Flinders University electronic and robotic engineering Keith Man, left, on work placement with SAGE engineer Dr Chong-Zhi Liaw.
From shipbuilding and defence to medical devices and clean technologies, much anticipation surrounds the future wave of jobs in South Australia – particularly in science, technology, mathematics and engineering (STEM), and innovation.
Flinders University’s leading Science and Engineering Industry Placement Program has given more than 1,000 students valuable industry experience since it started in 1993.
This year 100 students had the opportunity to work on innovation-STEM projects full-time for up to five months.
In addition to providing ‘real-world’ opportunities for students to gain practical skills and learn about new technologies and facilities, the program has contributed heavily to innovation in Australian companies for more than two decades.
This experience with local companies not only contributes to the businesses’ development but helps to build capacity in these emerging SA industries, says Associate Professor in Innovation Giselle Rampersad.
Many students go on to gain employment with the company on completion of their placement.
“We have placed students in Adelaide, Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane and internationally in the USA, Canada, UK, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland, Singapore, New Zealand and Japan,” Associate Professor Rampersad says.
The Flinders University Industry Placement Program won a competitive Australian Collaborative Education Network (ACEN) national research grant in 2017 to develop innovation and employability skills in students. It is now a national model on the Innovative Research Universities (IRU) innovation case studies in 2017.
Leading South Australian company SAGE Automation has hosted several Flinders students.It hopes to continue the relationship since moving to its new headquarters at the Tonsley Innovation District where Flinders has a high-tech campus.
SAGE focuses on system integration and control systems in various industries including defence, manufacturing, utilities, resources and infrastructure.
Electronic and Robotic Engineering student Keith Man, who received the Computer Science, Engineering and Math group’s “Best Overall Industry Placement Award” at Flinders this year, says his work placement had a practical outcome.
“My work placement project was on AddInsight, a traffic intelligence system involving SAGE Automation and the Department of Planning Transport and Infrastructure.“My project investigated the use of Bluetooth technology to count the number of people at bus and train stations and applied this information in improving public transport services.”Damian Hewitt, ITS Project Delivery Manager at SAGE Automation, says: “Keith has developed strong engineering principles in such a short amount of time. His ability to take the proposed passenger detection project from concept to trial phase was extremely impressive.”Flinders University biomedical engineering placement student Matt McKenzie benefited from an international placement at the University of Alberta, Canada, describing the experience as “one of the most challenging, yet rewarding experiences of my professional life so far”.“The continuing support from my supervisor and mentors in Canada have been second to none and I feel I have been able to learn invaluable skills throughout this amazing experience,” Matt says.
“I was given the exciting opportunity to act as a user experience designer to an online web portal for the Wellbeing and Resilience Centre at SAHMRI,” she says.
“This project allowed me to understand and immerse myself in a workplace culture.
“Not only did the experience develop my skills in my field, it also expanded my industry network and improved my professional skills as an employee – something that can only be achieved by being a part of a real workplace.”
“We look forward to continuing to work closely with industry and government organisations seeking innovative students in the areas of IT, engineering, science and business,” Associate Professor Rampersad says.In another initiative, Flinders also has placed students in Asia under a $185,000 New Colombo Mobility Grant from the Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.For more information contact Dr Vlatka Zivotic-Kukolj, Director of the Science and Engineering Industry Placement Program, Flinders University, firstname.lastname@example.org