In the not-too-distant future you’ll be able to design your own car, any shape you like. Then, when you feel like a change, you can re-configure it. Naturally, it’ll be linked to your mobile phone. The cost? $5000. Professor Ajay Kapoor, the new Dean of Swinburne’s School of Engineering, talks about what drives him.
Sustainability, pollution, running out of oil and resources are some of the big challenges facing us. Did you know that transport accounts for a quarter of all oil consumed globally, costing about $2.5 billion every day? How will food be delivered to supermarkets - not to mention the pizza you’ve ordered over the phone - when that oil has run out or is prohibitively expensive?
My Electric Vehicle Group at Swinburne designs and builds electric cycles, e-cars, e-buses, e-mining vehicles and even e-flying machines. There’s an e-pizza delivery scooter as well. Groups of students and researchers are working together to solve this Big Challenge.
We are working on the world’s cheapest electric car - a four-seater at $5000! We need a completely different way of designing and building these cars. Collaborative, open access design, virtual prototyping and testing, and additive and distributive manufacturing are some of the modern tools being applied to achieve this target.
How will we do this? Petrol cars have a so-called internal combustion engine and a petrol tank. Our work involves packing electric motors into car wheels and batteries into floors and under the seat. These developments free up the space and the car can have any shape.
Now with collaborative and open access design you can design your own car - like your own house or your own room. Immersive virtual reality lets you experience the car and choose the colour or features that you want. Once satisfied, you now assemble your car. Many parts are printed using additive manufacturing and many are made out of recycled materials. The car is fully configurable and you can change seats, interior and exterior to match your taste next year - just like your iPhone cover!
By the way, the car will be fully integrated with your mobile phone. It will know which roads to avoid, which restaurant to take you to, which music and news to stream for you and who to call if there is an emergency.
Swinburne is the ideal base for this work.
Designing and making such a car requires the expertise of mechanical engineers, electrical engineers, robotic and mechatronics engineers, designers, IT specialists, enthusiastic students and colleagues who can guide them.
Swinburne has them all and more. Colleagues are genuinely interested in helping students. Facilities are great with the opening last year of the $140 million Advanced Technologies Centre and the new $100 million Advanced Manufacturing and Design Centre, due to open next year. And there is extensive collaboration with national and international industry and institutions. I find Swinburne a great place to work and to teach and research.
Professor Leon Sterling has taken up a new position at Swinburne - as Pro Vice-Chancellor (Digital Frontiers). He writes about his new role, what inspires him, and the possibilities created by new technology.
Everyone needs at least one good teacher in their lives. I was inspired by my favourite teacher at school, who was fond of saying that in the past 200 years more had been achieved by mathematicians than by politicians, economists or kings. So I studied mathematics.
If mathematicians have achieved much, technology has transformed the world over the past 20 years, and its impact shows no sign of abating. Digital technology in particular will be a key driver in increased productivity and innovation. It is no coincidence that Swinburne has identified Digital Frontiers as a key research outcome area in its vision of being a leading university in science, technology, innovation, business and design.
It has been my privilege to be Dean of the Faculty of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) for the past four years. The deliberations within Swinburne about the best new faculty structure highlighted that ICT essential in every part of the university. In fact, ICT underpins everything. We teach ICT in all faculties. We use ICT for our teaching, research and service activities. Having a coordinated view of ICT, a key responsibility of the PVC (Digital Frontiers), helps us towards achieving our vision.
My diverse background places me well to co-ordinate our advances in ICT in research, teaching, and university enterprises, and to be a leading spokesman for ICT nationally.
My doctorate was in mathematics, inspired by my school maths teacher. Her statement about the achievements of mathematicians could be said today about digital technology. My postdoc research was in artificial intelligence, particularly in applying expert systems to problems in manufacturing and health. From there I have researched in software engineering, realising that an understanding of software is key to designing new technologies and taming the digital frontier. As well as being an academic leader in computer science and software engineering at universities in the US and Australia, I served for almost three years as eResearch Director bridging the gap between information technology services and researchers.
I am an advocate for the use of ICT in Australia. As President of the Australian Council of Deans of ICT (ACDICT), I have raised the profile of ICT and ensured it is recognised as the ‘T’ in STEM, as we push towards increasing education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. My national roles include Chair of the Joint Board of Engineers Australia and the Australian Computer Society overseeing software engineering, and Chair of the Australian Informatics Olympiad Committee, which oversees Australian activities in international computer science for high school students. As well, I have many years in interactions with industry, performed expert witness work on technology issues, and been involved in innovative technology startups.
For my personal research, I am looking at technology with health care, taking special care of good design and integrating emotional factors in building the technology.
As PVC (Digital Frontiers), I will be looking at linkages with other research outcome areas for Swinburne. There are exciting possibilities such as 3D printing in advanced manufacturing; promoting sustainability through more efficient transport by analysing traffic; promoting health and well-being; and inspirational science linking statistics and artificial intelligence.