team members’ individual skills based on their areas of expertise”, Patrick says. “It was an enjoyable challenge with a tangible result, which is always a bonus”.

Patrick and his teammates found the project a useful platform to practise both ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ skills learnt in class.

“I used what I knew about creating printed circuit boards - equipment that supports electrical components - as well as everything I had learnt about micro-controller coding”, says Patrick. “A happy by-product of the course was getting to practise people-management and communication skills which are so valued by employers”.

The team met some hurdles along the way, including “timing, work falling behind, untested assumptions - and blowing up electronic parts!”

“It was definitely challenging”, says Patrick. “I went in imagining the utopia of a high-functioning team, perfect circumstances and rigid scheduling – but came out the other side with an intimate understanding of Murphy’s Law.”

Patrick says that despite the challenges, the project has definitely added value to his university degree.

“I now realise that the challenging projects are the ones you learn the most from”, he says. “I have learnt far more by making mistakes than I ever could have from easy successes. Now I hope to find a job where I can use my engineering skills and really make a difference in the world”.

And Patrick’s advice to future students?

“No one said Engineering was going to be easy, so to paraphrase American writer Denis Waitley, “Expect the best, plan for the worst, and prepare to be surprised!””

Making sensor of the Internet of Things

09 Nov 2016 - 10:59 in Research

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People like to think of themselves as complex, but compared with things they are all too predictable.

That’s what Winston Seah, Professor of Network Engineering in Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, has found as he leads a team of researchers working on the Internet of Things (IOT).

Currently the area of internet development “the whole world is crazy about,” says Winston, IOT seeks to give everyday and other objects network connectivity so they can send and receive data.

Supported by a three-year $1 million deal with telecommunication giant Huawei New Zealand, one of the aspects of IOT Winston and his team are exploring is how networks might handle the massively increased traffic such functionality would bring.

“It’s already been predicted the numbers are going to exceed human connections by hundreds of thousand times or even a billion. How many smartphones can we carry? Maybe two or three—and that’s a lot. But let’s say my jacket is embedded with sensors that measure my body statistics. It could easily have 100 sensors, each sending data. Multiply that by the number of people in a city. And that’s just one application.”

Then there is the variability of what is being transmitted and when.

“It’s not like the internet in the past where you’re just dealing with human beings’ communications. People are creatures of habit. How we communicate tends to be the same. Whereas machines are so different. And sometimes you just can’t think what kind of data they will send and what kinds of patterns will emerge.”

Winston and his team are also developing individual IOT applications such as land movement sensors that give advance warning of potential landslides, which are being trialled in the Manawatu Gorge near Palmerston North.

With a glint in his eye, Winston ponders other New Zealand sensor candidates, turning the Internet of Things into “the Internet of Sheep, the Internet of Cows, the Internet of Pinot Noir vines…”

ECS lecturers the best

26 Oct 2016 - 11:02 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kittens make game from scratch

06 Oct 2016 - 10:47 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Postdoctoral Fellow: Introducing Harith to ECS

26 Sep 2016 - 09:36 in Research

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Name? Harith Al-Sahaf.

Born in? Lincoln, Christchurch, New Zealand.

Lived in? Iraq (1984-2006), and New Zealand (2006-present).

First job? Yarn machine operator (Iraq), Delicatessen, New World (New Zealand), and Tutor for SWEN304 (VUW).

Position at VUW? Postdoctoral Fellow working with the Evolutionary Computation Research Group.

Most looking forward to at VUW? Joining the team!

Key research interests? Evolutionary Computation and Computer Vision.

Why Wellington? Definitely not for the weather, but absolutely for the friendly people.

Favourite movie? The Message, The Godfather - and almost all comedy movies.

Favourite musician? Lionel Richie, Air Supply, ABBA.

Favourite food? My mum’s.

Quote to live by? “The more you know, the more you realise how much you don’t know – the less you know, the more you think you know”.
- David T. Freeman

Top appointment to head Victoria cybersecurity partner

27 Sep 2016 - 09:57 in Achievement

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Victoria University has welcomed the appointment of NZX Chief Operating Officer Mandy Simpson as head of Cyber Toa, Victoria's partner in developing a centre of excellence to strengthen New Zealand and the Asia-Pacific's resilience against cybercrime and cyberattacks.

“The appointment of someone of Mandy Simpson’s calibre as Chief Executive Officer is further testimony to the quality and impact of Cyber Toa,” said Professor Dale Carnegie, Dean of the University’s Faculty of Engineering.

“A combination of Victoria’s research and teaching excellence, Cyber Toa’s status as one of just 10 certified training partners in the world of the gold-standard Software Engineering Institute (SEI) at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States and Mandy’s extraordinary leadership skills makes for cybersecurity capability and potential unmatched in New Zealand.”

Victoria’s partnership with Cyber Toa, previously the cyber division of Total Risk, includes a new Master of Cybersecurity, with a range of undergraduate degrees also proposed.

In addition, Cyber Toa’s existing SEI-accredited cybersecurity training delivered in association with Victoria is being expanded to eventually include all 42 courses the SEI has available.

Cyber Toa and Victoria will be the only provider in the Southern Hemisphere to offer all the courses, teaching them in Wellington and Auckland, and if demand requires in Australia and other Asia-Pacific countries.

The partnership also sees the establishment of a commercial computer security incident response team, or CSIRT, run by Cyber Toa and based at Victoria’s Kelburn campus, where it will offer proactive and reactive cybersecurity support to businesses and other clients.

Chief Operating Officer at NZX for the past four years, Ms Simpson has held senior roles at the State Services Commission and IT services company Fronde.

Born in Britain but a Wellingtonian since 2006, she has an Executive Master of Public Administration from Victoria’s Australia and New Zealand School of Government and a Master of Arts in Law from the University of Cambridge.

She trained as an accountant at Deloitte in London, specialising in financial investigation, and later spent four years at the London Stock Exchange, initially in market surveillance.

Ms Simpson said: “I’m excited to be joining Cyber Toa in this key growth phase. As the use of technology accelerates in all areas of our business and personal lives, the need for qualified, capable cybersecurity professionals has never been clearer. With Cyber Toa’s world-class expertise, and in partnership with Victoria University, we’ll be able to make a significant difference to our clients’ ability to respond to this growing threat.”

Digital Disruption: A Wellington Case Study

20 Sep 2016 - 11:46 in Event

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The challenges facing Wellington's fast-growing digital industry were explored in a recent seminar hosted by Victoria University.

The event, titled "Digital Disruption: A Wellington Case Study", brought together staff and students from Victoria's Schools of Engineering and Computer Science, and Management, with industry experts and practitioners, who delved into what it takes to thrive in the digital age.

Dr Richard Norman, a co-host of the event, is a senior lecturer in Victoria's School of Management. His research focuses on understanding how people and organisations can adapt to technology change.

"The work environment is changing. Occupations are changing, there are new sectors emerging—such as the cyber security sector—and companies are becoming more agile, with a focus on fast development and fast turnaround", says Dr Norman.

"What is distinctive about this event is that it brought together both the people and the technical sides of business. For companies to be successful they really have to be on top of both. We have had a lot of interest in this event from the local digital industry—it's a good opportunity to share knowledge".

Dr Stuart Marshall, Head of Victoria's School of Engineering and Computer Science, says that the event gave students an important opportunity to hear about the industry many of them will be working in.

"We ran a similar event late last year, which was solely for industry. This year we wanted to open it up to students, so we ran it during class time to make it even more accessible. When students graduate a lot of them will be working in these digitally-focussed companies, and this was a valuable opportunity to hear about what the environment is like".

This year, the speakers were:

- Associate Professor Kris Bubendorfer, Victoria University of Wellington
- Professor Neil Dodgson, Victoria University of Wellington
- Collier Isaacs, Farm IQ
- Ruth McDavitt, Summer of Tech
- Dean Pemberton, Network Startup Resource Center
- Anthony Pratt, Park Road Post Production
- Laura Reitel, Lightning Lab / Creative HG
- Chris Ward, Total Risk / CyberToa
- Dr Ian Welch, Victoria University of Wellington

Victoria alumna helps give Google Maps the green light

31 Aug 2016 - 12:41 in Alumni

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Victoria University of Wellington alumna Anna Friedlander has gone from being a problem-solving, data-driven computer science student, to one of the 57,000 Google employees delivering search-engine functions people can’t imagine living without.

During study for her undergraduate degree at Victoria, Anna was a finalist for Google’s Anita Borg Scholarship, attending a scholars’ retreat at the Google Sydney office.

“I guess it was this experience that got me on the Google Scholars list, but it wasn’t until the second time that I was contacted by a recruiter that I realised it wasn’t a scam and that Google were interested in me,” says Anna, who completed her Master of Computer Science at Victoria in 2013.

Her Master’s research with the radio astronomy group at Victoria focused on developing new methods to automate the process of finding galaxies in astronomical images.

“Data from radio astronomy has one big similarity with other big data today: there is an almost unimaginable amount.

“Radio telescopes produce exabytes of data on hundreds of millions of objects, so automated methods of detection are absolutely crucial. Current methods find bright objects really well, but aren’t as good for finding faint sources, or those that are spread out”.

An exabyte is one billion gigabytes, or 1018 bytes.

After graduating, Anna was offered a position as a software engineer at Google Sydney where she worked in the Geo Monetisation team experimenting with different advertisement formats to optimise their relevance and usefulness.

In mid-2015 Anna transferred to the Google Zurich office where she began working on the book-a-ride (taxi) mode in Google Maps Mobile, a service allowing users to compare ride service options, a project she describes as the highlight of her career to date.

“It’s amazing to know that people in places as diverse as London, Mumbai, New York, Nairobi, Rio, and Wellington have seen and used a function of the app that I helped to develop”.

While the work Anna is doing at Google may be different to her research at Victoria, she says the skills she learnt during her degree have been invaluable to her career.

“Victoria’s focus on working across disciplines and sharing knowledge from those who have different expertise has set me up to work with people who all have different functions across Google.”

18 Aug 2016 - 11:06 in Achievement

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A Victoria University student is helping local high school students learn basic computer science skills through an after-school coding club.

Software Engineering student Mansour Javaher runs weekly sessions for around 30 students in Years 9 and 10 at Wellington College.

“I really enjoy teaching. It’s great to see the students listen and respond to what I have to tell them. I try to make the classroom a friendly atmosphere so they can relax and have fun,” says Mansour.

“I recently moved to Wellington from Iran, and teaching has not only improved my own knowledge in computer science, but it makes me more confident and helps me practise my English language and communication skills. It’s been a great experience.”

In Term 2, Mansour taught the students fundamentals of programming. They’re now developing websites, and next term will learn with Raspberry Pi— mini computers that help with programming projects.

Recently the decision was made to extend sessions to twice a week.

John Barrow, Outreach Coordinator at Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, says Mansour has been an outstanding asset.

“Mansour has taken the lead and has been helping out regularly. His teaching initiatives and efforts have been excellent—we’re very proud of him.”

The students are learning some really great skills, says Wellington College digital technology teacher David Roberts.

“It’s important to show students examples of what different disciplines there are out there and what they can do. And the high amount of interest we’ve received about the club demonstrates the demand for it.”

Photo credit: David Benseman

From grad student to ECS lecturer: Introducing Yi Mei

12 Aug 2016 - 13:47 in Achievement

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Name? Yi Mei.

Born in? Yongxiu, a small town in southern China.

Lived in? I lived in several Chinese cities when I was a student, then I spent two years working in Hong Kong. After that I moved to Melbourne for three years before coming to Wellington last year.

First job? When I was an undergraduate, I worked part-time as a private tutor, just to earn a bit of extra money.

Position at VUW? I’m a Lecturer in Computer Science.

Most looking forward to? Pursuing my academic career goals in such an excellent workplace. It’s always exciting to have opportunities to collaborate on research that can change the world. I’m also looking forward to sharing my knowledge with students – it’s great to see them grow and develop.

Key research interests? I’m really interested in artificial intelligence, machine learning and optimisation. I’m particularly interested in the most challenging problems, such as scheduling and combinatorial optimisation, and how to tackle them using evolutionary computation - a stream of very powerful optimisation techniques. I’m also interested in the human-like machine learning ideas such as reinforcement learning and lifelong machine learning.

Why Wellington? I love New Zealand. Coming from a heavily polluted and dictatorial country, I enjoy the freedom, fresh air and breathtaking scenery here. More importantly, people are so nice! I don’t want to leave after making so many great friends.

Favourite movie? Forrest Gump. It taught me that life is not decided by how you were born, but by how you face it. Everyone has the chance to pursue a happy and fulfilled life.

Favourite musician? A Taiwanese singer called Jay Chou. He is so talented and has created many new musical styles. He is also brave, daring to raise awareness of issues including environmental protection, war and family violence.

Favourite food? Definitely Chinese food - I love Sichuan food!

Quote to live by? I always remind myself: “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?

Gotta Catch Em All: An Insider’s Guide to Pokémon hunting

09 Aug 2016 - 12:41 in Achievement

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Computer Graphics PhD student Kieran Carnegie has walked an extra 50 km a week since the release of Pokémon GO, so he’s the perfect person to share his experiences with other dedicated Pokémon hunters...

“I got into playing Pokémon GO as a mix of nostalgia and the fact that my lab mates were also playing. It’s a social game and running around the university catching Pokémon is a lot of fun.

I’m currently at Level 22. I walk to and from uni, so I hatch a 5 km egg every day, which really helps for getting Experience Points (Exp). I also save my lucky eggs until I have multiple eggs to hatch and then I mass-evolve Pokémon like Pidgeys to gain a massive amount of Exp in 30 minutes.

Pidgeys are useful as they are common, and evolve really easily. Eevees are also really common in Wellington which is nice – they are one of my favourite Pokémon from all those years ago.

In terms of rare Pokémon, a Ninetails got away from me in the Cotton building yesterday! Wandering around Wellington has also been good for nabbing a few other rares: I have hatched a Snorlax, caught an Aerodactyl at the hospital and, after a dead sprint across the university, caught a Charizard on Boyd-Wilson field!

One of the biggest advantages of Pokémon GO is is that it gets gamers outside. According to the in-game tracker, I walk around 50 km each week with it open. You also get to meet all sorts of people while out hunting.

The disadvantages include issues like trespass or people looking at their phones and walking into traffic. I’m not a fan of people spending their entire lives looking at a cellphone screen. Wellington has some amazing walking tracks and you don’t have to be married to your phone for the entire track!

A hardcore Pokémon GO gamer is someone who is willing to walk out of their way to find Pokémon, and who spends long days going for walks to catch Pokémon and long nights taking over gyms when no one else is awake to contest them.

Finally, here are my top tips and tricks for other Pokémon players – you’ll have to be a player to understand them!

  • If you are going to spend money on Pokémon GO, the egg hatchers are the best bet for improving Exp gain and getting rarer Pokémon – just don’t use them on 2 km eggs.
  • Take it easy! The game will be around for a long time and will be rebalanced and modified, so don’t try to do everything at once.
  • Don’t bother with Zubats. Catch Pidgeys, Caterpies and Weedles for mass evolution.
  • Combat Points (CP) values on gym defenders are irrelevant. You can take a gym that is 500CP above you with a type advantage, and 750-1000CP above you if you can time dodges well.
  • Multiple people on the same team can attack a gym at once to make it easier.
  • Team Valor is the best.
  • If you are going to use lures, the Botanical Gardens, Frank Kitts Park and Victoria University all have locations where three PokeStops overlap. These are the best lure spots - lots of people get to use them, and you get to spawn lots more Pokémon.”

All the IT in China

04 Aug 2016 - 15:26 in Achievement

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Two ECS students, Amelia Harris and Keanu Holden, recently went on a whirlwind trip to Beijing Jiaotong University in China to attend an IT Summer School. We asked Amelia to share first-hand her impressions of the trip and the intriguing new culture she discovered...

“Beijing was a totally new experience because I had never been overseas before. The trip from the airport to the university was about an hour, so I was able to take in the different landscape that Beijing had to offer. Adapting to the heat was a challenge as the first day reached 37ºC!

Arriving on the Sunday morning gave me time to adjust to my new surroundings before the two-week programme began on Monday. I stayed in an international dorm with people from outside the course. Luckily, my roommate and I met someone who spoke Chinese, and they showed us the best place to find lunch.

The class included 25 people from more than 10 different countries. Our primary focus was to build an Android application which could record and play back sound, which we did using Android Studio.

We usually had class in the morning, and then in the afternoons we’d sometimes go on fieldtrips. For an authentic cultural experience we went to Beijing Shaolin Wushu School, which is a part of the International Kung Fu Federation. Here we watched some students perform and then we were given a quick lesson of “the most basic Kung Fu”, which proved quite difficult for most of us!

We also visited some technology companies including ChinaSoft and Xiaomi, where we were given tours and the chance to test out the different products for sale.

In my free time, I explored Beijing. I visited the Wangfujing snack street, Houhai lake, Sanlitun, and Wudaokou. The weekends consisted of organised day trips where we visited the main tourist attractions including the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and Jingshan Park, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace.

The whole trip was a very eye-opening experience for me. I learnt a lot from the course and from being immersed in a new and exciting culture.”

For more information and to register your interest for future trips to Beijing Jiaotong University IT Summer School please contact Sharon Gao at xiaoying.gao@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Introducing Karsten Lundqvist to the ICT Graduate School

03 Aug 2016 - 12:16 in Achievement

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Name? Karsten Øster Lundqvist.

Born? Viborg, Denmark.

Lived in? I first lived in various Danish towns and cities for 29 years, then I lived in Norway for a couple of years - and after that I spent 14 years in England, 20 miles west of London.

First job? My very first job was as a kid in an industrial plant which made low-cost furniture. The first job I had that I really liked was as a Research Assistant at the University of Reading.

Position at VUW? I am a Senior Lecturer with the Wellington ICT Graduate School.

Most looking forward to at VUW? Connecting with people, getting stuck into cool research and developing the ICT Graduate School.

Key research interests? I have broad interests within eLearning, but I especially like using AI methods to improve eLearning. I have also worked in Serious Gaming in the past, which is an area I would like to grow more. Many of the things I have worked on recently have been for mobile phones, and I'd like to do more in this field too.

Why Wellington? Shortly after I got married to my wife almost 20 years ago, we discussed places we'd like to live. New Zealand was the top country. San Francisco was our top city in the world. When I came here for my interview, it became clear to me that Wellington is New Zealand’s San Francisco. You just have to substitute the 49'ers - the American Football team in San Francisco - with the Hurricanes and the All Blacks. The decision was actually relatively easy!

Favourite movie? Probably a Danish movie called "The Last Song of Mifune". My favourite English language movie would be "The Shawshank Redemption".

Favourite musician? This is a difficult one. I like many different musicians so it really depends on my mood. It is mostly "loud" though. I most often listen to music like POD, Rage Against the Machine, Rammstein, Dizzy Mizz Lizzy, Pink Floyd, The Cure...

Favourite food? Middle Eastern food. I love lamb!

Quote to live by? "To dare is to lose one's footing momentarily. Not to dare is to lose oneself" - Søren Kierkegaard.

Classes kick off at Wellington ICT Graduate School

26 Jul 2016 - 12:05 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

PHD Scholarships Available in Evolutionary Computation

25 Jul 2016 - 11:07 in Research

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Join our internationally renowned and friendly research team:

- Up to eight funded PhDs (fees + stipend) available 3 times a year, 3yr duration in English, with expert supervision.

Five major EC strategic research directions:

- Feature selection/construction for classification, regression, clustering

- Combinatorial optimisation: scheduling, routing, web services

- Computer vision and image analysis

- Multi- and many- criteria optimisation

- Transfer learning

Techniques include:

- Genetic Programming, Learning Classifier Systems, Particle Swarm Optimisation, Differential Evolution, and many others.

Publish in top journals and conferences:

- Awards include Best Papers in IEEE, TEVC, CEC, GECCO, EVO

About Wellington:

- City voted as ‘Coolest little capital in the World!’

- VUW is the top-rated research university in New Zealand.

Entry requirements:

MSc/ME; GPA >= 3.5/4; research experience/publications

For more information:

- Come and find us after one of our many talks, or apply at: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/fgr/prospective-phds/scholarships

Master of Engineering Scholarship Announced

21 Jul 2016 - 13:36 in Research

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science is offering a full-time Master of Engineering (ME) scholarship (domestic tuition fees plus a 1-year stipend of NZ$20,000) to an excellent candidate to work on the "5G Internet of Things". This scholarship is sponsored by Victoria's Huawei NZ Research Programme and the research will focus on the latest 5G wireless access technologies to support massive IoT connectivity.

The successful candidate is expected to have a good fundamental knowledge of networking, especially in medium access control protocols, random access in 5G networks, and other related topics. Knowledge of theoretical performance analysis techniques, namely queuing theory, is highly desired, and hands-on experience in common network simulation platforms (e.g. OmNet++, QualNet, etc) would be advantageous.

Interested applicants please contact Professor Winston Seah via email attaching your transcripts, publications list and CV. If you are suitable, you will then be provided with the information on how to apply for admission into our ME degree programme. Contact: winston.seah@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Waging war on hackers a daunting arms race

24 Jun 2016 - 13:41 in Research

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The following commentary by Dr Ian Welch from Victoria University's School of Engineering and Computer Science was originally published in the New Zealand Herald on 20 June:

“The Government has released its new defence policy with a budget of $20 billion. The plan covers the next 15 years and in addition to replacing hardware over that time, as you'd expect, it includes the creation of a cyber security system. This is good news—we need a cyber security system, but more importantly, we also need a lot more people learning about cyber security.

Recent US figures point to more than 169 million personal records being exposed in 2015, across the financial, business, education, government and healthcare sectors.

The now infamous Panama Papers represent the world's largest ever data breach, with 11.5 million documents that were stored in the computer systems used by Mossack Fonseca—the law firm that was a primary conduit for world leaders and corporations seeking off-shore tax havens—being leaked.

We might see this particular data breach as a good thing because of the pressure it has placed on governments around the world to address tax havens. However we might not have been so happy to see ordinary individuals' phone records or tax records being stolen and unfortunately the problems that allowed the Panama Papers to be stolen are not unique, they are found in many commercial and government systems.

So, with companies and government organisations responsible for storing so much data, why do such problems exist?

First, it is the nature of software to be insecure. Humans write software so making mistakes and introducing bugs that can be exploited is inevitable.

Second, we don't design the software to fit how humans weigh up risk when making decisions. Most of our rules for decision making are the result of the experiences of our ancestors when they lived in relatively small tribal groups. They have not yet caught up to the environment created by the online world where we have hundreds of friends on Facebook whom we have never met.

One way that these flaws are exploited by attackers is in so-called "drive-by" attacks, where hackers are able to bypass organisational defences, such as firewalls, and directly infect a victim's computer. This might be done by infecting a website known to be visited by the target users. The goal is to exploit both the trust of the users and bugs in their web browsers to install a virus allowing the hacker access to the organisation's network.

At Victoria University, my research group has been looking at this particular problem for the last 10 years, and trying to understand how attackers choose to target vulnerable users. Our goal has been to develop software that can detect infected websites. However this is such a massive problem that it cannot ever be solved by one research group—or even at all. As we develop new defences, attackers develop new attacks, which means we have an ongoing arms race.

The size of this problem means that businesses and government largely lack the expertise and resource to protect themselves. To help address this, the Government recently announced $22.2 million of funding for the establishment of a new national Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) to support customer organisations in dealing with cyber-attacks and cyber-crime. This is a long-overdue step and will see us join a community of over 40 other national CERTs across Europe, Asia and the Americas.

This good start isn't enough. We also need to address major shortfalls in the number of software and network engineers with an understanding of security. Internationally, experts are forecasting a shortage of up to a million trained cyber security professionals in the coming years.

These are not necessarily people whose primary job is to be a security professional but who have studied computer security and can apply this in their day-to-day jobs. We will never remove the bugs but we can make it harder for hackers by having fewer of them in the first place.”

Fully-funded PhD position in 5G mobile networks

20 Jun 2016 - 11:48 in Administrative

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

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

The candidate will conduct research within the following areas:

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

*Resource management (resource block scheduling)

*Cross-layer optimisation

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

Essential criteria:


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

*Strong motivation for developing practical networking solutions

*Good knowledge of computer networks

Desirable criteria:

*Good knowledge of cellular systems

*Good analytical background in modelling and optimisation

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

Third year rocket project blasts off

10 Jun 2016 - 09:08 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Team 'FrontDoor' fronts up at Android Hackathon

17 May 2016 - 09:11 in Achievement

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

What was the Android Hackathon?

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

How did you get involved?

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

What was your team name and why?

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

What happened across the weekend?

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

Tell me about your app.

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

What is the purpose of the app?

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

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

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

Was there a grand prize?

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

What was the whole experience like for you?

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

Would you attend another hackathon like this in the future?

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

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

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

Bringing Google to life at VUW

09 May 2016 - 11:14 in Achievement

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

What is the Google Student Ambassadors programme?

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

Is this a global initiative?

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

What makes a good Google Student Ambassador?

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

How did you get this opportunity?

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

Who is on your team and what do you do?

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

What are the perks of the job?

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

What do you guys hope to achieve this year?

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

What was the ‘Google on Campus’ event?

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

How did it go?

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

And what about the ‘Android Hackathon’ event recently?

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

So what is the AdMob challenge?

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

What other kind of events will you host this year?

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

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

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

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

Just get yourself out there and do it!

ECS Professor Awarded 'Most Influential Paper'

21 Nov 2008 - 16:02 in Achievement

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Hot on the heels of most influential paper award from ASWEC98 earlier this year, James Noble was awarded another Most Influential Paper award, this time from the ACM SIGPLAN International Conference on Object-Oriented Programming, Systems, Languages, and Applications - OOPSLA.

The Most Influential OOPSLA Paper Award is presented annually to the author(s) of a paper presented at the OOPSLA held 10 years prior to the award year. The award includes a prize of $1,000 to be split among the authors of the winning paper. The papers are judged by their influence over the past decade.

OOPSLA is the largest and most prestigious conference in the area of Object-Oriented programming languages. It is CORE A+ rated and has consistent low acceptance rate of around 15%.

Prof Noble received the award for his paper "Ownership Types for Flexible Alias Protection", along with co-authors David G. Clarke and John M. Potter. The citation is as follows:

In their 1998 OOPSLA paper, "Ownership Types for Flexible Protection," David Clark, John Potter, and James Noble introduced the notion of "ownership types" to control inter-object aliasing statically, making it easier to reason about the dynamic topology of an object-oriented program. This work is part of the broader trend of trying to handle issues of isolation and modularity while retaining expressiveness.

More details of the award can be found at http://www.sigplan.org/award-oopsla.htm

Wellington ICT Graduate School #open4bizness

04 May 2016 - 11:12 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.wellingtonictgraduateschool.ac.nz

Cyber security short courses for professionals

04 May 2016 - 09:10 in Event

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A winning visit for international design student

22 Apr 2016 - 10:52 in Achievement

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A visiting PhD student at Victoria University of Wellington has been recognised with an award in a national structural design competition.

Judyta Cichocka spent 14 months at Victoria carrying out research between the Faculty of Architecture and Design and School of Engineering and Computer Science, during which she entered a project in the Art in Structure competition.

Art in Structure, supported by Easysteel, challenges entrants to express their concept of space using metal construction materials in a new way, showcasing the versatility of steel.

Judyta was awarded runner-up in the Emerging Designer category for her design Hiriwa Pavilion.

“My design is an experimental structure which endeavours to reinterpret the function of steel, and uses steel as textile or fabric. The perforated steel plates form a lattice membrane for a small outdoor pavilion,” says Judyta.

“Taking second place in this category is a great distinction for me. The winners were chosen by the public during a pop-up virtual sculpture park in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter earlier this month. Some will be fabricated to a finished product and auctioned to raise money for Ronald McDonald House Charities.”

Judyta travelled to New Zealand from Poland’s Wroclaw University of Technology in December 2014 as part of the Thelxione: Erasmus Euro-Oceanian Smart City Network exchange programme. She carried out interdisciplinary research around architectural design optimisation with evolutionary algorithms, led several workshops in parametric design, and was a member of Victoria’s Evolutionary Computation Research Group.

“My time at Victoria was priceless. I am mainly grateful for my supervisor Dr Will Browne, who taught me a lot and established this fantastic collaboration between the Faculty of Architecture and Design and School of Engineering and Computer Science,” says Judyta.

Judyta, who has now returned to Poland, also worked with Master’s student Zach Challies on a 3D printed eyewear design project, which earned them an honourable mention in the Reshape 15 Wearable Technology competition. Judyta and Zach received the award and presented the project in Rome in October 2015.

http://www.artinstructure.nz/

http://www.youreshape.com/reshape-15-winners/

ECS staff excellence rewarded

30 Mar 2016 - 08:57 in Achievement

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Staff Excellence Awards: (L-R) Vice Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford, Teaching Award winner Dr Ciaran Moore, Provost Professor Wendy Larner.

Two highly-respected academic staff from the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) have been recognised for their outstanding contribution to Victoria University in teaching and research.

In Victoria’s Staff Excellence Awards for 2016, Dr Ciaran Moore received an Early Career Teaching Award and a $5000 grant, while Professor Mengjie Zhang received a Research Excellence Award and a $10,000 grant.

The Awards are designed to acknowledge staff who have gone over and above the call of duty and are also a tangible way of promoting excellence at Victoria.

Dr Moore, a lecturer in electronics and maths, says his teaching responsibilities have included re-designing first-year engineering maths papers, and encouraging peer-led learning among students.

“I delivered a series of labs to show how maths can be used in an engineering context”, he says. “I also organised self-paced labs and student-led tutorials. Students learned a lot from each other and got to see their learning in action”.

Dr Moore’s techniques had a great effect on overall engagement and achievement in his courses. He says it was a “wonderful feeling” to be recognised for his efforts and plans to use the grant to attend an engineering education conference in the United States in October.

Colleague Professor Mengjie Zhang also has plans for his grant. The Professor of Computer Science and Associate Dean (Research and Innovation) for the Faculty of Engineering was recognised for superb research leadership, especially in Evolutionary Computation, including several international awards.

“I will use the money to support staff and students’ research”, says Professor Zhang. “I would like to help more people within our Group and Faculty to play an international leadership role in their areas, and to attract high-quality students from overseas”.

Vice Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford agrees that acknowledging exemplary staff contribution is a crucial step for Victoria.

“In order to achieve our goal of being a world-leading capital city university, we need to ensure we foster and support excellence for the world-leading people across our organisation”, he says.

This year Professor Guilford presented 22 staff excellence awards, including several to teams. He says, “These accolades are testament to the work of all the people who make our capital city university tick”.

New Computer Graphics programme looks to the future

06 Apr 2016 - 11:38 in Achievement

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Victoria University of Wellington has launched a new Computer Graphics programme that will educate students to develop the next generation of tools in a rapidly-growing and in-demand industry.

The first cohort of undergraduate students have started classes for the new Computer Graphics major, offered as part of Victoria's Bachelor of Science degree.

"Our major is focused on providing a deep understanding so that our graduates can develop novel tools and ideas for use in films, games, medicine, simulation and more," says Programme Director Professor Neil Dodgson. "We've recruited a strong team of world-class researchers to teach the programme, and propel our students into future thinking."

Professor Dodgson, former head of the Graphics and Interaction Research Group at the University of Cambridge, moved from the United Kingdom to head the programme.

The content and structure of the programme was developed with input from Weta Digital and other local digital technology companies.

"Computer graphics is an exciting field that offers students an opportunity to explore both the art and science of creating digital imagery," says Joe Letteri, Senior Visual Effects Supervisor at Weta Digital. "We are looking forward to working with a new generation of students and helping them turn their formal training into professional experience."

Wellington has the highest concentration of web-based and digital technology companies in New Zealand. A recent Victoria University report found that more than 20,000 people—or 10 percent of the region's work force—are in digital sector roles.

Professor Dodgson says there has never been a more exciting time to study Computer Graphics.

"There are increasing job opportunities in film, television, gaming, virtual reality and simulation—there are even jobs that don't yet exist as the industry is constantly evolving. The high demand for skilled graduates led Victoria to develop the Computer Graphics major, building on our existing expertise in computer science, mathematics and design.

"The strong industrial base in Wellington, the interaction between companies and Victoria, and the synergy within the University between the Schools of Computer Science and Design makes for an unbeatable combination in this subject in New Zealand."

Students will also be able to continue to Victoria's postgraduate study options in Computer Graphics, including Master's and PhD programmes.

Being an active participant in enabling a digital future is one of Victoria's key areas of focus for the future.

For more information on the Computer Graphics major please see http://www.victoria.ac.nz/study/programmes-courses/subjects/computer-graphics/ or contact Neil Dodgson on 04 463 6922 or neil.dodgson@vuw.ac.nz

ECS professor wins international programming prize

18 Mar 2016 - 09:32 in Achievement

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A Victoria University of Wellington researcher has won an international prize for work that makes it easier for students to learn coding.

Professor James Noble, from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, has won the 2016 AITO Dahl-Nygaard Senior Prize for his contributions to computer programming languages.

The international prize is considered the most prestigious in object-oriented Computer Science, and last year was won by Bjarne Stroustrup, the designer of renowned programming language C++.

Professor Noble is part of an international group of researchers who created Grace—a language specifically designed to help novices learn programming in a simple way.

Simple, object-orientated programming languages are sought-after, says Professor Noble.

“Grace emerged from a conference in 2010, where it became clear there was a need for a new, more easily digestible programming language,” says Professor Noble.

“People can find programming languages daunting or frustrating, but they shouldn’t. Grace has flexibility—that is, students can be introduced to it in stages, and can grow to the full version at their pace.

“I’ve been working to make the syntax and semantics of Grace as easy to learn as possible, and engaging with students to lower any barriers.”

One of those students is Sam Minns, a professional musician who turned his attention to studying Software Engineering five years ago.

During his studies, Sam developed a web-based music library which allowed him to use Grace to programme music live.

“I can create and perform music by writing code live in front of the audience or dance floor,” says Sam. “This shows just how useable Grace can be, and how different people can get value out of programming.”

Sam—who will graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in May— works as a Software Developer at Powershop. He also presents the Friday Nite ‘Flava’ show on Radioactive.fm, and was a core performer and producer for percussion ensemble Strike.

“Grace can help novices in their forays into computer programming,” says Sam. “It helps to minimise that discouragement when programmers are first starting out, and create code with greater ease.”

Outreach Coordinator lights up young minds

29 Feb 2016 - 09:05 in Achievement

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John Barrow is enthusiastic about his mission for 2016: to connect with New Zealand's young people and get them excited about technology.

“We have to show it to the students, let them play with it, encourage their crazy ideas and help them to make it a reality”, says John, the newly-appointed School of Engineering and Computer Science Outreach Coordinator.

Outreach combines student workshops and personal development for schoolteachers with tours of the Victoria University campus and support to hold events. The aim is to encourage students with a passion for computing, technology, science and maths into tertiary education by showing them the diverse range of courses and careers available to them through the University.

John began in the temporary position of Outreach Coordinator in 2015 and has now signed on permanently. He brings an interesting mix of real world IT and teaching experience to the role and has 24 industry-related exams behind him. So what drew John to the Outreach job?

“The University offers a great working environment and capable colleagues, not to mention the latest technology and support to make things happen”, says John. “The best part is seeing young students click on to a concept and get enthusiastic about the opportunities open to them.”

In 2015, John visited a number of schools up to Hawke's Bay and hosted hundreds of students at Victoria. He also attended a national robotics competition for children called Robocup and worked alongside school staff in Canterbury and Otago.

“It was a real eye-opener to experience first-hand the technology buzz happening in our communities”, says John.

And if that wasn't enough, John delivered a successful technology pilot programme at Avalon Intermediate. Topics covered included Scratch (a programming language for children), drones, graphics and cryptography (the art of writing and solving code).

“It was nice to have regular contact, build relationships and see the students really grab the technology and play with it”, says John. “At the Kapiti Robot competition I was really impressed to see year 10 students making robots to navigate a maze - that's what we get our first year university students to do!”

Now John's goal is to develop lesson plans to support teachers who deliver digital technology standards in schools. This means teachers can strengthen students' core maths and science skills by delivering a set of ten lessons, a resource that follows on from John's introductory workshops.

John also plans to set up more events and competitions, such as involvement in Wellington's LUX light festival, and encourage technology education in school productions, code clubs, robotics clubs and 'extra for experts' sessions.

“Technology will be a big part of their world, so let them own it and make it brilliant”.

Governor-General stops by Engineering and Computer Science

22 Feb 2016 - 10:23 in Research

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The Governor-General Lieutenant General The Right Honourable Sir Jerry Mateparae recently paid a visit to Victoria University and stopped in at the School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS).

Staff and students from ECS presented some of the exciting projects taking place around the School.

Senior Lecturer Dr Taehyun Rhee introduced the Governor-General to his team’s research into 4D entertainment. The project, which involves a multi-disciplinary team from New Zealand and Korea, is looking at how computer graphics and emerging interactive technologies can be combined to create new, immersive, home entertainment experiences.

Postgraduate students Andrew Chalmers, Kieran Carnegie, Thomas Iorns and Chris Dean each showcased their specialisations and gave Sir Jerry a chance to get up close and personal with the technology.

The students talked about their research into making virtual reality a more enjoyable and realistic leisure activity including finding ways to mimic what the human eye sees to reduce simulator sickness.

As part of the presentation Sir Jerry tried out the Oculus Rift, a cutting-edge virtual reality headset, to explore an underwater scene. Later a scan of his face was taken to create a 3D digital model.

Dr Ian Welch, Dr Bryan Ng and Master’s student Matt Stevens spoke about the progress of the Software Defined Networks research group, formed in 2014. Recently the group signed a three-year research agreement with Google to embark on SDN development, maintenance and teaching.

The agreement provides a platform for Victoria to grow its profile in SDN teaching and research, with the goal of bringing more students into this emerging field and partnering with other academic and commercial organisations.

The School of Engineering and Computer sciences was the third stop on the Governor-General’s tour of the University. As part of his visit to Victoria he was also treated to a sneak peek at 'No Man’s Land', a production co-created by Professor John Psathas that will premiere at The New Zealand Festival, and he was part of a round table discussion on the state of Antarctica’s ice sheets and rising sea levels.

A tilt in the right direction

10 Feb 2016 - 09:17 in Alumni

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A group of Victoria University of Wellington alumni has developed an interactive gaming system to help take the chore out of physiotherapy exercises.

The system—a lightweight balance training board called ‘Tilt’—allows the user to play games by standing on and tilting the board, while at the same time strengthening their muscles and improving their overall balance.

The developers, including Swibo’s Benjamin Dunn, Lukas Stoecklein, Connor Broad and Zac Bird, formed the idea for Tilt at Victoria’s annual Entrepreneur Bootcamp.

Benjamin holds a Bachelor of Engineering from Victoria, while Connor has also studied here. Zac Bird is also a VUW alumni with a Bachelor of Design Innovation.

“We wanted to make it easier for people to carry out their physiotherapy exercises and recover properly, and we realised playing games can be an incentive,” says Benjamin.

“The system uses any smartphone to connect the board to a computer running the games. The phone can then record the board’s movements and measurements, which are analysed by computer software. This helps physiotherapists and sports trainers track the user’s improvements and provide tailored training as time goes on.”

The system is already used by professional sports trainers and could extend beyond this, says Benjamin.

“A lot of people can benefit from these kinds of exercises, including the elderly, children or those with disabilities. It’s very helpful for preventing injuries before they occur. It’s also for people who just want to be a little bit more active and have fun gaming.”

The current three games— NeoZen, Hexile and Unbearable—see users race their friends in space rockets, solve puzzles in an island adventure or fight back against deadly bears.

The team is already developing more games and hopes to begin bulk manufacturing of the boards through their recently launched Kickstarter campaign.

“We see the potential to make a real difference with Tilt and are excited for people to start using it and seeing its benefits,” says Benjamin.

This year’s Bootcamp teams are preparing for their final pitch event on 24 February. The Bootcamp is run by Victoria University and Viclink, the University’s commercialisation office, in partnership with The BizDojo, Deloitte Private and Chapman Tripp.

“The Victoria Entrepreneur Bootcamp brought our team together, and the combination of our different backgrounds encourages and facilitates collaboration,” says Benjamin.

“That collaboration is what fuels the creativity you need for entrepreneurship.”

Photo credit: Olivia Pitcher

Developing a digital reputation

05 Jan 2016 - 08:44 in Research

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A Victoria University of Wellington researcher is developing a new reputation management system for the digital world.

Ferry Hendrikx, who graduated recently with a PhD in Computer Science, is researching ways of building reputation profiles online that draw information from multiple sources.

“The widespread use of the internet for social and commercial use has made traditional methods of gathering reputation, such as word-of-mouth or personal associations, insufficient for gaining a clear picture of an individual or organisation,” says Ferry.

“Many websites have features designed to build trust, but these only provide a narrow perspective of an individual. They don’t allow for a fuller, more substantial impression. Someone might be an honest trader on Trade Me, but a poor mechanic. A company might give generously to charities, but be a bad employer.”

Ferry’s thesis proposes a network-based framework that automatically extracts information about an individual or organisation from multiple sites and stores this information in a profile. The system decides what’s important, reliable or relevant based on online activity.

The reputation associated with a profile will develop and change over time as new information comes to hand and old data becomes less significant.

“The profile develops as a result of online actions and associations. While the individual or organisation can host their own profile, it’s not something they can necessarily modify—you can’t lie about yourself,” says Ferry.

“A key aspect of the research is the establishment of an access control feature, meaning that, as a reputation develops, the individual or organisation will gain (or lose) access to relevant online services or groups. They’re not required to apply for these things—it just happens.

“Examples might be access to industry relevant publications, a wider database of customers to trade with, or membership to online societies.”

The technology is still at a nascent stage, however Ferry believes this approach has significant potential for reputation management as social and commercial activity continues to grow and develop in the online space.

Wellington Traffic Visualisation aids local commuters

18 Dec 2015 - 10:20 in Achievement

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Sick of sitting in peak hour traffic? Thanks to ECS Honours student Josianne Hyson, slow mornings and frustrating commuting could soon become a thing of the past.

Josianne spent the year creating the “Wellington Traffic Visualisation”, a tool that helps the user to see where the concentration of traffic is in the central city and at what times. Users can also view more detailed graphs about a particular street by clicking on it or searching for it.

Josianne credits the initial idea to her supervisor, Associate Professor Kris Bubendorfer, who proposed the project. Her other supervisor, Senior Lecturer and ECS Head of School Stuart Marshall, helped with the user testing.

The Wellington City Council provided the data for the visualisation in the form of spreadsheets detailing traffic volume and speed information for each year since 1999. Josianne's tool was designed to help city planners find trends in the data with the aim of aiding the practical design of Wellington's streets.

“Reading the data from the spreadsheets it originally came in made it very hard to quickly spot meaningful changes or patterns”, says Josianne. “Having a visual tool that lets the user see the information in a graph or on a map makes it easier to find the trends in a high volume of data”.

In the user testing phase, Josianne showed the graphs she had prepared to her supervisors and classmates whose feedback was used to refine the visual information to make it more effective. It took her six months to build the system from start to finish, while juggling three regular courses.

“I had to draw on knowledge from a range of courses that I took at university”, says Josianne. “Courses that provided practical experience with web technologies, databases, visualisation and human/computer interaction were particularly useful for this project but many other courses contributed to my programming abilities as well”.

While there are currently no plans to sell the tool and Josianne is as yet unable to host the system publicly due to restrictions on the data, she hopes a future student will be able to carry it forward for their Honours project after she has made a few tweaks.

“This project was an opportunity for me to improve my coding abilities and learn new technologies. The large scale of the project was also an interesting experience dealing with an increasing codebase and researching solutions to the difficult challenges I encountered”, she says.

Josianne now has the opportunity to use these new skills in her chosen career. She has started working full-time at Powershop, where she has been interning for the last two years, as a Ruby on Rails developer. Ruby on Rails is a web application that combines the Ruby programming language with HTML, CSS and JavaScript.

Now Josianne also knows the best route to get to work in the mornings!

PitchHub project takes to the stars

11 Dec 2015 - 09:56 in Achievement

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What could Star Wars mastermind George Lucas do next time he needs ideas on how to crush the Rebel Alliance? Thanks to ECS Honours student Michael Winton, he could use PitchHub, an online collaboration platform for innovators.

PitchHub is the result of a year of hard work for Michael on behalf of his client, Callaghan Innovation, a government agency supporting high tech businesses in New Zealand. The aim of Michael's Honours project was to create an online, cloud-based platform for users to share creative ideas and connect them to other people and to resources. The end result was christened 'PitchHub'.

“Gregor Neumayr, Senior Research Engineer at Callaghan Innovation, had the idea for PitchHub a while ago,” says Michael. “This year's ENGR489 project was the ideal opportunity to turn that idea into reality”.

In his end-of-year presentation at the Dean's Sessions event recently, Michael used Star Wars to explain how the platform works in practice.

In his fictional example, Michael used Star Wars characters to contribute ideas to filmmaker George Lucas, who needed help to decide how to crush the uprising Rebel Alliance.

Princess Leia saw that George Lucas had posted a 'pitch card ' to PitchHub detailing his idea to create a Death Star, a galactic super-weapon to help the Imperial Forces destroy rebels and planets.

She made a suggestion which changed the direction of the pitch, saying, “No, the Death Star should become an arbiter for the Rebel Alliance; helping people, helping planets...”

While Lucas rejected her suggestion (a friction that Michael says often happens in negotiations), he accepted the advice of Trade Federation character Nute Gunray instead, who suggested he use a Droid Army.

He updated his 'pitch card' to include this final solution and there we have it – through PitchHub, the Star Wars characters helped Lucas continue the plot that we all know and love.

There are several key selling points which differentiate Michael's PitchHub from similar products.

“PitchHub enables an easy and collegial sharing of ideas between users,” says Michael. “They can also choose who sees their information, which is important to protect their intellectual property, while the high tech security prevents malicious access to the platform.”

So how did Michael apply what he learnt during his courses at Victoria?

“What I learnt at university was absolutely essential. Knowing how to break down what I needed to do, and then say: “This is the next step… this problem may occur later...” That's what I learnt at university”.

Michael has tested PitchHub to ensure it can cope with the 400,000 to 600,000 potential users (the size of New Zealand's innovation community) and it is now live at pitchhub.net. Callaghan Innovation has pledged financial backing to develop the project from prototype to commercial product.

In the meantime, Michael is off to Sweden's Uppsala University to study Masters courses in Cryptography and Distributed Systems. He plans to continue his studies at Victoria upon his return.

“Victoria has really sparked something in me, especially this year, when I was able to interact with my professors as colleagues.

“I believe that this Honours project, while it demanded blood, sweat and tears, will give me a great head start on a successful career in Engineering”.

Putting cybersecurity centre stage

09 Dec 2015 - 10:44 in Event

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Victoria University of Wellington is kick-starting initiatives for championing cybersecurity in New Zealand with an industry briefing featuring a guest appearance from a world-renowned cyber-crime expert.

Cybersecurity is seen as one of the greatest commercial threats to New Zealand. The Wellington event aims to raise awareness of the developing risks in the digital world and the costs of complacency, and will be attended by senior representatives from some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

Joining the briefing will be Kristopher Rush, a technical director in the Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT) division of the Software Engineering Institute (SEI) in the United States, and a leading expert in cybersecurity.

Before joining SEI, Mr Rush worked for the United States Department of State as a member of the Antiterrorism Assistance Program, where he developed and taught courses relating to terrorism and cyber-crime to foreign military and police.

His visit follows the announcement of a collaboration agreement between Victoria University, SEI and the New Zealand firm Total Risk to develop training, advice and protection services in cybersecurity.

“Most New Zealand businesses and many government agencies are lacking the individual expertise to protect themselves from the growing cyber danger,” says Geoff Todd, Managing Director of Viclink, the University’s commercialisation office.

“By arranging the industry briefing and bringing Kristopher over to New Zealand, we want to place cybersecurity front and centre in the minds of industry, and profile what we intend to do in this space to help.

“The collaboration with SEI means we will be working with the gold-standard organisation in the field of cybersecurity, and the relationship with Total Risk means we are aligned with one of only nine SEI certified training partners in the world, and the only one in New Zealand.

“Through this collaboration we aspire to be a leader in cybersecurity in the Asia-Pacific region,” says Geoff.

The SEI is a Federally Funded Research and Development Centre (FFRDC) at Carnegie Mellon University, specifically established by the United States Department of Defense to focus on software engineering and cybersecurity.

ECS end-of-year Honours presentations impress

27 Nov 2015 - 11:22 in Achievement

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Outer space, traffic and music were just some of the topics covered as students, staff and industry partners celebrated the culmination of a year of hard work at the Dean's Sessions end-of-year Engineering and Computer Science Honours students' presentations recently.

The inspiring student presentations included solutions for visualising astronomical data, a Wellington traffic visualisation tool, and the re-design of a commercial power amplifier.

“These presentations are the final milestone in many of our students' academic careers – they represent a huge amount of work, inspiration and determination,” said Dr Kris Bubendorfer, senior lecturer and Honours supervisor for ECS.

Eight students presented their work - Christopher Hawkins, Tony Butler-Yeoman, Andrew Lensen, Josianne Hyson, Michael Winton, Jarrod Bakker, Dayle Jellyman and Hamish Colenso.

They were chosen because of the appeal their work has for the wider community. Each presentation was marked not only on content, but also on each student’s ability to field detailed questions about their research from the audience.

The presenters spoke confidently and professionally as they shared their research outcomes with the audience, supported by their classmates who came to see them in action.

“With so much talent here, we’d like to see our students studying for as long as possible, before they’re snapped up by industry partners - including those present today,” said Professor Dale Carnegie, Dean of Engineering.

After the presentations, those same industry partners asked the students “Where to from here?” regarding the next steps for their projects.

Some students used the event as a way to connect with industry and foster links for future employment, while others plan to return to study at Victoria as Masters and PhD students.

Dr Bubendorfer says that whatever path the students choose, “We are incredibly proud of our students and wish them all the best in their future endeavours.”

Championing cybersecurity: Victoria partners with global leader

16 Nov 2015 - 10:04 in Achievement

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Victoria University of Wellington has entered into an agreement with local firm Total Risk, a partner of the Software Engineering Institute’s CERT Program at Carnegie Mellon University in the United States, in what is considered to be a major development for cybersecurity in New Zealand.

“Cybersecurity has been identified as one of the greatest commercial threats facing New Zealand, with business and government largely lacking the individual expertise to protect themselves against this ever-developing danger,” says Geoff Todd, Managing Director of Viclink, the University’s commercialisation office.

“The collaboration with CERT means Victoria is working with the gold-standard organisation in the field. This isn’t just good for the University, it’s good for New Zealand.”

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

The relationship with Total Risk means Victoria will be aligned with one of only nine CERT-certified partners globally, and the only one in New Zealand.

“The significance of this collaboration cannot be understated,” says Victoria’s Dean of Engineering Professor Dale Carnegie. “It gives Victoria the impetus to push on with a multidisciplinary cyber programme, and a CERT-certified one at that, which should prove very attractive for both local and international students.”

Victoria’s Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford is delighted with the agreement.

“This initiative presents an extremely exciting prospect for Victoria University and Wellington in particular. However, it also translates into a highly valuable asset for the wider Asia-Pacific region and sits well with the University’s strategic objective of contributing to New Zealand’s digital future.”

The collaboration gets underway in the near future with a series of events in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, with Kristopher Rush, a Technical Director from CERT, addressing CEOs and CIOs on cyber vulnerabilities.

ECS researchers awarded in 2015 Marsden Fund grant scheme

12 Nov 2015 - 10:28 in Achievement

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Victoria University's School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) is excited to announce that two academic staff and top researchers have been awarded funding for research projects in the prestigious Marsden Fund grant scheme for 2015.

The fiercely-contested Marsden Fund supports excellence in science, engineering, maths, social sciences and the humanities in New Zealand by providing grants for investigator-initiated research. It is administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand on behalf of the Government.

A total of $53.5 million in Marsden funding was awarded to New Zealand researchers this year. Victoria University received 13 grants, equal to more than $8 million in funding, cementing the University's reputation as a leading research institute.

ECS Professor Mengjie Zhang's successful project is entitled “Genetic Programming for Dynamic Flexible Job Shop Scheduling”. To support his research he has been awarded $550,000, distributed over three years, in the latest round of grants. The grants pay for salaries, student and post-doctoral scholarships, and research consumables.

Victoria’s Vice-Provost (Research) Professor Kate McGrath says the University is particularly proud of recipients who have received multiple Marsden funding over the years. This includes Professor Zhang, who is celebrating his fourth Marsden Fund grant.

“Marsden funding recognises excellence in leading-edge research. To receive multiple Marsden Fund grants is an outstanding achievement,” says Professor McGrath.

ECS's second Marden Fund grant for 2015 went to Senior Lecturer Dr Hui Ma. Her project, “Distributed Data-Intensive Service Composition”, was awarded a Fast-Start grant of $300,000. Fast-Start awards are designed to create research momentum for early-career researchers. Dr Ma was one of a number of women recognised as Principal Investigators of successful proposals, a number which rose from 39% last year to 44% this year.

Science and Innovation Minister Steven Joyce describes the advantages of supporting top-level research within New Zealand.

“The Marsden Fund invests in investigator-led research that seeks to generate new knowledge with long-term benefits for New Zealand,” Mr Joyce says.

“The Government recognises that funding for such research can generate substantial returns to society over time. The Fund continues to play an integral role in a high-performing science system focusing on excellence and impact, promoting New Zealand as a destination for top scientists and R&D investment.”

Going forward with Google

28 Oct 2015 - 11:17 in Research

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Victoria University has further solidified its place at the forefront of research in one of the most innovative emerging technology areas—software defined networks (SDN).

After forming a software defined networks research group in 2014, Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science has gone on to sign a three-year research agreement with Google to embark on SDN development, maintenance and teaching.

Traditionally, networking hardware is manufactured with specific software in mind, but standardising the way that software interacts with hardware allows developers the freedom to go beyond what is standard in the field.

“This means software developers can write programs for their own specific networking needs, and they are less restricted by the set-up of the hardware, which is more conducive to innovation,” says senior lecturer Dr Ian Welch.

“The flexibility of SDN technology means network modifications can be made more readily, and system threats dealt with rapidly and effectively. Even better, we can make networks more reliable by applying well-understood techniques from software engineering, such as unit testing and formal methods. Overall, this makes for a commercially nimble, cost-effective solution because it allows maximisation of the use of bandwidth and is potentially more secure and reliable than existing technologies.”

According to Google’s representative software engineer at Victoria, Josh Bailey, companies such as Google, Facebook or Amazon wouldn’t be in business without the vital role of network engineers.

“SDN is set to revolutionise things further by allowing better management of things such as cloud services, big data and consumer-interfacing technology, and it provides attractive options for scaling up business operations,” says Josh.

“This means SDN technology is set to be a growth industry and a serious option for any student considering network engineering.”

The three-year research agreement with Google provides a platform for Victoria to grow its profile in SDN teaching and research, with the goals of bringing more students into this emerging field and partnering with other academic and commercial organisations.

Training in computer science

20 Oct 2015 - 12:33 in Research

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When Benjamin Powley first played with a train set as a small boy, he could never have imagined he’d be using a similar set to complete a university Honour’s project.

Benjamin, who is currently studying a Bachelor of Science with Honours (having already completed a double major Bachelor of Science in Computer Science and Mathematics), is one of the first to test out a new model railway purchased by the School of Engineering and Computer Science for student projects. He is using it to develop safety-critical control software that simulates a real-world, automated train network (such as the Paris Metro’s ‘Line 14’).

“I have to manage the scheduling of multiple locomotives, and safely route them through a network of tracks using the Java Model Rail Interface (JMRI),” Benjamin explains. “The safety challenges involve ensuring that no two trains are in the same section at the same time, and that all points are correctly set to ‘open’ or ‘closed’ each time a train enters a new section.”

As part of the project, Benjamin must programme both a handheld controller and a simulator—reflecting the real-life situation for software engineers who must always test their programmes before implementing them. “The handheld controller is a bit different to what you’d find on your average train set—this one has a special interface so that I can plug in my own programme and send instructions to the trains,” Benjamin says. These messages are sent across a voltage line to sensors on the track, which communicate with chips attached to each train.

At the end of the year, Benjamin will evaluate his work and formally present the results with a written report and a series of test runs. “I need to demonstrate a range of complicated scheduling, so I’ll put increasing stress on the network by adding more trains to run simultaneously,” he says. Benjamin will also use his maths background to build mathematical models for the controller to prove that the properties in the programme are correct and safe.

In addition to the project work, Benjamin says he is also improving his ‘soft’ skills such as time management and how to work as part of a team. “My two supervisors and I meet every week to talk things through and bounce ideas off each other. Their feedback is always incredibly useful.”

The idea to use the model railway as the basis for a project came from one of Benjamin’s supervisors, Dr David Pearce, a senior lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. “Where possible, I like to set projects that have some kind of real-world application, because students are more likely to relate to, and engage with, them.”

David says that the need for safety-critical software will become increasingly important with the rise of the ‘internet of things’. “More and more devices in the home will be built with wifi capability, making them potentially vulnerable to cyber attacks and hacking—unless they feature safety-critical software.”

David says that Victoria has the edge over other universities teaching the same subjects. “We have our own electronics workshop and technicians, which means we’ve got the facilities and skills to carry out any hardware projects or modifications right here on campus.”

Victoria students succeed at Summer of Tech

12 Oct 2015 - 09:45 in Achievement

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Victoria University Engineering and Computer Science students won first and second place in the annual ‘Hackfest' run by Summer of Tech, a not-for-profit programme that connects tertiary students with New Zealand technology employers.

Hackfest gives teams of students a chance to step outside the classroom and apply their skills to solve a technical challenge. This year’s brief was to create devices for the home that can be controlled remotely.

A team of third-year Victoria University students called ‘CatFud’ took first place for their innovative automatic cat food dispenser.

Second year Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering student Shaetrun Pathmanathan, whose team ‘Cactus Flowers’ came second with a plant monitoring system, says the event is a great way to apply skills gained during study.

“Hackfest is about having fun while learning about your chosen profession. At university we get into the nitty-gritty of electronics, and these events give you chance to apply that learning, and think about how these devices work in the real world.”

The team had to work through several challenges as it created its product—a device that could make remembering to water plants a thing of the past.

“Our product detects when the soil is too dry, and pumps the right amount of water in from a pre-filled water bottle.

“Evaluating the hardware we had to use was difficult, and we came up with a real 'No. 8' solution to get basic functionality working. After spending a lot of time designing a water valve I realised we could use a fish tank pump instead!”

Shaetrun’s advice to anyone thinking about getting involved in a Hackathon or Summer of Tech is to jump in, and make the most of it.

“I would attend another Summer of Tech event. It’s a great way to learn about what you could do in the future, and get experience working in teams, making friends, and challenging yourself to come up with creative solutions. Some of my team mates were also offered interviews for internships.”

Find out more about Summer of Tech

Student video competition awards creative entries

05 Oct 2015 - 11:20 in Achievement

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science recently challenged its students to create short videos showcasing what they like most about studying Engineering through a competition named ‘What Flicks your Switch?’

Students submitted videos covering a wide range of topics, from engineering projects to what it is like to study at Victoria University.

First place winners Henry Williams, Robby Lopez and Michael Pearson showcased the development of the robot they entered into the annual Australasian National Instruments Autonomous Robotics Competition (NIARC).

Postgraduate student Henry Williams said entering the video competition was a chance to share his enthusiasm for making robots.

“Building stuff is fun, especially robots, and at Victoria we have had the opportunity to make some pretty awesome stuff. We are especially proud of what we have achieved at NIARC each year.”

Second place winner Liam Dennis, who is studying software engineering, was inspired to enter the competition to further his love of film-making. He wanted to show the benefits of students from engineering and computer science working alongside, and incorporating, other disciplines.

“I wanted to show that the greatest joy can often be found at the intersection of fields, where we combine different skills to improve the way we live now and in the future.”

The winning team took home $1000 of electronic equipment while the second place winner received $500 of electronic equipment.

Check out the winning video and the runner-up and keep an eye out for upcoming competitions and events.

Superlens promises new insights

28 Sep 2015 - 11:09 in Research

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Observing the real-time interaction of virus particles is one of the many benefits expected from Victoria University of Wellington research into the design of a new far-field superlens, or optical omniscope.

Dr Ciaran Moore from the School of Engineering and Computer Science will be leading the project as the recipient of a $300,000 Marsden Fast-Start grant.

Current superlens microscopes cannot simultaneously resolve both very small and large features, measured in terms of smaller or greater than 1/200th of the width of human hair. Moreover, they can only observe these features in one dimension, resulting in images consisting of parallel lines.

The optical omniscope aims to address both these issues, meaning differently-sized features can be observed together and in two dimensions, allowing for more detailed observations of nanostructures and nanoparticles interacting with their environment.

"The optical lenses we have now can only give us a blurry image of a nanostructure. It's like looking at an object through frosted glass. You can see that something is there, but not the finer detail," says Dr Moore.

"Other techniques with higher resolution are available, but these can damage the nanostructures."

While still in the early stages of development, Dr Moore says the optical omniscope has a number of potential benefits across a range of scientific applications.

"Presently, medical samples have to be extensively treated—usually cut into thin slices then bleached or doped with fluorescent markers—before they can be examined. But the optical omniscope removes the need for pre-treating, which will save time and result in faster diagnoses.

"Pre-treating can also kill medical samples—by eliminating the need to pre-treat, the sample remains live. That means you could take high-resolution images of a living sample and watch organisms develop or change over time, or see what happens to them when they are in contact with toxic material."

Dr Moore says the optical omniscope could also help speed up the manufacture of computer processors. "The wide field of view contains information about both the very small features as well as the larger ones, so you would be able to check a larger section of each microchip more quickly. By being able to manufacture them more quickly, the cost should then come down too."

Dr Moore hopes that the prototype optical omniscope will improve access to high-end microscopy equipment, thereby leading to new discoveries in nanoscience and nanotechnology.

"If we can make this technology better and more accessible, then more is being seen, which could have a significant impact on the rate of scientific discoveries."

Dr Moore has been working with Victoria University's School of Chemical and Physical Sciences, where nanoscience research is undertaken.

Marsden Fast-Start grants are administered by the Royal Society of New Zealand and come from a special pool of funds set aside for emerging researchers (up to seven years after the conferment of a PhD).

For more information contact Ciaran Moore on 04-463 5233 x8931 or ciaran.moore@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Avalon Intermediate technology pilot programme a huge success

22 Sep 2015 - 09:22 in Achievement

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It's a few minutes before nine on a Friday morning at Avalon Intermediate School in Lower Hutt. In the school hall, representatives from Victoria University's School of Engineering and Computer Science are adding the finishing touches to three interactive learning stations.

The programme is part of the University's 'Introduction to Technology' pilot at the school. The 10-week activity programme gives students and teachers a taste of technology education two mornings a week and it is hoped it will lead to a sustainable programme that can be used in future years.

Right on nine, the doors burst open and year seven and eight students pour into the hall. They bring with them an excited buzz and enthusiastic chatter. John Barrow, Victoria’s Outreach Coordinator, says, “It's great to see how into it the students are”.

Avalon Intermediate is a decile 2 school where, with a large proportion of Māori and Pasifika students on the roll, the importance of technology education cannot be overstated. Teacher Janine Simpson explains that many of the children do not often venture outside the Hutt Valley.

“The technology in these sessions is the most cutting edge they have ever seen,” she says.

Students have already learned about building powerful paper darts, encryption, including coding and decoding messages, building small, autonomous robots called Bristlebots and making their own interactive apps. They have also had an introduction to Scratch, a programming language for children.

Today's theme is virtual reality and the students are in for a treat.

Station one has been set up to allow the students to try the virtual reality headset known as the 'Oculus Rift'. As students take turns riding a virtual rollercoaster, the sounds of whooping, cheering and laughter echo around the hall.

12-year old Naomi Masson says, “I like how it felt so real, like I was on an actual rollercoaster”.

She was also inspired by learning to create cellphone apps. “I want to try it at home.”

At station two students encounter a new invention called Google Cardboard. It's a simple virtual reality which works by attaching a Smartphone to a cardboard viewfinder. Very soon students are running all over the hall experiencing 'mixed reality', a merging of real and virtual worlds, for the first time.

Station three is just as appealing. Students control an avatar on a screen who copies their moves as they dance, wriggle and star jump. The computer programme is called 'MikuMikuDance' and operates with a simple Xbox 360 sensor. Once again, raucous enthusiasm reigns.

The aim is to engage students at a young age and encourage them to consider tertiary education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is clear many of them are already feeling inspired. Even after the bell goes to signal break, students are crowded around the stations, asking questions, pointing, excited to learn more.

Trace Hohipa, also 12, enjoyed the Scratch programming session the best so far. “I liked it because it felt like I was in my own world”.

Teacher Rose Campbell agrees that the programme has been a huge success.

“It's been amazing for the kids to host the experts from Victoria University and have a taste of different types of technology because these kids are the ones entering a technological world.”

Zombie apocalypse how?

18 Sep 2015 - 11:15 in Research

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Ever wondered just how a Zombie attack could play out in your town—or what a Zombie apocalypse might actually look like? By the end of this year, it’s quite probable that student Jacob Duligall will be able to answer those questions, and more. He’s currently developing software that will simulate the spread of Zombie disease through a virtual city, turning everyday (virtual) folk into the flesh-eating un-dead.

“As any good Zombie fan will tell you, Zombie-ism is spread by disease,” says Jacob, a fourth-year student who is studying towards a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, majoring in Software Engineering. “By building a system that models a Zombie apocalypse, I’ll also be able to create a simplified simulation of how real diseases—such as colds or flu, or even Ebola—are spread.”

Able to choose the direction the project will take, Jacob is focusing on enabling the system to deal with a range of diseases, and allowing users to specify how the Zombies behave—rather than the alternative, making a more accurate model of the virtual city. He will, however, devote some time to adding geographic data by laying real maps over the top of the simulation to enhance user experience. “I’ll be able to pick a person’s home town, wherever it is in the world, and overlay the relevant map to show Zombies invading his or her town or home!”

Using Java to implement the system, Jacob says he is really enjoying the visual simulation aspect of the project as it means working at the front-end of software development. “If I make a change to the code, I can almost instantly see a change to what’s depicted on screen. Working at the back-end of development, on servers and gateways, is usually a less visually responsive exercise.”

At the end of the project, Jacob will look for volunteers to test his simulation program, and he’ll write a report evaluating his findings.

Jacob’s supervisor, Roman Klapaukh, says he wanted Jacob to tackle a real-world problem—the spread of disease—and build a system from scratch, using all the skills he’s learnt during the past three years of study. “When he finishes his project, Jacob will have a fantastic block of work to add to his portfolio that shows future employers just what his capabilities are,” says Roman.

Jacob, who is originally from Havelock North, chose Victoria because of its strong focus on, and good reputation for, Engineering and Computer Science. “One of my favourite subjects in Year 12 was computing. We had to build our own educational game, which I really enjoyed, although I didn’t actually learn to write code until I started at Victoria.”

So what are his career plans when he graduates? “I’m hoping to turn my internship at Snapper into a full-time job,” he says. Jacob is already working part-time at Snapper—a New Zealand contactless payment system—after being introduced to the company through his course work at Victoria.

“When we studied agile development as part of our course work, Snapper’s chief technology officer, Norman Cumerford, was one of our mentors,” Jacob explains. “He ended up offering me and three others the opportunity to join Snapper as interns. I’ve been working on mobile app development there during the holidays (and part time during term time) and I'm really enjoying it. It would be the ultimate for me if I could go straight from university into a job I love!”

Curiosity - the key to new ideas

10 Sep 2015 - 11:49 in Achievement

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Since Lohit Petikam was young, he's been curious about how things work. As his understanding grew, his curiosity shifted to how he could make things work. Teamed with his expanding interest in maths and a realisation of the power of computers, Lohit's curiosity transformed into a new hobby—programming.

"I found myself making things, like small games and music visualisations. Then I developed an obsession for making electronic music. The concepts in music technology that appealed most were quite heavy in maths and physics—so I got into electronics and signal processing, hoping to gain a better understanding of what my music software was doing behind my back."

Music and sound have continued to intertwine with Lohit's more analytical side as he has pursued his studies in Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering—with some music papers on the side. A Summer Research Scholarship recording kiwis is a good example of this.

"My scholarship was about taking stereo audio recordings of kiwi calls, then using analysis techniques to estimate the direction the call came from. The recordings can be used as a low cost and easy way of understanding kiwi movement habits in native bush. Three main algorithms were tested to see how well the recordings could tell the direction, and how they coped with both noise and echo in the environment."

After doing the research, Lohit took part in the Summer Gold Poster Competition, designing a poster that explained his research to the general public.

"I was keen to do this from the start, because I felt that people could learn more about engineering if they weren't intimidated by abstract concepts and maths equations. I have some experience tutoring—both first-year and secondary school students—so I applied what I'd learnt there and described my research in an intuitive way, using design and graphics to make it visually appealing."

Another highlight for Lohit has been making a speech synthesizer controlled by a glove interface—enabling users to make human voice sounds with their hands.

For Lohit, it's the practical side of the Engineering programme that makes it so worthwhile.

"The programme forces you to get your hands dirty—through practical labs and assignments. It leaves you with the experience and skills to build what you want.

Students need to do their own research before accomplishing a goal. Though time-consuming, the projects have been rewarding because you end up with a finished product that you can call your own."

Summer Scholars Scheme 2015/2016

01 Sep 2015 - 10:21 in Administrative

Over the 2015/2016 summer the Faculty will provide several scholarships to students, providing a unique opportunity for students to gain experience in research.

Students will be selected on the basis of academic merit, expertise in the research area and recommendations from staff associated with the project.

For general information, terms and conditions, and to check your eligibility, see Summer Research Scholarships.

For a list of all Engineering and Computer Science projects see http://www.victoria.ac.nz/science/study/scholarships/summer-scholars-scheme/engineering-and-computer-science-projects

Applications

Please see this page after 1 September 2015 when all scholarships will be listed, alongside instructions on how to apply. Applications close 16 September 2015.

Contact

Margot Neas
Administrator - Science Faculty Office
Email: margot.neas@vuw.ac.nz
Phone: 04 463 5233 extn 8293

Victoria student lights up international stage

24 Aug 2015 - 16:46 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A video of Rasping Music can be found here.

For more information or to contact Mo Zareei go to www.m-h-z.net .

Software Defined Networking Scholarships

17 Aug 2015 - 19:56 in Research

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

Scholarship opportunities.

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

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

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

More details about potential research topics are listed on our research group’s web page: http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/Groups/SDN/

Conditions and Requirements.

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

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

http://www.victoria.ac.nz/fgr/policies-and-resources#masters

Next Steps.

You should contact either Dr Ian Welch (ian.welch@ecs.vuw.ac.nz) or Dr Bryan Ng (bryan.ng@ecs.vuw.ac.nz).

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

Teaching excellence award for Victoria’s Dean of Engineering

13 Aug 2015 - 11:20 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Professor Carnegie says the award is hugely important to him.

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

Check out Professor Carnegie's inspiring application video here:

https://youtu.be/Ib5_NwKEs6Q

Opportunities explode for game development and gaming

05 Aug 2015 - 10:33 in Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

https://www.facebook.com/VictoriaEngineeringClub

Riding high on a great idea

29 Jul 2015 - 15:23 in Research

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Innovate and create: Kate's GovHack experience

22 Jul 2015 - 12:25 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Leading from the front: Daniel's Startup Weekend success

15 Jul 2015 - 12:27 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Prolific Computer Science pioneer named Emeritus Professor

07 Jul 2015 - 09:35 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top conference award a milestone for PhD student Harith

30 Jun 2015 - 10:51 in Achievement

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

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

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

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

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

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

First Year autonomous robot challenge

29 Jun 2015 - 11:29 in Event

Many Engineering students want to get ‘hands-on’ with their course work as quickly as possible—after all, they’re often practical people who like to learn through doing. So when Victoria University’s first-year Engineering students discover they’ll be building an autonomous vehicle during their first trimester , most can’t believe their luck!

“The first part of Engineering 101 (ENGR101) gives students a general introduction to engineering practice, and covers the basics of software, hardware and network systems,” says Dr Stuart Marshall, Head of the School of Engineering and Computer Science. “Halfway through the first trimester, we form them into teams so they can apply this knowledge to complete a project – the Autonomous Vehicle Challenge – which includes all aspects of these technologies.”

Dr Marshall says that each team of students must build a vehicle – complete with processing board, motor driver, and a network link to communicate its progress back to a central computer – which can navigate its way through four quadrants of a maze, each more difficult than the last. Students fit sensors to their hand-sized vehicles to keep them on the right path, and away from walls and other obstacles.

“We change the maze every year, just to keep things interesting,” says Dr Marshall. “This year, we’ve added an archway with an automated door that opens and closes; students now have the added challenge of having to get the timing right in order to pass their vehicles through the archway unobstructed.”

At the end of the first trimester, vehicles are put to the test; each team must race their vehicle against the clock while attempting to complete all four quadrants. The top performing vehicles take part in a final, more informal, challenge where they compete for bragging rights rather than credits.

“You could say that we’re throwing students in the deep end,” says Dr Marshall. “But the project not only provides an effective way for students to engage in the many aspects of engineering, it also gives them a tangible way of learning how to problem-solve. And they seem to really enjoy it!”

Dr Marshall says that in addition to team work, each student has to write an individual report, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t work during the process. “Students obviously develop practical skills while they’re building their vehicles, but they’re also learning soft skills such as report-writing, time management, and how to work as part of a team.”

Some previous ENGR101 students have cited their experience with the Autonomous Vehicle Challenge as the event that got them interested in the National Instruments Autonomous Robotics Competition (NI-ARC) – a student robotics competition designed to encourage development and innovation in the field of robotics.

How much architecture up front?

22 Jun 2015 - 10:46 in Achievement

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Top VUW computer scientists rewarded for pioneering research

A trio of enterprising academics from Victoria University of Wellington's School of Engineering and Computer Science have been recognised and rewarded at the highest level internationally for their ground-breaking research into software development methodology.

Professor of Computer Science James Noble, colleague George Allan and PhD student Michael Waterman received a 'Distinguished Paper Award' at the prestigious International Conference on Software Engineering (ICSE). Michael Waterman completed the research with assistance from a Victoria University PhD scholarship.

Professor James Noble, who himself completed undergraduate, Honours and PhD study in Computer Science at Victoria University, states, “ICSE is the largest and most important academic and research conference on Software Engineering. It is attended by academics, researchers and teachers, but there are also a lot of industrial researchers there. That means there are people from Google, Microsoft, IBM, Facebook and Apple.”

The trio's award-winning paper described alternatives of software development methodologies, including the differences between the dynamic 'Agile' model when compared to the older, more traditional 'waterfall' model.

In the software development process, the Agile model is better equipped to deal with change, while the waterfall method approaches set tasks in a strictly linear fashion. The team's research, which investigated how much architecture should be provided up front in a software design process to maximise customer value, established that there were several optimum approaches.

Professor Noble likens the development of virtual architecture to a real-life analogy: “Traditional software development says, for example, “We want to build a really big building, so we'll dig a really big hole”. The problem is we can't use any of the building until it's built, and even then, because of technological changes and market changes over the years, when it's finished it won't do what we want.

“In some sense, traditionally, you can build software in the same way. With the Agile approach the real issue is how can you get the advantages of being able to build up these projects slowly and also be able to cater to customers as soon as possible? That's important from a financial perspective but also when you start gaining customers they can tell you what you are doing right and what you are doing wrong.”

Professor Noble continues, “So that's the real tension: how do you manage to build a system that in five years is usable, but more importantly, how can we start using it immediately?”

He believes the research will be useful to planners and project managers.

“It's a recognition of the great work we do here at Victoria. When we say that we are a world-class research institution, awards like this show that we are exactly that”.

Offline but switched on

19 Jun 2015 - 11:21 in Event

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Computer Science workshop to inspire new way of teaching

“Computer Science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes”

- Edsger Dijkstra, Dutch computer scientist

Invitation:

Victoria University of Wellington invites primary teachers to a free workshop which aims to change the way computer science is taught to primary school students.

Computer Science Unplugged (CSU) is a collection of kinesthetic learning activities that teach computer science through games and puzzles using hands-on materials, and enable young students to physically engage with concepts – without a computer in sight!

The two-hour programme will enlighten teachers as to the benefits of CSU, and will be of value to those primary and intermediate teachers interested in adopting computational thinking in the classroom and encouraging young minds to explore the dynamic world of computer science.

“CSU is about empowering students to explore the great ideas that are hidden in the technologies that have become so commonplace that they are taken for granted,” says workshop coordinator Professor Tim Bell from the University of Canterbury.

“This removes the barrier of having to learn to program or even own a computer before you find out if computer science is really your thing.”

CSU introduces students to underlying concepts such as binary numbers, algorithms and data compression, but remain separated from the distractions and technical know-how we usually associate with computers.

These teaching methods have become widespread in countries such as Sweden, Germany, Korea and Japan, with the CSU programme itself supported internationally with online and adaptable resources.

Event details

Computer Science Unplugged

Thursday 9th July 2015, 9.30am-11.30am

Top floor of the Lower Hutt War Memorial Library, Corner Queens Drive and Woburn Rd.

Places are limited so please RSVP to suzan.hall@vuw.ac.nz at your earliest convenience.

Further information about Computer Science Unplugged, including resources and texts for teachers, can be found online at http://csunplugged.org

Research to reduce the cost of traffic

16 Jun 2015 - 09:27 in Research

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Drivers may be less frustrated by the apparent whims of traffic signals if a research project by Victoria University of Wellington associate professor, Dr Paul Teal, goes ahead.

The multidisciplinary project aims to bring together economists and engineers to design a traffic control system that reduces operational costs and delays, thereby delivering both economic and social benefits.

Strengthening the relevance of the research is the recently released OECD Economic Surveys NEW ZEALAND report which states that Auckland and Wellington are the second and third most congested cities in Australasia, according to the TomTom traffic index.

The OECD report suggests implementing demand management strategies such as pricing mechanisms to reduce urban road congestion. Dr Teal’s research will explore utilising mobile devices as a means to predict traffic movements, thereby enabling a new kind of management strategy.

“Although the traffic control system in New Zealand is relatively advanced, it can’t anticipate traffic flow, which is part of the reason why roads get congested,” says Dr Teal. “It’s also why we often find ourselves sitting at the lights even when there is no traffic around.

“Our project aims to use mobile devices in cars to convey key information some time before the vehicle arrives at an intersection, and use that information to set a more appropriate phasing of traffic lights.”

GPS tracking technology will be used to determine such factors as speed and location, with the information then sent back to a centralised traffic control system.

Wider application of the technology may also include providing information on vehicle weight, fuel economy, destination and costs of traffic delays.

“Two key components when it comes to inefficiencies in traffic are slowing down and stopping. These are largely reflected in the operational cost of fuel and the cost of lost time.

The research will focus on strategies for using the available information to minimise the total society cost, which is the combination of the operational and delay costs.

To give an idea of the scale of the problem, a 2013 New Zealand Transport Agency Research Report estimated the annual cost of traffic delays in the Auckland region alone at $1.25 billion.

Funding is currently being sought for the research project.

For more information contact Dr Paul Teal on 04-463 5966 or paul.teal@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Scholarships for the Master of Engineering (ME) in Software Defined Networking

21 May 2015 - 19:48 in Research

The School of Engineering and Computer Science is offering two full-time Master scholarships (domestic tuition fees plus a 1-year stipend of NZ$20,000) to excellent candidates to work on the following topics:

  • "Performance Evaluation and Analytical Modelling of SDN and OpenFlow-based Networks and Systems". The successful candidate is expected to have a good foundation in theoretical performance analysis techniques, viz. and queuing theory. Knowledge of common network simulation platforms (e.g. OmNet++, QualNet, etc) would be advantageous. He/she will also have the opportunity to spend time in Kyoto University, Japan, to work with world leading experts in performance analysis.

  • "Traffic classification in Enterprise Networks using Software Defined Networking". The successful candidate is expected to have a good fundamental knowledge of networking and strong hands-on skills required to validate his/her research results on a real network testbed. Knowledge of traffic classification techniques for supporting quality of service in the Internet would be given preferential consideration.
Interested applicants, please contact Professor Winston Seah via email attaching your transcripts, publications list, and CV. If you are suitable, you will then be provided with the information on how to apply for admission into our ME degree programme. Contact: winston.seah@ecs.vuw.ac.nz.

Research funding awarded

08 May 2015 - 17:24 in Achievement

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Professor Winston Seah, from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, has been awarded a $30,000 grant from InternetNZ to fund a Masters’ project that aims to address a key challenge for businesses dealing with exploding volumes of data.

More than ever before, says Professor Seah, businesses are reliant on data to function efficiently and effectively. As we continue to digitise information and increasingly rely on the internet for our conversations, moving information around, undertaking transactions and more, business are being faced with new problems in how to deal effectively with the data they gather and use.

The project for which Professor Seah has received funding addresses one of these newly emerged challenges—the scalability issues of traffic classification in enterprise network using software defined networking.

Putting it in layman’s terms, Professor Seah says the project is focused on how businesses understand and apply rules about the information they receive to support their businesses goals. For example, how can businesses ensure customer queries are prioritised over spam and that time-critical tasks are prioritised. “It all depends on how accurately the digital information about those transactions can be understood,” says Professor Seah.

This project has potential benefits for New Zealand companies and Professor Seah has already been approached by a New Zealand company which sees significant potential in this research.

Cochlea model reveals inner workings of the ear

18 May 2015 - 21:56 in Research

A model developed at Victoria University of Wellington has helped researchers conduct intricate experiments into the cochlea, which may lead to improved methods of treatment for hearing impairments.

PhD student Mohammad Ayat’s research involved developing a model of the cochlea, a snail-shaped chamber in the human ear, focused on the cochlear microphonic (CM)—an electrical signal generated inside the cochlea in response to sound.

The model—which includes electrical coupling of the cochlea—is the most detailed one-dimensional model developed to date, and allowed Mohammad to predict some characteristics of the cochlear microphonic.

“Some of these characteristics are different from what many researchers thought in the past, and may have clinical significance once further research is done,” says Mohammad.

Mohammad says the cochlear microphonic signal is a potential tool for diagnosing hearing impairments and investigating cochlear function.

“The CM can provide information about the health of particular sections of the cochlea, which may lead to faster and more accurate methods of adjusting the many settings of modern hearing aids to compensate for areas of weakness.

“The cochlea is hard to study because of where it is in the body and the complex processes at work. Modelling allowed us to bridge these gaps and gain useful information.”

Mohammad, who had no previous experience researching the cochlea, says it took him around eight months to learn its functionality.

“It’s a fascinatingly complex organ and there’s still mystery around how it works. Further modelling and signal processing experiments will lead to better methods of diagnosis, and improved methods of treatment for hearing impairments. It may also lead to the development of bionics-inspired speech recognition systems similar to the human cochlea.”

This study was conducted at Victoria University of Wellington, under the supervision of Dr Paul Teal from the School of Engineering and Computer Science and Professor Mark McGuinness from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research.

Mohammad graduated with a PhD in Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering on Wednesday 13 May 2015.

First-year engineering project helps Samoan schools get better connected

05 May 2015 - 15:35 in Achievement

A first-year engineering project at Victoria University will see thousands of students in Samoa have faster, more reliable computer networks in the classroom.

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Engineering 101 students learn technical skills while upcycling the University's old network switches

Students from Victoria’s School of Engineering will be cleaning, checking and upgrading about 160 old network switches that are no longer used by the University.

The upcycled network switches would otherwise be sold as scrap metal.

The project is driven by the not-for-profit Network Startup Resource Center (NSRC) based at the University of Oregon, which helps institutes like Victoria set up computer networks across 100 developing countries.

Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science Research Associate and NSRC contractor, Dean Pemberton says while the project allows the engineering students to gain hands-on technical experience in the classroom, the real benefit will be seen in Samoan tertiary institutes.

“A lot of the network switches in Samoa are completely unmanageable. These network switches, once cleaned up, will be faster and allow students to have a more reliable internet connection. They will also enable researchers at those universities to better collaborate with colleagues overseas,“ Dean says.

The Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship

03 Apr 2015 - 00:25 in Event

The Google Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship is open for applications with a deadline of 27th May 2015.

Anita Borg believed that technology affects all aspects of our economic, political, social and personal lives. In her life she fought tirelessly to ensure that technology’s impact would be a positive one. It was this vision that inspired Anita in 1997 to found the Institute for Women and Technology. Today this organization continues on her legacy and bears her name, The Anita Borg Institute for Women and Technology.

Dr. Anita Borg proposed the "50/50 by 2020" initiative, an effort to increase the percentage of women among graduates earning computing degrees to 50% by the year 2020. However, the percentage of Computer Science degrees earned by women is still far from 50% throughout the world.

Through the Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship for Asia Pacific, Google aims to encourage women to excel in computing and technology, and become active role models and leaders in these fields.

To be eligible to apply, applicants must:

  • Be a female student enrolled in undergraduate or postgraduate study in the 2016 academic year.
  • Be enrolled in a university in Asia Pacific. 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

Masters Scholarships in Computer Networks

23 Mar 2015 - 16:50 in Research

Two full-time Masters scholarships are available for qualified candidates to undertake research studies leading to a Masters in computer networks at Victoria University of Wellington.

The successful candidates will be supervised by Dr. Qiang Fu and industry partners, and conduct research in one of the following areas:
  • Coordinated resource allocation / scheduling in 4G/5G mobile cellular networks
  • Content distribution in mobile / vehicular networks
  • Network Functions Virtualisation (NFV)
  • Software Defined Networking (SDN)
Value of award: $15,000 + tuition fees

Tenure: One year

Commencement date: Anytime in 2015/16 (tentative)

Essential criteria:

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

*Strong motivation for developing practical networking solutions

Desirable criteria:

*ECEN or wireless communications background (mobile networks)

*SWEN / COMP or software development / virtualization background (SDN/NFV)

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

Launch of the TechHub CREST Challenge

06 Mar 2015 - 10:57 in Event

Year 10 students at St Mary's College were captivated by visiting speakers at a special assembly to launch the TechHub CREST Challenge to develop a phone app. St Mary’s students have started their journey into the arena of software development, highly motivated by words of encouragement from Tasha Sharp who is based at the Institute of IT Professionals, and four senior Victoria University students.

Elf Eldridge, a senior tutor from the School of Engineering and Computer Science, brought along four students who are studying either software engineering or networking. They provided an insight into the potential of pursuing a career in IT and also the opportunities for work at Google. Konnie and Kate who are Google ambassadors, and Bonnie and Ellie shared their passion for software development and programming.

Year 10 students reflected on the presentation:

Konnie and Kate made Google sound like a great work place, and a fun environment to be in. Bonnie and Ellie explained to us the sort of studies they do in university, and it sounded very interesting – Amelia.

Konnie and Kate taught me a lot about the Google lifestyle and environment, I absolutely agree that more women should be involved with technology as the world is beginning to have more and more technology – Kennedy.

Bonnie and Ellie talked about how they created programs and robots and cool things like that. They told us that even if you don't have a lot of knowledge about programming it’s alright because you will learn more and gain more knowledge. I think that doing this project will be fun and a lot of hard work and I'm also excited to see how it all works out at the end – Amour.

I'm looking forward to starting this project because it’s a new experience and seems like a fun challenge for me. I don't know what to expect because this is new to me but I’m keen for it and can’t wait to get stuck in – Lizzie.

There are a lot of apps on my phone so it would be really amazing to see how they are made. It is also very exciting because we will be working in groups so we will have to work together on this and use our skills to build an app – Sophie.

Thank you to Mrs Genevieve Herder, Digital Technologies, St Mary's College, for this article.

Lecture to highlight Alan Turing's genius

19 Feb 2015 - 14:23 in Event

The School of Engineering and Computer Science is hosting a lecture about the work of Alan Turing, often dubbed the father of modern computing and the subject of the film The Imitation Game.

Professor Rod Downey from the School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research at Victoria will deliver the public lecture in which he aims to give an accurate picture of Turing’s work and his place in history.

Professor Downey has spent the last 35 years researching in the area of the theory of computation and recently edited the book Turing’s Legacy: Developments from Turing’s Ideas in Logic.

Alan Turing was a mathematician and logician whose ideas led to the development of the modern computer and artificial intelligence. He has recently come to popular attention through The Imitation Game which focuses on his role in cracking intercepted coded messages in Britain during the Second World War.

Professor Downey says the film “horribly mangles” Turing’s contribution, and the nature of Bletchley Park, the central site of the United Kingdom’s Government Code and Cypher School which was a key hub for penetrating communications during the Second World War.

Professor Downey describes Turing as one of the geniuses of the twentieth century.

While Professor Downey will spend a small part of his lecture discussing things the film got wrong, most of his address will focus on mathematics, especially the development of computers and how cryptanalysis worked at Bletchley Park. He will pay particular attention to covering the range and variety of Turing’s work and the impact it has had.

“Turing was a prodigy, a brilliant and original man who was terribly treated for being gay. His story is a study in ideas and social commentary.”

In his lecture, Professor Downey will cover a brief history of ciphers, the work done by the cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park and how the Enigma machine works, all of which are portrayed in The Imitation Game.

Professor Downey will also discuss some of Turing’s less known work in areas including Biology.

What: Public Lecture: Alan Turing, Computing, Bletchley and Mathematics

When: Thursday 26 February, 5.30pm

Where: Government Buildings, Lecture Theatre 2

RSVP: Siyun.thompson@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

This public lecture is the first in a series of events being run by Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science with the aim of making science more accessible.

Rod Downey, FRSNZ, is a professor of mathematics at Victoria University of Wellington. His research is in the theory of computation and complexity theory. He is the only person in New Zealand who both is a Fellow of the Association for Computing Machinery and the American Mathematical Society. During the Alan Turing year (2012 – centenary of Alan Turing’s birth) he was one of the foundation fellows at the Isaac Newton Institute at Cambridge for the Alan Turing Programme. He recently edited the volume Turing's Legacy for the Association for Symbolic Logic. He has won numerous awards for his work including a James Cook and Maclaurin Fellowship, the Shoenfield Prize from the ASL, and the Nerode Prize from the EATCS.

For more information contact Professor Rod Downey on 04-463 5067, or rod.downey@vuw.ac.nz

New Students' Orientation

13 Feb 2015 - 21:40 in Event

The School of Engineering and Computer Science welcomes all new students.

We recommend that you attend the new students’ orientation from the 23 - 27 February. For further details check out: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/students/new-students/orientation

On Thursday 26 February all new engineering and computer science students are invited to a welcome session in lecture theatre 101 in the Maclaurin building. Meet staff who teach in first-year courses and find out how to get the most out of your lectures, tutorial and labs.

Engineering students will also get to know their fellow students with a fun team exercise followed by a BBQ at 5pm.

Connecting with Wellington’s tech industry

27 Jan 2015 - 22:50 in Event

Victoria University of Wellington is running a workshop aimed at getting Wellington’s tech community up to speed with the latest in network technology.

The two-day workshop, to be held on 18 and 19 February, will give participants an understanding of Software Defined Networking (SDN), an emerging paradigm which allows software to be accessed and changed remotely.

The workshops content has been adapted from a semester long course at Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

It is early days for SDN technology, but industry leaders such as Google are already making use of it, citing flexibility and that it creates an environment for innovation as reasons for adopting the technology.

Dr Bryan Ng, an Engineering lecturer at Victoria, is organising and presenting at the workshop. “It used to be that to make a change to how a device worked you had to physically replace the hardware. With SDN, developers are not restricted by the limitations of current hardware.”

Dr Ng says connecting academics and Wellington’s growing technology industry is an important driver for holding the workshop. Presenters and contributors to the workshop include industry representatives from Google, REANNZ (Research and Education Advanced Network New Zealand Ltd), Pica8 and Catalyst.

“With this workshop we are trying to narrow the gap between industry’s needs and what researchers are doing to meet those needs,” says Dr Ng.

Along with experts in the field, two Victoria students will have the chance to present their work. The pair gained funding through Victoria’s summer scholarship programme to look at specific areas of SDN and will present their findings at the workshop.

Dr Ng says another reason for holding the SDN workshop is to provide people with the skills to enable them to participate in ‘SDN Con’ which takes place in Wellington later in the year.SDN Con will offer developers the opportunity to work in teams to build SDN solutions. The inaugural SDN Con ran successfully in 2014 and it is hoped that with further knowledge of SDN this year’s event will be even bigger.

2015 Wellington SDN Workshop

When: Wednesday 18 and Thursday 19 February 2015

Where: Pipitea Campus, Victoria University

Register: By Friday 13 February, $50 per person

Find out more: http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/Events/SDNWorkshop

For more information contact Dr Bryan Ng on 04-463 9998, or bryan.ng@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Sponsored by:

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Entertainment at your fingertips

03 Feb 2015 - 16:18 in Achievement

Home entertainment could soon be experienced in four dimensions as a result of upcoming research at Victoria University of Wellington.

The project, which involves a multi-disciplinary team from New Zealand and Korea, will investigate how computer graphics and emerging interactive technologies can be combined to create new, immersive, home entertainment experiences.

The New Zealand team, led by Dr Taehyun Rhee from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, will be made up of researchers from across Victoria and the University of Canterbury.

“4D is already popular in cinemas in Korea. What we’re doing could bring that technology into people’s homes.” Says Dr Rhee who, prior to his role as a lecturer, worked in the Korean technology industry for 17 years.

Dr Rhee says at the end of the project, the team hopes to have a prototype which allows people to reach out to touch and manipulate what’s on the screen in front of them.

The user would need to attach a haptic feedback device to their fingers while wearing a head mounted virtual display such as an Oculus Rift. They would then be able to see their own hand as part of the action and reach out to touch what is happening in front of them.

Dr Rhee said it is too early to know how much can be achieved but it’s possible users will be able to feel texture as well as force.

Both the New Zealand and Korean teams plan to collaborate with potential industry partners with the potential to commercialise the prototype after the project is complete. Dr Rhee says once the technology at this end is developed, the entertainment will need to catch up.

“Movies with this kind of interactive technology are not out there yet. They will be a bit like a mix of a film and a computer game.”

The research is being made possible by a three-year grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment. The Korean team, from Korea University and Ewha Woman’s University, will be funded by the Korean government.

The funding of $150,000 per year will go towards supporting one PhD student and up to nine Master’s students to work on the project over the next three years. An important aim of the grant is to broaden New Zealand’s research base to enable sustainable partnerships with South Korea.

For more information contact Dr Taehyun Rhee on taehyun.rhee@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Cybersecurity

23 Jan 2015 - 16:04 in Event

Dr Ian Welch from Victoria University of Wellington and Prof Xun Yi from RMIT have organised an upcoming cybersecurity workshop and conference as part of the Australasian Computer Science Week at the University of West Sydney. This is a hugely topical subject in light of recent cyber attacks involving governments such as North Korea and organisations such as Anonymous.

Invited speakers include Dr Mike Davies (Research Leader, Cyber Assurance and Operations, DSTO) who will talk about "How do we form a stronger base of national cyber S&T security?” and Dr Jonathan Oliver (Senior Architect at Trend Micro) who will talk about "Recent TorrentLocker outbreaks in Australia”. They will be joined by Vijay Varadharajan (Microsoft Chair Professor in Innovation in Computing) for a panel discussion around the theme of “Preparing for upcoming cyber security threats and challenges”.

The workshop takes place on the 28th of January and proceedings of the conference will be published by the Australian Computer Society.

Further details about the day are available here:

http://homepages.ecs.vuw.ac.nz/Users/Ian/ACSW_AISC2015

Chime Red - making music with Tesla coils

17 Dec 2014 - 14:16 in Achievement

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The School of Engineering and Computer Science staff and students are creating unique musical performances involving a trio of Tesla coils.

Tesla coils, invented by Serbian-American Nickola Tesla in the 1890s, produce high voltage electricity and have inspired many kinds of research and musical performances.

The coils can play a range of original compositions written by PhD students from Victoria’s Sonic Arts Engineering programme, along with a few covers.

The control software that drives the coils’ has been developed by Josh Bailey, a software engineer, who also owns two of the Tesla coils used for the performance. The name of the performance—Chime Red—comes from the control system used to transmit the software to the coils, which was built by Mr Bailey and Victoria Masters graduate and staff member James McVay.

While music has been made with Tesla coils before, Mr Bailey’s software has taken things to the next level, with up to 16 notes able to be played simultaneously.

“As far as we know, there is no other system quite like this,” says Mr McVay. “Previously, the maximum number of notes that could be created was seven. Josh has more than doubled that.”

The whole performance is run from computers and, although songs can be played live, the compositions which make up Chime Red is programmed ahead of time. Computers, running standard music software, are connected to each Chime Red controlling a coil, which precisely controls the timing of arcs to achieve the desired notes.

“The faster you fire the coil, the higher the frequency you get. It’s hard to explain the sound. It’s very electronic, it doesn’t sound like any instrument I can think of,” says Mr McVay.

Along with an arc of electricity, Tesla coils also produce radio frequencies that can interfere with electronics. Each coil will have a cage on top of it to substantially reduce these frequencies but Mr McVay says other precautions will also be taken.

Radio New Zealand interviews James McVay, Jim Murphy and Jason Long:

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ourchangingworld/audio/20157713/music-for-tesla-coils-and-robotic-bass-and-drums

Teaching robots to see at Victoria

15 Dec 2014 - 15:28 in Research

Robots may soon see the world differently thanks to work being done at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Engineering and Computer Science.

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Syed Saud Naqvi, a PhD student from Pakistan, is working on an algorithm to help computer programmes and robots to view static images in a way that is closer to how humans see.

Saud explains: “Right now computer programmes see things as very flat—they find it difficult to distinguish one object from another.”

Facial recognition is already in use but, says one of Saud’s supervisors Dr Will Browne, object detection is more complex than facial recognition as there are many more variables.

Different object detection algorithms exist, some focus on patterns, textures or colours while others focus on the outline of a shape. Saud’s algorithm extracts the most relevant information for decision-making by selecting the best algorithm to use on an individual image.

“The defining feature of an object is not always the same—sometimes it’s the shape that defines it, sometimes it’s the textures or colours. A picture of a field of flowers, for example, could need a different algorithm than an image of a cardboard box,” says Saud.

Work on the algorithm was presented at this year’s Genetic and Evolutionary Computational Conference (GECCO) in Vancouver and received a Best Paper Award.

Now the computer vision algorithm is going to be taken even further through a Victoria Summer Scholarship project to apply it to a dynamic, real-world robot for object detection tasks. This will take the algorithm from analysing static images to moving real-time scenes.

It is hoped that the algorithm will be able to help a robot to navigate its environment by being able to separate objects from their surrounds.

Dr Browne says there are a number of uses for this kind of technology both now and in the future. Immediate possibilities include use on social media and other websites to self-caption photos with information on the location or content of a photo.

“Most of the robots that have been dreamed up in pop culture would need this kind of technology to work. Currently, there aren’t many home helper robots which can load a washing machine—this technology would help them do it.”

It’s early days but Dr Browne says in the future it’s possible that this kind of imaging technology could be adapted to use in medical testing, such as identifying cancer cells in a mammogram.

For further information contact Dr Will Browne at will.browne@ecs.vuw.ac.nz or on 04-463 5233 ext 8489.

The Victorias Awards - Celebrating Excellence at Victoria University

12 Dec 2014 - 19:59 in Achievement

The Postgraduate Student Association (PGSA) has a long standing tradition of recognising postgraduate excellence through the Victorias Awards which was hosted on Thursday 27 November 2014 in the Hunter Lounge. The Victorias Awards provide the opportunity to celebrate excellence in postgraduate research within Victoria University. They also recognise the support of postgraduate students, academic and general staff who inspire students with their verve and passion.

Congratulations to Engineering PhD student Henry Williams for being awarded the Landers Postgraduate Award.

Henry’s past leadership and continuing mentoring of Victoria Engineering Club is particularly noteworthy as it provides not only a forum for postgraduates to interact/network/socialise, but also link with undergraduate students. This link is vital in research led teaching, setting aspirational standards and encouraging our students to become postgraduates researchers themselves. His leadership of the NI-ARC (National Instruments-Autonomous Robotic Challenge) team directly resulted in it winning the Australasian competition in 2013, which gave widespread credibility to our postgraduate programmes. Henry is a well-regarded first year tutor, where he engages and encourages students through his passion for the subject. His volunteering for FutureInTech has helped our outreach demonstrate to secondary school students that studying at university, including eventual postgraduate study, is an awesome goal within their reach. Henry is also the student chair of the IEEE chapter of the Computational Intelligence.

Wellington Security Defender Day

12 Dec 2014 - 16:12 in Event

The School of Engineering and Computer Science (ECS) hosted the first Wellington Security Defender Day.

Worldwide, the economic impact of cybercrime is estimated at $523 billion (http://www.stuff.co.nz/technology/digital-living/60096249/cybercrimes-cost-at-523b-worldwide) and as New Zealand ICT companies grow so does their exposure to cybercriminals.

Fighting back against cybercrime requires web security experts to share their expertise and Wellington Security Defender Day was organised to provide this opportunity.

Wellington Security Defender Day was organised by Mr Kirk Jackson who is a well known Wellington computer security expert, and the School was pleased to be able to support this initiative by hosting the day at our Pipitea Campus. Kirk who currently works for Xero is a former student and staff member of ECS.

Kirk timed the day to coincide with Kiwicon, an annual gathering of people from the New Zealand security community that takes place in the Wellington CBD on December 11th and 12th.

The day was a mix of informal presentations and discussions between computer security experts and academics. Activities such as this build upon and enhance the work completed by ECS security researchers. Since 2006, collaborative web security work at the School has resulted in the development of open source tools for academics and security professionals.

For more information please contact Dr Ian Welch: ian.welch@vuw.ac.nz

Google dream a reality for Victoria student

17 Nov 2014 - 13:02 in Achievement

Victoria University of Wellington student Valerie Chan will learn from the top tech minds this summer as she interns at Google's Sydney headquarters.

After a long and rigorous application process Valerie, who has just completed her first-year at Victoria studying computer science and mathematics, was selected for the Google STEP (Summer Trainee Engineering Programme) which runs from 24 November to 13 February.

Google encouranges those who are often underrepresented in in the technology industry to apply for STEP internships. This includes women, people with disabilities and ethnic minorities.

For Valerie, the opportunity to work for Google is not just a great way to spend her summer, it’s the reason she chose to study computer science. While still in secondary school, Valerie attended a talk at Victoria by Google representatives who mentioned the STEP internships.

“I had never written a line of code before and I’d been considering studying law but the chance to work for Google made my mind up.”

Valerie sent in her application for the paid internship months ago and later she completed technical interviews over the phone before her application went before the hiring committee.

“An engineer from Google called me and tested my coding skills. The first time I had no idea what to expect but the second interview went really smoothly.”

Valerie prepared for her interviews by seeking advice from her Engineering lecturers who helped her get a jump start on work she would be completing later in the semester.

The preparation, interviews and waiting paid off for Valerie who will fly to Sydney at the end of this week to begin work on one of Google’s products.

“I’ve heard the first few weeks are a bit of a blur with so much to learn. It’s a bit scary but mostly exciting.”

The intership is paid and all expenses covered. Valerie and her fellow interns will stay together in apartments near Google’s Sydney headquarters at Darling Harbour. Valerie hasn’t been there before but says was impressed when she looked it up on Google Maps.

She is looking forward to learning from the best and says even getting into the programme has changed how she sees her abilities.

“Just being accepted has already been a real confidence boost--sitting in my end of year exams, I felt like I knew what I was doing.”

Wellington institutions look to enhance the region’s digital economy

03 Nov 2014 - 17:01 in Administrative

Three Wellington tertiary providers are working with industry to develop a joint Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Graduate School that addresses the specific needs of the region.

Earlier this year the Government announced it was investing $28.6 million over four years in ICT graduate schools in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Victoria University of Wellington, WelTec and Whitireia have joined forces with a number of Wellington businesses to develop a bid to establish the school.

“This is an excellent opportunity for Wellington based tertiary institutions to establish a school that will maximise the economic opportunities for our city and New Zealand,” says Professor Mike Wilson, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Science, Architecture and Design and Engineering at Victoria University.

“The Wellington region has the highest concentration of web and digital-based companies per capita in New Zealand and we want to ensure there are enough graduates with the skills and research capacity to help those companies thrive. Collectively we see great value in being able to leverage our existing networks, resources and education capabilities in the region to develop a school that will lead to a larger pool of ICT talent and collaborative research partnerships.”

WelTec Chief Executive Linda Sissons says the three tertiary institutions already have extensive collaborative relationships with each other, and the businesses and stakeholders that are necessary to make the School a success.

“We have been talking to a number of companies who are partnering with us to get a clear view of what the School needs to offer. We will be focused not only on skill development and innovative research initiatives, but also on blurring the traditional teaching boundaries by offering more educational delivery in real settings. This is an exciting direction for all of us.”

Whitireia Chief Executive Don Campbell agreed, noting the exciting possibilities that working together on this graduate school would bring. “The strength created by combining the longstanding vocational and applied research focus of polytechnic ICT programmes, including at Master’s level, to the postgraduate and research strengths of Victoria provides a compelling story.”

The consortium submitted its expression of interest on developing the Wellington Region ICT Graduate School to the Tertiary Education Commission (TEC) and Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment (MBIE) today.

Two senior appointments for Science and Engineering

31 Oct 2014 - 12:08 in Achievement

Two new senior appointments have been announced for the Faculties of Science and Engineering.

Professor Dave Harper will take the role as Dean of Science for the Faculty of Science, and Professor Mengjie Zhang is the new Associate Dean (Research and Innovation) for the Faculty of Engineering.

Professor Mike Wilson, Pro Vice-Chancellor for the Faculties of Science, Engineering, Architecture and Design, says that he looks forward to working with Professor Harper and Professor Zhang in their new roles.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have two individuals of such high calibre supporting me in my role,” he says.

Professor Harper has taught at Victoria University in the School of Psychology for nearly 21 years and although he calls the Easterfield building ‘home’, is looking forward to taking up a new leadership role.

“It’s a time of change and I’m really excited to be part of things moving forward, both as a University and a Faculty,” he says.

Professor Zhang, a Computer Science Professor, has been Deputy Head of School and Chair of the Research Committee for the School of Engineering and Computer Science for the past three years.

The genetic programming specialist says that there are real opportunities to make Engineering at Victoria thrive in New Zealand.

“I’m looking forward to working with others across the Faculty and University to make our Engineering research programs innovative and unique.”

Both roles take effect on Monday 3 November 2014.

Idiot-proof computer programming

24 Oct 2014 - 15:34 in Achievement

A computer scientist at Victoria University of Wellington is part of an international team that has designed a way to overcome problems that occur when using multiple programming languages to write webpages.

Dr Alex Potanin, a senior lecturer at Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, has helped design Wyvern, a piece of software that allows many different programming languages to be used at the same time.

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Dr Potanin helped develop Wyvern while on sabbatical in 2013 at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

He and the rest of the research group set out to design a system which makes it possible to use a variety of targeted, domain-specific programming languages—such as HTML or SQL—within a single programme.

“When you programme for the web at the moment you use many different languages—it’s a bit of a mish-mash,” says Dr Potanin.

Wyvern can simplify the process by establishing which language is being used within the programme based on the type of data the programmer is using.

“Currently these different languages are designed without taking into account that the others exist, so you write a programme and you only find out there’s an error when you try to run it and it doesn’t work. We’re bridging this gap by combining this mish-mash into a single underlying language that is easy to use. Our design means on one hand you are writing in a language that is comfortable to you but underneath it translates to the core single language that is checked for errors.”

Dr Potanin says Wyvern also helps avoid major security threats that can arise when using a range of programming languages.

“A code injection is a common security bug which is caused by processing invalid data. In can be exploited by an attacker to inject code, with potentially disastrous results,” he says. “The only way you can avoid it is to manually inspect the code. But Wyvern will not allow you to mix the wrong things—it’s idiot proof.

“Also, because this is a language that’s designed from scratch, we can build security into it from a fundamental level. With other programming languages it’s usually an afterthought and designers try to fit security policies retrospectively.”

The team’s work was recognised at an international conference recently – the research team won a distinguished paper award at the European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming in Sweden for their article ‘Safely Composable Type-Specific Languages’.

CMU is the top-ranked university in the United States for Computer Science, which Dr Potanin says makes for exciting collaboration prospects for Victoria students.

“We’re looking for students here to work on Wyvern—this is a great opportunity to join forces with such an internationally-renowned institution.”

To find out more about Wyvern, go to http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~aldrich/wyvern/

Fighting cyber-crime one app at a time

21 Oct 2014 - 22:25 in Research

This summer Victoria University of Wellington will be home to four Singaporean students researching cyber threats.

The students have been working with Dr Ian Welch, a lecturer in Victoria’s school of Engineering and Computer Science, as part of a partnership between Victoria and Singapore Polytechnic.

In their final year of the diploma in information security, the students have been working in groups to develop software to protect online programmes from malicious software or malware such as viruses or spyware.

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Singapore Polytechnic students show Open Bouncer to Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Home Affairs and Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Open Bouncer is the students' Final Year Project that detects malware in Android applications. PHOTO: Mabel Yap (Credit: Home Team News Singapore)

One of the group projects is a malware detection site called Open Bouncer which is used to test Android apps to see if they are secure and reliable.

This open source platform offers two levels of information. The first shows clearly if the application is safe or not and for more tech savvy users there is the option to expand on the results to show more detail and even add to the software themselves.

Open Bouncer has gone further than the classroom, with the group receiving the opportunity to show off their website at a high profile event in Singapore called GovermentWare, where they explained the software to a government minister.

Dr Welch has been remotely mentoring the students over the past few months through weekly Skype calls. He says he is looking forward to finally meeting them in person.

“They have been working on practical software projects, and this visit will help them get research backing for the work they are doing.”

As well as providing advice, Dr Welch helped the students to test their programmes to see if they would stack up against real cyber threats. Dr Welch says when it came to testing how effective their software was at fighting cyber criminals they used similar methods to the ones police use to catch regular criminals.

“The police will set up a ‘honey pot’ where a car is left unlocked in a rough end of town waiting for thieves to steal it. We did something similar by leaving a piece of software unprotected and waited for the malware to attack. When it did the students were able to test their programmes against a real threat.”

The testing paid off and Open Bouncer will soon be available for public use. A video demostration of the Open Bouncer system is now available at: https://openbouncer.catoace.com/drIan/Video/Trailer.mp4

For more information, contact Dr Ian Welch, phone 04 463 5664 or email Ian.Welch@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Music and the Machine

16 Oct 2014 - 10:30 in Event

Musical machines and robots will take over Victoria University of Wellington’s Hub this Friday.

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Following the success of last year’s event, the Sonic Arts and Engineering Showcase brings together 20 collaborative installations designed by students from Te Kōkī New Zealand School of Music (NZSM) Sonic Arts programme and Victoria’s Faculty of Engineering Electronics courses.

These projects include musical robots and machines which respond to changes in their environment, resulting in a range of mechanical and sonic responses.

Another project involves the use of ultrasonic sensors so that as observers move, the soundscape they experience changes dynamically.

A particular highlight of the showcase will be ‘Striker', a three-armed mechanical drum-playing instrument, that is able to predict where and how loud to play the drums in response to incoming musical events.

There has recently been an increasing overlap and growing potential for collaboration between NZSM and Electronics courses at Victoria, with a particular focus on interactivity and audience accessibility.

Check it out on Radio NZ: http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/nat-music/audio/20153916/musical-robots

Sonic Arts and Engineering Showcase 2014

When: Friday 17 October, 12–4.30pm

Where: Level 2, The Hub, Victoria University, Gate 3, Kelburn Parade, Kelburn, Wellington

Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre for Complex Systems and Networks

19 May 2014 - 16:46 in Achievement

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Dr Marcus Frean

The Tertiary Education Commission recently announced funding of just under $210 million over six years for six Centres of Research Excellence (CoREs).

Dr Marcus Frean, from the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University, will contribute as a Principal Investigator to one of the six centres - Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre for Complex Systems and Networks. While hosted by the University of Auckland, the Te Pūnaha Matatini Centre is a collaborative partnership with researchers from the universities of Victoria, Massey and Canterbury and Motu Economic and Public Policy Research.

Te Pūnaha Matatini's research programme brings together New Zealand's leading researchers in physics, economics, mathematics, biology, computer science, operations management, statistics, and social science to study complex systems and networks in the biosphere, the economy, and the marketplace.

New Zealand’s energy landscape in 2050

30 Sep 2014 - 10:33 in Research

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A group of Victoria University of Wellington students will spend the summer developing an interactive website that will allow the public and government organisations to see how the energy choices we make today will impact New Zealand in 2050.

The venture is a partnership between Victoria and the National Energy Research Institute (NERI), with support from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, youth-led climate change organisation Generation Zero, the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA), the British High Commission, and the Department of Energy and Climate Change in the United Kingdom.

The project will see students adapt the United Kingdom’s 2050 Pathways Calculator website (http://2050-calculator-tool.decc.gov.uk) and user-friendly simulation tool (http://my2050.decc.gov.uk/), to the New Zealand context, with advice from industry experts and policy makers.

The goal of the project is to identify a range of realistic energy futures for New Zealand and communicate them to the public in a way that encourages open and transparent debate on the topic.

Dr Rebecca Ford, from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, says the result will be a powerful tool anyone can access to explore the options we have for energy supply and demand, and the implications of the choices we might make.

“We’re so excited about this project, as it provides a real chance to engage New Zealanders, from school children right through to policy makers, in thinking and talking about our energy future,” she says.

Paul Atkins, Chief Executive of NERI, adds that the tool that will empower people to contribute to an informed dialogue about New Zealand's energy choices. “Taking the pop-up shop concept and forming what may be New Zealand's first pop-up lab at Victoria for a three-month period over the summer, we are providing opportunity through the process of building the model, as well as through the end product itself,” he says.

“Our lives and our economy revolve around energy,” says Paul Young, from Generation Zero. “With climate change and other challenges to our current energy systems, New Zealand has some important choices to make.”

There are 10 summer scholarships available for students interested in working on the project between November 2014 and February 2015. For more information visit www.victoria.ac.nz and search ‘2050 ecs scholarship’. Applications close on 1 October 2014.

For more information contact Dr Rebecca Ford on 04-463 5233 extn 7288 or email rebecca.ford@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

New Zealanders warming to solar power

29 Sep 2014 - 14:21 in Research

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A report released this week shows more and more New Zealanders, unhappy with their power providers, are turning to solar energy.

Dr Rebecca Ford, a lecturer at Victoria University of Wellington’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, is the lead researcher on the report which looks into the uptake of Photovoltaic (PV) to generate electricity in New Zealand.

Dr Ford says the report showed that of the participants surveyed only 30 percent were happy with getting electricity from their power company, and almost 60 percent would like to generate some or all of their own electricity and be willing to purchase PV in the future.

It also identifies that greater numbers of Kiwi’s are already putting their money where their mouth is and investing in PV, with the number of grid-connected small-scale systems having grown by 330 percent in the last two years.

Dr Ford says while the numbers are still relatively low compared to other countries, the growth trend has potential to have a substantial impact in the future.

The report is part of the GREEN Grid project, funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment which Dr Ford is working on along with researchers from Otago, Canterbury and Auckland universities.

The project is a wide-ranging investigation into how New Zealanders use power, how the demand can best be met using renewable sources, and how the national grid can be made smarter and more efficient.

The report also investigates what is stopping more New Zealanders getting on board with solar power in their homes and businesses.

“The biggest barrier for people,” Dr Ford says, “seems to be the upfront cost. While there are substantial benefits to installing a Photovoltaic system in your home it’s the high start-up costs and the lack of current financial incentives that put people off.”

Currently there is no support from the Government to encourage a greater uptake but, the report says, there are new types of business models being trialled by companies such as Vector.

Vector’s model allows customers to lease a PV system, making it possible for people to choose solar energy generation even if they don’t have the money to invest in a system or do not own their own home.

“It’s early days,” says Dr Ford, “but the results of our surveys were very promising. It showed us that New Zealanders do want to take personal responsibility for producing clean energy—we just need to find achievable ways to help make that happen.”

The report is available online at http://hdl.handle.net/10523/4992

For further information, contact Dr Rebecca Ford on 04-463 5233 extn 7288 or rebecca.ford@vuw.ac.nz

Victoria students help public keep an eye on our water

25 Sep 2014 - 09:49 in Research

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Engineering students Jarrod Bakker and Cristina Vina – both working on the quadcopter side of the project

Victoria University of Wellington’s engineering students are continuing to push the frontiers of pollution monitoring in New Zealand’s waterways through an innovative collaboration known as RiverWatch.

The next phase of the RiverWatch venture, which involves Victoria University’s School of Engineering and Computer Science and the Water Action Initiative New Zealand (WaiNZ), will be launched next week.

It challenges third-year engineering students at Victoria to develop an integrated data collection system made up of phone apps, water quality testing devices, unmanned aerial vehicles and a website for reporting.

The goal is to empower public to take direct action, using the phone apps, when they suspect pollution in their water.

This is the third year that Victoria students have worked on the RiverWatch project as part of their course work and Lawrence Collingbourne, a Teaching Fellow at Victoria and the business owner on behalf of the University, says this year, things are taking off.

“Each team of students that works on this project is pushing the frontiers even further,” Mr Collingbourne says, “This year we have teams developing water testing devices, using quadcopters to gather information in real time and launching apps to cover a wider range of smartphone platforms including Windows phones.”

The project enables information to be crowdsourced as people to use the app on their phone to photograph water pollution—the photo, and the GPS coordinates are then uploaded and once verified, will appear on the RiverWatch website. If the photo shows something of concern, an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) may be sent out to the location to gather further evidence.

The introduction of quadcopters to work alongside the existing small aeroplanes means the footage can be seen and captured in real time while the introduction of a water quality testing device allows more conclusive evidence of pollution to be gathered.

Engineering students Daniel Yeoh and Hamish Colenso and their teams have been working on two different water testing prototypes that do not require any specialist knowledge or skills to operate.

Both devices measure the temperature and conductivity of the water—which increase when there is pollution—and have a bluetooth sensor to communicate directly with the RiverWatch app to report any issues that are identified.

Hamish’s prototype is built for durability and could be left in the water to monitor pollution levels over time or, with minor modifications, be taken out by a UAV and dunked in the water for an immediate test. Daniel’s prototype runs off AA batteries, rather than a lithium ion battery, making it an affordable option for the general public.

Hamish says creating the devices has been hard work and stressful at times but working with a real client has also been an excellent learning opportunity.

To date, over 70 photographs of water pollution have been published on the WaiNZ website and Mr Collingbourne hopes this number will continue to grow with the project.

“More than half of New Zealanders now have smartphones. By extending the platforms the app covers, we hope to empower more New Zealanders to participate and become kaitiaki for their local rivers and streams.”

The RiverWatch update event takes place on Monday 29 September, 4:30-7:00pm, room 103 Alan MacDiarmid Building, Kelburn Campus, Victoria University of Wellington.

Victoria team defend title

22 Sep 2014 - 11:33 in Achievement

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A team of Victoria University of Wellington students is heading to Sydney this week to defend the title won by the University in the 2013 at the Australasian National Instruments Autonomous Robotics Competition (NI ARC) in Melbourne.

A team from Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science, led by Robby Lopez, beat 15 other teams from Australian and New Zealand universities to take top honours in the 2013 competition with its autonomous mining robot, Michelangelo.

This year they’re back with a few new team members and, says Robby, the group won’t be resting on its laurels.

“This year the challenge is quite different. With our entry Bolt!, we’re really going for top speed and have made major redesigns to the chassis. We’ve also changed our software.”

Robby and team members Michael Pearson, Alex Campbell, Mayur Panchal, Henry Williams, Ryan Wolstenholme been working on their robot for several months. They have had to achieve five milestones during the year, which tested different aspects of the robot’s capability.

Robby says while having the experience from last year has certainly helped, the team has had a couple of major challenges along the way.

“We wanted to have a really fast robot so we chose very high power motors but they proved to be more difficult to control electronically than we had anticipated. Solving the problems created by the more complex design was a nightmare but after seeing the test results we're happy that we went the extra mile.”

Their hard work has served them well—the team finished all major work on Bolt! with weeks to spare before the final, giving them time to fine tune.

“We're really happy about this as last year we were still working on the robot in the hotel room on the eve of the competition.”

Based on Bolt!’s performance and after checking out their competition on You Tube, the team is cautiously optimistic about its chances of bringing home the NI ARC title again this year.

“We feel like we're in a good position and it would be great to win a second time but from past years’ events it’s impossible to judge what will happen on the day.”

The theme for this year’s competition is agriculture with the robots competing in farming inspired challenges including collecting seeds and depositing them in the planting area and navigating through faming obstacles.

The competition final will be held on Thursday 25 September at Macquarie University.

Engineering students win Hackfest with firefighting robot

18 Sep 2014 - 11:27 in Achievement

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Cameron Shuker and Steve Richardson

Victoria University Engineering students, Steve Richardson and Cameron Shuker, took out the top prize in the first Summer of Tech mechatronics Hackfest in Wellington last weekend.

The Hackfest was one of several events in the Summer of Tech internship programme which connects students with local technology companies.

This year Grow Wellington has extended the programme to manufacturing companies looking to incorporate technology into their products.

Thirteen Victoria University students set out to impress potential employers with their robot wizardry skills at last Saturday's Hackfest. The students were given seven hours to complete their work. Their robots had to be able to navigate an area and identify a heat source or fire. Some teams connected their robots to social media so they were able to tweet about their progress.

Steve Richardson says he was delighted to win the event. "It was a close call. All of the teams were given the same components but our robot was the only one that used an LCD display."

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A robot on its mission at the
Summer of Tech Hackfest

The winning team was not disadvantaged by having two members compared to three for the other teams, "Cameron and I have worked together before, so we weren't worreid about giving each other criticism and this helped us."

Summer of Tech is an internship programme which connects students with local technology campanies. This year Grow Wellington has extended the programme to manufacturing companies looking to incorporate technology into their products.

Through the programme, companies obtain student interns for 10 weeks between November and February. Prospective students take part in CV clinics, site visits, hackfests and boot camps throughout the years to prepare them for future employment.

Since it began in 2006, Summer of Tech has facilitated 357 paid internships. The programme is supported by Grow Wellington, Wellington City Council and technology companies.

For further information go to: http://www.summeroftech.co.nz

New 1st year course: COMP 112.

06 Nov 2013 - 15:56 in Administrative

The school offers two first courses in Computer Science: COMP 102 and COMP 112. COMP 102 is designed for students with little or no experience in programming; COMP 112 is designed particularly for students who have taken the new NCEA programming standards in High School, but it will also be appropriate for students who have learned some programming via another route.

New students should take one of these courses; both lead on to the later courses in Computer Science and Engineering. If you are not sure which one to take, see the web page about the courses to find out which one would be best for you.

Callaghan Innovation Postgrad Internship: Software Engineer

10 Sep 2014 - 09:48 in Research

This Callaghan Innovation R&D Career 2014 position is for a recent graduate of a postgraduate program. The position is fixed term and for a duration of six months but with the possibility of extension to a permanent contract.

Magritek specializes in providing compact NMR and MRI systems for industrial and educational customers around the world. The present R&D focus is the development of compact low field NMR spectroscopy systems for chemistry education, industrial chemical processing and pharmaceutical markets. The product development work we are undertaking involves several technical disciplines including electronic, software, mechanical, magnet and chemical engineering. Our products consist of electronic hardware with embedded systems that interact with an application running on a users computer.

We are developing a new software control system for a new hardware platform to be used in upgrades of existing and new NMR related products. The new embedded ARM based hardware platform will use LINUX and will typically be controlled using an Ethernet port or WIFI. In order to simplify the development for the new NMR products we intend to create one or more custom high level languages that will be used to design experiments and NMR pulse sequences. The custom languages will generate LLVM IR output. This LLVM IR can be optimized for specific CPU's, like ARM or a custom FPGA based softcore processor. The task and challenge is to create a language and an associated debugging tool to debug code on a remotely connected system. The compiler and debugging tool shall run on Windows.

Magritek has an established team of world leading scientists and engineers and this is also bolstered by our collaboration with staff at Victoria University of Wellington. This position will provide someone with the unique opportunity of developing in these areas:
1. interacting with a diverse technical team that has a commercial focus.
2. undertaking leading edge research and development
3. working on a real project that will end up with customers
4. working within an environment will real commercial pressure
5. presentation and report writing

The skills that the applicant must have are C++, Linux, LLVM and compiler development. Additional skills such as C#, ANTLR and knowledge of ARM processors would be desired but are not essential.

The applicant must also have recently graduated with a Masters or PhD in computer science or software engineering or equivalent.
For eligibility criteria, please go to https://www.callaghaninnovation.govt.nz/what-we-do/funding-and-grants/rd-student-grants

Application procedures

Please email CV and cover letter to: Robin@magritek.com
Please also include a copy of your academic transcript and two referees.

Closes: 2 Dec, 2014

Commences: 1 February 2015

Type: Contract Remuneration:$60,000 per annum pro-rata

Location: Wellington, New Zealand

Website: http://www.magritek.com/

Program: Graduate recruitment program

Contact details

Mr Robin Dykstra
Ph: 04 920 7671
Email: robin@magritek.com

Summer of Tech

21 Aug 2014 - 10:32 in Event

Summer of Tech is a very successful student internship programme for those studying for a technology-related career. Launched in 2006 and now in its eighth year of operation the award-winning programme helps businesses source top talent from local tertiary institutions while giving students valuable real-world industry experience. The programme includes a series of bootcamps and industry-led skills development workshops to help bridge the gap between industry needs and educational development.

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The programme has helped Wellington employers source top local talent while easing the move from study to industry for hundreds of tech students.

Employers and technical experts deliver bootcamps, which are practical workshops that enable students to use technologies that are in demand in the local workforce. Bootcamps and exposure to employers during their tertiary years really kick starts their careers.

Summer of Tech culminates in paid summer internships, but its success can be measured by what happens after the internships: 2 out of 3 Summer of Tech students get on-hired, retained by their host company in a full or part-time capacity, or employed by another company in the

Since 2006, Summer of Tech has created over 300 IT jobs in Wellington, enabling NZ companies to invest in, and hire top local talent. Employers tell us the programme has become their go-to place to recruit graduates, and it’s an especially good way to find female programmers – who they’ve found rarely apply for developer roles.

The goals of the programme are to keep building the talent pipeline for NZ ICT companies, connecting local employers to local students, showing both sides of the equation that there are fantastic candidates and fantastic careers in ICT available in New Zealand.


During the summer, their Seminar Series gives interns and students who were unsuccessful getting an internship the opportunity to get connected, inspired and informed, through lunchtime learning and networking sessions. They have over 200 unique attendees at seminars every year, about half of which are students, with the other half being professionals.

For further information go to: http://www.summeroftech.co.nz

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

Distinguished Paper Award

09 Aug 2014 - 18:52 in Achievement

Congratulations to Dr Alex Potanin from the School of Engineering and Computer Science who was one of the authors that won a Distinguished Paper Award at the European Conference on Object-Oriented Programming (ECOOP) 2014.

The paper was entitled "Safely Composable Type-Specific Languages" and resulted from the work that Dr Alex Potanin performed while on research and study leave at the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, USA in 2013.

The work describes a novel technique to utilise the expected type of a language expression to select a parser for it, enabling multiple, potentially conflicting domain-specific languages to be combined safely in a single language.

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The authors on the photo left to right are: Benjamin Chung, Cyrus Omar, Jonathan Aldrich, and Alex Potanin - all the other authors are based at Carnegie Mellon University.

Alex belongs to the Software Engineering and Programming Languages research group at the School of Engineering and Computer Science: Alex.Potanin@ecs.vuw.ac.nz

Winternz - Open For Applications

28 Jul 2014 - 20:51 in Event

The Winternz program brings New Zealand undergraduate students to Silicon Valley for 12-week internships over the New Zealand summer.

Micah Cinco, a Networking student at the School of Engineering and Computer Science, spent the four-month summer break interning with Pertino Networks. Read about his experience here: http://kiwilandingpad.com/sacrificing-a-nz-summer-for-winter-in-silicon-valley/

Applications close August 15 2014. For further information:

http://kiwilandingpad.com/program/winternz/

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

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

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

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.

NCEA critique on Seven Sharp

06 May 2014 - 09:25 in Event

A news item of Seven Sharp about NCEA that features Victoria University students and Professor Dale Carnegie from the Faculty of Engineering:

http://tvnz.co.nz/seven-sharp/ncea-more-harm-than-good-video-5949178

On the fast track

05 May 2014 - 15:48 in Achievement

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Cogo Digital - Marcelo Hudson, Dale Galloway, Hannah Faesenkloet and Joseph Milson

The morning after Hannah Faesenkloet graduates with a Bachelor of Design Innovation, the 21-year-old will be back working in the start-up company she’s founded with three other former Victoria University of Wellington students.

Hannah is the youngest person, and the only woman, to currently be part of Wellington’s Lightning Lab—New Zealand’s first digital accelerator programme to help fledgling companies prove, build and launch their offering.

Hannah’s company, Cogo Digital, has developed a management tool that maps knowledge resources. Called Co-Operly, the system gathers information about employees’ knowledge and roles, helping to reduce the impact when staff members leave and improving efficiency in how knowledge is distributed through an organisation.

The innovative project was created by a team of students—Joseph Milsom, Marcelo Hudson and Dale Galloway—and is a great example of collaboration across disciplines.

Joseph Milson graduated from Victoria with a Bachelor of Music in sonic art in 2013 and will graduate with a Graduate Diploma in Science with a computer science endorsement this year. Marcelo Hudson will graduate with a Bachelor of Music in sonic art this year and Dale Galloway will also graduate this year, with a Bachelor of Commerce and Administration in Marketing and a Bachelor of Science in Psychology.

But the idea wasn’t what got the team into the Lightning Lab—they started the accelerator programme with a health and fitness app designed to get people off the couch.

“After one terrible day in the first week, we knew it wasn’t going to work,” says Hannah. “We went out for an ice cream and realised you have to be really passionate about something and believe in its potential, to take it through an intense programme like the Lightning Lab.”

After their “ice cream epiphany”, Hannah says the four members of the group spent the weekend forming a new idea.

“My personal motivation was frustration with having to troll through 45 minutes of a video to find the two minutes I wanted or seeing our developers trying to find succinct answers to programming roadblocks.

“It was one of our mentors at the Lightning Lab who pointed out the potential to adapt our idea for the corporate world.”

For more information visit www.cogodigital.co.nz or http://lightninglab.co.nz/

Students create their own league to find legends

17 Apr 2014 - 16:04 in Event

Victoria University of Wellington will play host to an e-sport tournament over the holidays, with students both co-ordinating and competing in online games.

Organised by the Victoria Engineering Club (VEC), teams of students will play League of Legends which, with 27 million active players, is currently one of the most popular video games worldwide.

Through the support of Riot, the company behind the successful game, the winning Victoria team will go on to compete against other Oceania teams at the Oceanic Gaming Winter Arena in May.

After battling it out for two weeks from 21 April, the final on 2 May will be screened on campus for students to watch. VEC organiser, Kieran Carnegie says the entertainment of e-sports isn't just for those playing.

"Commentary of games is much the same as with sports, and it's something that's really blossomed within e-sport culture. So we're going to have students within the club commentating every game for those wanting to watch, and then some professionals for showing the final on campus," says Carnegie, a computer science Master’s student.

Victoria researcher Dr Yuri Seo from the School of Marketing and International Business at Victoria Business School says that as computer gaming has grown worldwide, a spectator element has developed, as is the case with any other professional sport.

"There are people who want to watch the game, and it becomes a form of performance. And because you have increased spectatorship, you then have companies which want to sponsor events, and they just grow from there," says Dr Seo.

According to Dr Seo, a lot of the industry is consumer driven, and the tournament at Victoria is a good example of how the industry is working in a variety of ways to engage with consumers.

"The thing with e-sports is that community is a really big thing, and plays a very important role. This means it's common to see companies try and engage with them, and leads to both large and small scale events."

Dr Seo says that although the local market is currently quite small, because it's youth and technology driven, people living in New Zealand can still be a part of the growing international e-sport culture.

Victoria's first big e-sport tournament is open to students of all abilities, and there are a number of prizes being offer to competitors by both Riot and the VEC.

"This isn't a tournament where we're expecting everyone to be amazing. Whether you've only played a little bit or a lot, get together with a couple of mates and have a lot of fun," says Kieran.

The VEC, which has grown to over 300 members this year, is open to all students interested in engineering, computer science, or technology in general. Along with e-sports, the club runs a number of events from LAN-parties to robot building competitions.

For more information or to register for the tournament, visit: www.facebook.com/VictoriaEngineeringClub

To find out more, contact Kieran Carnegie on 04-463 5233, extn 8286 or email kotarou@ecs.vuw.ac.nz or vuw.vec.esports@gmail.com

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.

Meet a man who owns a key to a major part of Internet security

04 Apr 2014 - 11:47 in Achievement

There are 14 people worldwide who own keys that protect the security of web domain names. One of those people, engineer Andy Linton, joins James Ball, special projects editor for Guardian US, and Consider This host Antonio Mora to explain how the security system works and how Linton came to be a key holder. To see this item on America Aljazeera please click on the link below:

http://america.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/consider-this/2014/4/meet-a-man-who-ownsakeytoamajorpartofinternetsecurity.html

Datacom Scholarship

31 Mar 2014 - 09:42 in Achievement

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Simon Ferrari (General Manager, Datacom Systems), Alastair Turrell (Director, Systems and Integration, Datacom Systems), Tony Butler, Tim Stapels

A number of prizes are awarded annually to the top performing undergraduate students in the School of Engineering and Computer Science. These awards are possible through the generosity of organisations in the Wellington region. Since 2006 Datacom Systems has been awarding a $5,000 scholarship to a full-time student intending to undertake 300 level study in Computer Science or Engineering. The award is in excellence and this year the Scholarship went to two students, Tony Butler and Tim Stapels. Alastair Turrell, the Director of Datacom Systems, who presented the scholarship to the students, stated:

The Datacom Scholarship commenced in 2006 and we are as delighted and impressed with the quality of the 2014 graduate group as ever. Many of our staff are former students, and the visionary thought-leaders of our future are certain to come from your graduate pool.

Each year, as we set about assessing the scholarship candidates, we are continually impressed by the abilities, achievements and wisdom-beyond-years that we see. This year was no exception, and in evaluating the 2014 Datacom Computer Science Scholarship applicants, we decided to award two scholarships reflecting both the depth of talent emerging from the final year and the excellence of both scholarship recipients.

The School of Engineering and Computer Science would like to thank Datacom System for its on-going support.

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.

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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

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.

Andy Linton - Internet Key Holder

11 Mar 2014 - 13:36 in Achievement

Andy Linton, a senior lecturer at Victoria University explains on Radio NZ his job as one of the 14 keyholders helping to keep the internet secure.

http://www.radionz.co.nz/national/programmes/ninetonoon/audio/2588544/andy-linton-internet-key-holder

IET Engineering Student Award

10 Mar 2014 - 16:56 in Achievement

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David Owen, from the IET Council and Wellington Network Committee, presenting the IET 2013 prize to Victoria University student, Thomas Sherson.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is a leading professional body that shares and advances knowledge to promote science, engineering and technology through its more than 150,000 members in 127 countries. It offers a professional home for life for engineers and technicians and is a trusted source of essential engineering intelligence. To recognize and reward excellence, it currently awards NZ$1 Million in prizes, scholarships and medals each year; this includes an annual prize to VUW’s top engineering student.

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.

Computing Research Education Best Paper Award

11 Feb 2014 - 09:48 in Achievement

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PhD Candidate Masood Mansoori's paper "YALIH, Yet Another Low Interaction Honeyclient" was awarded the 2014 Computing Research & Education Best Paper for best graduate paper presented at the annual Australasian Information Security Conference (ACSW-AISC). His supervisors and co-authors are Dr Ian Welch and Dr Qiang Fu from the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

The paper describes an improved method for detecting web sites infected with a drive-by-download exploit. This type of exploit allows a hacker to deliver a computer virus to a victim's computer simply by luring the victim to the web site, for example by embedding the URL in an email sent to the victim. Exisiting methods for detection called low interaction honeyclients suffer from high rates of missed infections (false negatives). Low interaction honeyclients emulate sufficient functionality of a real web browser to allow web site executable content to be retrieved and searched for patterns known to be associated with drive-by-download exploits. Unfortunately, hackers have responded to the development of this technique by creating code obfuscation tools that randomly rewrite expoit code on-the-fly so it doesn't match known signatures.

Masood's main contribution described in this paper is to reduce the missed infection rate by implementing de-obfuscation techniques within a low interaction honeyclient. Code de-obfuscation attempts to transform multiple reordered versions of the same exploit into a single canonical version allowing more reliable matching against known drive-by-download exploit signatures. He has implemented this idea as an opensource tool called YALIH (Yet Another Low Interaction Honeyclient) and shown that YALIH achieves a significantly lower missed infection rate compared to other well-known low interaction honeyclients (Monkey-Spider, HoneyC, SpyBye and Thug).

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

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.

TopTenReasons to Study at ECS

19 Dec 2013 - 10:29 in Event

Here are the top 10 reasons why students choose to study with us at ECS!

Solving a Moving Problem

11 Dec 2013 - 11:55 in Alumni

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Victoria University graduand Ben Drayton has come up with a way to help solve the problem of measuring distance to a moving object.

By developing what his PhD supervisor describes as a “world-first technique”, Ben’s research is enabling an emerging measurement technology, called an indirect time-of-flight camera, to function more effectively.

The 24-year-old student from Wellington, who graduates with his doctorate in Electronic Engineering this week, says there are many situations when distance needs to be measured, such as in forensic scene examinations of car crashes, sail profiles in America’s Cup yachts, architecture, mobile robot navigation, film production, and computer gaming.

“When you are dancing around in front of the screen playing a computer game, this technology is the thing which detects your movements,” he says.

The traditional way of measuring distance is to laser scan a scene, point by point, but this method takes a long time. Others have used two cameras and tried to work out the distances by comparing the two images, which is complex.

Ben’s method is far simpler. “It only needs one camera lens, and all of the processing capacity can be put onto a small board so the entire unit is no larger than a standard camera.”

A time-of-flight camera works out distance based on the speed of light, measuring a light signal between the camera and the subject for each point of the image. However, says Ben, errors often creep in when the target, or the camera is moving.

By carrying out a combination of theoretical and experimental research, Ben came up with a solution to the problem—he found a different algorithm that automatically accounts for objects moving with a constant velocity.

“I did a fair number of computer simulations and theoretical derivations to show how it should work, and had a conveyor-belt that I could move objects along repeatedly so I gathered real data using that to verify it. The algorithm eliminated the error,” he says.

“Ben's new algorithm for range-finding cameras will hugely increase the number of applications these cameras can be used for,” says his PhD supervisor, Professor Dale Carnegie for Victoria’s School of Engineering and Computer Science. “He has determined a world-first technique to overcome a number of these motion problems.”

Ben will graduate at a ceremony at 6pm on Thursday 12 December.

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

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

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.

Study Software Engineering for Game Development Skills

31 Oct 2013 - 09:21 in Event

Study Software for Game Development Skills

"Booming NZ game industry faces skills shortage"

Study Software Engineering (BE) or Computer Science (BSc) at Victoria University of Wellington to gain skills necessary for success in the rapidly expanding New Zealand game industry.

Studying at Victoria gives you a range of skills, starting from the core programming skills, algorithms and ending with dedicated game design courses. The final year project a compass many aspects of computer game design from artificial intelligence algorithms, to networking, to user interfaces and beyond.

Beyond your studies, we run graduate level boot camps, where two successful spin out companies are making their living through game design. Many of our students are now employed in local gaming companies, such as Pik Pok.

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/

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

Victoria Engineering students win Australasian robotics competition

25 Sep 2013 - 16:25 in Achievement

A team of engineering students from Victoria University of Wellington has taken top honours in the Australasian National Instruments Autonomous Robotics Competition held in Melbourne this week.

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The Victoria team, ‘Ownbot’, beat 15 other teams from Australian and New Zealand universities with its robot Michelangelo, named after its turtle-like shape. A video of the achievement is gaining attention in the press.

Led by PhD student Henry Williams, the team was made up of undergraduate and postgraduate students from the School of Engineering and Computer Science: Tessa Phillips, Robby Lopez, Alex Campbell, Hamish Colenso, Alice Lawn and Joseph Shadwick.

Henry says he is “well chuffed” that their autonomous creation performed so well.

Dr Will Browne, a senior lecturer in the School who supported the students as they developed Michelangelo, is excited by the win.

“It’s fantastic news. The students have worked incredibly hard on this project over the last few months and to see them win a competition like this is just superb.

“It showcases the depth of talent and skill amongst our students, and also the team’s passion for robotics, since this was an extra-curricular project which complemented their formal studies.”

Dr Browne says things weren’t all plain sailing for the team, with Michelangelo initially consuming too much power and nearly catching fire, but the students overcame the difficulties through excellent teamwork.

To qualify for the competition finals, the team had to achieve four milestones during the year, which tested different aspects of the robot’s capability. The students documented their progress through a blog (http://vuwniarc2013.blogspot.co.nz).

In the grand final this week, the Victoria University team won the ultimate ‘Gold Rush’ themed task, where robots were required to navigate an obstacle-filled course, and identify, pick up and move objects to designated locations in the shortest possible time.

The team has won a cash prize $3,000.

Quicktime Movie of Michelangelo

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.

Energy, Engineering, and Social Justice

24 Jun 2013 - 10:31 in Event

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On the 17th June at Transpower House, Associate Professor Henry Louie from the College of Science and Engineering, Seattle University, gave a seminar on the importance of energy in raising the standard of living amongst people living in poverty, and the role engineers might play in helping them gain access to electricity. The seminar was jointly organised by EEA, IEEE PES Chapter, and Victoria University of Wellington.

Professor Louie explained that at present, 1.2 billion people or 17% of the world’s population don’t have access to electricity. A high proportion of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa or South Asia, and live in rural rather than urban areas.

The dilemma we face is that if all 7 billion people in the world used 9.94 MWh, the average annual power usage per person in New Zealand, and the world’s population continues to increase at its current rate of 1%, and demand per capita also increases, by 2050, 109 1000 MW coal plants will need to be built that year to meet the energy demands of 10.2 billion people.

Assoc Prof Louie then described how appropriate and affordable technologies that are expandable and scalable can be used to provide electricity on a sustainable basis to the rural poor, and can also provide them with opportunities to generate an income.

As a result of attending the seminar, several ECS students are keen to attend the upcoming Engineering Change workshop at Auckland University, in order to gain inspiration for developing technologies for the poor as part of Dr Ramesh Rayudu’s special topic course ECEN 427.

ECS PhD Student awarded ENZCon Best Presentation Prize for Mechatronic Guitar

12 Sep 2013 - 11:52 in Achievement

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Students and staff of Victoria University of Wellington's School of Engineering and Computer Science recently attended the 20th annual Engineering New Zealand Conference (ENZCon), held at Massey University's Albany campus from the 5th – 6th September. VUW ECS PhD student Jim Murphy was awarded the Best Presentation prize for his talk about Swivel 2, a mechatronic guitar system which he is developing with supervisors Dale Carnegie and Ajay Kapur as part of his thesis work. Swivel 2 is a 6-string slide guitar system capable of the playback of fast melodies, complicated rhythms, and long-duration compositions.

Jim is currently working with composers to create a body of new musical works for the instrument. Swivel 2 will be used not only as a performance instrument but also as a tool for engineering education outreach and as a research system. Swivel 2 will join MechBass (a mechatronic bass guitar designed and built by student James McVay): both will be used as demonstration systems to interest and excite prospective engineering students.

Swivel and MechBass are both part of ongoing work being conducted on new mechatronic musical instruments. Murphy, Carnegie, and Kapur are also building new mechatronic harmoniums, drum systems, and guitar-playing mechanisms. A common goal of these separate projects is to allow for composers to create compositions, realised in physical space, which would be difficult for human performers to play.

Other new work presented by the students included ME student James McVay's report on an in-development low-cost rescue robot, ME student Tony Cimino's talk about a nearly-completed large-scale research and rescue robot, and ME student Greg Hayes' discussion of his portable electrocardiogram research. Also shown was Daniel Burmester's work on the implementation of an alternative energy nanogrid at VUW.

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

Graduate's innovative software goes worldwide

24 Jul 2013 - 13:58 in Alumni

Victoria University computer science graduate Matthew Duignan, who is now working for Microsoft in Seattle, has helped develop a successful Visual strategic planning and outcomes tool 'DoView'.

DoView helps companies visualise outcomes in strategic planning, management, monitoring and evaluation of tasks and is gaining worldwide appreciation:

Please see their website
http://www.doview.com/

Or a recent stuff article
http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/business/8885411/Fulbright-scholar-has-program-for-success

It is great to see our Computer Science (and Software Engineering) degrees help our graduates develop innovative software with worldwide applications.

Victoria welcomes new Pro Vice-Chancellor

09 Jul 2013 - 11:50 in Administrative

Professor Mike Wilson has joined Victoria University as the new Pro Vice-Chancellor of Science, Engineering and Architecture and Design.

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Vice-Chancellor Professor Pat Walsh says he is delighted with Professor Wilson’s appointment.

“Professor Wilson has an established record of strategic, academic and administrative leadership and will bring valuable experience to the high performing teams in these faculties.”

Professor Wilson was previously Dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Physical Sciences at the University of Leeds, where he also held a Chair in Applied Mathematics. Prior to being appointed Dean he was Head of the School of Mathematics at the University of Leeds.

His career began as a PhD student with the Radio Astronomy Group in the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, where he specialised in astrophysical fluid dynamics. After moving to Leeds as a research fellow, Professor Wilson worked with colleagues to develop innovative numerical simulations of astrophysical jets, which were the first of their type.

In the 1990s, Professor Wilson became involved in the field of computer-aided geometric and functional design and was a co-inventor of a new method for the design of surface shape, known as the Partial Differential Equation Method. The method has received widespread international recognition and has been applied in ship and aircraft design.

Professor Wilson has significant experience working with research colleagues, business and industry partners on international research projects and gaining external funding grants.

He replaces Professor David Bibby, who has retired but will be working with the New Zealand Climate Change Research Institute at Victoria University.

In addition to his role as Pro Vice-Chancellor of Science, Engineering and Architecture and Design, Professor Wilson also takes up the position of Dean of the Faculty of Science.

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

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

New Computer Graphics Programme Launched

18 Aug 2011 - 14:28 in Event

Victoria University has unveiled plans for a leading-edge study programme that will support innovation and growth in Wellington's internationally recognised entertainment and digital technologies industries. From 2012, Victoria will offer a Computer Graphics programme that is unique in Australasia in the way it blends computer science and design. Other courses available at tertiary level focus on one or other of the two disciplines. Victoria's Computer Graphics subject will be a course option for Masters level students in both the School of Design and the School of Engineering and Computer Science, with the computer science and design components weighted differently for the two degrees.

Professor John Hine, Dean of Victoria's School of Engineering, says the cross-disciplinary nature of the programme is one aspect of what makes it unique. "The other is the involvement of local industry. We have worked very closely with leading companies in the digital industries sectors, particularly Weta Digital, Sidhe Interactive and Unlimited Realities, to develop a course that is relevant and will produce graduates with the skills the sector needs." Professor Hine says the relationship with local industry will be continued through sponsored scholarships - with Weta already having confirmed one PhD scholarship - consultation, guest lectures and internship opportunities. "Weta in particular has a lot of experts visiting its research and development facility in Wellington and we hope to get some of them along to teach our students."

The long term goal is to build in-depth capability at Victoria to support New Zealand's digital industries. That will include specialist programmes at Master's level, supervision for PhD study and a research programme that can deliver new technologies and skills to industry. "The initiative will lead to a range of new career opportunities in the region's internationally acknowledged digital creative sector, making Wellington and Victoria University a logical location to study this exciting specialisation."

As part of its support for growing New Zealand's high tech creative sector, the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MSI) has contributed $500,000 towards the cost of establishing the programme. Murray Bain, Chief Executive of the MSI, says the Ministry is keen to support and encourage industry engagement with universities.

The website for the new Computer Graphics program is at http://computergraphics.ac.nz.

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

Dr Mansoor Shafi MNZM

03 Jun 2013 - 12:31 in Achievement

Congratulations to Dr Mansoor Shafi for receiving a Queens honours.
MansoorShafi.jpg Dr Mansoor Shafi

Member of New Zealand Order of Merit (MNZM) For services to wireless communication technologies.

Dr Mansoor Shafi, of Wellington, is Telecom Fellow at Telecom New Zealand and Adjunct Professor, School of Engineering and Computer Science.

His rich industrial experience and knowledge of telecoms informs his teaching on the Advanced Communications Engineering course ( ECEN-410)

This course provides an introduction to the fundamentals of wireless communication systems. The characteristics of fading channels are considered and their effect on the propagation of signals. Countermeasures such as diversity, forward error control and modulation schemes for wireless communications are studied. Multiple-access techniques such as time-, frequency- and code-division multiple access are examined. WLAN, WPAN wireless sensor networks, cellular concepts such as capacity, congestion, interference and multiple access are also presented.

Victoria University of Wellington is ranked number one for research in New Zealand, where our teaching is directly led by our research. Students benefit from top-quality academic and industrial research practices, provided by experts in their field, such as Dr Mansoor Shafi. Staff and students join in congratulating Dr Mansoor Shafi on his well-deserved award.

The Google Anita Borg Scholarship - 2013

30 May 2013 - 10:42 in Achievement

The Google Anita Borg Scholarship was established in 2004 to honor the legacy of Dr. Anita Borg and her efforts to encourage women to pursue careers in computer science and technology.

Scholarships will be awarded based on the strength of candidates’ academic background and demonstrated leadership. A group of female undergraduate and graduate student finalists will be chosen from the applicant pool. Each scholar recipient will receive a $5,000 AUD scholarship towards the following academic year. In addition all finalists and scholarship recipients will be invited to an expenses-paid networking retreat to be held at Google’s Sydney Engineering centre. Watch highlights from the 2012 Sydney Retreat here.

Who can apply?

Applicants must satisfy all of the following criteria to be eligible:

  • Be a female student enrolled in full-time undergraduate or postgraduate study for the 2013-14 academic year.

  • Be enrolled at a University in any of the following countries: Korea, Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and India. Citizens, permanent residents, and international students are eligible to apply.

  • Be studying Computer Science, Software Engineering, or a closely related technical field.

  • Maintain an excellent academic record

Citizens, permanent residents, and international students are eligible to apply. Past applicants and finalists are also encouraged to re-apply. If you have any questions, please email the Anita Borg Memorial Scholarship Team at anitaborg-apac@google.com, or reply to this email.

Deadline to apply: 31st of May 2013

For further information on this scholarship and how to apply, check out www.google.com/anitaborg/apac

A Family Affair

14 May 2013 - 16:33 in Alumni

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A passion for problem-solving leads brothers to collaborate on study and work

Seeing the interesting assignments his brother was doing for his Engineering degree at Victoria University of Wellington confirmed Alex Quinlivan’s decision to follow the same path. John Quinlivan is a third-year student and Alex is in his first year. Both are majoring in Software Engineering.

“We spent a lot of our childhood mucking about with computers and played our fair share of video games,” says John. “Eventually the passion for ‘how does it work?’ extended into the tertiary education field.”

Alex always knew he’d study computer science or engineering because he was drawn to computing and problem-solving.

“When decision time came, I was swayed by the interesting courses that my brother was taking, as well as some of the assignments, which looked like something I’d be keen on doing. The other drawcard was the sheer number of courses you can choose from for a Software Engineering degree at Vic.”

The first-year Autonomous Vehicle Challenge is one of the assignments that hooks students into Engineering, says Lecturer Dr Will Browne. Students have to make a vehicle using a micro-processing board, a gear box and a motor driver. Sensors are added to improve performance in a competition to see whose invention takes top honours.

The hand-sized vehicles—which range from mini-tank lookalikes to sand buggies and go karts—have to look good, be recyclable and able to complete physical tasks such as weight pulling, a drag race, a slalom and navigating a maze. “The challenge happens at the end of the first trimester so students are thrown in at the deep end, but it’s really popular and a great way to get students engaged in many aspects of engineering,” says Will.

Although Victoria’s Engineering degree is relatively new, having siblings and cousins involved at the same time is increasingly common, says Will. “Once other family members get to see some of the hands-on and fascinating projects Engineering students do, they get inspired to follow in their footsteps. “To recommend a university course to your own whānau is a pretty high recommendation.”

Although the Quinlivan brothers are at different stages of their degree they get to take some classes together. That’s because John was Alex’s tutor in the first trimester. “It was a bit of fun having my younger brother in the tutorial,” says John, while Alex enjoyed a few perks from living in the same house as the teacher. “I could hitch a ride in to the early morning labs that started at a ludicrous time of 9am which meant I didn’t have to get up early and wait for public transport!”

Studying engineering together has also deliver benefits outside of the university. John and Alex have developed applications for Android and iOS systems, along with a corresponding website, and already have projects underway with several small start-up businesses.

MiriaGraduation

13 May 2013 - 15:20 in Achievement

Paving the way for female Māori graduates

13 May 2013

Miria Royal doesn’t see herself as a trail blazer for Māori women but, as the first Māori female to be accepted into Vodafone’s Graduate Technology Programme, it’s a concept the Victoria University graduate is getting used to.

Miria, who will be awarded a Bachelor of Engineering tonight, says she feels a responsibility to other Māori women in the engineering and telecommunications field.

“It’s a bit intimidating to be set up as an example, but if I can open the door for other Māori women to come into this career then that would be fantastic.”

Miria Royal

Miria, who is one of 10 in the Vodafone Graduate Technology Programme, started working in Vodafone’s Auckland-based optimisation team in February. “I’m working to maintain, manage and optimise the network to improve the customer experience in terms of coverage, speed and reliability.”

However, she almost missed out on a place in the programme, which has been running since 2008.

“I attended a tech users event, where Vodafone’s Chief Technology Officer, Sandra Pickering, was speaking. I introduced myself and told her I was looking for a job and even though applications for the graduate programme had closed, she told me to send in my CV.”

Four days later, the job was hers. “I was surprised at getting in, because I always thought graduate placements were for A+ students.”

Amy Oding, Leader of the Technology Graduate Programme at Vodafone, says Miria is “a star in the Technology Group”.

“She has displayed a high standard of engagement and her team leaders are confident she will make a success of her career at Vodafone. We are very pleased to have a female Māori graduate of this calibre,” says Amy.

Miria, who was born and raised in Wellington and is of Ngāti Raukawa descent, is following in the footsteps of her engineer father. “I did a two-month internship at 2degrees in Wellington which really cemented my enjoyment of technical engineering and the telco industry. The industry is so fast-paced and varied, it’s exciting to know that there’s always something new around the corner.”

After finishing the two-year graduate programme, Miria hopes to gain overseas experience in her field before returning to New Zealand. “I want to give back and technical engineering is one way I can do that.”

Miria will graduate with a Bachelor of Engineering tonight, Monday 13 May at 6pm. She will also attend Hui Whakapūmau, a celebration for Māori graduands at Te Herenga Waka Marae at Victoria University on Tuesday 14 May at 9am.

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.

Best paper Award at NZCSRSC

24 Apr 2013 - 11:03 in Achievement

Congratulations to Syed Saud Naqvi for his Best Paper Award at the New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference 2013. This conference brings together the best young researchers in ICT in New Zealand.

Saud's paper investigated models of human eye movement. Humans concentrate only on small parts of an image at a time, termed fixation. Saud developed an existing biologically inspired model of how humans attend to a scene by using artificial intelligence to weight important aspects of the image. His method was compared with alternative artificial approaches and actual recordings of human eye movements, where he showed positive results in being able to predict human eye movement.

The practical applications of Saud's work range from developing fast camera systems for autonomous robots to predicting the best places for road signs to be mounted so that drivers notice them quickly.

Sauds best paper award


The award carries a prize of $1500, which will be spent on assisting Saud with conference travel, was kindly funded by a donation to the conference from Google. This will enable Saud to present his follow up work that has been accepted for publication in the International Congress on Evolutionary Computation (CEC 2013), which is a top rated A international conference, to be held in Cancun, Mexico.

This is an example of Victoria's national and internationally leading research as recognised by the first place ranking in the recent research evaluation exercise. Doctorate scholarships are currently being offered for bright, hard-working and enthusiastic researchers to join the Evolutionary Computation Research Group and other world-class researchers.


NZCSRSC 2013 was the 10th conference in the series which started in 1992 and has now become a regular event in New Zealand.

The aim of the New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference is to establish and reinforce a nationwide community of ICT graduate students. It provides an opportunity for students to establish contacts and share their research with graduates from across New Zealand, and members of the wider community. Students will gain experience in communicating their research and participating in an ICT community by:

  • submitting, presenting and reviewing research papers in a supportive and enthusiastic environment,
  • participating in workshops dedicated to providing practical information for completing a successful graduate programme, and pursuing future careers in academia or industry,
  • participating in a range of special events that get students in touch with like-minded people working in related areas within ICT, and
  • hearing from leading ICT experts in a series of exciting invited keynote presentations
Another goal of the conference is to help support and encourage other students such as minority students, women, and Māori and Pacific Nations students with ICT research.

Searched by Google

22 Apr 2013 - 11:05 in Alumni

Skills in software development springboard for success

Michael Mudge thought it could have been a hoax when a Google recruiter contacted him after seeing his profile on the professional networking site LinkedIn, but his suspicions were unfounded. The Victoria University of Wellington computing graduate has taken up a position with Google in San Francisco after being headhunted by the owners of the world’s biggest search engine.

Michael initially studied Engineering at Victoria but switched to Computer Science three years into the four year degree. “Although computing is part of the Bachelor of Science degree, there’s a very close relationship between the Science and Engineering faculties at Victoria, so making the swap was easy.”

He went on to complete an Honours degree in Computer Science and enjoyed being involved in cutting-edge research. His topic was in the area of artificial intelligence where he set out to develop algorithms that would make the process of optimisation to evaluate functions simpler and more efficient.Michael became one of a select group of scholars to achieve First Class Honours in Computer Science.

Regarded as a technical maestro, Michael worked as a web developer and a software engineer for several up-and-coming companies after graduating. When Google came calling, he wasn’t immediately available but the company kept in touch and a rigorous round of interviews began in July last year. It culminated in a visit to San Francisco for five-hour long sessions with Google staff.

“It was challenging—I had to write code in front of them and answer questions about my thought processes and problem-solving techniques.” He passed with flying colours and has joined other new recruits from around the world as a Google software engineer and developer.Michael, who is nearly 25, says working for Google is a dream come true. “They’re the best. For a recent graduate, it’s as good as you can get.”

Michael attributes his success to motivation and going the extra mile. “If you want to be good you have to push yourself to succeed, and not just in one area. When you see high achievers, they are well developed people, excelling across a number of fields.”

Computer Science at Victoria University Features in the Dominion Post

15 Apr 2013 - 14:44 in Achievement

An article published in the Dominion Post on the 4th April highlights Victoria University's initiatives to demonstrate the how much fun computer science is, and the great careers that are available.

The computer science taught at Victoria University of Wellington covers building 'hybrid engines' rather than 'driving a car' - everything from creating your own programming language to app & game creation, or even how to defeat denial of service attacks (Much more than spreadsheets and word processing!). Please contact us for more information regarding forthcoming events for students and teachers.

( marketing@ECS.VUW.ac.nz)

Dr Stuart Marshall, with collaborators from the University of Canterbury, has recently won a grant from Google for this year's Programming Challenge for Girls, (PC4G) a competition which encourages Year 10 girls to explore computer programming. The local round and national finals were hosted at Victoria in November and December 2012. Please see (http://www.pc4g.org.nz/) for further details.

ECS Students Awarded Academic Prizes

15 Apr 2013 - 12:05 in Achievement

Three ECS students were recently awarded prestigious academic prizes For 2012. The School of ECS congratulates these students for their well deserved success.

Aneta Stevanovic, who graduated with a BSc majoring in computer science in 2012, was awarded the Addison Wesley Prize in Computer Science. Aneta is starting her Masters degree soon, and says the prize will be very useful for purchasing the books she needs.

Renee Kwang, a third year BSc student majoring in computer science and mathematics, was awarded the Addision Wesley prize in computer science (200 level). Renee says being awarded the prize affirms that she made the right choice in giving up her previous job as a tax accountant to study computer science.

Mitchell Lane, a 4th year BE (Hons) student majoring in software engineering, was awarded the IET prize 2012. Mitchell says the prize makes the long hours of hard work he has devoted to his studies all worth while, and encourages him to continue giving 100% to his studies during his final year.

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.

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

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.

Network Engineering Student wins best paper award

30 Jan 2013 - 15:41 in Achievement

PhD Student Masood Mansoori has been awarded best student paper at the Australasian Information Security Conference (AISC) on how to scan networks in order to allow the automation of this creation of a network of "honeypots". He wrote this paper in conjunction with Hamid Mohammadzadeh from the University of Malaya and Dr Ian Welch from Victoria University.

Honeypots are computers that only exist in order to attract the attention of hackers and observe their activities. Ideally an enterprise should create a network on honeypot computers to hackers. Doing this is manually is a hugely time consuming task and so automated approaches have been suggested ("dynamic honeypots"). What Masood and his colleagues did was to experimentally test which was the best approach was to automatically discover the details of the real computers so that the honeypots would appear the same.

Australasian Information Security Conference (AISC) is part of the 2013 Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW) and attracts submissions from Australasia and wider afield. This year, ACSW was hosted by the University of South Australia in from January 29 to February 1st in Adelaide.

Best student paper award (AISC)

Abigail Rajendran Represents VUW at Trans-Tasman 3 Minute Thesis Competition

07 Dec 2012 - 16:47 in Achievement

Abigail Rajendran - Victoria University 3MT Winner 2012

On 11th October 2012 I was honoured to represent Victoria University at the Trans-Tasman Three Minute Thesis (3MT) Competition, which was held at the University of Queensland at the Brain Institute. I spoke on my Masters project titled ‘Magneto-rheological compliant actuator for stroke rehabilita- tion’. The day started early with all contestants and supporters arriving at 8am. Contestants were mainly from Australia and New Zealand with a few from Hong Kong and Fiji. We were greeted with a delicious breakfast (including danishes YUM!). A room was allocated to contestants where we were briefed on the rules and how the competition and day would run.

We were broken up into four heats each containing 11 contestants and the two highest scoring in each heat went on to the finals. At the end of each heat certificates were presented to the contestants. Between heats we had a ten minute drink and food break. The contestants not competing in the current heat were allowed to attend the talk, held in a neighbouring lecture theatre, wander around or watch the online stream which was available in our room. Nerves were a little high all round and the quality of the talks was amazing. The topics ranged from law, to science through to the arts.

The judges had it cut out for them as it was extremely hard to fault anyone and it was very evident that everyone had practiced their talk more times than they would want to admit. At the conclusion of the heats the judges commended the quality of the talks and the eight finalist were chosen (sadly I was not one L), before we broke for lunch. Stress levels were reduced among those not in the finals, and students were able to get pointers off each other to overcome similar problems that were faced in their research. After lunch the eight finalists competed again and a new set of judges selected first place - Tim Paris, second place - Lauren Hollier and the audience chose the people’s choice - Tristan Simons, all did an awesome job!

Following the competition a cocktail reception was held where the winners were awarded their trophies and everyone had a chance to socialise (and eat more food!). Overall I had an incredible time, learning how to better my communication skills as well as learning about the vast range of research out there in under three minutes (beats having to read a thesis)! I would highly recommend this competition to anyone even considering it. Give it a go! It is a great experience and you won’t regret it.

What I learnt and advice to future students: firstly I was surprised by how few masters students there were as most the other competitors were PhD students (but don’t let that hold you back if you are a masters student!). Keep it simple! Although your research is probably second nature to you explaining it to a non-specialised audience is a different story. The less work the judges need to do to think and understand your talk the easier their job is (remember they had to listen to over 40 talks in the space of a couple of hours). In saying that, don’t water it done too much, people want to have learned something. Maybe have one strong idea/ point and make it relatable. Practice your talk to friends and family. If they can understand it, then you are on the right track. Explain why your research is important, who and how it will benefit those around you. Make it interesting, jokes work really well. Your audience should be left enlightened but also curious to know more. Enthusiasm is contagious, when you are clearly enthused and excited the audience and judges will be too!

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.

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.

ECS Professor Receives Splash Award for Most Influential Paper

23 Nov 2012 - 15:51 in Achievement

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Prof James Noble as perceived by a novel image processing algorithm evolved by ECS

At the SPLASH 2012 conference in Tucson Arizona, it was announced that Professor James Noble and Adjunct Professor Robert Biddle has won the award for the Onward! most influential paper from 10 years ago.

The 2002 paper, titled Notes on Postmodern Programming, argues that computer science and software design developed within the framework of Modernism, and uses “a series of snapshots, parodies, and imagined conversations” to challenge many of the values resulting from this.

SPLASH (Systems Programming, Languages and Applications: Software for Humanity) is the ACM conference that encompasses all aspects of software design and delivery. It has been the umbrella for both OOPSLA and Onward! Since 2010.

For more information about SPLASH:

http://splashcon.org/2012/

To read the paper in full:

http://dl.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=1052883.1052890

e-Science Consultant Earns General Staff Award

20 Nov 2012 - 12:32 in Achievement

e-Science consultant Kevin Buckley has been awarded a 2012 General Staff Award for providing technical support to researchers using e-research. Seven researchers across five schools and research centres supported is nomination. Within this group, Kevin was a co-author of two papers, and two of the researchers were recently awarded Marsden grants.

Kevin’s proposed citation commends him for consistently demonstrating “…both technical and inter-personal skills to help researchers to achieve their research goals by supporting their use of high performance computing. This has included both Victoria resources such as the Science Faculty HPC cluster and the ECS grid, and the BlueFern at the University of Canterbury. Kevin has consistently provided the support required by researchers and has clearly demonstrated how e-Research can help to deliver better research faster.”

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

Remembering Professor Paul Austin

17 Oct 2012 - 11:31 in Alumni

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It was with great sadness that the School of Engineering and Computer Science learned that Professor Paul Austin died in Cambridge, England on Saturday the 13th October, following a long battle with cancer.

Paul joined the Faculty of Engineering part time in 2009 as Professor of Control Systems Engineering, while also holding a part time research post at Cambridge University Engineering Department. Professor John Hine remembers that “Paul’s experience with IPENZ and the accreditation process was invaluable in establishing the BE at Victoria”. He was also a member of the Communications and Signal Processing Group.

Paul obtained his BE (Chem) degree from the University of Canterbury, and his PhD from Cambridge University, England. He held senior academic positions at Auckland and Massey Universities during the late 1970s and 1980s, and was a Fellow of Robinson College, Cambridge University. His main area of research was systems modelling and optimal control systems design for multivariable systems.

Paul also held a number of consulting engineering positions in the UK and Europe, and was a Director of a small high-technology company in Cambridge. In New Zealand, he developed and managed a joint research project with Industrial Research Ltd in partnership with CHH Kinleith and the Whakatane Board Mill. His particular interest in industry was the development of control systems to enhance energy efficiency and production, and reduce the use of chemicals. He was well known in the New Zealand engineering community, and will be sadly missed.

ECS Masters Student Finalist in Wellingtonian of the Year Awards

16 Oct 2012 - 11:02 in Achievement

Masters student Abigail Arulandu has been named as a finalist in the youth category of the Wellingtonian of the Year Awards. For her Master of Engineering project, Abigail designed and built a device to assist with the rehabilitation of stroke patients by helping then re-gain control and strength in their hand and arm muscles. New Zealand company Im-Able obtained funding from the Ministry of Science and Innovation for Abigail develop a prototype, and is currently working to patent and sell the device.

“The Wellys” are an annual celebration of the extraordinary contribution some Wellingtonians have made to their community, across a number of different sectors. The nine categories in the awards are arts, business, community service, education, environment, government, science and technology, sport, and youth. There are four finalists in the youth category.

The Wellingtonian of the Year Awards Dinner will be held in The Ballroom, Amora Hotel, on Thursday the 22nd of November. The winner of each category will be announced, and then from these winners, the Wellingtonian of the Year award winner will be named. Past winners of the award include Peter Jackson, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement, and Father Des Britten.

Engineering Student Builds Device to Help Stroke Patients

02 Oct 2012 - 16:19 in Achievement

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Abigail Arulandu didn't plan to study engineering at Victoria University but the opportunities it has brought her confirm she made an excellent choice.

After being roped into a speech competition for young engineers at Victoria, Abigail went on to win the Asia-Pacific final of the prestigious Institution of Engineering Technology event and is gearing up for the world finals in London.

The Engineering Masters student will also soon be representing Victoria at the Australasian final of the Three Minute Thesis speech competition.

In addition, Abigail has accepted a job as a product development graduate for medical device company Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and will start work for them next year after completing her Masters degree.

At secondary school, Abigail was interested in Criminology and planned to study it - until she attended an open day at Victoria and saw student-designed search and rescue robots in action.

"Seeing some of the amazing things being designed by engineering students inspired me to change my mind," says Abby.

When she started at Victoria, Abby had limited experience of computers and no knowledge of programming or electronics. It made her first year of study quite challenging but also exciting, and by her second year she knew she had found her niche.

Abby's research has been in the area of stroke rehabilitation technology. She designed and built a tool for rehabilitating the hands of people who have had a stroke. The device repetitively exercises a person's hand in order to help them re-learn muscle sensation and regain control of their hand movements and then creates resistance against the user's movements, allowing them to build up muscle strength.

Abby says working in the medical field is important to her because she wants to make a difference and help improve people's quality of life.

Success for Abby has come through determination, hard work and motivation.

"If I can do it, anyone can. If you put in the hard yards you start reaping the benefits-nothing comes easy in life."

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.

Faculty of Engineering gains full industry accreditation

06 Sep 2012 - 11:58 in Achievement

As New Zealand looks increasingly towards science and engineering to drive business innovation, Victoria University‘s Faculty of Engineering has made an important step forward for students in the field.

Victoria University's four-year Bachelor of Engineering (BE) programme has achieved full accreditation from the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ). The promotion from provisional to full accreditation marks the next stage in the development of Victoria‘s engineering programme, which launched in 2007.

Professor John Hine, Dean of the Faculty of Engineering says that Victoria's BE programme intentionally focuses on modern forms of engineering, specialisations that can respond to today's and tomorrow's needs. "We teach courses on the digital technology that drives the modern world, from electronics to software, and where there is a high demand for graduates in New Zealand." "I am delighted that the quality of our BE programme has been recognised with full accreditation from IPENZ, and that the Faculty received such positive comments"

The Faculty of Engineering has close links with leading technology firms in the Wellington region, and full accreditation recognises that Victoria's engineering programme is producing quality graduates to enter the industry.

"Students can be confident that completing their engineering degree at Victoria will provide them with an internationally recognised qualification, and will stand them in excellent stead on their paths to exciting careers as professional engineers,"says Professor Hine.

IPENZ commended several aspects of Victoria's engineering programme including its facilities and laboratories, the accessibility of staff, the level of pastoral care provided to students, and the confidence and positivity of graduates with respect to the programme.

The accreditation process involved a visit by a panel of engineers who spent several days looking at all aspects of the programme, talking to staff, students, graduates and employers and inspecting facilities.

Staff members in Victoria‘s Faculty of Engineering are recognised as having strong research credentials and links to industry, as well as having an excellent rapport with their students. The programme is taught in an environment with around 100 research and academic staff, PhD and Masters students, with world-leading research driving teaching and providing opportunities for undergraduate students to advance their interests.

The Faculty of Engineering is equipped with state of the art equipment, and new undergraduate project laboratories, situated in both the recently-opened Alan MacDiarmid Building and the newly-renovated Cotton Building.

About IPENZ accreditation

IPENZ, the professional body which represents professional engineers from all disciplines in New Zealand, manages the accreditation of all New Zealand professional engineering programmes. Full accreditation means that Victoria University‘s BE programme is taught to the standards set out in the Washington Accord, and that Victoria now stands equal with other professional New Zealand engineering programmes in terms of international recognition.

IPENZ accreditation provides graduates with international recognition through the Washington Accord. Other jurisdictions currently covered by the Accord are Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong China, Ireland, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Turkey, the USA and the UK.

To learn more about IPENZ accreditation visit http://www.ipenz.org.nz

IPENZ Seminar on Assistive Technologies

19 Sep 2012 - 10:11 in Event

* IPENZ Networking Evening September 2012:
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On the 5th September, The School of Engineering and Computer Science with IPENZ were pleased to host a public seminar by Marcus King on the development of technologies for the rehabilitation of people affected by stroke. Research work into assistive robotics and human machine interaction, coupled with industrial professionalism, was expounded by an internationally renowned guest speaker.

Marcus King is a leading research engineer in the field of assistive technologies focusing on the use of information technologies during rehabilitation following brain injury or disease. He has received New Zealand Innovator of the Year 2011 and engineering excellence awards for his work in this field. His work is commercialised by a locally based international rehabilitation company, Im-Able Ltd. This company has a joint project with the School to develop the next generation of active assistive devices.

http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/Main/ECSPostgraduateStudentWinsVUW3MinuteThesisCompetition

This work influences both undergraduate and Masters level study for students interested in biomedical engineering. The seminar was received enthusiastically by approximately 60 students, staff, IPENZ members and members of the public. It underlined the professional nature of the Bachelor of Engineering Degree which enables students to progress on to professional careers, e.g. in companies such as Fisher and Paykel Healthcare.

http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/Groups/Alumni/AlumniStoriesBrendanVercoelen

OMV New Zealand Ltd Scholarships 2013

01 Oct 2012 - 15:59 in Administrative

OMV New Zealand Ltd. Scholarships 2013

Postgraduate Study in Earth Sciences, Environmental Sciences, Engineering

OMV New Zealand Ltd. is offering a scholarship of up to $10,000 for one academic year.

Candidates must be New Zealand citizens or residents enrolled in a New Zealand University institution or an internationally recognised overseas university institution, and involved in a project that is relevant to OMV NZ Ltd activities and policies.

Applications close 20th December 2012

For regulations and application instructions, click on

http://www.massey.ac.nz/massey/admission/scholarships-bursaries-awards/other-scholarships/search-results/search-results_home.cfm?page=award_display&scholarship_id=886.

ECS Student Success in Robotics Research

20 Aug 2012 - 09:27 in Alumni

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Henry Williams is a 22-year old Victoria student pursuing his PhD and making some great headway in the field of robotics.

His current research involves allowing robots to navigate unfamiliar environments and then create an internal mapping system that can be relayed to other robots. This essentially means the robot learns the most efficient way to get from A to B.

He holds first-class honours in a Bachelor of Engineering in Electronics and Computer Systems, and received a Summer Research Scholarship and a Victoria PhD scholarship to continue his research into robot mapping systems.

What does his research mean?

The implications of Henry's research are that it may enable robots to share mapping information with each other to help them explore unstructured environments, such as collapsed buildings and potentially assist in rescuing people more quickly in disaster situations. Henry’s love of robots and electronics started young. He was a fan of Transformers, electronics and the movie Short Circuit.

He says his studies at Victoria had been a lot of fun:

“The lecturers are really cool. Everyone’s willing to help. Cool projects always going on and a lot of people to hang out with.” He also enjoys his weekly research group, where students can bounce ideas off each other about their creations, even for home projects. Henry’s supervisor Will Browne said of Henry: “He is a first-class engineering student who is as happy building robots and implementing the latest AI techniques on them as he is playing StarCraft or hockey in a local team.”

Along with his team, Henry is building robots that will compete in the 2012 National Instruments Autonomous Robotics Competition. Teams will showcase their robots against teams from top universities across Australia and New Zealand. The focus for the competition is ‘obstacle avoidance, object handling and navigation.

A bright future is ahead for Henry.

While at Vic, Henry was paid to go with a group of other students to present his research at conference in Australia about evolutionary intelligence. He also worked on a joint programme with the Queensland University of Technology. “Collaborating with guys in the top of my field was really cool,” he said. He has already been seconded to a top university research group in Australia and will continue designing, building and generating intelligence for state-of-the-art robots.

Henry has some parting advice for students intending on studying electronics or robotics at University.

“If you are interested in robots, study Physics and Maths—it may be boring at times but they are really useful”, he said. “If you can pick up any Electronics, Computing or anything relating to that, just go for it.”

And does he think that we should be worried about robots taking over the world?

“With current techniques of programming, it won’t happen ... but then again, who knows where we will be in 10 years?”

Rod Downey joins inaugural class of Fellows of the AMS

25 Sep 2012 - 10:38 in Achievement

Congratulations to Professor Rod Downey FRSNZ from Victoria‘s School of Mathematics, Statistics and Operations Research, who has been selected to join the inaugural class of Fellows of the American Mathematical Society, in honour of his distinguished contribution to mathematics. He will be officially inducted at the world‘s largest mathematics meeting, the 2013 Joint Mathematics Meetings, in San Diego in January.

New Zealand Computer Science Research Students Conference

18 May 2009 - 09:38 in Event

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During the mid-trimester break in April, seven students from ECS (Keith Cassell, Adam Clarke, Rashina Hoda, Ben Palmer, Kourosh Neshatian, Kok-Lim.Yau, and Craig Anslow) attended the New Zealand Computer Science Research Students Conference (NZCSRSC) at Auckland University. The Conference, which is in its 7th year, is organised and run by postgraduate students, and aims to promote and strengthen the nationwide community of ICT research students.

Key note speakers included former Victoria University masters student Alan Blackwell, who gave an insight into Interdisciplinary Design Research for Interactive Technology. As Alan, who is now at Cambridge University, states on his home page "I only have one big research question, but I attack it from a lot of different angles. The question is representation. How do people make, see and use things that carry meaning? The angles from which I attack my question include various ways in which representations are applied (including design processes, interacting with technology, computer programming, visualisation), various methods by which I collect research data (including controlled experiments, prototype construction, ethnographic observation), and the theoretical perspectives of various academic disciplines (including computer science, cognitive psychology, engineering, architecture, music, anthropology)" (http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~afb21/research.html ).

Another key note speaker, J.P. Lewis from Weta Digital, used the movie King Kong to illustrate Why Academic Research Matters to Weta Digital. Specifically the presentation looked at the graphic techniques used to recreate the city of New York in 1920 and the realistic skin, fur, eyes and movement of Kong.

A core component of the annual Conference are the presentations and posters from students. This year 25 graduates studying at New Zealand universities (and 7 from ECS) gave presentations and as in previous years the standard of talks and posters were of high quality. A range of workshops also gave students the opportunity to build on their research skills and topics ranged from thesis writing, time management, presentation skills, the publication game, to discussions on careers in research and the industry in general.

The conference not only gave student researchers an understanding of what others are doing, but also gave them the opportunity to interact with others who are motivated and passionate about their work. But it wasn't all work, highlights of the conference included the Endace opening dinner and the Orion Health social night that involved a boat cruise on Auckland harbour.

Feedback from the students who attended was positive - "The organisers did a fantastic job in planning the conference which ran very smoothly. We are looking forward to next years conference".

Startup Weekend Wellington

13 Aug 2012 - 10:40 in Event

School of ECS student Matthew Betts led the winning company in Startup Weekend Wellington on 29th July. Along with SOAD student Max O’ Brien, he successfully pitched Questo!, an educational gaming platform which encourages student participation in homework. The first prize includes $10,000 advertising on TradeMe, $1,000 MYOB business services start-up package, a 3 month part-time desk based at Bizdojo, $500 cash from Hyperstart, and a US $200 voucher for Amazon Web Services.

Another ECS student George Davie was part of the runner-up company Mia’s Ideas, whose business was based on buying and selling pre-loved party décor online. Other VUW students who participated in the event include Thomas Caskey, Pauline Kelly, Hans Lim, Ian Loh, Matt Rollitt, and Earl Stewart.

Startup weekend is an event that brings together entrepreneurs, developers and designers for an intense weekend of pitching business concepts to participants, forming teams, developing ideas, market research, receiving coaching, and developing mock-ups, culminating in a final presentation on Sunday night, followed by judging and awards. A number of successful New Zealand businesses have arisen from Startup Weekend Wellington, including previous winners TranscribeMe and Usnap.us.

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.

Pavle Mogin Retirement

25 Jun 2012 - 09:40 in Event

Dr Pavle Mogin recently retired from Victoria University of Wellington having served the department and faculty for over a decade, from 2000-2012. To help celebrate Pavle's retirement a small party was held with some speeches and a document as well as a tribute video was put together: A Tribute to Dr. Pavle Mogin.

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ECS Postgraduate Student Wins VUW 3 Minute Thesis Competition

22 Jun 2012 - 10:34 in Achievement

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Abigail Rajendran, a Masters student in Engineering has won the Victoria University 3 Minute Thesis Competition. Abigail gave a speech based on her research project, titled 'Magneto-Rheological Compliant Actuator for Stroke Rehabilitation'. Her project involves using magneto-rheological fluid to design and build a compliant actuator that could be used to rehabilitate the hand of a person who has had a stroke. The device first repetitively exercises a person's hand in order to help them re-learn the muscle sensation and therefore regain control of their hand movements, and then creates resistance against the user’s movements, allowing them to build up muscle strength.

The 3 minute thesis concept originates from the University of Queensland, where the first competition was hosted in 2008. From there, the idea spread to other Australian and New Zealand universities, and the inaugural Australasian-level competition was held in 2010. The purpose of the competition is to give postgraduate students the opportunity to develop their academic and research communication skills by delivering a speech on their thesis topic that is aimed at an educated but non-specialist audience. Speakers are judged according to audience comprehension, audience engagement, and communication style.

As the winner of the VUW final, Abigail won $3,000 and gained the opportunity to attend the Australasian final at the University of Queensland in October. We wish Abigail the best of luck at the final in Australia and congratulate her on such a deserving project!

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

100% of First BE Cohort in Graduate-level Employment

14 Oct 2011 - 13:49 in Achievement

All of our cohort of graduating Bachelors of Engineering students have gone on to find graduate level employment. This illustrates both the need for digitally focused engineers from our specialisations (Software Engineering, Network Engineering, Electronics and Computer Systems Engineering) and their quality.

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Big-name companies, such as Google (Australia), GNS, Fisher & Paykel Healthcare and Aviat Networks, have all employed our graduates. Small (agile) companies and start-ups, such as Code to Customer, have also recognised the talents and transferable skills gained through four years of dedicated study. The breadth of jobs available to our graduates is amazing, e.g. working for the Ministry of Justice for their software and networking needs. The high technology and state-of-the-art nature of the jobs is illustrated by one of our graduates who has joined FNZ who are interested in 'enterprise cloud computing and services company in the wealth management sector'.

It is also really pleasing to note that five of our students have stayed on to indulge their passion for learning in Masters degrees. This has included attracting lucrative scholarships from companies (Im-able Ltd), government (TechNZ scheme) and the University.

With greater emphasis being placed on Graduate employment levels by government it is excellent to see the continued contact that our graduates have with the School and the Careers service who are available to assist both students and graduates in finding their perfect job.

Finally, if you are a prospective student wanting an awesome job after an awesome time at University, feel free to explore our site.

Or if you are employer searching for top level graduates, then please contact our careers service who can also provide details of our in-demand careers fairs.

Google Revamps Network With OpenFlow

01 May 2012 - 10:43 in Event

OpenFlow (an open source networking technology) research is currently being conducted at Victoria University of Wellington, UC Berkeley, UC Stanford, and University of Waikato.

Google has explained how it is revamping its network, which is ranked highly amongst large Internet service providers, using an open source networking technology called OpenFlow.

The Open Networking Summit 2012 was held on the 16th -18th of April at Santa Clara, California. Participants included representatives from US universities (UC Berkeley, UC Stanford, Georgia Tech, Princeton, Cornell), major network equipment vendors (Juniper, Cisco, HP, NEC, IBM, Extreme), and tech companies (Google, Deutsche Telekom, Verizon).

Steven Levy from Wired outlined Google’s plans, and Urs Höelzle, Google’s head of infrastructure, explained the technology behind OpenFlow. OpenFlow is the linchpin of Google’s network overhaul. It is an open source technology that separates packet switching and management. Network control is moved to servers.

The swap to OpenFlow was carried out data centre by data centre. Networking equipment was pre-deployed to take over half the capacity. Höelzle said that Google will make its own networking equipment, and already makes its own servers. Google’s routers power the G-Scale network.

Software expertise is key to Google’s ability to schedule traffic and Off-load work to regions. Google also needs to predict the time to move backups and other key tasks.

Höelzle also discussed the returns the company expects on its investment. The returns aren’t quantified just yet, but Google has hundreds of engineers working on the project.

Victoria University of Wellington is also supporting OpenFlow Research in conjunction with REANNZ through a Bootcamp to be held on the 7th May. The Bootcamp is aimed at giving participants practical experience at implementing OpenFlow, and will involve building and trouble-shooting an OpenFlow-based L3 router.

For more information, contact the engagement team at REANNZ. engagement@reannz.co.nz

ECS Hosts Successful Annual Programming Challenge 4 Girls

30 Nov 2011 - 14:11 in Event

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On the 23rd of November 2011, ECS and VUW hosted 51 Year 10 girls from around the Wellington Greater Region as part of the annual Programming Challenge 4 Girls competition. The girls worked in pairs to complete a series of challenges developed by AUT in Alice. At the same time, teachers attended a Professional Development workshop to learn about electronics and programming.

ECS graduate students and staff helped run the challenge: Harsha Raja, Shahida Jabeen, Bing Xue, Sharon Gao and Monique Damitio assisted in the labs, while Luke Frogley, Roma Klapaukh, Ian Welch and Stuart Marshall ran the workshop for teachers.

Gold medals were awarded to the following two pairs:

  • Nicole Rennie and Rachel Wong (Samuel Marsden Collegiate School)
  • Nadja Jury and Piper Biswell (Wellington East Girls College)

Silver medals were awarded to the following girls:

  • Isabella Strang and Chanelle Doole (Sacret Heart College)
  • Janice Chin, Bettina Dela Paz, and Anna Lin (Onslow College)
  • Jialin Sae-Jin and Anna Singleton (Samuel Marsden Collegiate School)
  • Samantha James and Gemma Burns (Wellington East Girls College)

Finally, bronze medals were awarded to the following girls:

  • Anneka Wijetunge and Zahra Zanahir (Newlands College)
  • Bella Wallace and Tulsi Wallace (Wellington East Girls College)
  • Danielle Bettany and Pippi Sargent (Wellington East Girls College)
  • Jess Dellabarca and Shannon Denham (Wellington East Girls College)

The prizes were kindly provided by Google and ECS. The gold medalists were also invited to attend a Girls Summer Camp hosted by Victoria University from 24th – 26th January 2012 for the top teams around NZ in the Programming Challenge 4 Girls. This event is being organised by Stuart Marshall.

ECS will be hosting the Programming Challenge 4 Girls again in late November next year. We highly encourage you to get in touch with Alex Potanin, the organiser of the challenge, for more information.

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

Australasian demand for ICT jobs

15 Apr 2012 - 17:34 in Alumni

The Australian Computer Society (ACS) released the annual Australian ICT Statistical Compendium, showing strong demand for ICT jobs.

The report is a comprehensive analysis of statistical data about ICT economic and social trends.
  • Value of digital economy in 2011 was $100 billion ICT
  • demand forecasts 14,000 extra jobs in 2012 and up to a total of 35,000 by 2013
  • University ICT annual enrolments down in NSW, VIC, QLD, WA & TAS
Alan Patterson, ACS Chief Executive, said the report confirmed Australia's urgent need for coordinated policy focus on ICT given its value and the demands in the broader economy for skills: "The digital economy contributed a significant $100 billion to Australia in 2011", he said.

"Although ICT demand is increasing even in uncertain economic conditions, the number of domestic students choosing ICT as a career is insufficient to meet demand for skills."

"Australia's Higher ICT education enrolments are under half of what they were a decade ago and are continuing to decline as a percentage of all higher education enrolments. With ICT demand of 35,000 extra jobs by 2013, promoting ICT as a rewarding career needs to be a top priority to ensure our developing digital economy is fully funded, sustained and competitive.

"Given the importance of the digital economy to Australia's economic prosperity, and its added value to business, health, education and other sectors, we hope addressing falls in ICT enrolments will be a key focus of 2012 government agendas.

"The compendium also revealed a drop in skilled ICT migration, suggesting Australia's ICT employment requirements cannot be met easily. To accommodate predicted demand, additional emphasis on local uptake of ICT is required," said Mr Patterson.

Strong ICT job demand is also evident in New Zealand, with 100% graduate employment for our first cohort of Engineers.

ECS Graduate Launches Book on Video Gaming

08 Dec 2011 - 14:08 in Alumni

Like many teenage boys, Pippin Barr spent time playing games in arcades, rented SEGA games, and bought a Playstation when it became available. However, it wasn’t until he embarked on a Phd at Victoria University that he realised he could build a serious career around gaming.

He majored in Philosophy and Computer Science, and encouraged by his academic mentor, he went on to do his PhD research on human values in gameplay, graduating in 2009.

He is now a lecturer at Copenhagen University, where he teaches video-game design and programming, a position he describes as his “dream job”, despite the amount of marking involved.

Dr Barr will be back in Wellington soon to promote his new book “How to Play a Video Game”, which investigates the passion some people have for gaming, and tries to communicate something of it to those are aren’t gaming enthusiasts.

Click on the link below to read a Dominion Post article on Pippin Barr, dated 6th December.

http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/capital-life/6088997/Lecturers-dream-job-much-more-than-just-kids-stuff

Best Paper Award - Australasian Information Security Conference

28 Jan 2011 - 14:19 in Achievement

PhD Student Ben Palmer received $AUD 500 as prize money for winning "Best Student Paper and Best Paper" at this year's Australasian Information Security Conference (AISC). The winning paper's title is "Development and Evaluation of a Secure, Privacy Preserving Combinatorial Auction" and was co-written with his supervisors Dr Kris Bubendorfer and Dr Ian Welch.

Australasian Information Security Conference (AISC) is part of the 2011 Australasian Computer Science Week (ACSW) and is a conference attracting both submissions from Australasia and wider afield. This year, ACSW was hosted by the Department of Computing at Curtin University from January 19-during January 2011 in Perth.

The paper introduces a new algorithm for constructing combinatorial auction circuits that can calculate the results of combinatorial auctions using any garbled circuit auction protocol. This is the first example of a combinatorial auction circuit that extends the privacy preserving protocols previously applied to single good electronic auctions to combinatorial auctions. That is, only the winning bid is revealed, while the value of losing bids is kept secret.

A combinatorial auction allows bidders to express interest in a collection of goods of their own choice, and to make bids conditional upon acquiring the complete set. For example, in a real estate auction, if three adjacent lots are for sale, a developer can make their bid conditional upon obtaining two adjacent lots. The advantage of combinatorial auctions over single good electronic auctions like those used on E-Bay and Trade Me, is that they enable bidders to express these dependencies between goods, and facilitate optimal allocation of goods to bidders. Furthermore, the use of privacy preserving protocols reduces the need to trust that your auction provider will not sell information about failed bids that could be used by competitors in future auctions to gain an unfair advantage.

ECS hosts Wellington site for ACM South Pacific Regionals

14 Sep 2010 - 16:37 in Event

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On Saturday, the 11th of September, 2010, School of Engineering and Computer Science hosted the Wellington Site for the regional qualification round of the world oldest and most prestigious programming competition: The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest. Victoria was represented by 5 teams of three students each. Four hours into a five hour battle, a Victoria team called DJ Tomato (Roma Klapaukh, Joshua Baker, and Daniel Atkins) was leading New Zealand with 5 out of 9 problems but the shortest time taken to solve them. Unfortunately, in the last minutes of the competition, a Christchurch team and two Auckland teams solved an additional problem each to edge DJ Tomato into a 4th place in New Zealand and 11th place in the South Pacific region overall. The other Victoria teams: Bunny on a Turtle (Victoria Ozorio, Amy Chard, Michael Homer), WUV (Carlton Downey, Michael Mudge, Hugh Davenport), Last Minute Entry 1 (Jiaen Xie and Ben Russell), and Bobby Tables (Simon Welsh, Chris Hall, and Melby Ruarus) came 6th, 7th, 10th and 13th in New Zealand respectively. A total of 16 teams from New Zealand took part and a total of 59 teams took part in the South Pacific region this year.

At the same time, a special High School site was hosted in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch with the same problems as the University teams and additional 2 high school level problems. A team called Calcky (Luke March, Cain Edie, and Luke Bravenboer) proudly carried the Paraparaumu College flag at the Wellington Site and solved 3 problems - coming safely in the top half of NZ-based high school teams and beating some of the University teams while at it! At least two of Calcky's team members already chose Victoria to continue their University study at.

The site was organised and ran by Alex Potanin with a lot of help from Neil Ramsay and Stuart Marshall. We thank the contest's sponsor: IBM. IBM has provided us with prizes and catering during the contest and had 3 current IBM employes (two of which have recently graduated from Victoria) present throughout the event and award prizes at the end. If you have any questions about the ACM Programming Contest or a local Australia and New Zealand Algorithmics and Coding League that holds 6 contests leading up to the regionals throughout the year, please contact Alex Potanin.

Update: Official results are available here.

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IET - Supporting Victoria's Engineering Students

19 May 2009 - 10:05 in Achievement

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The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) is one of the world's leading professional societies for the engineering and technology community with more than 150,000 members in 127 countries. With offices in Europe, North America and Asia-Pacific, IET provides a global knowledge network to facilitate the exchange of ideas and promote the positive role of science, engineering and technology in the world. It also provides a forum for specialist groups and makes available to members an extensive range of publications.

The IET Wellington Local Network Committee is an active participant of the IET worldwide community and has developed strong relationships with engineering education providers in the region.

To give recognition and support to students who are studying engineering and technology, IET gives out a number of yearly awards. Recently, Victoria University student Arya Reais-Parsi was presented with an IET Award for Best Second Year Engineering Student 2008. On hand to present the award, and to outline the role of IET, was Brian McGlinchy, who has been an active member of IET for 15 years. As Brian outlined in his presentation to third year engineering students, as well as sponsoring undergraduate students with engineering prizes, IET can provide:

  • Events and technical visits.
  • Networking at local level.
  • International speakers as well as monthly seminars that cover a wide range of topical issues.
  • 4th Year student presentations - a local competition called Present Around The World where the local winner could go to a final in Australia and possibly on to the UK.

If you are interested in knowing more about IET check out their web site: http://www.theiet.org

For Wellington's activities go to: http://www.theiet.org/local/australasia/nz/wellington/index.cfm

Evening with Industry

11 Aug 2009 - 10:14 in Event

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On Thursday 6th August Victoria University were the hosts for the New Zealand Computer Society Evening with Industry 2009. The McClaurin foyer and lecture theatre MCLT101 were packed with 200 students, NZCS members and employer representatives for the annual "Evening with Industry". Students from the Wellington region tertiary institutions came in by bus, mini bus, car and foot to hear from eight recent graduates about their experiences in the ICT industry and to mix and mingle with employers such as Deloittes, KPMG and Orion Health. The speakers came from a range of Wellington ICT employers, including BNZ, Catalyst IT, Code to Customer, Intergen, KPMG, ProjectX, Provoke and TradeMe and included John Clegg who spoke about Summer of Code 2009.

To hear more about the event, go to Twitter: http://twitter.com/search?q=%23ewi


Electronics New Zealand Conference (ENZCon 2009)

23 Nov 2009 - 12:57 in Event

The sixteenth Electronics New Zealand Conference (ENZCon 2009) was recently held at the University of Otago. The papers presented broadly covered the areas of electronics, signal and image processing, RF-design, FPGA processing and antennas.

Victoria University's Faculty of Engineering students made an impact, with Carl Benton winning the best presentation prize for his joint paper on: The Comparison of Analogue and Digital One-Cycle Control Feedback Methods around the Output Stage in a Digital Audio Power Amplifier (C.D. Benton, D.A. Carnegie and P. Gaynor). Ben Drayton (Victoria University Honours students starting a PhD next year) was awarded the best novice presenter prize for: Life Sign Detection on a Disposable Robotic Platform as Part of a Three-Tier System for Urban Search and Rescue Operations (B.M.M. Drayton, and D.A. Carnegie).

Professor Dale Carnegie said, "overall the conference was a good opportunity for staff and students in this field to share technological research that could future benefit New Zealand's economy. The Conference highlighted the depth and quality of the research coming out of the Faculty of Engineering at Victoria University".

Shaping Industry to Student Relations Through IPENZ

18 Jun 2010 - 11:49 in Achievement

Brendan Vercoelen is a fourth year Bachelors of Engineering (BE) student studying Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering (ECEN) at Victoria University of Wellington who is shaping industry to student relations through IPENZ. Since the end of 2007 Brendan has worked as the student representative on the Wellington branch committee of IPENZ. IPENZ (The Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand) is the body which represents more than 9000 professional engineers, from a range of disciplines. The Wellington Branch has over 1400 Members in Wellington and Wairarapa.

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This branch committee includes industrial leaders from such companies as GHD (an international network of professional and technical consultants employing over 6000 people), Opus Internet (International consultancy for infrastructure, architecture, construction, water, environment, asset development and management solutions.), Beca (an international employee-owned engineering and related consultancy services group), Transpower (owns and maintains the national electricity grid for New Zealand), Fulton-Hogan (a major trans-Tasman civil contracting company) and governmental departments. Brendan cites the excellent networking opportunities as one of the biggest benefits in his role with IPENZ.

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Since the beginning of 2010, Brendan has become the Victoria University of Wellington representative for SENZ (Student Engineers of New Zealand). This is a new initiative by IPENZ to formalise student engagement throughout New Zealand. Together with students from other national universities, such as Auckland and Canterbury, Brendan is helping to facilitate industry to student interactions. This includes being awarded a grant to organise and host the inaugural SENZ event in Wellington.

Recently, Brendan was invited to be a member of the Young Professionals Task Force, which is a year-long project that seeks to smooth the transition between University and professional practice through IPENZ. This led to an invitation by the IPENZ governing board to feedback on its relationship with students. This prestigious task led to Brendan being included in a talk by the chief executive officer of Pertronic Industries Ltd (Advanced Automatic Fire Detection Systems) on how he took the start-up to international success.

The knowledge and experiences gained by Brendan will not only help his career progression, but are being fed back into the Engineering degrees to strengthen all students' interaction with IPENZ and industry.

2010 Prime Minister's Science Prize

29 Nov 2010 - 11:40 in Achievement

A team at Victoria University has been awarded the 2010 Prime Minister's Science Prize, worth half a million dollars.

Research from the Magnetic Resonance Innovation Team has been used in medical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and in climate change research in Antarctica, and the team is looking to apply its research in agriculture and industry.

The team, led by Professor Sir Paul Callaghan, consists of: Professor Callaghan; Dr Robin Dykstra, Senior Lecturer in the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria; Dr Mark Hunter, Research Fellow in the School of Chemical and Physical Sciences at Victoria; Dr Andrew Coy, a physicist and Chief Executive Officer of technology company Magritek; and Dr Craig Eccles, a physicist and Chief Technology Officer at Magritek.

The Prime Minister's Science Prize is awarded for a transformative science discovery or achievement which has had an impact in New Zealand or internationally. Of the $500,000 prize money, $400,000 is for furthering the team's research.

The prize was presented by the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, on Friday 26 November, in Auckland.

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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.

Victoria University Lecturer Elected Co-Chair of APNIC Policy Special Interest Group

09 Mar 2011 - 11:22 in Achievement

At the recent APNIC conference, Victoria University Lecturer, Andy Linton, was elected Co-Chair of the APNIC Policy Special Interest Group (SIG). With the imminent exhaustion of IPv4 addresses and the adoption of the replacement IPv6, Andy will play an active role in ensuring sound policy is in place.

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Whilst the Internet is renowned for being a worldwide network free from central coordination, there is a technical need for some key parts of the Internet to be globally coordinated - and this coordination role is undertaken by IANA (the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority). Specifically, IANA allocates and maintains unique codes and numbering systems that are used in the technical standards ("protocols") that drive the Internet.

APNIC, an open, membership-based, not-for-profit organization, is one of five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) charged with ensuring the fair distribution and responsible management of IP addresses and related resources. These resources are required for the stable and reliable operation of the global Internet. APNIC is also actively involved in the development of Internet infrastructure throughout the region. This includes providing training and education services, supporting technical activities such as root server deployments, and collaborating with other regional and international organizations.

IP addresses and AS numbers are shared resources, available for use by anyone who needs them. APNIC policies ensure that these resources are distributed fairly and consistently across the whole Asia Pacific region. The Policy SIG's role is to develop policies and procedures which relate to the management and use of Internet address resources by APNIC, NIRs, and ISPs within the Asia Pacific region.

See further information at: http://www.apnic.net/about-APNIC

Victoria ECS Students Triumph in IET Competition

14 Oct 2011 - 12:22 in Achievement

Three post-graduate students from the School of Engineering and Computer Science achieved success in the Wellington Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) Present around the World Competition on the 9th October. The competition was held at Beca's premises on Molesworth Street.

Abigail Arulandu was placed first, Dayna-Maree Kivell third, while Juan Rada-Vilella was fourth. Abigail will go on to compete in the national competition later this year, in which the winner will then compete in the Asia-Pacific Regional Finals with a chance to win £1,000.

Abigail's topic was magneto-rheological compliant actuator for stroke rehabilitation, Dayna's topic was ZnO films for ultrasonic transducers, and Juan gave a presentation on swarm intelligence for swarm robotics.

The Present around the World Competitions give engineering and technology students and young professionals an opportunity to share knowledge, and practice their presentation and networking skills by giving a ten minute technical presentation on the engineering or technology subject of their choice, followed by a five minute question and answer session.

New Zealand Wins Engineering Contest At Solar Decathlon

05 Oct 2011 - 14:28 in Achievement

We congratulate the Faculty of Architecture and Design for their third place success in the Solar Decathlon competition and are glad that we could contribute to their triumph in the Engineering category.

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"Compliments to Abby for her successful input to the VUW First Light team" Prof John Hine, Dean, Faculty of Engineering

Engineering from Victoria University of Wellington was judged top in the US Department of Energy Solar Decathlon competition.

The Solar Decathlon event is a showcase of the best practical sustainable living environments. 10 events ranging from Architecture to Engineering and even mod-con Appliances are used to measure the state-of-the-art from universities across the globe. In the Engineering category, the team from VUW was ranked first out of the 20 competitors! An impressive achievement considering VUW was the first team ever from the Southern Hemisphere.

"The New Zealand house was beautifully executed, with extreme attention to detail and craftsmanship and an intuitive tree-ring visualization system, which makes it easy to understand energy use throughout the house", said Engineering Contest juror Dr. Hunter Fanney, chief of the building energy and environment division of the engineering laboratory at the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Abigail Arulandu graduated from our Bachelors of Engineering in Electronics and Computer Science (ECEN) last year and is now continuing her passion for human assistive technology with a Masters project at VUW Engineering. Over the summer, and beyond, she played an integral role in the engineering of the First Light house. "In this fast paced project the creative and problem solving skills learned in my engineering degree were vital. Also the ability to pick up new concepts quickly, such as programming in Ruby on Rails, and communicate with the diverse contributors to the house were transferable skills gained in the degree" says a very positive Abby regarding her time with the project.

Potential students interested in gaining the latest digital engineering skills that can be applied from leading sustainable technology to assistive robotics, then please see our information pages.

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See Solar Decathlon, Tring and First Light House for more information


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Wellington Team Comes 2nd in NZ at the ACM South Pacific Regional Contest

13 Sep 2011 - 09:11 in Achievement

On Saturday, 10th of September, 2011, ECS hosted the "Lower North Island" site for the Association for Computing Machinery International Collegiate Programming Contest's South Pacific Regionals. The top team from Australia and the top team from New Zealand get to represent the region at the World Finals to be held in Poland in May 2012. The winner of the Lower North Island (Wellington) site - DJ Tomato - came close second behind the New Zealand winning team from Christchurch: they both solved the same number of problems but the Christchurch team did it a little bit faster to take the honors. DJ Tomato consists of ECS PhD student, Roma Klapaukh, GradDipSci in Physics student Joshua Baker, and ECS 2nd year student Fergus Whyte.

The First Place Team
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The other 5 teams competing at ECS were from Massey (Max Dietrich, Faharn Wali, and Fergus, coached by Professor Jens Dietrich) and Wellington: Samuel Hindmarsh, Gordon Chan, and David Wang (coming 2nd locally), Simon Welsh, Liam Cervante, and Ben Lawn (coming 3rd locally), as well as Dominik Schmid, Luke Bravenboer, and Luke March and our 1st year team of Peter Riley, Alex Salenko, and Andrew Davies.

All Contestants
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The competition went smoothly and was held at the ECS Networking Lab (CO246). The other sites included: Perth, Sydney, Brisbane, Hobart, Melbourne, Auckland, and Christchurch and were running in parallel. The teams prepared for the regional event by participating in the 6 rounds of ANZAC League (http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/Main/ProgrammingContests) which paid off significantly with DJ Tomato coming very close to grabbing the NZ title.

The event's main sponsor is IBM (http://www.ibm.com/nz/en/) and the contest was attended by Ralph Fox, Sundar Venkataraman, Mehrdad Fatemi, Marina Chibisova, Ryan Leighs and Jonathan Wierenga who presented the prizes at the end. Mehrdad, one of IBM NZ hiring managers, commented in particular on the value for the job applicants of having ACM programming contest experience on their CV.

Any students interested in taking part in the 2012 season need to contact Alex Potanin.

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 University Teaching Fellow Presents Workshop at PacNOG Meeting

14 Jul 2011 - 11:52 in Event

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Victoria University Teaching Fellow Andy Linton co-presented a workshop, with instructors from NSRC (University of Oregon) and Google, on DNS operations at the 9th Meeting of the Pacific Network Operators Group (PacNOG). The meeting was held at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji, from the 27th June to the 2nd July.

PacNOG was initially established in 2004 as a mailing list for ISP operations engineers working in the Pacific region, in order to facilitate the exchange of technical information and cooperation on implementation issues.

The educational workshops offered by PacNOG are part of a capacity development programme offered to IP-ISP providers in the Pacific Islands. Three workshops were offered on days 2-6 of the meeting.

The "Robust and Reliable Domain Name System (DNS) Operations" workshop offered participants the opportunity to learn about the principles of DNS design, DNS server software, best practice in deploying DNS servers, security mechanisms for DNS servers, and Internationalized Domain Names (IDN).

Due to the global success of the Internet, the range of numbers in the original address scheme, IPv4, has almost been used up. The replacement, IPv6, marks a radical change and training is vital. The "IPv4 / IPv6 BGP" workshop provided participants with the knowledge and skills needed to utilize BGP for multihoming, take part in an Internet Exchange Point, and utilize IPv6 across networks.

The "Internet and Network Security Fundamentals" workshop addressed the basics of network security, network analysis and forensics, the anatomy of network attacks, penetration testing, and DNS security.

A survey of participants from several Pacific Island countries confirmed that many found the workshops useful and informative, with one person commenting "It was a real pleasure to attend this workshop. The instructors are really interesting, they gave me a lot of information." Many participants plan to attend the next PacNOG meeting in in Noumea, New Caledonia in November.

Annual Lego Robot Competition

19 Aug 2011 - 09:56 in Event

The School of Engineering and Computer Science's Annual Lego Robot Competition for 400 level ECEN students will be held at 7pm Monday 22 August in AM106.

The constructed robots must be autonomous – any human intervention occurs a penalty.

This competition forms a significant component of the assessment in the course ECEN430.

For further information, contact Dale Carnegie

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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

iPredict Smartphone App Competition

23 Jun 2011 - 16:00 in Event

Latest news. Unfortunately the contest has been cancelled. See http://www.ipredictapp.co.nz/ for details.

iPredict is an online political and economic trading market which allows traders to buy and sell “shares” in future events.

At present, all trading is done via the web site, but iPredict is looking for a “innovative, useful, accessible, and fun” application that will allow people to trade on iPredit using their mobile devices.

Win up to $3,500 cash by making an iPhone, iPad, Android Win7 Mobile smartphone trading app, or mobile web site for iPredict.

Applications close 17 July.

http://www.ipredictapp.co.nz/

ECEN 405 Students See Power Electronics in Action at Haywards Substation

30 Jun 2011 - 14:12 in Event

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On the 16th of June, students enrolled in ECEN 405 visited Haywards Substation in Stokes Valley, in order to see power electronics at work on a large scale. They were accompanied by the course lecturer Dr Ramesh Rayudu, technicians Jason Edwards, Tim Exley and Sean Anderson, and two post-graduate students, Dayna-Maree Kivell and Matt Bourne.

Hosted by 5 staff from Transpower, the students were shown pole 1, which contains the ‘old-style’ mercury-arc valves that have been in operation since the 1960’s. The students also toured Pole 2 where they had a closer look at the thyristors used for power conversion. Transpower staff also toured the students through Pole 3 that is currently under construction, and explained the processes involved. More particularly the students got up-close look at capacitors, filters and synchronous condensors at work.

The students appreciated the enthusiasm of the Transpower staff for their field of expertise, and their willingness to provide detailed explanations of how things work. “The fact that what they said made sense after doing power electronics totally made the course worthwhile” said Henry Williams.

The trip also gave students an ideal opportunity to see how the things they had learned about in class were applied in real life. “The sheer size of the equipment used was astounding, but at the same time, the knowledge gained from the ECEN course allowed us to understand the theory behind it all.” said Luke Frogley.

The students thanked Dr Rayudu for organising the trip, and sharing the practical knowledge he has acquired from working in the industry. Dr Rayudu says Transpower staff enjoyed hosting the students, and hopes that a visit to Haywards substation will become a regular component of the course.

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

First Cohort of BE Students to Graduate

13 May 2011 - 12:59 in Achievement

The Faculty of Engineering congratulates the inaugural group of Bachelor of Engineering graduates. Of the graduating students, around half are currently working in the industry and the other half has gone on to further study.

Victoria began teaching the four-year Bachelor of Engineering degree in 2007, building on the University’s existing expertise from teaching the Bachelor of Information Technology and Bachelor of Science and Technology degrees.

The Engineering programme focuses on the digital technology that drives the modern world, from electronics to communications to software.

“The Bachelor of Engineering at Victoria has gone from strength to strength and last year received a very positive report from IPENZ (the Institution of Professional Engineers of New Zealand), which provided provisional accreditation for the degree.”

Summer Gold Scholars Poster Competition

11 Apr 2011 - 10:48 in Achievement

Henry Williams has won a $500 prize in Victoria University’s Summer Gold Scholars Poster Competition, for his poster titled “Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping: SLAM.”

Henry’s work over the summer involved researching the problems robots

have navigating unknown environments, and seeking ways to improve their performance, using a technique called SLAM.

SLAM enables autonomous robots to construct a map within an unknown environment while simultaneously tracking their current position. It uses an Extended Kalman Filter to reduce the inherent noise in the system, and combine the odometer and range data in order to determine the robot’s most likely location.

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Henry’s research found that SLAM improved the performance of e-puck robots (palm-size autonomous robots) in the localisation and mapping of an unknown maze, enabling each robot to keep itself localised within 0.05cm of its true location.

This increased precision and accuracy in mapping and localisation has important potential benefits; for example, the development of robots that can successfully navigate unknown environments such as spaces in collapsed buildings.

2010 Programming Challenge for Girls

14 Dec 2010 - 10:11 in Event

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At Victoria University on the 24th of November, 52 year 10 girls from 9 Wellington high schools took part in the 2010 Programming Challenge for Girls. This is an annual event held in various locations throughout New Zealand and around the world, and is designed to introduce year10 girls to computer programming. Dr Alex Potanin coordinated the Victoria University event.

The girls had a 1hour practice session prior to the 2.5 hour programming competition, which used "Alice," an educational software program for teaching students 3D animation. Dr Peter Andreae ran additional activities and games designed to introduce computer science concepts such as error detection and correction, public key cryptography, and algorithm complexity. A 2.5 hour workshop was run for teachers on teaching and assessing the new NCEA level 1 programming achievement standards.

Stu Sharpe and Julianne Lim from Sidhe Interactive helped to judge the competition. The company also provided the prizes, which included a "Shatter" computer game, the soundtrack for this game on CD, and T-shirts.

Gold medals were awarded to:
  • Bonnie Liao and Poonam Patel, Wellington East Girls College
  • Francina West and Claudia Devlin, Onslow College
  • Sonja Bimler, Wellington East Girls College and Maia Holder-Monk, Wellington High School
  • Geogina Kebbell and Rose McLellan, Paraparaumu College

Silver medals were awarded to:
  • Emily Fiennes and Isabel Kelly, Samuel Marsden Collegiate School
  • Ashilta Sharma and Jessica Suo, Wellington East Girls College
  • Cassidy Cosgrove and Georgia Groen, Kapiti College

Bronze medals were awarded to:
  • Morgan Archer and Hannah Sampson, Samuel Marsden Collegiate School
  • Polly Pesheva and Megan Park, Naenae college
  • Shagufa Mirzad and Joely Huang, Wellington East Girls College
  • Briana Hunt, Paraparaumu College, and Evangeline Martin, Onslow College
  • Georgia Borthwick and Maddison Batten, Kapiti College

Victoria University will host the 2011 Programing Challenge for Girls around the same time next year, and all year 10 girls are welcome to participate. Please contact A/Prof Alex Potanin for further information.

To find out more about about the Programming Challenge for Girls, go to: http://www.pc4g.org.nz

Many thanks to the following people for their help in making this event a success: Dr Alex Potanin, Dr Peter Andreae, Dr Stuart Marshall, Dr Hui Ma, Dr Petra Malik, Dr Xiaoying Gao, Dr Monique Cano-Damitio, Dr Marcus Frean, Dr Ian Welch, Huia Hopkirk, Stu Sharpe, Julianne Lim

Ben Haughey awarded best student (novice) prize at ENZCon 2010

01 Dec 2010 - 10:54 in Achievement

Ben Haughey was recently awarded best student (novice) presentation prize at the Electronics New Zealand Conference (ENZCon) 2010 for his paper titled Simulation and Optimisation of a 2-DOF Parallel Planar.

The Electronics New Zealand Conference is an annual meeting to facilitate the exchange of ideas among researches, teachers, workers, students, suppliers and others with an interest in electronics and associated scientific and technical subjects. It is a student friendly conference, inviting paper submissions from students can present their research and meet other students and staff in an interactive relaxed environment.

Ben is presently a Master of Engineering student who is researching Robotic Manipulator Optimisation for his ME project.

Mansoor Shafi awarded the IEEE DonaldG. Fink Prize Paper Award

24 Nov 2010 - 13:17 in Achievement

Mansoor Shafi, adjunct professor at the School of Engineering and Computer Science, has been named co-recipient of the 2011 IEEE Donald G. Fink Prize Paper Award.

The IEEE Donald G. Fink Prize Paper Award was established by the IEEE Board of Directors in 1979. It is presented for the most outstanding survey, review, or tutorial paper published in the IEEE Transactions, Journals, Magazines, or in the Proceedings of the IEEE between 1 January and 31 December of the preceding year. The award is named in honor of Donald G. Fink, distinguished editor and author, who was a Past President of IRE, and the first General Manager and Executive Director of the IEEE.

This year, along with Andreas F. Molisch and Larry J. Greenstein, Mansoor Shafi has been presented the award for the paper entitled: "Propagation issues for Cognitive Radio," Proceedings of the IEEE, Vol. 97, No. 5, May 2009.

ACM SIGSOFT Distinguished Paper Award

13 Oct 2010 - 10:40 in Achievement

Associate Professor Thomas Kühne recently received a Distinguished Paper Award at the ACM SIGSOFT Conference. His paper “An Observer-Based Notion of Model Inheritance”, discusses specialisation relationships between models, languages and transformations respectively, and introduces the idea of an observer and a context for the purpose of defining and validating specialisation relationships.

“Return on investment” is an increasingly important consideration in model-based engineering, and it is more cost-effective to create a new model from an existing one rather than create it from scratch. It therefore makes sense to make maximum use of the relationships between models. Organising models in a network of relationships enhances model retrieval, investigation of model compatibility, and megamodeling of big systems.

First, the paper discusses model compatibility. It then examines various definitions of model inheritance, promoting model substitutability as a valuable property to strive for. Finally, the notion of a model observer and a model context is discussed as a way of investigating the scope for model compatibility.

It is intended that the ideas introduced in the paper will form the foundation of a systematic basis for organising models.

The full paper can be read at: http://www.springerlink.com/content/u3187t66l7275805/

Podcast - Autonomous Rescue Robots

19 Oct 2010 - 14:55 in Event

Our Changing World, Radio New Zealand National (14 October 2010).

The threat of being buried in rubble in an earthquake is a real and horrifying prospect, and trying to rescue trapped people from collapsed buildings is a dangerous task.

To help in such situations, Dale Carnegie from the Mechatronics Research Group, is developing a hierarchy of small, autonomous `rubble robots'. He tells Alison Ballance how the `grandmother' will deploy all-terrain `mother' robots that enter such sites and in their turn deploy expendable mobile phone-sized `daughter' robots to search for signs of life.

Student Michael Rothbock is working on the currently out-of-commission grandmother robot, nicknamed the `tank' because of the tank tracks that make her mobile, updating all her sensors and computers.

Listen to the podcast and watch a video of the robots in action.

Read more about the Mechatronics Research Group.

Provisional Accreditation for the BE

14 Sep 2010 - 00:42 in Achievement

We are delighted that the professional nature of our Bachelor of Engineering degree has been recognised by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand.

The accreditation process is thorough, lengthy and worthwhile as it assists in ensuring the quality of degrees for both students and industry. Provisionally accreditation has been granted for the degree of Bachelor of Engineering at Victoria University of Wellington, in all of our specialisations: Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering, Network Engineering, Software Engineering.

By necessity, full accreditation will occur when our first graduates have spent time in industry verifying the effectiveness of our courses. It is noted that leading industry, such as Fisher & Paykel Healthcare, are confident in the quality of our degrees by making job offers to our students even prior to graduation.

A major step in the accreditation process was the visit that took place 14-16 July 2010 with the visit of a panel appointed by IPENZ.

Highlights of the recommendation report are given below:

The development of an engineering programme at VUW had been considered at different times in the University's history so, when the decision was finally made to develop a Bachelor of Engineering in 2005, it was seen as an evolutionary rather than revolutionary step. The existing Bachelor of Information Technology, which was to be replaced by the BE, was considered to have a strongly applied focus. All the same, the decision was supported by a significant programme of staff recruitment and capital expenditure, consistent with the University's objective of developing an internationally recognised engineering programme.

The panel also wished to recognise the following strengths of the programme.
  • Part III of the degree structure provides excellent potential for producing broader graduate skills. (Part III of the degree is designed to provide students with the opportunity to develop wider contextual understanding by allowing them to select three coherent courses that are outside the student's specialisation from across the University.)
  • The strength of the team- and project-based experience gained by the students
  • The collegiality and enthusiasm for engineering demonstrated by staff
  • The strength of the staffs' research and industry interaction and the richness this brings to the teaching program
  • The strength and commitment of the institutional support for engineering from VUW
  • The quality and quantity of infrastructure, personnel, technical and other resources provided to engineering by VUW

The Accreditation Panel set the following requirements to be met by Victoria:
  • Nil.

Coverage of the IPENZ graduate profile
The panel was satisfied that the VUW outcomes were substantially equivalent to the generic IPENZ Graduate Competence Profile for Professional Engineers; that by deriving them from VUW's overarching outcomes they were linked to VUW as a specific provider; and that they incorporated feedback from VUW's industry advisory panel and programme advisory panel.

We are continually listening to constructive comment from students, industry/business and professional bodies to adapt, improve and keep our courses/degrees at the forefront of professional engineering education in New Zealand and internationally.

Power Bass!

29 Jul 2010 - 10:37 in Achievement

Five final year Power Electronics (ECEN405) students ended their trimester with a project loud enough to potentially cause auditory damage. The students, supervised by Robin Dykstra, designed, developed and produced fully working sub-woofer Class D amplifiers.

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From left: Dr Robin Dykstra, Matthew Bourne, Abigail Arulandu, Arya Reais-Parsi, Brendan Vercoelen, Dayna Kivell

Each design was different; some allowing input directly from an MP3 player and others included multiple audio outputs. The project not only put the skills learned from the Power Electronic course into practice, but also allowed them to have full creative and design control, while still keeping to a tight budget. Given this was a difficult project, each of the students did well to achieve a working solution (even after dozens of blown components). So if you are walking through the Alan MacDairmid building on level 2, and hear a not-so-subtle doof-doof noise, it is likely to be originating from the Engineering Honours Lab, who can now claim to have the loudest lab on campus.


Congratulations to Mark Paston!

06 Jul 2010 - 15:51 in Alumni

Mark Paston

The All-Whites recently returned from a very successful World-Cup campaign, drawing with Italy, Slovakia and Paraguay to go undefeated. New Zealand soccer was thrust into the limelight when a late equaliser against Slovakia gave them an unexpected draw. This was followed up with an outstanding draw against the reigning world champions, Italy.

One player in particular had a fantastic tournament, including numerous critical saves against Italy. He is Mark Paston, who in 2001 graduated from VUW with a BSc in Computer Science (COMP) and Electronic and Computer Systems (ELCO). Mark was also critical in the qualifying game against Bahrain, playing in Wellington, where he saved a crucial penalty shot.

Staff recall that Mark was a good student during his time at VUW. One of his lecturers commented that "He was playing for Napier City Rovers at the time, and had to miss the odd lab for football training. But, he was definitely the most co-ordinated physics student I've seen!"

The School of Engineering and Computer Science would like to congratulate Mark, and the rest of the All Whites, for a great sporting achievement and to wish them all well in the future.

Engineering Student awarded $6000 Scholarship

18 Jun 2010 - 11:45 in Achievement

Brendan Vercoelen says his $6000 university scholarship will help him towards his dream job in the robotics industry. Brendan is a honours year student in a Bachelor of Engineering degree majoring in Electronic and Computer Systems Engineering at Victoria University of Wellington.

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Rendered drawing of final walker design
His final year studies include advanced mechatronics, a combination of electronic design, mechanics and software development. From implementing microprocessor control of range finding systems to the design of passive dynamic walking systems to autonomous robot path planning and artificial intelligence techniques for driving racing car simulations the subject provides a core foundation for varied and interesting careers.

Brendan supplements the breadth and depth of his degree with additional activities. He is active in the student body and has served as president of the VUW Engineering Club and as a class representative. Get outside interests include involvement with Scouts New Zealand, including serving as a member of the Scouts National Council.

As part of the lifelong learning and transferable skills at VUW, Brendan has also completed management papers while at university . Future plans include completion of a Masters in Engineering or a separate diploma in business studies.

Brendan was one of 35 scholars who claimed their awards from the Duke of Gloucester at a ceremony in the Wellington Town Hall. The Freemasons Charity is the country's largest privately-funded scholarship programme. In its 32- year history is has given more than $3.5 million to 922 students.

For further details, Dominion Post and Stuff Article see http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/local/hutt-news/3709497/Hutt-GP-robotics-student-granted-Freemasons-scholarships

Engineering Video Competition

20 Jun 2010 - 17:20 in Event

We are looking for creative and bright ideas on how you would tell the world about the Engineering students and the School of Engineering and Computer Science at Victoria University Wellington.

1st Prize is an 32GB iPod touch (value $520), 2nd Prize 8GBiPod nano (value $240), 3rd Prize Sennheiser headphones ($120)

If you're interested, then contact: Senior Tutor Ambreen Khan-Evans Email: Ambreen.Khan-Evans@ecs.vuw.ac.nz Phone: 04 463 5936 Room CO340 Cotton Building, Kelburn Campus

The Rules https://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/Main/VideoCompetition

NZCSRSC 2010

14 May 2010 - 13:44 in Event

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During the mid-trimester break 12-15 April 2010, ECS hosted the 8th New Zealand Computer Science Research Student Conference (NZCSRSC) on the Kelburn campus. The conference was organised and run by postgraduate computer science students from ECS. The aim of the conference is to promote and strengthen the nationwide community of ICT research students.

There were a number of exciting keynote speakers. Nat Torkington a graduate from our school talked about "The Career-Spotter's Field Guide", which explained about life beyond the ivy-covered walls of academia. Nat drew upon his vast experience and anecdotal evidence from working in small startups to large corporations. Rob O'Callahan from Mozilla talked about how computer science can change the world. Rob encouraged people to think hard about what research problems one should solve in order to make a significant impact on society. Sebastian Castro from the .NZ Registry Services talked about "A Day in the Life of the Internet Project" which collects traffic data from key locations of the Internet for analysis to provide insight and questions about the future of the Internet. Miriam Lips from Victoria University of Wellington talked about the "Value of E-Government Research for Designing 21st Century Government".

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There was an entertaining panel on what are your options once you have completed your masters or PhD degrees. The panelists ranged from people working in academia, government organisations, industrial research labs, startups, and large corporations. They gave the audience interesting insight into their careers since completing their PhDs and offered some good advice to follow such as networking with other people and think carefully about the kind of job you want to do once you graduate.

A range of workshops gave students the opportunity to build on their research skills. Workshop topics ranged from critical thinking, thesis writing, time management, presentation and poster skills, Maori and Pacific Nations students engaging in computer science research, women in the New Zealand IT industry, preparing to succeed in the job market, how to get yourself the job you want, the publication game, commercialisation and intellectual property in the IT, to discussions on careers in research and the industry in general.

A core component of the annual conference are the presentations and posters from students. This year 33 graduates studying at New Zealand universities gave presentations and the standard of talks were of high quality. While 21 graduates had short papers presented as research posters. Siva Dorairaj, James Bebbington, and Craig Anslow from ECS presented papers. The Intergen best paper presentation was awarded to Michael Walmsley, "Automatic Adaption of Dynamic Second Language Reading Texts", and The IET best poster to Stefan Schliebs, "Heterogeneous Probabilistic Models for Optimization and Modelling of Evolving Spiking Neural Networks".

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The conference not only gave student researchers an understanding of what others are doing, but also gave them the opportunity to interact with others who are motivated and passionate about their work. But it wasn't all work, highlights of the conference included a powhiri and a performance by a local kapahaka group at Pipitea Marae, Google opening dinner, Pingar social night that involved ten-pin bowling, and Careers Industry Night where a number of companies were present to recruit eager graduate students.

The conference was made possible with the tremendous effort by the organising committee, the local university contacts, and support from our key sponsors: Google, Intergen, Pingar, The IET, InternetNZ, VicLink, and Victoria University of Wellington.

We are also grateful for the valuable assistance provided by the following people and groups: Sue Hall, Ally Reid, Peter Andreae, David Pearce, John Hine, Ian Witten, Tim Bell, Doug Hauraki, Liz Richardson, Robert Amor, Rachel Blagojevic, panelists, workshop presenters, Andy Linton, Will Browne, Ian Welch, OLPC Project, Victoria Communications and Marketing, ITS Teaching Services, Campus Care, VicVenues, KPR Catering, and Eurest Catering.

Further information about the conference is located on the web site: http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/Events/NZCSRSC2010/

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.

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.

Victoria launches computer engineering Master's

09 Nov 2009 - 11:55 in Administrative

Victoria University will offer a Master of Engineering next year, beginning in February.

The programme will enable students to undertake a research project in electronics, computer systems networking, software engineering or a combination of these. It will cater for students with an appropriate Honours degree. John Hine, Head of Victoria's School of Engineering and Computer Science and Faculty of Engineering, said that the Master's was a great option for new researchers.

“The Engineering programme at Victoria is unique in that it integrates electronics and software development.“

Victoria has the leading software engineering group in the country and a superb programme in mechatronics; essentially working with robots. We've got the largest fleet of mobile robots in New Zealand.

“Our researchers are also part of the international Honeynet project and are doing fascinating things to improve Internet security. “

The Master's is an opportunity to study a particular topic in greater depth. It will be of interest to both engineering and science graduates as well as students from related areas like industrial design.

“Companies involved in research and development could also work with students from the School on collaborative Master's projects.”

Potential Master's students should visit the Engineering website to find a supervisor they may wish to do research with: http://www.victoria.ac.nz/engineering For more information please view the Postgraduate prospectus page http://ecs.victoria.ac.nz/Main/ProspectivePostgraduates, or contact Professor John Hine (Dean, Faculty of Engineering) John.Hine@ecs.vuw.ac.nz.

IEEE Postgraduate Presentations Event 2009

25 Sep 2009 - 14:10 in Event

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Harry Jones receiving his prize from Murray
Milner, Chair of the IEEE New Zealand Central
Section Committee

On the 4th September Massey and Victoria engineering and computer science students came together in the annual IEEE New Zealand Central Section (http://ewh.ieee.org/r10/nzc/) postgraduate presentation event, held at Victoria University in the Old Government Buildings. Fifteen students presented to an audience of their peers, staff from Massey and Victoria and members from the IEEE and IET. The presentations were of an excellent standard covering a range from electronics, communication systems and networking to Artificial Intelligence and Software Engineering and it showed many synergies exist between the Massey and Victoria research groups.

It was difficult to pick the winners, but after an agonising discussion the overall winner was Harry Jones (Victoria) who talked about his honours project in channel sounding with software defined radio. In second place Ayesha Hakim (Massey) presented on a reliable hybrid technique for human face detection. As runners-up Adrian Jongenelen (Victoria) talked about compact real-time range imaging systems and Keith Cassell (Victoria) told us about clustering techniques to improve the maintainability of object oriented classes.

Many thanks to all who took part and we look forward to next years event!

The Clash of the Robots - the Annual Lego Competition

22 Sep 2009 - 15:16 in Event

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With names like Praying Muntaz, Predator, Icarus and Optimal Prime, the stage was set for an exciting match at the Annual Lego Competition. Monday night gave students enrolled in ECSE430 Advanced Mechatronic Engineering II the opportunity to design, construct and programme autonomous robots that not only had to work but compete against each other. The aim of the competition was to score the most points by having the robots locate and physically pick up a puck then deliver it to a donut shaped goal. Pucks varied in value depending upon how hard they were to locate. Maximum points were scored if the robots deposited the puck in the donut centre as opposed to the raised outer surface. As the Robots were required to operate completely independently of humans, points were deducted if a competitor touched their robot.

Harry Jones and Ben Drayton with Predator proved from the very start that they were contenders to be reckoned with. Predator lived up to his (or her) name and preyed upon the pucks (and other contenders) scoring well in the first few rounds. The final round resulted in a play off between Predator and Praying Muntaz designed by Vincent Fletcher and Patrick Thomson. The photograph show the results, a victorious Vincent Fletcher and Patrick Thomson celebrating their win and the A+.

Pacific Network Operators Group Meeting

09 Jul 2009 - 16:04 in Event

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Recently Andy Linton, a teaching fellow at the Faculty of Engineering, took part in the 5th conference and educational workshop of the Pacific Network Operators Group (PacNOG). Held in Tahiti, the 5 day conference provided an important forum for service providers in the Pacific Network community to meet and discuss current issues as well as receive technical training. The workshops at the conferences are deliberately designed to strengthen technical expertise by training people and organisations. In return the participants are expected to return home and teach others in their country what they have learnt at the PacNOG workshops.

As PacNOG aims to build relationships among individual and institutional contacts in the Pacific region, a key outcome of the organisation is the building of relationships with peers/colleagues in the region. Andy, who is an instructor and active member of PacNOG, has been involved in technical knowledge transfer in the Pacific Region for the pass 12 years and views PacNOG as an excellent opportunity for people in the Pacific region to share and develop technical expertise - "People in New Zealand understand the tyranny of distance, which is even more of a challenge in the South Pacific region. Geographically these island nations cover huge areas, which result in scattered and sparse populations. By bringing people together they are able to identify similar experiences and share innovative solutions."

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This year's conference highlighted many of the challenges and issues facing internet development in the Pacific region. As John Crain, Chief Technical Officer ICANN, stated in his keynote address - "Everyday more than a Billion people rely on the Internet to conduct aspects of their daily life. Those who use the Internet and those of us who operate the networks need to be more aware of the risks". While the workshops addressed a range of challenges, this year the conference focused on current best practices in security and the importance of well engineered router and server infrastructure.

Relationship building is also an important aim of PacNOG and as Andy states," it was really good to see the sharing of knowledge and the building of relationships, which continues well after the conference finishes. The Fijian contingent stayed for a few days after the conference to work with their Tahitian counterparts and this working together is what the organisation is about". PacNOG also receives support from a number of institutions in the Pacific region. Victoria University provided Andy's time, while InternetNZ paid for his travel and accommodation. The next meeting this November in Fiji, will be supported by the Internet Society (http://www.isoc.org/ ) and InternetNZ (http://www.internetnz.net.nz/).

For further information check out: http://www.pacnog.org/

Industry Evening

19 Jun 2009 - 10:02 in Event

On Wednesday 10 June 2009 the Faculty of Engineering hosted approximately 70 people from the Wellington engineering and computer industry.

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The aim of the event was to further develop relationships in the community by showcasing the new Faculty of Engineering. As well as tours of the new space on the second floor of Cotton, staff and students displayed a wide range of interesting research projects. The evening gave staff, students and industry the opportunity to interact and discuss developments in the engineering and computer science field.

In the first photograph, Master's student Vipul Delwadia is demonstrating his software for remote control of mobile applications.

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Peter Andreae (Pondy) explains a learning agent: the agent watches what is happening in a world (a kitchen with a tap, sink etc) and constructs mental models of how the world works in order to predict and plan.


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The Mechatronics Group, headed by Professor Dale Carnegie, has developed a fleet of mobile robots capable of autonomous operation over a wide variety of different terrains. Here Dale is explaining the importance of maneuverability for rescue robots in disaster environments. The goal is to provide these robots with the ability to learn and adapt, and eventually be able to operate autonomously (without human assistance).


Contest Winner Announced

11 May 2009 - 11:36 in Event

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The winner of the School of Engineering and Computer Science contest is 13 year old Tariq Kader. Tariq is in year 9 at Wellington College and one of his favourite subjects is mathematics. He also enjoys computers and as this photograph illustrates he is very happy at receiving his prize - an Aluminium MacBook supplied by Student IT based at the Victoria University, Kelburn Parade. Tariq won his prize after entering an on-line contest advertised at the recent Wellington Armageddon show. While on campus, Tariq also received a quick tour of the new School of Engineering and Computer Science, and was shown the Honeynet Project and the visualisation display OptIPortal.

Dr Ian Welch, who was on-hand to give Tariq some pointers on his new prize, states, "we hope that the new MacBook helps to further develop Tariq interest in computer science, and with his strong maths interest, Tariq is developing an educational foundation that will stand him in good stead for future university study in engineering and computer science."

And it sounds like the School may see Tariq in the near future. "I have always wanted a computer," said Tariq. "And more specifically, an Apple Macbook. I would avidly look at all the features it came with and imagine how it would be to have one. So when I heard that I had won a new Macbook, I could hardly believe it. I was also taken on a tour of the School of Engineering and Computer Science and learned about the amazing things people were doing with computers, getting information and even building robots. Even before this tour I was interested with computers and technology, and seeing those exciting things happening in there has given me confidence in my curiosity. I hope to continue my interest with computers and engineering, and hopefully take it to a university level in the future; and my new Macbook should help me get there."

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.”