From Covid and disasters to robots and music for mechatronics engineer

30 August 2022

After four years at the University of Canterbury (UC), Luke Burke was torn between leaving the things he’s loved and starting his next adventure.

  • Engineering graduate Luke Burke

    Engineering graduate Luke Burke says he had strong networks, clubs and interests that kept him connected while studying at UC during the pandemic.

Sustainable Development Goals 4 - Quality Education

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4 - Quality Education

Luke celebrated graduating with a Bachelor of Engineering (Hons) in Mechatronics Engineering this week. To non-engineers that’s a mix of mechanical, electronics and software engineering, sometimes described as robotic engineering.

His final-year project developing a prototype weeding robot, in conjunction with local company Plant Research NZ, has been challenging and hugely enjoyable, but his other passion has been UC student life and extracurricular activities.

“In some ways the activities I’ve done have been bigger for me than the Engineering degree itself. I’ve had lots of interests across the board, but some I particularly loved. I enjoy acting and music and really enjoyed the music club, TuneSoc and my band Cake and Eat It,” Luke says.

“Like so many others, the pandemic has had a significant impact on my life, but it hasn’t spoilt my time here at UC. I already had strong connections, clubs and interests that kept me connected.”

The Student Volunteer Army was another UC highlight for Luke, who volunteered throughout his time at UC, becoming SVA president in 2021.

“The big achievement was helping out after the Canterbury and Westport floods in 2021,” he says.

“Like any big natural disaster, they’re hugely destabilising for those affected, but we did what we could to help. We put together a ‘not insignificant’ response for those communities. We also helped in the Covid-19 response in 2020 and 2021, but I learnt a lot personally from the floods. I think that’s because we already had good systems in place in terms of a Covid response, but the floods were a whole new challenge.”

“I’ve been really happy with my time at UC and I feel like I’ve got the most out of it that I could. You come from school and think you know everything, but I really feel now that I am becoming who I am,” he says.

“I’m really proud of where we got to with the [weed-killing robot] prototype, which is still in development. That will be picked up by this year’s students – it’s hard to let it go, but I’m moving on to the next step, and I know the project’s in good hands.”

Luke now has a graduate role at Scott Automation in Dunedin, which he describes as the “coolest automation company” in the country.

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