Rahul Jangali resized

Rahul Jangali

Master of Engineering, Bachelor of Engineering with Honours, Doctor of Philosophy

The Royal Society's Rutherford Foundation Study Award

Rahul Jangali resized

Why did you choose to study at the University of Waikato?

I came to a University Open Day when I was in high school, and my first impressions were that it is a beautiful campus. At the open day, I attended a great mini lecture given by Professor Mike Duke on the current and future challenges our generation will be facing, and these problems will need an engineering solution. Thanks to the University of Waikato, I found my passion and direction towards research.

What does a typical day look like for you?

As a Doctoral Assistant, every day is different. I help with undergraduate teaching mainly on project-based learning papers for our Mechanical Engineering programme, and this year I am also co-supervising a fourth-year honours project. We have a range of 3D printers at our lab, and recently we commissioned an SLA 3D printer (biggest in Hamilton). I look after the maintenance and operations of our 3D printing lab with my colleagues. We are always getting ready for the next big event.

I try to have at least two or more research-only days for my PhD. At the moment I am in the design phase, and I am looking at various mechanisms and functionality of a key component of the robot that is the basis of my research.

Could you sum up your key area of research?

Apple fruit is one of the most delicate fruits and is prone to bruising. Humans handle them with great care and it is a very trivial task for us, but a robot would struggle to manipulate a fruit in the same manner. My research looks at developing a sense of touch to an Apple thinning robot, but the ultimate goal is to produce a commercially viable robot that would replace humans in the apple orchard.

You were recently a keynote speaker at a Techtalk in Auckland – tell us about that?

There is a hysteria associated with robotics taking away jobs, but the reality is that our farmers cannot find people to harvest and thin apples, and we need these robots more than ever. Every year they lose a substantial amount of their crops due to labour shortages. My talk highlighted the issues our farmers are facing and how we are tackling these issues through robotics.

How do you think you can make a difference through your studies?

To me, my PhD is more than writing a big book towards the end. If we manage to solve the labour shortage issue through robotics research, I would consider it a success. I want to think I am making a difference in my role as a Doctoral Assistant every day. I am passing on the knowledge of what I have learnt in my career so far to our current engineering students and it’s been a pleasure so far; most of my education has been here at the University of Waikato. This year I co-founded ‘The Design Workshop’, where we take engineering problem-based learning activities to high school students, and one of the kids said “this is what I came here for” – that felt very rewarding.

What would you say to students who are thinking about studying at Waikato?

Coming to Waikato to do my Bachelors was one of the best decisions I have made. Beautiful campus, approachable academic staff, lots of facilities and heaps of activities to get involved with in your downtime. You will meet lots of new people and leave with life-long memories, there is no better place for it.

What have been your proudest moments?

Last year I created course content and taught CAD for a second-year civil design paper for half a semester. It was the most rewarding thing to see them go through the process of designing a bridge, building it and showcasing it at the Engineering design show. It was my absolute pleasure to work with them and make a difference.

What are your plans after you finish your PhD?

I would like to see the robot we are developing through to commercialisation as a post-doc here at Waikato, and eventually I would like to transition into bio-robotics research.

Rahul Jangali resized

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