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Mark Bladwell

We are in the middle of an explosion in drone capability, says expert


Expert Dr Catherine Ball says the way we currently use drones is only scratching the surface of what they can do for us.

When luxury Italian fashion house Dolce & Gabbana sent a bunch of drones down the runway of its Milan show in February this year, the fashion world was aghast. Flying robots carrying the brand’s jewel-encrusted leather handbags?

While millennial fashion models might have felt cause for concern, across the globe in Brisbane, environmental scientist Catherine Ball was celebrating the unexpected use of drones.

“It got me very excited,” she said.

“Here was a collaboration between fashion design, creativity and drones used in a scenario that you would never have thought of.”

A world leader in drone research, Ball is fascinated by the future of the technology, which stretches well beyond the world of fashion. She will be sharing her insights in a panel discussion at this year’s Australian Engineering Conference (AEC).

The production of drones for personal and commercial use is growing rapidly. Data from research and advisory company Gartner predicts the global drone market will be valued at $US11.2 billion by 2020.

Ball has delivered a number of world-firsts in environmental and infrastructure surveying using drones, monitoring bushfires, coral reefs, and collecting a range of data to assist in effective ecological and engineering processes.

She sees drones as an efficient tool for translating patterns of nature in remote locations. Her breakthrough project occurred in 2014 while working with engineering and environmental consultancy URS (now AECOM) when she flew human-sized drones to track turtle habitats along the coast of Western Australia.

They spotted an endangered oceanic manta ray species not seen in many years, and she was promoted to regional lead for unmanned aerial systems. She was also awarded Telstra Woman of the Year (Corporate) in 2015 for her work in drone research.

Ball has a PhD in microbial ecology and is currently the managing director of Elemental Strategy, where she consults to government and private industry on the adoption of technology, such as drones. Ball also works with She Flies, which promotes gender equality in science, technology, engineering, the arts and maths (STEAM) careers.

Drones to the rescue

A love of nature was fostered while watching David Attenborough documentaries as a child. However, Ball’s initial interest in the environment was sparked at the age of five when she saw a television program about the 1984 famine in Ethiopia.

“It’s one of my earliest memories,” she said.

“I remember being quite shocked by it.”

Ball said the current application of drone technology represents the mere tip of the iceberg.

“The idea that we can use drones to get to places and people faster to save lives is really floating my boat,” she said.

“I am excited about how drones are developing outside of the data collection aspect. Some of the humanitarian projects that really excite me involve delivery of blood or drugs or transporting a human organ when needed through a congested city via drones.

“It’s happening in parts of Africa already, and I feel like it should also be happening here in Australia. It’s something we’re looking at, particularly in Queensland. How can we support our remote and regional communities with this kind of technology? Australia is probably the best place in the world to fly a drone.

“We were the first to have commercial drone legislation in 2002, and a lot of other countries look at the Australian model in terms of space regulation. It’s the best place in the world to be a drone scientist.”

Ball also sees drones having an impact on future engineering processes such as data visualisation.

“You can process the data, put it in 3D, stamp the different spectral signatures and walk around inside a virtual reality system without actually having to be on location,” she said.

“The high-resolution nature of the data means that you can look for things in ways that you wouldn’t normally and visit places without having to set foot in them.”

More than selfies

Ball is also inspired by the rise of wearable drones. Gartner’s research shows the personal drone market grew by an estimated 34.3 per cent in the 12 months to February 2017, and Ball believes these pocket-sized machines will be increasingly valuable in gathering vital data.

“Imagine having a little wearable selfie drone and you come across something that’s broken or an accident has happened or there’s a flood level that needs to be checked,” she said.

“Yes, there might be some rather silly uses for wearable drones, but having a geotagged photograph to help somebody in an incident is also something worth thinking about. I always like to take it back to a genuine humanitarian opportunity.”

Dr Catherine Ball will be a speaker at the Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To learn more and to register, click here

This futuristic room really helps bring your data to life

data arena

Engineers are used to looking at schematics and data sets, but what if there was a way to take those data points and visualise them in a completely immersive way?

Imagine being able to do a walk-through of a building before construction even begins. Or create replicas of assets to see where faults occurred and why.

Data arenas, like the one at University of Technology Sydney, let you do just that. It’s a 360 degree, 3D stereoscopic, interactive data visualisation facility that is being used by engineers to visualise and experience data sets like never before.

Experience it for your self and learn more about how engineers are using this space at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference. To learn more and to register, click here

Why engineers – not politicians – need to solve our infrastructure problems

infrastructure design

Professor Peter Newman wants entrepreneurial engineers to solve our infrastructure problems rather than politicians.

Australia’s ever-expanding cities are placing significant burden on vital infrastructure, such as transport, housing and energy supply.  Peter Newman, professor of sustainability at Curtin University, will address the liveability, workability and sustainability of our cities – and the way in which they might be improved – during a session at this year’s Australian Engineering Conference (AEC).

Newman will interview Sir Rod Eddington, former Chair of Infrastructure Australia, whom he met on the football field in Perth more than five decades ago.

“I was his coach,” said Newman, “so clearly I was the senior person in the relationship, although I was all of three or four years older than him. He often still calls me ‘coach’ and, of course, I call him ‘Sir Rod’.


Engineering our cities


As it is engineers who build our cities, they must play a key role in improving their sustainability, said Newman. He cites British civil engineer and ‘Father of Railways’ George Stephenson as a fine example.

“The first railways came about because engineers were entrepreneurial enough and politically connected enough to make them happen,” he said.

“Prince Albert was a great supporter of the railways and he had the entrepreneurial engineer, Stephenson, who came along and said, ‘We can build this if we get real estate developments to fund it’.”

Newman believes entrepreneurial engineers will play a vital role in improving our cities’ transport infrastructure in the near future.

“The new engineering that I really love is called the trackless tram,” he said.

“It’s an autonomous tram that is actually a series of buses in convoy, but they just follow sensors down the road. They’re electric, they get recharged at the stations and they’re much cheaper. They are what I believe is going be the next generation [of public transportation].”

While China is leading the way in trackless trams, Newman said he expects the technology to soon reach Australia.

“It’ll be the engineers who pick up on it,” he said.

“They’ll team up with entrepreneurs, developers and good governments and we’ll get a new regime of building trackless tram systems through our cities that will solve many of our current problems.”


More rail, less road


Newman said our cities can be engineered so that home and work are accessible within 30 minutes. According to him, our cities become dysfunctional when further time is added to the journey.

“Sydney is the worst – it’s very close to 40 minutes per journey to work,” he said.

“Melbourne is next, and it crossed the line about 10 years ago. Brisbane crossed about five years ago and Perth crossed it two years ago. They need to claw it back. It’s increasingly dysfunctional because younger families are just falling apart. It’s like fly-in fly-out every day. There’s a big social impact as well as economic impact.”

Newman said cars serve an important purpose, however he sees a risk of them becoming master rather than servant.

“Those cities that have become automobile dependent, such as Detroit, are now struggling economically,” he said.

“Cities like Houston and Atlanta are rebuilding around rail and they’re doing well, because that’s where the new jobs are, the new knowledge-economy jobs.”

He said he believes the time has come for high-speed rail here.

“That linking up across the country is something that every continent has done except us,” he said.

“There is one plane a day between Tokyo and Osaka, two of the biggest cities in the world, and that’s because every 10 minutes, there is a fast train transporting people, and you can’t beat that.”

Such firm views on high-speed rail should make for an interesting debate during this year’s AEC when Newman takes the stage with Eddington, who is not a fan of high-speed rail.

Professor Peter Newman will team up with Sir Rod Eddington at this year’s Australian Engineering Conference to discuss the vital role engineers play in advancing our cities’ liveability, sustainability and workability. To learn more and to register, click here.

It’s time to change the way we think about AI and robotics

AI and robotics

When we think about artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, it’s usually “us versus them”, says Dr Catherine Ball. But according to her, that’s not the case at all.

The rise of things like wearable and implantable technologies mean people need to rethink their relationship with AI and robotics. What’s needed for this to happen?

We asked Dr Catherine Ball ahead of her appearance at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference to explain what the future looks like when AI and people work, live and play together.

There will be a panel discussion about human-AI interactions and the ethical implications at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference. To register, click here


Here’s your chance to go below the deck of Australia’s largest warship

The Canberra-class Amphibious Assault Ship gives the Australian Defence Force one of the most capable and sophisticated air-land-sea deployment systems in the world.

Measuring 230m long with 15 deck levels, these 27,000 tonne ships, also known as Landing Helicopter Docks (LHDs), are Australia’s largest warships. They can land a force of over 1000 personnel by helicopter and watercraft, along with all their weaponry, ammunition, vehicles and stores.

Australia's largest warship

Explore Australia’s largest warship for yourself at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To register, click here

Why transport infrastructure is key to Queensland’s future

Queensland infrastructure projects

South-East Queensland’s Cross River Rail is a key ingredient in the state’s future success.

A centrepiece of the Queensland State Government’s 2018 Budget was an announcement, made in May this year, of a $45 billion spend on infrastructure over the next four years. One of the key pieces of infrastructure under this announcement, seen as vital to the building of “future Queensland”, is the ambitious project known as the Cross River Rail (CRR).

The business case for the CRR says that it will “create the foundation for a world-class, integrated public transport system in South-East Queensland (SEQ)”. With a population expected to be 1.9 million greater by 2036, the state is having to answer questions about how it expects to move those people around. The CRR offers one of those answers.

Transport is not just a topic of political conversation in Queensland, but is being discussed Australia-wide. At the Australian Engineering Conference 2018, Sir Rod Eddington, former Chairman of government body Infrastructure Australia, will be discussing the fact that smart transport infrastructure is at the core of a city’s liveability.

“Cities are seen as more attractive places to live for a whole series of reasons, despite the challenges that living in them brings – the cost of housing, congestion availability of services, commutability,” he said.

“The bottom line is, we didn’t invest in our rail networks for a long time. As the cities get bigger and more congested, the best way to move large numbers of people down narrow corridors is rail.”

CRR, which will deliver 10.2 km of rail line (5.9 km in twin tunnels under the Brisbane River and CBD) between Dutton Park and Bowen Hills, as well as four new high-capacity, underground stations and two station upgrades, comes as the state admits roads and bus systems are beginning to reach capacity.

It has also been designed to release capacity across the entire rail network, clearing bottlenecks and creating opportunities for further rail extensions to growing parts of SEQ. It doubles rail capacity across the Brisbane River and, the business case says, allows for more people to live within 30 minutes of their work. Network expansions to Flagstone, Caloundra, Ipswich, Springfield and the Gold Coast all become possible thanks to the CRR. Around 23,000 trips each day are expected to shift from road to public transport by 2036, reducing travel times for all commuters.

Amazingly, the CRR’s Albert Street and Roma Street underground stations will be the first new CBD stations in 120 years! Growth areas such as Woolloongabba and Bowen Hills are expected to experience extra revitalisation support as a result of the new rail line. The project is forecast to generate around 1500 new jobs, directly and indirectly, annually over the next four years.

Cross River Rail

An artist’s impression of the future Albert Street Station. (Image: Courtesy Queensland Cross River Rail Delivery Authority)

Why is rail so important? A standard six-carriage train carries 750 people (and trains on the CRR will be up to nine carriages in length), compared to a bus that carries 65 people, a light rail train that carries 250 people, and a ferry that carries 165 people. Cars, of course, carry one to five commuters. No other form of transport comes close to rail in terms of moving large numbers of people.

Tenders for the major works are, at the time of writing, in progress. These include the tunnel work, from a location near Dutton Park station, under the CBD and the river, to a northern portal, four new underground stations, tunnel portals and dive structures, plus all associated electrical, mechanical and safety systems, vertical transport systems for passengers and track work, power systems and operation and control infrastructure. Minor works include demolition and clearing projects.

Clearing works have begun on the Woolloongabba site, which will be the launch pad for the tunnel boring machines and, eventually, the site of a new station. The CRR is expected to be fully complete by 2024.

Experts agree that the CRR is not just an interesting engineering project, but also an excellent way for the state of Queensland to future-proof its most populated regions.

“As the motor car arrived, rail patronage either stalled or fell a bit and, as a result, we took our eye off the rail ball particularly,” Eddington said.

“Roads are an important part of the jigsaw too, but inner cities only work if you have the right rail network as well as the right road network.”

Learn more about the future of Australia’s transport infrastructure at the Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To register, click here

Melbourne’s unprecedented population growth prompts huge infrastructure investment

Melbourne North East Link

The biggest transport infrastructure investment in Victoria’s history, the North East Link is actually three major projects in one.

A budget announcement from the Victorian state government in April 2018 confirmed the earmarking of $110 million to begin the process of detailed planning and design in order to create a blueprint for roadworks and tunnel boring for the North East Link. A further $3.12 million was set aside to put in place pedestrian crossings as well as various traffic flow measures that will become necessary as the work begins.

The North East Link, Victoria’s biggest ever transport infrastructure investment, has been referred to as ‘the missing link in Melbourne’s freeway network’. It is actually a combination of:

  • the North East Link – completing the ring road between the Eastern Freeway and the M80 Ring Road in order to connect Melbourne’s northern and south-eastern suburbs;
  • the Eastern Freeway upgrades – including new lanes, and technology that has the potential to improve trip times by 40 per cent; and
  • Doncaster Busway – a new busway with dedicated lanes along the Eastern Freeway from Doncaster towards the city.

The office of Victoria Premier Daniel Andrews said, “The $16.5 billion North East Link will slash congestion across Melbourne’s north east, take thousands of trucks off local roads and create more than 10,000 new jobs during construction.”

Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University and a presenter at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference 2018, says it is vital to fix the travel time issue in our cities as the cities themselves become dysfunctional when commutes to and from work take too long.

“It’s increasingly dysfunctional because younger families are just falling apart,” he said.

“It’s like fly-in-fly-out every day. There’s a big social impact as well as economic impact.”

Newman is excited about the possibility of technology such as trackless trams – autonomous trams that are actually a series of electric buses in convoy, following sensors in the road.

The North East Link is not only about roads, but also about tunnels. In fact, once the project comes to a close it will have produced Victoria’s longest tunnels – three-lane, twin tunnels that travel for five kilometres under roads, residential areas and parklands.

(Image: Courtesy North East Link project video screen grab)

Other infrastructure included in the project includes new local roads, intersection reconfigurations and land bridges for communities adjacent to the North East Link and Eastern Freeway, new cycling and walking paths along those two freeways and the completion of the 100-kilometre continuous ring road cycling trail. New and upgraded noise barriers will be erected to ensure traffic noise standards are met, a Freeway Control Centre for managing all roadway operations will be constructed, and a focus will also be on high quality landscaping and urban design along the new routes.

The entire project has become necessary as a result of population growth in Melbourne that is unprecedented for any Australian city. Incredibly, in the 2015-16 financial year, close to 30 per cent of Australia’s population growth occurred in Melbourne, claims the business case for the North East Link project.

“If current trends persist, Melbourne will be a city of 8 million people by 2051, surpassing Sydney as Australia’s largest city by population and reaching a population as big as London and New York City today,” it said.

Most growth is predicted to occur in the outer suburbs, meaning transport corridors between outer suburbs and employment/education/retail etc centres – including road and rail – must evolve to meet the coming demand. Cities that do not provide such critical infrastructure risk negative social, economic and environmental consequences, as Newman pointed out.

Sir Rod Eddington, former Chairman of Infrastructure Australia, who will be interviewed by Newman at the Australian Engineering Conference 2018, agrees. Eddington, who has a particular passion for rail, says the liveability of our cities very much rests on smart transport infrastructure. This infrastructure is ‘smart’ because it enhances other transport networks. The North East Link, for example, will include major upgrades and additions for bus, bicycle and pedestrian networks as well as those utilised by cars.

“You need to think about infrastructure in the context of networks, not in the context of single pieces of the jigsaw,” Eddington said.

“When thinking about building another rail line, or another road, or another piece of the electricity grid, you need to consider what it means for the networks. Individual pieces of the network must work for one another.”

Learn more about the future of Australia’s transport infrastructure at the Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To register, click here

Australia’s largest transport infrastructure project is a bold initiative

WestConnex Sydney transport infrastructure project

To solve its traffic congestion problems, Sydney is digging deep.

Few people will ever argue that an urban road is a thing of beauty, particularly when it is filled with the glint and growl of slow-moving traffic. But encase that road underground, in a tunnel, and it becomes something else altogether. It is an engineering marvel, an unimpeded way to get from A to B as quickly and easily as possible, and a way to give back open space to the communities above, rather than take it away.

That is what WestConnex in Sydney is now aiming to do. Having already widened the M4 between Parramatta and Homebush, releasing thousands of motorists from a chain of 28 sets of traffic lights on Parramatta Road, it is now digging downwards. The new project extends the M4 at Haberfield in the inner west, via twin underground tunnels around 7.5 kilometres in length, with the M5 at St Peters, near Sydney Airport.

Australia’s largest transport infrastructure project, the WestConnex initiative is coming in at a reported cost of around $16.8 billion. It is expected to be open to traffic in early 2020, with the main tunnel open in 2023. The tunnel linking M4 and M5 has a project cost of $7.247 billion.

Once complete, this massive infrastructure build will result in 33 kilometres (14 kilometres above ground and 19 kilometres underground) of new motorway linking western and south-western Sydney to the city and airport. It is predicted that travel times from Parramatta to Sydney Airport will be cut by up to 40 minutes, bus travel times from the inner west to the city will be halved and up to 52 sets of traffic lights will be bypassed. Most impressively for residents, around 4000 trucks per day will head underground, rather than clogging up Parramatta Road.

WestConnex Sydney transport infrastructure

(Image: Courtesy WestConnex project video screen grab)

It’s a big vision and a bold initiative, providing relief to the city of Sydney before traffic created chaos. Most impressive is the creation of green community spaces at the same time that trucks and other traffic are sent underground.

While road capacity will be doubled along the M5 East corridor, there should be no noticeable surface traffic increase. In fact, on the surface 10 hectares of disused Rozelle Rail Yards will become green space, reclaimed for the use of residents and including footpaths and cycleways. A new bridge is planned to link this space to other foreshore parks.

Another eight hectares of open space will be created, including six hectares in St Peters. These spaces, and the lesser transport times resulting from the better road systems, are expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 610,000 tonnes per annum. Fourteen kilometres of new paths for pedestrians and cycles will become a reality. The entire project has/will create over 10,000 jobs, including 4,400 jobs on the New M5 project, 4500 jobs on the M4 East project and 900 jobs on the King Georges Road Interchange Upgrade.

“The M4-M5 link is part of a comprehensive range of road and public transport projects that are all connected and will make Sydney a much better place to live,” said Anthony Roberts, NSW Minister for Planning and Housing.

Such planning and progress is an essential to avoid an increasingly dysfunctional city, says Peter Newman, Professor of Sustainability at Curtin University and a speaker at Australian Engineering Conference 2018. Engineers, Newman says, play a key role in ensuring the sustainability of cities, particularly around transport infrastructure.

He is particularly interested in new technologies and innovations, such as ‘trackless trams’, convoys of driverless, electric buses that follow sensors down a road. “It’ll be the engineers who pick up on it,” Newman says. “They’ll team up with entrepreneurs, developers and good governments and we’ll get a new regime of building trackless tram systems through our cities that will solve many of our current problems.”

Good roads, good rail systems and innovation between the two, Newman says, will turn cities into places where home and work are always accessible within a 30-minute commute. The answer lies with a coming together of government and private commerce, as is the case with WestConnex. When that collaboration occurs, he says, anything is possible.

Learn more about the future of Australia’s transport infrastructure at the Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To register, click here

The future of engineering is uncertain – and full of possibilities

Elanor Huntington on the future of engineering

By the time current first-year engineering students graduate, the world will be a different place than when they started university. What skills will they need to solve problems and do jobs that don’t even exist yet?

Elanor Huntington, Dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science at the Australian National University, has thought a lot about what the term ‘engineer’ will mean in 10, 20, 50 years’ time.

We caught up with her before her appearance at this year’s Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney to get some predictions about where the industry is headed and what engineering students have to look forward to.

What role will engineers play in the future? Hear from experts and discuss ideas at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference 17-19 September in Sydney. To learn more and to register, click here

Confessions from engineers who have made it in the business world

business leadership

It is not hard to name engineers who have built their ideas into a prosperous business. What does it take to do this?

From Henry Ford to Bill Gates to Elon Musk and, closer to home, Atlassian founders Mike Cannon-Brooks and Scott Farquhar, there are ample cases to suggest that engineers and technologists can make super-successful company founders and leaders.

So, do engineers make good entrepreneurs? Anyone can make a good entrepreneur, said Professor (Emeritus) and University of Technology Sydney (UTS) Innovation Adviser Roy Green. The essential element is a viable product, based on good research, and which can be commercialised.

“An engineer or technologist has a head start in that respect because they understand product development,” said Green, who will moderate a panel discussion titled ‘The Genius of Naivety’ on 19 September at the Australian Engineering Conference in Sydney.

“But in order to translate a product into a market opportunity, other skills are also necessary.”

Sebastien Eckersley-Maslin is the Founder and CEO of startup accelerator BlueChilli and has won the EY Entrepreneur of The Year (Emerging category). His resume includes 10 years as a weapons engineer in the Royal Australian Navy.

BlueChilli founder and CEO Sebastian Eckersley-Maslin.

Asked if members of his profession make good entrepreneurs, he tells create: “I think engineers do make really strong, good leaders, but that’s only one of the characteristics that they require to be a successful entrepreneur.

“Also, engineers are fantastic problem solvers, and it’s that active problem solving which I think can make them amazing entrepreneurs.”

Without guidance, however, they can sometimes suffer from ‘The Developer’s Dilemma’. They might be in love with their idea though without an understanding of their end user. Building things to solve problems is in their DNA, and when there are problems they might just keep adding technology.

“Their instinct is to go back to what they know, which is to build, and they add more features or tweak the services or whatever,” Eckersley-Maslin said.

“You end up in this horrible loop, where you just keep adding more stuff. And you end up building massive, monolithic structures that no one is buying.”

He advocates the well-known Lean Startup methodology to avoid this possible trap.


Need for speed


Byron Kennedy, CEO and co-founder of SPEE3D, is commercialising an additive manufacturing method using robotics to spray metal powders at supersonic speeds to build parts. It officially launched at Formnext in Germany last November and has received orders within Australia and from the US, Germany and Singapore.

SPEE3D is combining robotics and 3D printing.

He and co-founder Steve Camilleri previously spun out In Motion electric motors from Charles Darwin University, selling this to a division of Regal Beloit. He believes entrepreneurship is “just chasing your dream or your passion” and an entrepreneur can come from any disciplinary background.

“However, what engineering does is give you the skillset to solve technical challenge. What we do on a day-to-day basis is to have a particular engineering challenge,” he explains, adding that his and Camilleri’s profession helps in systematically breaking a project into smaller problems.

“When we started on the printer, for instance, we broke it into 10 separate elements and we ran Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs) on each of those and you could ultimately see where you had to spend your time. One was already a four – happy with it. But is that one a zero? We’ve got to put a bit more time into that zero, at least get it up to a one or something like that. We put a lot of process thinking into solving these problems.”

Engineering skills give the founders the ability to understand a range of possible solutions. Other, entrepreneurial skills, says Kennedy, allow them to pick out the most realistic solution based on constraints (financial, technological and other) and risks, before proceeding.


Robo rehab


UTS students Rowan Smith and Thirunisha Thirumurugan are at an earlier stage in their entrepreneurial journey.

Smith picked a ‘Robotic Rehabilitation’ option during the Summer Studio program. He did so following his grandmother suffering a stroke in late-2017, and rehab being “a pretty crap process”.

As Tech Gym, the two students are developing two solutions, one to assist rebuilding upper body strength and the other involving musical games to recover hand and finger strength.

“We are definitely still in the stage of looking for a mentor on a start-up level: we haven’t quite found that yet,” Smith said.

Robotic assistance to help manipulate a patient’s arms also addresses physical issues for physiotherapists. Smith says they train five years for a job that they leave after seven years on average, due to work injuries.

One of the first steps in developing Smith’s and Thirumurugan’s ideas was to hear what the UTS physiotherapy researchers’ problems were. Though the venture is a promising one – the pair won a recent university pitching competition and will present at the Virginia Tech Global Entrepreneur Challenge Competition in August – they are always looking to potential end users for guidance.

Roy Green says engineers understand product development, and therefore make excellent business leaders.

“The big part that we need is mentors to push us in the right direction of the medical field, because both Nisha and I are mechanical and mechatronic engineers, so our medical understanding is quite limited,” he said.

“We just want to build robots.”

Asked if engineering students should be exposed to entrepreneurial thinking before graduation, Eckersley-Maslin said yes, though he added every engineer should be an entrepreneur or vice versa.

“But I do think a healthy understanding of the two worlds is important for people to make an informed decision if that pathway is for them, or they want to go and work for a high-tech, high-growth company,” he said.

According to a survey by Smith’s university, a significant proportion of students (40 per cent) are seeking an entrepreneurial element to be taught through their degree. As featured in the March 2017 issue of create magazine, the university began offering an MBA in Entrepreneurship (MBAe) with other Australian universities also offering new post-grad degrees with an entrepreneurial bent.

As with Eckersley-Maslin, Green believes students, including those in engineering, should be exposed to entrepreneurial ideas as a matter of course.

“Not all of them of course will necessarily end up creating a business. But even if they didn’t, wherever they work they’ll take an entrepreneurial mindset with them,” says Green.

“And not just a technological mindset or managerial mindset. They would have a much broader approach to whatever problems and challenges might be facing them.”

What are the skills young engineers need to succeed in business? What can existing businesses do to stay on top of current trends? Roy Green will share his insights at the upcoming Australian Engineering Conference in Sydney 17-19 September. To learn more and to register, click here