New engineering labs spark new opportunities
The ability to replicate a 300 kilometre transmission line or perform research using an on-campus commercial wind turbine connected to the national electricity grid are just some of the features of two new engineering laboratories at Deakin's Geelong Waurn Ponds Campus.
‘These are the latest additions to a suite of refurbished engineering laboratories and equipment that ensure facilities for engineering at Deakin are world class,’ says Professor Guy Littlefair, Head of the School of Engineering. ‘They are part of a number of exciting developments in engineering at Deakin, including our $55 million Centre for Advanced Design in Engineering Training (CADET) currently under design in the school.’
The Renewable Energy laboratory and Electrical laboratory will provide undergraduate and postgraduate students, as well as PhD students and researchers, with exciting new opportunities, says Professor Alex Stojcevski, the school’s Deputy Head.
As well as the commercial wind turbine - likely to become a campus landmark with its location on the roof of the Engineering building - a bank of twelve solar panels has also been installed as part of the new facilities. Both are connected to Australia’s electricity grid, which means the power being generated can be used or sold back to the grid. An important aspect of being connected to the grid, Professor Stojcevski says, is the ability it gives researchers and students to conduct experiments and research that are not just using a local ‘micro-grid’, but at a ‘real-world level’.
In addition to students and researchers being able to monitor in the laboratory how much power is being generated, interested passers-by will be able to see that information on screens in the corridors outside.
‘The Renewable Energy lab has equipment that allows students and researchers to not only simulate computer applications of what wind turbine or solar panel or solar wind or solar thermal power generation can do, it allows them to use real equipment,’ Professor Stojcevski explains.
‘This means our students can replicate what a real engineer would do, such as feel the equipment, set up the equipment and so on. For example, in the lab we can replicate a 300 kilometre transmission line, so students will be able to learn to detect faults and potentially come up with mechanisms to prevent them.’
Professor Stojcevski says the new labs have also been designed to encourage interdisciplinary learning and research.
‘For instance, in the Renewable Energy lab, our mechanical engineering students can study the gears and shafts and mechanical instruments within a wind turbine, while our electrical engineering students can examine the energy that’s being produced, the power and energy efficiency.’
The benefits and opportunities provided by the new labs are likely to flow on to Deakin’s off-campus engineering students too, with the school looking to provide remote access to equipment as well.