Robotic inspiration

Robots capable of propelling ping pong balls or following fixed race track courses hope to inspire Gippsland high school students into engineering careers.

Gippsland Education Precinct regional skills and training manager Kelvin Slade said the MechX Regional Challenge was tackling a critical skills shortage in automation, robotics and mechatronics.

Mr Slade said the objective of the challenge was to link fun and robots to the types of industries that were crying out for engineers.

“In our region those are agriculture such as automated dairy, food processing, timber processing, mining and energy,” Mr Slade said.

The project coincides with a move from FedUni Gippsland and recently established Federation Training – a merger between GippsTAFE and Advance TAFE – to expand engineering programs.

Federation University is offering a Bachelor of Engineering – Mechatronics Systems in 2015.

Federation Training will also offer a Certificate IV, Diploma and Advance Diploma in Engineering.

Mr Slade, also the project manager of the Gippsland Industry-led Control and Systems Engineering Pathway, said the project was aimed at creating a new model for industry-tertiary education to develop skills in automation engineering.

Mr Slade said the pathway had approached industry and found organisations needed more engineers with practical skills, requesting less equations and more applied and project-based learning.

“It’s about turning lower value goods into higher value goods, that process of automating is where we lack skills,” he said.

The MechX Regional Challenge offers students to participate in a three-team tournament at Federation University on 17 August, including an electro-mechanical ‘Ping Pong Encounter’ and artificial intelligence ‘3pi Follow Frenzy’ competition.

GEP VCE physics and maths teacher Ron Hooimeyer said the school was encouraging students to participate and register in the program.

“There’s a need for engineers, particularly in automation type industries,” Mr Hooimeyer said.

“We want the students to be exposed to that and start thinking about the opportunities that are out there in systems automation engineering, systems engineering and mechatronics.”

To find out more about the MechX Regional Challenge visit