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School of Engineering

Our Students

This is a small collection of some of the current and recent students from the School of Engineering. Find out how they are getting on in their studies, or what they are getting up to upon completion of their qualifications. 


 
Kirsten Nel

Kirsten Nel

BE(Hons) in Engineering

Electronic Engineer
The Gallagher Group

"Being recognised as a high achiever and a hard worker by my lecturers has been a highlight for me."

For electronic engineering honours graduate Kirsten Nel, the University of Waikato was her first choice because of glowing reviews from current students.

Kirsten came straight to Waikato University from Fraser High School in Hamilton, which meant she could save money by living at home and didn't have to cope with moving to another city. 

"I also already knew numerous other students from the year above me who were doing the same degree and only had good things to say about it."

In addition to the practicalities of studying in her home town, she was blown away by the hands-on element of the Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree.

"At the end of our second and third years Waikato staff helped us to find paid work placements which are carried out over the summer holidays. The work load in terms of theory and practical is also pretty even, which means that we spend just as much time learning as we do putting those concepts into practice."

Two work placements at the Gallagher Group organised by the University of Waikato's Faculty of Science & Engineering were the perfect opportunities for her to prove herself and gain experience in her dream job. Before Kirsten's final placement had concluded she was offered a full-time position in Gallagher's R&D department as an Electronic Engineer.

A recipient of numerous scholarships including the School Leavers Merit Scholarship and Engineering Fees Scholarship, Kirsten is also a member of the Golden Key International Honours society for academic excellence and a recently nominated student ambassador for the Faculty of Science and Engineering.

"Being recognised as a high achiever and a hard worker by my lecturers has been a highlight for me. I always strive to do my absolute best and I am very glad that it's recognised."


Mahonri Owen

Mahonri Owen

BE(Hons); ME in Mechanical Engineering

Current Student

"Once I've built the hand I need to programme it to do simple tasks"

For engineering masters student Mahonri Owen, the drive to help others led him to undertake one of the most complex research projects – to design and create a brain-controlled electro-mechanical prosthetic hand.

Having spent his childhood watching his mum care for and serve others in the community, Mahonri knew that helping others was his future – it was just a question of how.

After a suggestion to develop the prosthetic hand was made by his academic supervisor, Dr Chi Kit Au, Mahonri jumped on the idea and first began by researching what was going on around the world in the development of prosthetic limbs.

The next step for Mahonri was to build the hand, but it's easier said than done. "Once I've built the hand I need to programme it to do simple tasks," says Mahonri.

Such tasks include power grip, key grip, ball grip and pinch. He has already built the skeleton using a 3-D printer to produce the components – taking a total of seven hours to print – and mapped out the design using on-screen CAD (computer aided design). With each part assembled by hand, once completed the goal is to use a neural interface which is non-invasive to control the hand.

Following schooling at the Church College of New Zealand, he began a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) in 2007, before taking a break for two years to complete a church service mission in South Africa. Along with his engineering achievements, Mahonri is the recipient of a Sir Apirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship.


Elizabeth Geddes

Elizabeth Geddes

BE(Hons) in Chemical and Biological Engineering

Process Engineer
PDV Consultants

"Work experience meant I could apply all the theoretical knowledge I had learnt at uni, to exciting real-life engineering situations."

Elizabeth Geddes made her mark on campus, as president of the University of Waikato's Young Engineers Society.

"I chose to study engineering at Waikato because I was able to combine the biological and chemical disciplines of engineering, as well as maths and physics, into one exciting degree."

The former Whangarei Girls' High School student was also chair of the Student Engineers New Zealand student council, showing just how passionate she is about the industry and leadership.

While studying Chemical & Biological Engineering, Elizabeth also enjoyed the work placement component of the degree and describes it as a highlight of her studies.

"Work experience meant I could apply all the theoretical knowledge I had learnt at uni, to exciting real-life engineering situations and has given me a clearer idea of what I want from my career as a professional engineer."


Rene Engelbrecht

Rene Engelbrecht

BE(Hons) in Materials and Process Engineering

Graduate Process Engineer
Genesis Oil and Gas Consultants, Perth

"I think the key principle my degree taught me is how to apply and relate theories taught in class to real life."

For engineering graduate Rene Engelbrecht, her first year out of university has been a busy and exciting one.

Rene was offered a role as a graduate process engineering at Technip Oceania in New Plymouth while finishing up her study of a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) majoring in materials and process engineering.

While in the role she spent time on site experiencing well site commissioning and also visited Australia for a three month secondment on one of Australasia's largest liquefied natural gas LNG projects.

"I worked on a project looking at subsea chemical injection and how it influences the onshore production station and was lucky enough to be offered a permanent position here in Australia. I am now working in the process, flow assurance and technical safety areas. These three areas make up the foundations of chemical and process engineering and I love every minute of it," says Rene. 

The former Sacred Heart Girls' College (Hamilton) student says the University of Waikato provided the perfect campus to study engineering.

"My study at Waikato gave me a solid foundation in process engineering fundamentals that I can now build on and apply in industry. I think the key principle my degree taught me is how to apply and relate theories taught in class to real life." 

Rene showed consistent academic excellence throughout her degree, and her multiple scholarships-wins have commended this.

Her scholarships have ranged from the Bachelor of Engineering Fees Scholarship in her first year of study, through to prizes in mathematics and energy research, plus a special scholarship celebrating the success of women in engineering and the Freemasons University Scholarship.


Ollie van Woerden

Ollie van Woerden

BE(Hons) in Materials and Process Engineering

Current Student

“At Waikato the lecturers are excellent and we get to do a lot of practical lab work and challenging group design projects.”

Researching the complexities of turning bloodmeal into bioplastic, alongside top engineering academics, has been the task for materials and process engineering student Ollie van Woerden. 

The project was part of a summer research scholarship, completed in addition to his Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree. 

“At Waikato the lecturers are excellent and we get to do a lot of practical lab work and challenging group design projects.”

As a Hamilton Christian School student, Ollie chose to study at Waikato for the specific programme of Materials and Process Engineering, which is unique to Waikato University, and because he wanted to remain close to home. In the future he hopes to work in the field of industrial processes or materials development. 


Tom Petchell

Tom Petchell

BE(Hons) in Mechanical Engineering

Current Student

“Waikato University offered both a cheap place to live, and a well-recognised and respected degree."

Choosing to undertake tertiary study is a big decision, and not one that engineering student Tom Petchell took lightly.

Following his final year at St John’s College in 2010, Tom wasn’t sure which direction he wanted to take, so found work for a year in the hospitality industry. In 2011 he decided his future lay in engineering, and undertook NCEA Level 3 calculus via correspondence, to enable him to meet the entry requirements for a Bachelor of Engineering (Honours).

“Waikato University offered both a cheap place to live, and a well-recognised and respected degree. On top of this, Waikato offered smaller classes and therefore more access to lecturers.”

Tom says that the model boat design competition in his first year of study, when the School of Engineering comes together for race day was a definite highlight. He also emphasises the numerous other non-academic activities on campus, including speed-interview nights, O week events, clubs days and more.

He urges others to also think carefully about study following school. “Don’t come to university just for something to do.  If you are unsure what path you want to choose, go away, think about it, earn some money, decide, and then come and find out what Waikato can do for you, because the chances are good that they offer an excellent course in it.”


Fletcher Jackson

Fletcher Jackson

BE(Hons) in Mechanical Engineering

Engineer
Vickers Aircraft Company, Hamilton

"Its great that my Bachelor of Engineering degree from Waikato has led me to a job that I am passionate about."

Its great that my Bachelor of Engineering degree from Waikato has led me to a job that I am passionate about. I love flying, so building designing aircrafts is a perfect fit! I am lucky enough to be working as an Engineer at Vickers Aircraft Company, a specialist aircraft developer in Hamilton.  We are currently building the Vickers WaveTM - the latest design of amphibious light sport aircraft. It’s a plane that can be used on land and sea, complete with all the latest technical features and innovations.

My job varies from programming and operating machinery, developing different components of the plane, designing production machinery and helping to set up the company workflow for our expansion. But the team is quite small which means I have a lot to do, but it keeps me busy.

During my studies I got involved in WESMO, a student group that designs and builds a race car each year to race against other universities at the international Formula SAE competition. I was in charge of designing the aerodynamics package for the WESMO car. This involved making composite parts from carbon fibre. I ended up looking for companies to sponsor the project and Vickers Aircraft Company were willing to help. So after working with them to produce the body work for the car I was lucky enough to be offered a full time job.  It was times like this, with the practical projects, summer placements and a culture at Waikato that helped me prepare for industry and land my dream job.

If there is one piece of advice I would give to other students looking to study, it would be to make the most of their time at Waikato and to take risks and try new things. Don't be afraid to take on tasks that seem out of your depth, you’ll surprise yourself with what you can do.


Grace Waters

Grace Waters

BE(Hons) in Chemical and Biological Engineering

Process Engineer
PDV Consultants

“You felt like you were part of a community.  The lecturers knew your name and wanted to help grow you.”

A typical day for Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) graduate, Grace Waters, can be anything but typical.  One day she will be in the office and the next out on site seeing the project through to completion.

Working with a variety of different companies in her role at PDV Consultants means a variety of different challenges every day.  Grace is involved with process engineering design, catering to the food and dairy industry.  She works closely with clients such as Fonterra, Tatua and Dairy Goat, following a project through from its conceptual design stage to the commissioning on site.

Studying Chemical and Biological Engineering at the University of Waikato helped to develop Grace’s passion for process design.  A summer internship at PDV Consultants further developed her enthusiasm and led to gaining a graduate position with the company on the completion of her degree.

Grace’s highlight of studying at the University of Waikato was the culture within the School of Engineering.  “You felt like you were part of a community.  The lecturers knew your name and wanted to help grow you.”  The student culture within the School of Engineering was also particularly strong and supportive with the students experiencing the same challenges and milestones together.

Grace believes that to succeed students need to find something they are truly passionate about and aim to become their best at it.  This might mean ‘stepping out of your comfort zone and putting yourself in situations that you’d normally shy away from’ but imagine that leading to doing a job that you love every day.


Timothy Walmsley

Timothy Walmsley

BE; PhD in Materials and Process Engineering

Research Fellow
University of Waikato

"My PhD research demonstrated that steam use in a typical New Zealand milk powder factory could decrease by 10% if exhaust heat recovery for the milk dryer is installed."

A PhD focused on increasing the energy efficiency of milk powder production has led University of Waikato engineering graduate Tim Walmsley to a full-time job with the very research group within which he worked as a PhD candidate.

"My PhD research demonstrated that steam use in a typical New Zealand milk powder factory could decrease by 10% if exhaust heat recovery for the milk dryer is installed. Lab scale tests indicated issues relating to milk powder build-up and fouling, which is a key reason why dairy companies choose not to install this energy efficient technology, can be avoided through smart heat recuperator design and purposefully not being greedy in recovering heat," says Tim.

His position as a Research Fellow came about when the University of Waikato's Energy Research Group was awarded a three-year grant from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) late last year.

"Fonterra, Windsor Engineering and the Energy Education Trust co-funded our research bid and a significant part of this successful proposal continues on from my PhD research."

The next step in his research is to prove his design solution at a pilot-scale level before further up-scaling to a full-size New Zealand milk spray dryer. "A milk spray dryer exhaust heat recovery project is a million dollar investment and a pilot scale installation will help de-risk and bring greater certainty around the economics of a full-scale project."

While studying towards his PhD, Tim won a University of Waikato Doctoral Scholarship, the Todd Foundation Scholarship in Energy Research, and a Claude McCarthy Conference Travel scholarship. These scholarships supported him through his three years of study towards a PhD in engineering, which he completed in June 2014, and provided the opportunity for him to present his work at two international engineering conferences.


Pinwei Jin

Pinwei Jin

ME in Mechanical Engineering

Past Student

Master of Engineering (ME) student Pinwei Jin has designed and built a remote control robotic snake, which he hopes will be used in the future for rescue operations.

Master of Engineering (ME) student Pinwei Jin has designed and built a remote control robotic snake, which he hopes will be used in the future for rescue operations.

"Earthquakes and other natural disasters happen frequently in New Zealand and when it comes to the big ones, many lives could be saved if search and rescue operations were conducted more effectively and efficiently," says Pinwei.

Differing from the existing mobile rescue robot systems currently in the market place, he says his Snake Robot provides the flexibility of movement needed in cluttered and irregular environments created by disasters.

"The Snake Robot features a wireless camera on its head and is controlled by a wireless joystick to move forward, backwards, left and right. It has 16 degrees of freedom from the eight joints, nine segments, 16 motors and nine passive wheels. Essentially it can move along the ground like a snake."

Pinwei attended high school in a small town in central China.  After completing a Bachelor of Engineering at Wuhan University of Technology in China, he heard about the University of Waikato from friends and based on the University's reputation, decided to enrol.

View the Snake Robot in action on One News.