School of Engineering and IT

School of Engineering and Information Technology

Dean's Newsletter

February 2014

Academic Staff Promotions - 100% Success Rate in 2013

In 2013, two staff in our School put forward two applications for promotion and we are pleased to announce that both were successful.  Please join us in congratulating Dr David Murray and Dr Kevin Lee on their advancement to Senior Lecturer.

Associate Professor Gamini Senanayake Appointed Associate Editor, Hydrometallurgy

From January 2014 Associate Professor Gamini Senanayake will serve as one of the Associate Editors of the prestigious journal Hydrometallurgy, ranked A* by Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA).

Murdoch University also has a A* ranking for Resources Engineering and Extractive Metallurgy (0914), largely due to the publication of research papers by the staff members in Engineering, Extractive Metallurgy, Chemistry and Mineral Science.

Hydrometallurgy aims to compile studies on novel processes, process design, chemistry, modelling, control, economics and interfaces between unit operations, and to provide a forum for discussions on case histories and operational difficulties.

You are invited to submit articles to this international journal devoted to all aspects of the Aqueous Processing of Metals.  For more details please visit the website: http://www.journals.elsevier.com/hydrometallurgy/.

Forthcoming Book on Photovoltaics or Rural Electrification in Developing Countries

Dr Tania Urmee is working on a book titled 'Photovoltaics or Rural Electrification in Developing Countries' due for release in 2016 through Springer.  Dr Urmee is working on the book in conjunction with Hans-Gerhard Holtork (University of Oldenburg and current Murdoch PhD candidate), and Professor David Harries (Adjunct Professor at UWA).

Further information on the volume can be read here at Springer.

Dr Manickam Minakshi Sundaram

In addition to the recipients of the ARC funding reported in the last Newsletter, Dr Manickam Minakshi Sundaram was part of a successful LIEF application for next generation small angle X-ray scattering facility to be established at Curtin University.  Please join me in congratulating Manickam on his success.

Dr Manikam Minakshi Sundaram has received recognition from the ICDD for his significant contribution of a powder pattern to the 2013 release of the ICDD's powder diffraction file.

Mapping new materials for renewable energy storage is critical to our planet’s future. It is well recognised that globally the dependence on fossil fuels (oil, gas and coal) and biomass (organic matter) for energy must be re-evaluated, as these sources are not sustainable. In addition, the greenhouse emissions generated by these sources are not at acceptable levels. A global solution to this serious and significant threat to the environment and the world’s energy needs must involve a radical shift to renewable, low-emission energies. The growing importance of environmental and non-renewable supply issues is such that energy storage and clean energy generation will be a major driving force for the development of new materials technology. The project which we work at Murdoch University addresses the important problem of energy storage, without which the renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, tide) cannot reach their full practical capacity.

Energy storage in rechargeable batteries and super capacitors is the most promising prospect for ensuring consistent energy supply, therefore allowing greater penetration of renewable energy into the electricity grid. We have formulated new materials namely “lithium nickel phosphate (LiNiPO4)” and “sodium nickel phosphate (NaNiPO4)” and used these electrodes in energy storage devices. Synchrotron technique helped us to correlate the colour of the nickel samples and its structure.

These novel materials were recently chosen to include in the International Centre for Diffraction Data (ICDD) database. ICDD is considered one of the most authentic databases of crystal structures.

Dr Manickam Minakshi has been awarded a research grant from King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, for his project entitled “Developing novel materials for aqueous sodium battery system to secure renewable energy storage”.

Dr Minakshi describes his project and its impetus:

“Renewable energy is not a viable option unless solar energy can be stored on a large scale locally. This proposition is evidenced by the American Physical Society Panel on Public Affairs’ recommendation, in its report on Integrating Renewable Electricity on the Grid, that the U.S. Department of Energy "Increase its R&D in basic electrochemistry to identify the potential materials and electrochemical mechanism that have the highest potential for use in energy storage devices".

“As such, at Murdoch University, we have identified that sodium ion hybrid devices are potentially very attractive alternatives to lithium ion systems.”

“The collaborative project between Murdoch University, Australia and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST), Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) will address the important problem of energy storage, without which renewable energy sources (e.g., solar, wind, tide) cannot reach their full practical capacity.

The outcome of this project will be the development of novel materials suitable for energy storage devices which are reliable, environmentally friendly, robust and economically competitive.”

Dr Chris Creagh's Work it Out Website Launch - OLT National Teaching Fellowship

Staff and students of the School and beyond were pleased to join Dr Christine Creagh, Senior Lecturer in Physics and Australian OLT 2013 National Teaching Fellow, for the launch of her project’s website on February 12.

The Work it Out Website is the culmination, to date, of Dr Creagh’s work on her OLT Fellowship project, titled: “Work it out: enhancing students' problem solving skills by modelling how to "work it out" in a just-in-time learning environment”.

The Fellowship project commenced in August 2013 and is described by the Office of Teaching and Learning as:

“Many students arrive at university without the basic skills and background they need to study physics at a first year university level. This is a significant problem because it has an impact on the success rate of students in degrees that include first year physics as a core subject.

In this project, Dr Creagh has worked to develop open education, online resources depicting experts actively engaged in physics related "Work It Out" activities. These online resources will act as reference material to support student learning by modelling and mapping the capabilities, thought processes and skills used by experts during "Work It Out" activities.”

The launch event was attended by around 30 members of the WA University community, including Pro Vice Chancellor Andrew Taggart, who opened the event, and Professor David Hill, 2009 OLT National Teaching Fellow.

Last night’s launch was particularly interesting in that Dr Creagh used the opportunity to tease out the reflective practice research underpinning the work of the Fellowship and present it for peer review. The “talk” in effect became an exhibition contrasting traditional learning and teaching environments to those in which students find themselves today. The subject matter up for consideration in those learning environments was the Work It Out website and related videos. The videos themselves being a result of reflective practice research. The whole evening thus demonstrated the interweave between the learning and teaching environment and reflective practice research methods.

To cap it all off, the audience were also asked to reflect on the evening and write their reflections on postcards. The comments were quite diverse but definitely indicated that the event had set people thinking. Some of the comments are reproduced here:

  • “iPads were a great idea – allowed us to play and explore… definitely made me want to login at home and do it all again.”
  • “Has made me think about whether similar approaches could be used at higher levels.”
  •  “How can we improve our teaching without grants and lots of free time?”
  •  “Still I like sitting in a classroom / lecture theatre with a group of interested people – can we really replace face-to-face communication?”
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"Flipped Classroom" Trial in Information Technology"

David Murray and Terry Koziniec are trialling a new teaching approach involving elements of the flipped classroom pedagogy. The flipped classroom is a pedagogical model in which the typical lecture and homework elements of a course are reversed. Short video lectures are viewed by students at home before the class session, while in-class time is devoted to exercises, projects, or discussions. The video lecture is often seen as the key ingredient in the flipped approach.
A series of 3 - 12 minute video lectures have been created in the place of a traditional two hour lecture.

The video lectures will range in style. Traditional Lectopia/Echo 360 style slides have been used with a talking head in the corner. The applied areas of this unit are demonstrated with screen captures accompanied by an audible narrative. Wacom drawing tablets are used for the topics involving math or diagrams and are done in a Khan Academy style. All videos are being created in mp4 format and will be viewable on any device.

Similar to regular tutorials, it is expected that students will have viewed the video lectures and completed the readings prior to stepping in the lab. In the long term it is hoped that the really high value instructor-student time will be maximised through this approach.

The unit, ICT171 - “Introduction to Server Environments and Architectures”, aims to introduce students to the operation of Internet Servers, Virtualization and Cloud Computing. The unit structure will guide students through all of these elements culminating with a student designed Internet server running in Amazon’s EC2 Cloud. Terry Koziniec and David Murray have been awarded a $7,500 grant from Amazon.com Inc which will be used to pay for student’s cloud servers. Students will be encouraged to use their site as an online portfolio of their work and projects while at Murdoch.

WA Science and Engineering Summer School - January 12-17

One of Murdoch’s longest running outreach programmes, the WA Science and Engineering Summer School (WASESS) is an intensive science experience for WA high school students who are aiming to pursue further study and careers in science and engineering. During this year’s WASESS, 68 students from 49 WA high schools resided at the Murdoch University Village and spent most of the daytime on campus. They participated in a challenging yet enjoyable academic and social programme designed to give them a better feel for what it is like to be a university student and to equip them with a better understanding of the applications of science and engineering so as to inform their career choices.

Staff and students from the School of Engineering and Information Technology once again came together to make the 2014 WASESS a huge success. For the formal part of the programme, they gave lectures and ran hands-on laboratory sessions. During the breaks, staff chatted with students about applications of science and engineering and related careers.

WASESS is a significant event in Murdoch’s science outreach and is made possible by the coming together of staff and volunteers from around the campus. Special thanks go to:

  • Associate Professor Graeme Cole and Dr Greg Crebbin for running laboratory sessions in Engineering;
  • Dr Eddy Poinern for his lecture on the applications of Nanotechnology that he and his team have developed;
  • Dr Chris Creagh and Dr David Parlevliet for running laboratory sessions in Physics;
  • Dr Gareth Lee for being at hand to help with various laboratory sessions;
  • The team that brought together the day on applications of Chemistry, Extractive Metallurgy and Mathematics in mining:
    • Dr Jim Avraamides for his lecture on science in the mining industry;
    • Mr Graeme Thompson, Dr Aleks Nikoloski, Associate Professor Gamini Senanayake, Mr Ken Seymour, Mr Stewart Kelly, Ms Maryam Barmi, Ms Nadira Batool, Ms Rachel Candy and Mr Rorie Gilligan for the sessions on Extractive Metallurgy;
    • Dr David Henry and Dr Damian Laird for the sessions on Chemistry;
    • Dr Helen Middleton, Dr Mark Lukas and Dr Doug Fletcher for the sessions on Mathematics
  • The technical staff in Physics, Chemistry and Metallurgy who set up the labs
  • SEIT students – Ms Jess Hooper, Ms Sheena Trigg and Ms Jade McNamara-Travaglia – who gave up their holidays to serve as volunteers at WASESS and mentors to the participating students.

WASESS students also had the opportunity to participate in lectures and lab sessions from Murdoch’s other science disciplines, on topics such as parasites and science fiction, Wetlands Ecology, Forensic Biology and Toxicology, Sports Science and Veterinary Science. The WASESS programme also included visits to the Chemistry Centre, Native Arc, Harry Perkins Institute, Perth Seawater Desalination Plant and the WA Department of Food and Agriculture.

Responses from the students and their parents have been overwhelmingly positive, with many students asking to return to the next WASESS. Their feedback is fairly accurately captured in one student’s comment,

“WASESS has given me a better understanding about the types of careers behind each area of science.”

Contact: Yolanda Pereira
T: (08) 9360 6949
E: wasess@murdoch.edu.au

Engineering Student Project makes a debut at Southbound

Engineering student Daniel Hoy has showcased his Bicycle Powered Water Station at the Southbound music festival, held in Busselton in early January.  Daniel tells his story below:

"The basic idea of the project was to design a new way to get water from wells using bicycles and pumps. Although this idea has been implemented before to my knowledge the bicycle pumps were never portable so I set to designing one which was. I did this by using a chain driven pump instead of a belt driven one which meant it could be portable. At southbound we used these models to raise awareness of what the engineering school is capable of.

The project had many positives; it was interactive for the festival goers and also aesthetically pleasing (who doesn't love vintage bicycles). It raised awareness of Murdoch's engineering programs but also of design concepts for use in third world countries. Many people expressed their interest in the humanitarian use of the project.

The possible uses for the bicycles in future festivals is exciting and broad, we could use them to pump water for misters, attach water gun and face them at each other or even targets for prizes as a side show game, and many other water based activities.

The main problem I ran into was not accounting for how rough festival goers could be with the bicycles after a couple of drinks. The bicycles were designed for the main purpose of drawing what water you need and as the pumps are extremely efficient (2 revolutions per litre), they don't need to be ridden hard. This was not how a lot of patrons treated them which led to the chains of the pumps coming off and myself and other students having to repair a lot on the first day. We solved this by having ourselves ride them on the second day and we actually got a more positive reaction as the bikes weren't being mistreated, misused or breaking.

My recommendation for the future would therefore be one of two things: A) always have ourselves riding and operating the bicycles or B) and building welding the rack which the pump sits on out of flat plate steel so the rack cant twist under high torque and riding and therefore would be a lot sturdier and patrons could ride them hard.

There were many people coming up and asking about the project at the festival, most quotes were something along the lines of "That's so cool man" and "what a great idea", a lot of the goers were interested in how we were able to build them and were impressed with the idea and concept.

The most useful response I heard was the suggestion of welding flat plate steel to the bike for extra strength and was from one of the patrons who was also a boiler maker (industrial welder). We had quite a few groups of people stick around for half an hour chatting to us.”

A further overview of Daniel’s Bicycle Powered Water Pump project can be viewed here.

Staff News in Brief

This month we bade farewell to Bill Kenworthy, Lecturer in Information Technology. After nearly fourteen years at Murdoch University, Bill is moving on to fresh challenges at Polytechnic West. We wish him well, and as there are articulations in place for some Polytechnic West diplomas into the Information Technology degree programmes, no doubt we will see Bill again from time to time in his new capacity.

Dr Aleks Nikoloski has been appointed as Academic Chair of the Bachelor of Engineering: Chemical & Metallurgical Engineering, and also for the Bachelor of Science: Mineral Sciences. Dr Martin Anda has been appointed Academic Chair for the Bachelor of Engineering: Environmental Engineering.

Please join us in thanking Aleks and Martin for their willingness to take on these important and onerous roles.