Deakin redesigns future of engineering in Australia inside brand new centre

Media release
16 November 2015
The southern hemisphere’s first immersive virtual reality lab that lets users feel as well as see is the jewel in a brand new $55 million state-of-the-art engineering education and industry innovation centre officially opened today in Geelong.

The southern hemisphere’s first immersive virtual reality lab that lets users feel as well as see is the jewel in a brand new $55 million state-of-the-art engineering education and industry innovation centre officially opened today in Geelong.

Vice-Chancellor Professor Jane den Hollander welcomed the Federal Education Minister, the Honourable Senator Simon Birmingham, Federal Member for Corangamite Sarah Henderson MP, and many industry representatives to the Centre for Advanced Design Engineering Training (CADET) at the Waurn Ponds campus.

The lab, which allows users to step inside and move within a virtual 3D world enhanced by haptics and surrounded by four projection-based screens, is the cornerstone of a new, Australian-first, approach to teaching engineering.

Professor den Hollander said Deakin’s redesign of engineering education matched the focus of the Federal Government’s Industry, Innovation and Competitiveness Agenda, and would lead Australia’s next generation of engineers into the unknown jobs of the future with confidence and the relevant skills for a 21st century world.

“Because of our new approach, and the world-leading technology inside CADET, our students will be solving real-world problems in partnership with industry from the very beginning of their degrees,” Professor den Hollander said.

“Australia has been staring down the barrel of complex challenges within manufacturing for several years now, firstly as the decline of the automotive industry gathered pace, and now as the economy feels the pinch from a reliance on the weakening resources and commodities sectors.

“Unless we are bold, and unless we have vision beyond today, we cannot hope to prosper into the future when it comes to manufacturing. We are grateful for the Federal Government’s recognition of our vision and positive direction through its $22 million contribution to CADET.

“Thanks to Deakin’s new centre, which is based on several overseas models, but is a first for Australia, students can enter university knowing that when they graduate they will be prepared to solve real-world problems.

“This means that for the first time, students will be able to learn how to engineer solutions to problems in a hands-on workplace environment, rather than the traditional passive theory-based model of learning inside a static lecture theatre.”

Professor den Hollander said it was widely accepted that Australia’s prosperity could no longer rely on either the domestic manufacturing market, or what it digs out of its earth, loads onto ships and sends overseas.

“Universities should be leading the way when it comes to researching solutions and producing graduates to drive such solutions when they enter the workforce,” she said.

“So the key question we have asked at Deakin University is what will be the key ingredient for Australia in an innovation-led future in a global market?

“In answering this question, we looked outside to see exactly how the world is addressing this - and it became clear that design is the only way forward.

“Australian industry must understand what the world wants and it must be able to keep up. This is why design and design based thinking is more important than ever before.

“We have rebuilt our engineering degree to drive a new type of manufacturing view; one built on design and advanced manufacturing that will deliver highly sought after products.” 

Professor den Hollander said Deakin’s Faculty of Science, Engineering and Built Environment had analysed the evolution of innovation through the prism of its leadership in industrial technology, industrial engineering and industrial design, finding it strong on the first two, largely through the materials and automotive sector.

“Then we have industrial design, which is creating products and systems that optimize function, value and appearance for the mutual benefit of both user and manufacturer. But this has not been part of the DNA of the innovation process in Australia,” she said.

“Successful innovators such as Apple, Samsung and Dyson have proven that industrial design should be the first thing manufacturers consider when developing products that require engineering and technological solutions.

“But Australia’s focus on industrial engineering has not been as prominent as in other countries and with the demise of mass automotive manufacturing there is a real risk of things actually moving backwards.

“Deakin’s solution has been born out through the establishment of CADET, as well as the development of a design based curriculum built from international best practice.”

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