Generosity of engineering alumni and industry benefits UC students

09 July 2018

Support from alumni and industry and a bequest have helped UC’s Chemical and Process Engineering department in the College of Engineering | Te Rāngai Pūkaha to gain new equipment, which will enhance student learning.

  • Spirax Sarco Heat Exchanger

    Glenn Schultz, General Manager of Spirax Sarco New Zealand officially handed over a bespoke plate heat exchanger to Garrick Thorn and Professor Peter Gostomski of UC’s CAPE department. The heat exchanger has been specifically designed for teaching UC engineering students.

In 2014 when the rebuild and refurbishment of UC’s earthquake-damaged engineering precinct began, the Chemical and Process Engineering (CAPE) department decided to revitalise its laboratory facilities and update course experiments.

“The new CAPE building, with its purpose-built spaces, provided the perfect opportunity to enhance our strong education programme and improve the laboratory teaching environment for undergraduate students,” Head of Department Professor Peter Gostomski says.

Professor Gostomski and CAPE Design Engineer Garrick Thorn started the initiative, which involved fundraising and collaborating with alumni and industry organisations to obtain equipment needed for practical experiments.

“The goal is to provide undergraduate students with stimulating challenges in a real-world context and to give them exposure to the latest and most relevant technology used in the industry,” Mr Thorn says.

Professor Gostomski and Mr Thorn set up a fundraising steering group and invited UC alumnus Dr Tim Dobbie to join it. Dr Dobbie’s engineering career spans more than 40 years and has taken him all over the world to work on geothermal energy projects. He began studying chemical engineering at UC in 1962 and graduated with honours in 1965. After some time working in the industry, Dr Dobbie returned to UC and completed a PhD in 1977.

Dr Dobbie says the idea of fundraising for new CAPE laboratory equipment was discussed among his former classmates at a ‘Class of ’62’ reunion held in 2015.  “The group was canvassed to gather ideas and assess the funds that might be raised. In consultation with the CAPE department, the group decided on contributing to a finned-tube heat exchanger that could be manufactured locally and used in a variety of experiments,” he says.  “For the ‘Class of ’62’, the donation was simply about doing something to mark their reunion and help out the department that had given them a valuable education and an internationally recognised qualification.”

A number of organisations in the industry, including Spirax Sarco, Aurecon and Emerson Process Automation, have also supported the CAPE department in various ways.  Spirax Sarco, a worldwide professional steam
engineering company, has provided a bespoke plate heat exchanger. Glenn Schultz, General Manager of Spirax Sarco New Zealand, guest lectures at UC and says his organisation has a strong interest in investing in future engineers.  “We want to see young engineers come out of university really well prepared for today’s industry. The integration of theory and practical hands-on experience [in UC’s CAPE department] is going to make for some really
strong graduates,” Mr Schultz says.  “When they get into the real world, they’re going to be able to develop a lot faster. And from a business perspective, we get a quicker return on investment as well.”

The heat exchanger donated by Spirax Sarco is designed to simulate real-life scenarios that students would experience in the industry.  Safety and the ability to manipulate the process conditions were two key aspects when
it came to designing the customised heat exchanger.  “The heat exchanger has been designed so students can manipulate process conditions and see the responses. In the industry, troubleshooting is one of the key criteria…
Processes can do funny things and it’s all about diagnostics,” Mr Schultz says.  “We wanted to contribute something that the students can use and take on through their careers, and hopefully help to develop more capable engineers from New Zealand.”

Professor Gostomski says another key contribution to the CAPE department has been a generous bequest from UC alumnus Mr John Sutherland (1948–2010). Mr Sutherland earned a Bachelor of Engineering in Chemistry at UC
in 1972.  “Mr Sutherland’s gift supports a range of key research and teaching activities in the CAPE department. It is helping us to advance our department and directly influences the experience and quality of our graduates,”  Professor Gostomski says.  While some of the bequest has gone towards upgrading and purchasing new teaching equipment, it has also enabled the CAPE department’s academic team to award seven scholarships to students studying towards higher degrees.

The CAPE department also runs the Sutherland Prestige Seminar Series, which brings leading researchers to UC to meet with academics and give a public lecture in their field of expertise.  “These inspirational talks have led to research partnerships, and help us to expand our networks and promote our reputation internationally,” Professor Gostomski says.

Mr Sutherland was known for being forthcoming with his knowledge and supporting others whenever he could. He wanted his legacy to provide the same opportunities for learning and development that UC provided him.  In recognition of Mr Sutherland’s legacy, the CAPE department has officially named the undergraduate laboratory in his honour.  “The bequest is contributing broadly across our department and allowing us to do things for student learning that we simply wouldn’t be able to do otherwise,” Professor Gostomski says.

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