Showcasing New Zealand’s best research

October 2016


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Research symposia, postgraduate festivals, research awards, three-minute thesis competitions – and even a ‘dance your thesis’ event – are just a taste of some of the outstanding postgraduate and research events held across the country this year.

Metro Group 2016 Symposium

The Metro Group 2016 Symposium ‘Turning innovation into opportunity’ was hosted and convened by WelTec’s Research and Enterprise office in July this year. It attracted a variety of participants from ITPs, local and central government, large, medium and small-scale industries, businesses, professional associations, universities, Callaghan Innovation and regional economic development agencies.

The New Zealand Innovation Council announced their new awards category – Innovation in Education, Training & Development awards. The first session was dedicated to technology development for education and training purposes, with many examples of how new innovations in technology and services could assist and enhance teaching delivery. The innovative digital teaching model introduced by the Mind Lab illustrated how professional development for educators could be structured with built-in practicality that tied
digital literacy capability in with contemporary teaching practice. 

The symposium enabled Metro Group members – New Zealand’s six largest institutes of technology and polytechnics (ITPs) – to deepen their links with businesses and service industries so that ultimately they could help their students to obtain valuable apprenticeships, work-based training, student placements and future employment.


Waikato University: 3MT (3 Minute Thesis) Competition

Stevie Noe

University of Waikato Master of Science student Stevie Noe recently won the university’s 3 Minute Thesis (3MT) competition by presenting his research on how to improve the quality of nectar in mānuka plants. He was the top presenter among 10 finalists, who had to summarise their research in just three minutes.

“The competition was a good experience and winning meant I got a $1,000 research grant to help fund my studies, which is a big help,” he says.

That’s not the only support that Stevie has received. He’s managed to fund his master’s degree with two University of Waikato postgraduate scholarships and pre-seed accelerator funding from the Ministry of Science and Innovation.

He’s in the final six months of a two-year academic journey and hopes his research findings will help mānuka honey producers in New Zealand and around the world.

After completing a Bachelor of Science, Stevie decided to do his master’s on honey because the mānuka honey industry is booming.

“Honey is a big deal at the moment. The industry is trying to grow as there’s more demand than there is supply, and the government is backing this growth,” he says.


University of Otago: Dance Your Thesis Competition

As Otago University now hosts the 3 Minute Thesis competition every other year, the university has branched out into other competitions in which students can impart the essence of their theses. In recent years there have been ‘Tweet Your Thesis’ and ‘Draw Your Thesis’. This year Otago’s Graduate Research School hosted its inaugural ‘Dance Your Thesis’ competition. The Otago Graduate Research School’s Facebook page provides a good introduction to the concept of ‘Dance Your Thesis’:

“The harder you try to explain your thesis to others, the more you’re likely to create some misinterpretations in your audience. Someone came up with the brilliant idea of doing away with the words and using interpretive dance instead, and Dance Your Thesis was born. “What the #@!*?”, I hear you ask. Well, I don’t know either, so join us and find out at the Dance Your Thesis video viewing and prizegiving event...”

Winner and placegetters’ dance videos have been posted on the Facebook page.


Wintec’s research symposia

Wintec’s Māori Rangahau/research symposium is scheduled for Monday 17 October at Wintec’s Te Kōpū Mānia o Kirikiriroa marae. The theme for He Huinga Rangahau 2016 is ‘Ngā Mareikura Māori’, which acknowledges the female essence, innovation, passion and contribution to Māori achievement at Wintec. Kaupapa Māori research and rangahau practices are enacted, enabled and engaged with, by and for Māreikura Māori (not forgetting Whatukura Māori). Ngā Māreikura Māori aims to showcase female leaders and the broad range of spaces, places and people that operate from a Kaupapa Māori base. This symposium will feature a mixture of speakers selected to inspire, empower, educate, interact with and wānanga the female essence throughout their Kaupapa Māori research and rangahau contexts.

Wintec will also host a Technology Enabled Solutions Symposium on 8 and 9 November 2016, which will focus on ageing well and elder care, and frugal and high-tech solutions supporting this sector. The symposium will bring together service providers in elder care as well as innovators in this space and has already attracted international interest. The accompanying tradeshow will focus on current and future technologies in elder care to improve elder care from a user experience.


Unitec Research Awards

Two computer science lecturers from Unitec Institute of Technology have won kudos for their research excellence in work on life-changing technology projects that have the potential to dramatically improve quality of life by reducing noise and amplifying voice.

HamidThe first project is a bionic voice app, ‘Voxbax’, developed by Unitec’s Dr Hamid Sharifzadeh and aimed at converting whispers and distorted speech into a natural-sounding voice in real time. The app will eventually be an inconspicuous and effective non-surgical means of producing a voice for people who may have vocal damage from injury, paralysis or the effects of throat cancer. The non-invasive solution also means there is no risk of infection. The whisper-to-speech app will also allow people to have a private conversation in noisy public places such as buses, trains and cafes. Development of a prototype and validation with speakers with vocal damage disorders is currently underway.

Ray lifepodThe second award winner is Unitec’s Dr Iman Ardekani, who is developing noise-cancelling technology for Sir Ray Avery’s Mondiale LifePod incubator. Neonatal incubators often have a fan, heater or electro-pump; the noise created by these can damage the health and development of cognitive skills in infants.

The project uses active noise control that reduces unwanted sound by adding a second sound that cancels out the first. 

Dr Ardekani is building the new technology into the next generation of Sir Ray Avery’s LifePod, each one of which has the potential to save up to 500 lives over 10 years. 

Designed to withstand conditions in the developing world, the LifePod gives babies a much greater chance of survival than traditional incubators.

Both projects are under development with New Zealand Health Innovation Hub funding.

HosseinProfessor Hossein Sarrafzadeh, director of Unitec’s new High Tech Transdisciplinary Research Network, has also been recognised for outstanding leadership and commitment to research excellence.

Professor Sarrafzadeh has been responsible for overseeing both the Voxbax bionic voice app and the noise-cancellation research. He is the founder of the Cyber Security Research Centre, a collaboration with Japan’s National Institute of Information and Communications Technology.

Professor Sarrafzadeh also founded the Centre for Computational Intelligence and Environmental Engineering, a joint venture with NIWA and partners in China that uses sensing technologies, GIS mapping and the Internet of Things to monitor and manage the built and natural environments.


The University of Auckland’s Postgraduate Festival

The University of Auckland’s postgraduate festival took place from 29 August to 7 October with a number of events across all disciplines, including the engineering postgraduate breakfast series, the arts impact postgraduate expo, the Graduate School of Management’s information sessions and many more. The festival also encompassed the university’s Thesis in Three Competition, the Postgraduate Science Poster Competition and the Convince Me in 3: Research Showcase, which involved a group of current postgraduate students presenting their research in just three minutes.


Victoria University of Wellington: 3 Minute Thesis Competition

Master’s student Lindsey Pointer’s presentation, titled Ritual and the Quest for Justice, described her experience when her only source of transport, a car affectionately nicknamed Janice, was stolen from outside her house overnight.

The public policy student outlined the need for justice after a crime occurs and how restorative justice is able to meet those needs.

The judges commended Lindsey, who received $3,000 for the top prize, for her engaging and confident style and her clear explanation of the research and theory to a lay audience.

“I feel grateful to be studying restorative justice at Victoria University, a world-leader in this field. It was great to have the chance to share the work I’m doing with the wider community,” says Lindsey.

Second place went to PhD education student Lisa Terreni, who received $1,000 in prize money for her presentation on young children’s access to and use of art museums and galleries.


AUT: Māori and Indigenous Performance Studies Symposium

AUTNew Zealand’s first Māori and Indigenous Performance Studies Symposium ‘Ka Haka: Empowering Performance’ was held on Ngā Wai o Horotiu Marae at Auckland University of Technology (AUT) on 8–9 September.

Organiser Dr Valance Smith says Te Ara Poutama, the Faculty of Māori and Indigenous Development at AUT, created the event to provoke new ways of thinking about the relationship between performance and culture to address complex issues regarding indigenous performance, because ”those sensitive topics, are the topics that we need to discuss”.

For two days more than 30 academics and artists contributed, through presentation and performance, to a conversation that explored power and performance in the development of indigenous identity, culture and community.


Whitireia and WelTec Research Symposium

2016 marks the fourth year of the annual Whitireia and WelTec Research Symposium, held in association with Open Polytechnic. The symposium showcases the diverse range of research undertaken at ITPs in the Wellington region and the beneficial ways this research contributes to teaching and learning, wellbeing, business, industry, and surrounding communities.

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