$37.2 million boost for engineering at USC

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$37.2 million boost for engineering at USC


3 January 2013

Engineering is about to take a giant leap forward at the University of the Sunshine Coast following USC’s success in winning a $30 million grant from the Commonwealth Government.

Deputy Prime Minister and Treasurer Wayne Swan will announce today (Thursday 3 January) that the USC Engineering Futures Project has been successful in the highly competitive Education Investment Fund (EIF) Regional Priorities Round.

USC will contribute $7.2 million in addition to the Government’s $30 million grant to build and operate a four-storey, state-of-the-art Engineering Learning Hub on its Sippy Downs campus aimed at encouraging more students to study engineering and to develop high quality graduates.

The 6,500 square metre facility will be linked to the University of Southern Queensland, with visualisation theatres built at both universities to enable collaboration in producing 3D scenarios in civil and mechanical engineering and in developing teaching materials.

USC’s Professor of Civil Engineering Mark Porter said these specialised visualisation theatres for immersive learning at USC and USQ, with support from the University of New South Wales, would set this facility apart.

“Combining visualisation techniques with 3D and virtual reality technologies will allow students to see and interact with complex data in ways that they can understand,” he said.

“The visualisation theatres will allow interaction with life-size 3D simulation of objects and spaces. Students can prepare 3D models for objects, which are then ‘experienced’ by wearing 3D glasses with position sensors that locate the wearer in relation to the object. For example, one can experience the design of a building by walking around its 3D simulation, appreciating it from all angles.”

The Engineering Learning Hub at USC will feature cutting-edge learning and teaching spaces, including an interactive lecture theatre for 120 students that can be quickly reconfigured for group work activities or scenario work.

There will also be a stand-alone Engineering Structures Learning Lab, which will be used to demonstrate physical properties of a range of materials and structures.

This lab will feature a reaction floor (a 1.2m thick prestressed concrete slab to which the testing rigs can be attached) and data capture equipment to enable its operations and demonstrations to be linked with the visualisation theatres.

USC Vice-Chancellor Professor Greg Hill said the Sunshine Coast economy was dependent on engineering, particularly in construction, so it was an obvious area of provision for USC.

“There are significant engineering skills shortages across Australia, Queensland and the Sunshine Coast,” he said. “These are likely to be exacerbated as more engineers are drawn into the mining sector and as a large number of existing engineers retire.

“Australia has tended to rely on migration to supplement the supply of engineers, but this is becoming more difficult. Australia needs to re-invest in the education and training of its own engineers.”

“Our Engineering Futures Project involves enhanced collaboration with USQ in expanding provision of engineering education to produce more graduates to meet regional engineering skills shortages in regional Queensland.

“The project will have significant outcomes for the engineering sector, including new education capacity and capability and more pathways for school and TAFE students to pursue engineering degrees, leading to more engineering graduates and more sustainable regional economies and universities.

USC’s Civil Engineering degree was introduced in 2010 and its Mechanical Engineering degree in 2012.

At 17 December 2012, 94 applicants had put Engineering at USC as their first preference on their QTAC applications.

USC’s collaborative partners for this project are USQ, Sunshine Coast Institute of TAFE, Wide Bay Institute of TAFE, Construction Skills Queensland, School of Mining Engineering at the University of New South Wales, Lockheed Martin Global Training and Logistics, Weir Minerals Multiflo (Weir Minerals Division) and Engineers Australia.

— Terry Walsh

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