Campus Notes

Filed under News, UoN ~ by Press on  30 Nov 2019

Showcasing Engineering Solutions

From a shark-proof wetsuit to an interactive boxing robot, a public exhibition taking place in Newcastle over the next nine days will showcase cutting-edge engineering and computing innovations from the University of Newcastle. 

The Art of Problem Solving will see 25 innovative projects, developed by both staff and students, on display at the University’s NeW Space Campus. 

Among the innovations is an optimised beehive designed to ensure the survival of the sugarbag bee, which is native to Australia’s east coast, in extreme heat conditions.  

Mechatronic engineering student, Jonathon Robb, who led the project, said these bees have a limited ability to regulate their own body temperature.  

“When the daytime temperatures soar, entire populations of sugarbag bees are at risk of being wiped out,” Jonathon said. 

Using modelling software, Jonathon has designed a beehive with a heat resistant shield to regulate the internal temperature and ensure the bees’ survival even on extremely hot days. 

Pro Vice-Chancellor of the Faculty of Engineering and the Built Environment, Professor Brett Ninness, said the annual exhibition offers the community a glimpse into some of the forward thinking, and game-changing final year projects of its engineering students. 

“Our engineering students are applying their creative thinking and scientific know-how to a whole range of innovations.

“We’re excited to share with the community the breadth of research our students and staff have been working on with very real-world applications which help address global problems,” Professor Ninness said. 

The exhibition will run from November 30 – December 8 and is open to the public 9am – 5pm. 

The official launch will be held December 3, from 5.30pm. Register for the free event via

Among the Projects

  • Shark-proof wetsuit: Most shark attack fatalities occur because of blood loss inflicted by tooth punctures, so Mechanical Engineering student, Ben Muddle, has created a wetsuit fabric designed to reduce penetration of shark teeth through the skin and potentially save lives. 
  • Bullet proof steel: For her final year civil engineering project, Emma Creasey calculated how thick steel needs to be to stop a bullet. Using a probabilistic framework like Emma’s could help architects build safer buildings with more accurate quantities of steel.
  • Smart interactive boxing robot:  As a boxer himself, Jeremy Eastham was inspired to create a robot that would fight back like a personal trainer, but could also be hit as hard as a punching bag.  The computer engineering student used a 3D model to determine how to assemble the robot, and has written code to make the robot identify its opponents face.
  • Bee safe: Mechatronic engineering student, Jonathon Robb, has created an optimised beehive to help protect the Sugarbag bee species from dying in extreme heat conditions.
  • Augmented solutions: Mechatronics engineer, Brent Smith, has used coding to create augmented experiences which allow people to instantly learn and fix things so that overseas products can be repaired locally.
  • Thirsty trees: Environmental engineer, Dominik Jaskierniak’s project investigates the impact that climate change and forest disturbances has on our water resources. Using drones and artificial intelligence methods, Dominik has mapped an entire forest allowing him to forecast what different climate change scenarios might mean for our water security.
Walkley Award for coverage of Indigenous Affairs

The Killing Times, a collaboration between The Guardian Australia and the University of Newcastle’s Colonial Frontier Massacres research team has been awarded the 2019 Walkley Award for Coverage of Indigenous Affairs.

The project has revealed harrowing details of the true extent of massacres on the colonial frontier of Australia. Around 97 per cent of people killed in these massacres were Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.

The research is an important ‘truth telling’ project, and the research team, led by Professor Lyndall Ryan, are honoured to receive the recognition of a Walkley Award alongside The Guardian Australia, and hope it helps to put a spotlight on the truth, to bring about historical acceptance and in doing so contribute to a path towards reconciliation.

Stage three of the research was released earlier this month, incorporating for the first time, sites of massacres in Western Australia, along with new sites in the Northern Territory, to provide a national picture of the extent of the violence.

The University would also like to congratulate Donna Page, Casual Academic in the School of Creative Industries, and Nick Bielby, winners of the 2019 Walkley Award for Coverage of Community and Regional Affairs for their Newcastle Herald investigation ‘Dirty Deeds’.

Opportunities on the African Horizon

A new centre to drive Australia-Africa education, research and innovation and improve life in both continents has been launched by the University of Newcastle.

The Centre for Africa Research, Engagement and Partnerships (CARE-P) will provide a University strategy for Africa to support high-quality two-way student and staff mobility research and education projects and facilitate productive collaborations with partners in Africa.

Demographically, Africa’s population lends itself to significant opportunities for extensive two-way partnerships for Australian universities. Currently, 50% of Africa’s population is under 20 years old, and 200 million students are eligible for tertiary education. By 2050, that number will reach 800 million.

The Australia Africa Universities Network engages with Australian universities in Africa and will be a key partner with CARE-P, helping deliver its strategic objectives.

CARE-P Director Dr Chris Kewley said the Centre’s establishment recognises the University of Newcastle’s strengths in engagement with the important and diverse continent of Africa and its people.

I’m excited by the opportunities CARE-P will open up; driving innovative and ethical collaborations, while strengthening wider Australia-Africa relations,” Dr Kewley said.

Dr Kewley said CARE-P will connect researchers and academics through institutional partnerships to address challenges facing both continents.

Much of the research we do at the University of Newcastle has potential for application in Africa, and vice versa. Research addressing sustainable development challenges and responsibilities, like climate change, as well as land regeneration after mining and water conservation and wastage, are common areas of focus,” he said.

The Centre will be officially launched at the University’s Callaghan campus on Wednesday evening (27 November) and will see diplomatic representatives from Uganda, Ethiopia, Ghana and Kenya, as well as the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in attendance. Building such relationships will enable the University to play a leading role in further developing Australia-Africa research and education partnerships, and draw upon the knowledge and expertise of the growing Australian-African communities.

Dr Elsa Licumba, an Associate Lecturer from the University’s Newcastle Business School, will launch her book Freedom to Belong: From Mozambique to Australia at the event.

I applaud the launch of the Centre, and look forward to seeing initiatives between CARE-P and local African communities in promoting cultural awareness, as well as the research opportunities and academic exchanges that will give visibility and a voice for Africa, and its talented people.”

University of Newcastle student Tilahun Mengistu settled in Australia a decade ago from Ethiopia, and holds several leadership positions in the local African community, including Public Officer for the African Community Council in Newcastle. Mr Mengistu said he was thrilled to accept a position on CARE-P’s Executive Leadership Group, and looks forward to addressing some of the challenges faced by African students settling in Australia.

“The first few months were difficult, leaving everything behind and being in a different country with different laws, different education and health systems, different languages and different cultural expectations,” Mr Mengistu said.

“The Centre will offer help through that period of adjustment, provide ongoing support to students, making sure they have familiarised themselves with the University.”

Mr Mengistu said another area of focus for CARE-P was to enable students and academics to continue working in their fields upon returning to Africa.

“There are very smart people who could be applying their knowledge in Africa, if they were offered attractive opportunities. Unfortunately, many graduates and academics are less likely to want to return home without that recognition or support,” he said. 

Dr Kewley echoes Mr Mengistu’s sentiment, and notes it as one of the Centre’s core priorities.

“I see the team at CARE-P as being a vital instrument in facilitating an environment in Africa where expertise is recognised and rewarded, and students and academics are valued and welcomed back to their home countries with open arms,” Dr Kewley said.

For more information on CARE-P’s goals, people, and partner institutions, visit its website:

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