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Student story

Matthew Furkert

02 August 2023

"I organised events ranging from launch days to industry speeches and build-your-own-rocket challenges..."


Studying towards a Bachelor of Engineering with Honours in Mechanical Engineering

Co-Founder, Fast Franks Ltd

As an up-and-coming engineer in the aerospace field, Matthew has already made his mark through rocketry projects and competitions at UC.

Matthew has been building devices since high school, one of his favourites being a snow gun using compressed air and pressurised water. A degree in Mechanical Engineering was ‘a natural fit’ to further develop his knowledge and gain more engineering project opportunities.

Coming from the Wairarapa region, Matthew enrolled at UC with the Wairarapa Takahē UC Engineering Scholarship, which recognises promising Engineering students.

"As an internationally recognised University surrounded by stunning ski fields, mountains, and the ocean, it was not a hard choice," he says. "After coming to the opening day and seeing brand new engineering and science facilities along with approachable academics, I knew that I would be well supported whilst learning in state-of-the-art facilities."

Staying at University Hall was a great way to get to know and settle into the student community for the first year.

"Every week there were social events which gave me the opportunity to meet new people from all over New Zealand. Many of these people were also studying Engineering so we could help each other out with our academic work."

The practical focus of his studies was especially useful for connecting skills taught in lectures to the real world. Matthew recalls a series of field trips in his first year through UC’s Electric Power Engineering Centre (EPECentre).

"This trip visited key power generation, distribution and consumption locations around the North Island. It was a worthwhile trip as I got an insight into what it takes to keep the lights running across the country, and the engineering feats that it took to build and maintain power stations such as Huntley."

Even during his first year, Matthew was able to take part in a project building a resistojet rocket motor alongside a postgraduate student.

He also participated in the 2018 Warman Design and Build Competition, where each year students create a robot that can successfully carry out a scenario in a course stage.

"I have found that there is always help available for academic work and that staff are willing to give advice for extracurricular projects such as rocket design," he says. "I am attaining a better understanding of how machines in the world work and how to make them better. Also I am acquiring a foundation to solve problems that are not directly related to what we have been taught."

This idea inspired Matthew to become one of the founders for the UC Aerospace club, and the 2018 President. The club was created to give students the opportunity to take part in more aerospace activities on campus.

"As the leader of the club I organised events ranging from launch days to industry speeches and build-your-own-rocket challenges for over 70 members," he says.

He was also part of the club’s first appearance in the annual Australian Youth Aerospace Challenge in 2019, which involves manufacturing a rocket that can carry a 4kg load up to 30,000 ft. They won third place over the Australian university teams.

It’s no surprise that Matthew’s own career goals go beyond Earth’s surface.

"After graduating from Canterbury I want to start up an aeronautical business which allows everyday people to send small objects and experiments into space. Eventually I would like to be one of the first colonists on Mars when people start travelling there."

Matthew’s also been largely involved with ENSOC events, éntre napkin challenges, and with UC Motorsport, turning their 2016 race car into a simulator for driver training.

"Getting involved with clubs will improve your leadership skills and doing extracurricular projects gives you the opportunity to use the skills you have learned during lectures," Matthew says. "If there is something that you are interested in and Canterbury doesn’t currently offer it, start a club and chances are you will find many more like-minded people to develop your interest with."

His own interests outside of study involves as much tinkering and activity as possible.

"Most of my spare time is spent building rockets, fixing and racing cars, and skiing over the winter months. I’ve been part of a team optimising a car for a 24-hour race at Hampton Downs."

This would also lead to Matthew founding the vending machine company Fast Franks alongside fellow Engineering student Jared Parker in 2019.

"After many late nights of studying on campus I came to realise that there was a lack of healthy and affordable study snacks once the UC eateries had closed for the day," he says.

"As a result of the success with the Fast Franks, we have been able to give back to fellow students by sponsoring student projects. For example, we sponsored a Robocup robotics team at the end of 2020. The mission of the company is to provide affordable and healthy snacks to UC students and our moto is 'For Students, By Students'."

You can find Fast Franks vending machines on campus in the Undercroft, Jack Erksine building, Len Lye building, Puaka James-Hight Library, and the Engineering Core.

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