The Macquarie University Engineering program is undergoing a revamp to match their brand new facilities.
Plus, it’s all about making engineering not just more fun, but more focussed on getting students career-ready at the end of their degree.
Engineers work on the problems scientists are trying to understand – they create practical solutions to the challenges society faces in a myriad of areas. That means big, awesome equipment ranging from wind tunnels to electromagnetically shielded chambers.
Alongside the new Macquarie University courses, is a brand spanking new approach to learning.
Dr James Downes, Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning, says the new Macquarie University Engineering program, which will kick off in 2020, will incorporate more project-based learning. “If you end up in an engineering role, you’ll be working on projects”, says James. “It’s good to focus on that from day one.”
Above: A state-of-the-art wind tunnel in action
Working in teams
The new program will be based on core classes which will see students working on an engineering project in an interdisciplinary team of students from different years. These classes simulate real-world projects in an academic environment and will be complemented by traditional lectures.
The aim is for students to gain fundamental engineering knowledge through a hands-on approach, as opposed to just traditional classroom-based teaching. “Instead of talking about it, they’ll be doing it,” says James.
Students will be mentored by higher-level peers, academics and potentially engineers.
“Every student should have a strong contact point with an academic mentor,and ideally an industry mentor,” says the Dean of the School of Engineering, Professor Darren Bagnall, who envisions teams being mentored by engineers from local companies.
Macquarie University courses are already dedicated to exposing engineering students to real-world projects. In one of the School of Engineering’s hands-on courses, a vertically-integrated team of second and third year students tackle challenges such as building a robot capable of picking up and transporting objects.
“There are multiple solutions to these problems. We want to tip the balance to even more self-expression and demonstration,” says Darren.
The new Macquarie University Engineering program will expand even more on this team-based approach to learning.
“We are looking to offer a program that is modern and distinctive,” he says. “We want to allow students more agency to take responsibility for their own learning outcomes and demonstrate that through project work rather than tightly defined coursework or exams.”
Both academics believe that this will be a better reflection of the engineering working environment, with the students developing not only technical but professional skills. “We want to give students the freedom to work in self-organised teams and to explore the essence of engineering: a journey of successes, failures and experimentation,” says Darren.
“We are really excited to see this vision crystallise.”
Maria Kovaleva (pictured) is a PhD student in Electronics Engineering. Her research is carried out at Macquarie’s Centre for Electromagnetic and Antenna Engineering (CELANE).
Making it happen
One of the first steps is the recent opening of the new engineering facilities, which have been especially designed to enable collaborative work. There are spaces dedicated to team meetings and labs for design, testing and construction: everything students need to encourage project-based learning. “It models an engineering environment and there’s definitely a fun factor”, says James.
James says that the aims of the new structure is to produce “well-rounded engineers”.
“What’s driving me as a learning and teaching specialist is to help with engagement with students. The real motivation is for students to enjoy what they’re doing and all the skills they can attain.”
Darren adds that “we are really keen to work with engineering contacts to find out what kind of student they want to employ. The commitment we want to make to our students is employability and providing a richer and rewarding [study] experience than just sitting in lectures and taking exams.”
Macquarie University Engineering graduate Sumiya Sultan experienced this high level of student of engagement first-hand while studying Electronics Engineering. “It’s not just about hitting the books either”, says Sumiya.
“It’s all about enriching the student experience and I believe Macquarie does that really well. There’s a lot of emphasis on student involvement and collaboration. It’s a very holistic experience and it’s shaped the person I am today.”
During her degree, Sumiya was engaged in a huge array of extra-curricular programs and student societies. In her second year, she was a student volunteer for the Australasian Conference on Undergraduate Research which later inspired her to form the Macquarie Undergraduate Research Society and help organise the first ever student research conference.
In her third year, Sumiya was nominated to represent Australia in Beijing in the International Scholar Laureate Program. “I got to join some of the brightest scholars from around the world and learn about big engineering feats, all whilst being immersed in a totally different culture.”
She even founded Macquarie’s Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) group.
Sumiya, who was named 2016 NSW International Student of the Year, is now a solutions engineer at Schneider Electric. She says that Macquarie’s Engineering program prepared her well: “It’s a degree that opens doors and makes you future-ready.”
– Larissa Fedunik-Hofman
Get there with a degree in Engineering from Macquarie University.
This article is brought to you in partnership with Macquarie University.
“It’s a degree that opens doors and makes you future-ready.”
Macquarie Engineering Graduate Sumiya Sultan, Solutions Engineer at Schneider Electric
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Author: Larissa Fedunik-Hofman
Larissa is the editorial assistant for Careers with STEM and a Chemistry PhD student. Larissa’s goal is to promote public engagement with STEM through inspiring stories.