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University of Waikato engineering student placements: in demand and in the Bay

26 February 2020

Three mechanical engineering students spending the summer in Hawke’s Bay have enhanced their skills while contributing extra expertise to local businesses.

Sam Pomana, Ethan Martin and Tex Taylor are all Hawke’s Bay locals, having moved to Hamilton to study, but staying with family during the holidays. For the three, their first work placements have been an exciting opportunity to experience design-and-build projects with innovative local businesses.

Sam’s placement was with SL Racing in Puketapu, which produces high quality rowing boats used by both amateur and professional rowers. As rowers themselves, brothers Simon and Hamish Lack of SL Racing do the bulk of the design work, utilising their time on the water to hone their boat designs. Sam’s placement involved using computer-aided design to adjust boat components and design new parts based on Simon and Hamish’s specifications. With a focus on making the build process faster, SL Racing now has a library of part designs produced by Sam over the last three months.

Working closely with the in-house build team was also a key part of Ethan’s placement at Napier Engineering and Contracting (NEC). NEC produce meat processing equipment and, with Ethan’s office being located right next to the workshop, it meant that designs could be amended during the build process as challenges and improvements were identified.  Like Sam, Ethan’s design work required him to add to the Solid Works skills he had learnt during class time, and he now feels much more proficient at using this industry-standard software.

Tex’s work at Phoenix Fire Pumps in Central Hawke’s Bay focused on the build process. Phoenix, Winner of the Excellence in Innovation award at the 2019 ExportNZ ASB Hawke’s Bay Export Awards, has strong international demand for its portable firefighting water pumps, which are hand built to exacting specifications. During his time there, Tex went from building pump parts to complete units, and improved his skills in CNC lathing. He enjoyed working with the small team who were supportive and approachable.

Work placements are an integral part of the Bachelor of Engineering qualification at Waikato. Each student completes two placements of 400 hours duration, usually over summer at the end of their second and third years of study. Whilst the work may simply be an extra set of hands to help out at a busy time, in reality many placement students add significantly to the skills capability of their host firm and can speed up developments.

“We try to get them home,” says Jewal Morrison, the University’s Placement Coordinator for Mechanical Engineering, adding that she and her team are keen to talk with additional potential host businesses in Hawke’s Bay, not just in mechanical engineering, but the other engineering disciplines.

“It’s a win-win situation, with both the businesses and local young people benefitting from new skills and expertise, the latter getting insight into a commercial work environment,” she says.

Assisting businesses to fund the paid placements is Callaghan Innovation’s R&D Experience grant. Jenny Brown, Callaghan’s Innovation Specialist based in Hawke’s Bay, says there are many local businesses with active R&D programmes that could be eligible for assistance to fund placements and identify suitable students.

“We’ve recently streamlined the application process so that it is now easier for technology based businesses to access funding to support innovation in their business."

A first-time recipient of the R&D Experience grant, Hamish Lack of SL Racing considered the grant was well worth the effort to apply. Through the funded placement, SL Racing has had a motivated worker over the holiday period and the relationship will continue with Sam likely to do some further work for the company from Hamilton during term time as his study workload allows.

“Sam would finish one job and just get on to the next – he is very keen and self motivated,” says Hamish.

Work placements are just one of several ways that businesses and other organisations can gain the expertise of University of Waikato students. To highlight the range of options and celebrate recent successful projects, the University and Callaghan Innovation will be holding a showcase event in May; get in touch with Jewal and Jenny for more information.

Contacts

Jewal Morrison – jewal.morrison@waikato.ac.nz

Jenny Brown – jennyb@hbrc.govt.nz

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