Engineering a better world

Engineering careers
After a long stint as a project engineer for the Queensland Government’s Department of Transport and Main Roads, Zoe Eather started her own consultancy, My Smart Community. Image: Rebecca Taylor Photography

From improving aged care to better batteries and reef-protecting bots, engineers at QUT are solving society’s big challenges

Climate change, overpopulation, poverty and social inequity are all issues that we need to tackle to build a fairer and more sustainable society. Solving them will take experts from all kinds of disciplines, but engineering is at the core. 

Engineering has always been central to human development, and includes much more than you think! Sure engineers invent things like satellites systems, software and structures, but did you know engineers are involved in everything from designing safer urban spaces to creating better food production systems, improving agriculture and ensuring equitable access for people with disabilities? 

Understanding how things work and then making them work better is key to problem solving, and that’s what engineers do best. Studying engineering at QUT you’ll rub shoulders with people who improve our access to clean drinking water, make our energy use more efficient and are helping to create a waste-free world.

Innovating for senior Aussies

Advances in healthcare mean that people are living longer. They are also staying active for longer, and the services provided to older Australians need to change in order to keep up.

Researchers at QUT and industry collaborators in health, design, science and engineering worked on a project to find ways to make life easier for senior citizens and their families. They surveyed people who had moved to a retirement village (or were considering it) to find out more about their needs.

The results were used to create a prototype of an app that would help them find public transport and other community support to keep them connected to health services, shopping, leisure activities and friends and family. It’s a great example of how software engineering can help keep people linked to life’s necessities.

Sustainable batteries for big grids

Renewable energy is one of the big-ticket items on the list when it comes to creating a sustainable future. Renewable energy careers are predicted to almost double on 2019 levels to 46,000 jobs by 2035. One of the big challenges is how to store energy for later. Researchers at the Institute for Future Environment at QUT are hard at work on this problem. Under their Centre for Clean Energy Technologies and Practices, the team at QUT are building a pilot power plant that will produce hydrogen from water using solar power and other sources. To tackle energy storage, they are testing a vanadium flow battery – a large-scale battery that uses the chemical vanadium to carry the charge – for use at the plant, as a potentially safer and more sustainable alternative to lithium batteries. Their tests will allow them to create the safety standards needed to introduce vanadium batteries to Australia’s energy sector, which could be a game changer.

Bots to boost the reef

One of the biggest threats to our world-heritage Great Barrier Reef is the crown-of-thorns starfish, a ubiquitous sea creature that preys on coral. How do you control a pest like that? Enter Reef RangerBot.

Like a RoboCop of the reef, RangerBot patrols the ocean on a ‘search and destroy’ mission to find and kill crown-of-thorns starfish. And the best bit is that it doesn’t damage the reef in the process. Keeping the reef free of invasive predators is only one part of the battle, though. The next step is giving the reef the best possible chance of regenerating from the damage. That’s where RangerBot’s little sister, LarvalBot, comes in.

LarvalBot’s very important job is to transport coral larvae to bleached and degraded parts of the reef and distribute them through the water. The hope is that these ‘coral IVF babies’ will help restore the reef by improving the number of coral spawn that survive in these areas.

Robotics engineers are in high demand, with the number of jobs expected to grow by nearly 16% in the next five years according to Seek.com. And if you’re going to try and solve the world’s problems, why not build some robot assistants to help you?

Find your path

QUT offers majors in eight different streams as part of its four-year Bachelor of Engineering (Honours) degree. Alternatively, with an extra year of study you could graduate with two degrees, combining engineering with business, design, information technology, maths or science.

Every degree includes work experience so that you graduate with industry experience, and there are plenty of clubs and projects to get involved with, like the QUT Droid Racing Challenge.

If you want to work on your foundational skills before jumping into a full degree, the Diploma of Engineering offers a pathway to the second year of the bachelor. And after your undergraduate experience, there are plenty of options to deepen your knowledge with a postgraduate degree such as the Master of Engineering.

Most importantly, engineering students at QUT develop the future-focused mindset to tackle global challenges head-on. So, how are you planning to make the world a better place? It’s your choice!

Start your career here

Engineering for Equity Study

Engineering for Equity Jobs

  • Chemical engineer: $57K–$103K
  • Civil engineer: $57K–$110K
  • Electrical engineer: $57K–$119K
  • Mechanical engineer: $56K–$110K
  • Robotics engineer: $58K–$104K*

*Source: salaries according to payscale.com

This article was created in partnership with QUT and originally appears in the QUT STEM Guide 2022.

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Chloe Walker

Author: Chloe Walker

Chloe is a freelance writer and editor from Melbourne. She loves talking to people about their passions, whether that’s STEM, arts, business, or something else entirely! www.chloe-walker.com

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