Caliber is passionate about supporting the next generation of mechanical engineers; we do this through judging, mentoring, presentations, sponsorship, and internships.

Last month I joined a panel of my peers from across the mechanical engineering spectrum as an industry judge for the University of Auckland Part 4 Projects Day. Caliber presented a prize to a project titled “Smart decision making in a highly variable production system based on Industry 4.0 technologies”. This was a great example of students using their summer work experience to identify issues with their employer’s production processes, using their final year project to create a solution, and successfully trial it at their sponsor company.

Other notable projects included: “Design of a human powered micro / ultra-light aircraft”; “Modelling and development of a soft sensor array to capture the grasping patterns of a prosthetic hand” and “Designing and 3D printing the ultimate saxophone reed”. Despite the challenges imposed by lockdown restrictions, the projects were overall of a very high standard.

The judging was held online this year due to uncertainties around what Covid-19 Alert Level we would be at on the day. Some aspects of this were more challenging than the traditional on-site arrangement, such as interviewing the students without having them present their projects immediately before our questions to them. They all created excellent presentation videos which we had viewed the night before; which in retrospect would have been nice to watch immediately before each interview. This must have been similarly challenging for the project supervisors, who also had to assess the projects remotely.

Other aspects worked very well, such as the judges working collaboratively in real-time on discussing, recording and grading scores, and assigning awards. This part of the process has traditionally been challenging as the judges scatter around the campus for another viewing of some projects. They were easy to find this time as they were all sitting in front of their computers! This is a similar approach we’ve successfully used at Caliber to run design reviews with remotely located clients, and it added to our knowledge of what works and doesn’t work when collaborating remotely.

The Part 4 Project Day was a fantastic chance to see what new technological developments might be around the corner, and to meet the bright next generation of engineers who will deliver them. If travel restrictions remain in place, we may see more of these developments happening locally. If that sounds like something that would help your business to succeed and you’re keen to keep engineering in New Zealand thriving, I encourage you to consider taking an intern for the summer period or employ a graduate engineer. To become experienced engineers, they first need to gain experience!

ARTICLE BY  Simon Hall, Design Manager