The team from the University of Auckland won Australia’s longest-running competition for engineering students.

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L-R: In second place, Monash University, Malaysia; in first, the University of Auckland; in third, the University of Canterbury

Since 1987, more than 60000 engineering students from universities across Asia Pacific have put theory into practice in the annual Warman Design and Build competition. This year, 20 teams from Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and Singapore went head-to-head, showcasing the machines they built to save the fictional nation of Gondwana from a natural disaster.

Established by Engineers Australia, with Weir Minerals as the sole sponsor, this competition is integrated into the Australian universities’ engineering curriculum and plays a valuable role in developing the talent of future engineers. It is open to students in mechanical engineering who are undertaking their first design analysis course.

The annual Warman Design and Build Competition brings the focus back to the essence of engineering – problem solving – in a fun way and helps engineers of the future to build confidence.

“We see it as a significant part of our corporate social responsibility to encourage STEM students to finish their studies and pursue further career in engineering,” explains Terese Withington, Regional Managing Director, Weir Minerals APAC.

A focus of the event is to empower female students to enter an industry where they are statistically underrepresented by building on their practical experience and industry contacts.

“We are proud that in the 32nd year of the competition, young women made up 20 per cent of our competitors – well above the STEM national average of 15 pe cent for universities and 11 per cent for VET,” commented Terese Withington.

The 2019 task was to save a fictional planet Gondwana from a natural disaster by building machines to relocate 20 spherical pressure vessels containing mining waste from a fenced compound near the shore of an ocean to a new compound further inland.

The students manufactured and fabricated their ‘proof of concept’ system using commonly available materials and components.

“Working on the competition task brings out the skills we expect to see in the engineers of the future. They need to be creative and innovative, solve problems and work as a team,” says Ed Szymanski, Weir Minerals Director, Engineering and Product Development.

University of Auckland became a clear winner after their device, a 4WD with four-wheel steering and a sophisticated ball pick-up container mounted on a turntable, completed the task in less than seven seconds.

The team captain, Juan Robertson, said that they took part in the competition after their friends participated in it several years earlier and spoke very highly of the event.

“I think it is extremely important for young engineers living in an increasingly digital world, where things are ever more abstract, to keep grounded with practical projects,” explained Mr Robertson.

“One of the issues employers have with graduate engineers entering the workforce is that they look great on paper and they know how to do tests. But you want people who can actually do things,” added Kynan Wright, the second part of the 2-man winning team.

All winning prototypes demonstrated innovative design, simplicity of operation and reliability – features crucial to the real-life industry applications. Bridging theory with practical experience and competing against other talented teams equipped the students with the skills they need to succeed in their future engineering careers.

Weir Minerals Australia is a leading engineering company providing minerals processing solutions. It is the owner of the Warman® pumps and the sole sponsor of the Warman Design & Build competition.