Engineering study options in aerospace, robotics and automation to come

Te Herenga Mātai Pūkaha is excited to announce two upcoming masters qualifications that will provide graduates with future-proof skills to take on the challenges of tomorrow.

Two new postgraduate qualifications, the Master of Aerospace Engineering (MAerospaceEng), and Master of Robotics and Automation Engineering (MRobotEng) are both set to be offered in Semester One, 2021.

The MAerospaceEng and MRobotEng provide relevance in a real-world context and take advantage of the recognised, practicing experts in the faculty, namely Director of the Space Institute/Te Pūnaha Ātea Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, and Professor Bruce MacDonald, Chair of the Centre for Automation and Robotic Engineering Science (CARES) and Deputy Director of MBIE's National Science Challenge.

Professor Bruce MacDonald, our local expert in robotics and human-robot interaction, with a handful of our CARES robots.

Both qualifications will involve research projects and in-classroom components that will also take place in new lab facilities on our City Campus. Robots can regularly be seen roaming around the CARES labs, and Professor Aglietti names our Department of Mechanical Engineering’s Centre of Advanced Composite Materials and wind tunnels as general testing facilities – and more labs specifically for developing space missions are still to be announced.

While some courses associated with both programmes are already on offer for Engineering postgraduates, the new qualifications provide opportunities to harness the expertise of our teaching staff – a number of whom are already working in relevant areas – to directly address what’s necessary for both sectors, within Aotearoa and beyond.

Professor Guglielmo Aglietti, Director of the University's new Space Institute.

“We want this to be a stepping stone for our candidates to enter the aerospace sector. Ideally, we’ll be seeing students not just from general Engineering disciplines, like mechanical or electronics, but also different relevant qualifications, like applied physics.”

Professor Guglielmo Aglietti

For Professor MacDonald, it’s about “managing and educating people about the many parts of automation and robotics beyond the technical – the ethics, legal, trust and societal factors, and how these all fit into our society”. A lot of the research work already in progress at the University involves key sections of Aotearoa society and industry: people’s homes, agriculture, and infrastructure. Now it’s about training graduates who will be well-equipped to tackle these issues.

“We’re also encouraging collaboration with industry. What we’re offering is a little bit of what we’ve already got, new courses, and project work with industry practitioners. It’s the idea that you have to do the work and live it to be good at it, and this is especially applicable with deep learning and AI.”

Professor Bruce MacDonald

Industry needs are certainly behind the proposal for these new study options. As a faculty, we take pride in offering future-proof skills for graduates of tomorrow, and are well positioned to deliver this.

Aotearoa’s aerospace sector is growing, especially with the formation of the New Zealand Space Agency and frequency of activity from Rocket Lab. The proposal for our MAerospaceEng has received endorsements from Peter Beck, Callaghan Innovation, NZSA, and the Royal Aeronautical Society. “Our programme will form tomorrow’s workforce for existing and new enterprises”, Professor Aglietti suggests.

Professor MacDonald states, "robotics and automation are key technologies for New Zealand to move forward in the world – beyond creating new technology, we’re also managing labour shortages in our major industries, like agriculture and farming. It’s also about creating new jobs.”