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Luke August

Prosthetic engineer

Prosthetic engineer - Luke August

Discovering engineering was a game-changer for prosthetic engineer Luke August: (Te Āti Haunui-a-Paparangi, Ngāti Hauiti, Muaūpoko)

by Luke August with Cassie Hart

When I started high-school I heard that there was a shortage of plumbers, so I thought I’d learn how to do that. When I started at the Pūhoro STEMM Academy though, my eyes were opened to other STEM careers. 

The first wananga was based around engineering. They gave us a variety of motors, extrusions and 3D-printed parts and we had to come up with ways to use them to achieve different tasks. I enjoyed this so much that I decided to pursue a career in engineering.

There are so many STEM related jobs around that it’s impossible to know what they all are. Once you get into looking into STEM, you might find that you fall in love with something that you have never heard of. It’s totally okay to pivot your goals if you discover something you really love. 

Our ancestors were the original scientists and engineers. They built waka to traverse the ocean with their knowledge of aerodynamics, they navigated their way to Aotearoa by the stars with astronomy. We have so much potential in the area of STEM to tap into that.

Matauranga Māori expertise in engineering

I am currently finishing my Master of Mechanical engineering at the University of Waikato. My thesis focuses on improving the quality of life for upper limb amputees. To achieve this, I developed a variety of different prosthetic hands, investigated two different neural interfaces (EMG and EEG) used as control systems and explored the value Matauranga Māori can provide to the development of prosthetics.

My daily tasks are dynamic and varied. One day I might be working on designing a new prosthetic hand, which means brainstorming, concept sketching, and 3D modelling. Other days I could be working in manufacturing, printing 3D parts, or assembly. I could be in the lab running tests to improve prosthesis performance or developing a new training protocol. I think that’s what I love about research—the changing nature of day-to-day tasks.

My work is starting to delve into the intersection of Mātauranga Māori and mechanical design now. As a Māori engineer, it means that I can draw influence from both sides to provide more value. This intersection is relatively unexplored, making it both challenging and exciting to pioneer new paths.

Luke’s path to becoming a prosthetic engineer

  • Engineering with Puhoro STEMM Academy
  • Bachelor of Engineering at University of Canterbury
  • EEG and EMG Prosthetic Hand Development Internship
  • Master of Engineering at The University of Waikato
  • Embarking on a PhD at the University of Waikato

A version of this profile also appears in our upcoming issue of Careers with STEM: Indigenous. Sign up to our newsletter to receive updates on its launch date.

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