Golden jubilee: 50 years of Computing at University of Waikato

15 May 2023

The opening of G Block
The opening of G Block - the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences.

This year, the University of Waikato is celebrating 50 years of Computing, marking a significant milestone in the history of the institution.

In 1973, the Department of Computer Science was launched at Waikato. Led by Darryl Smith, the department started with five staff and a handful of students. In 1987 it joined the Department of Mathematics and Statistics to form the School of Computing and Mathematical Sciences (CMS).

Over its 50-year legacy, Computing at Waikato has emerged as a trailblazer, establishing New Zealand’s first Internet connection in 1989, named the first iSchool in New Zealand, and played a pivotal role in developing the country’s first Cyber Security Lab and Master of Cyber Security.

It has been instrumental in the development of some of the world’s most popular open-source tools for machine learning and open-source digital library systems, WEKA and Greenstone.

Staff and students gather to celebrate 50 years of Computing at Waikato

Professor Annika Hinze, the Head of CMS, says the School has been delivering exceptional teaching and conducting ground-breaking research, and this year provides a unique opportunity to reflect on the rich history and exciting future.

To mark the occasion, the School will host a variety of events and public lectures throughout the year, with each month dedicated to a specific theme, such as Human-Centred Computing, Artificial Intelligence, Cybersecurity, and Women in STEM.

Being pioneers in establishing a Department of Computer Science in New Zealand, the computing research at Waikato is now amid the best in the country. Since its inception, close to 6,000 people have graduated from the School.

CMS graduates have gone on to work at many leading international organisations including NASA, Interpol and Google, and launched successful local companies such as Real Time Genomics, Torutek, LuminateOne and Virscient. Prominent companies developed from research undertaken within CMS include Endace, Lightwire, and DL Consulting.

The official launch of Computing 50th made by Annika Hinze.
Professor Annika Hinze, Head of the School for Computing and Mathematical Sciences (CMS).

“It’s an exciting time to work in computing,” Professor Hinze says. “We are addressing many technological challenges such as cybersecurity, data analytics and artificial intelligence. Our researchers and students are forging new pathways in creating technology to deliver a positive impact on the world (technology for good), ensuring data sovereignty and software with positive user experiences.”

Today, students can choose between Computer Science, Software Engineering, Design, Mathematics and Data Analytics.

Professor Hinze says the school values local and global networks and partnerships, engaging in world-class research with international academics and fostering the next generation of technology leaders through community and industry involvement.

Staff and students have co-developed mobile applications with Māori cultural perspectives, researched online scamming vulnerability in Tongan society, and worked with Māori high school students through the Pūhoro STEMM Academy.

“Computing at Waikato has established a proud legacy of making significant contributions to research and innovation over the past 50 years.

As the School continues to engage in cutting-edge research, it remains committed to fostering inclusivity and welcoming everyone, setting the stage for a promising future.”

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