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Education portal newsletter #35 April 2017


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Future Transport Competition: Meet the experts investigating NZ's transport future. Plus: Think like engineers - how student design projects the work of engineers. Careers education: profile posters and visits from Futureintech ambassadors.

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Education portal newsletter #35 April 2017

  1. 1. NZ’S TRANSPORT FUTURE INVESTIGATING MEET THE EXPERTS Investigating New Zealand’s transport future is the vital work for members of a cutting-edge research team at University of Waikato. Look through the doors of a lab at the University of Waikato and you see a real car, parked up in a dark room and facing large projection screens. This is the driving simulator of the Transport Research Group and it is used to test out ideas that lead to safer and smarter use of our roads. Computer cables snake out from under the car. The rear vision mirrors are replaced with video screens and cameras inside record the driver’s activity. Researchers sit in a control room next door, selecting simulations to run and speaking instructions through a microphone. When tests are underway, people sit in the car and drive through simulated New Zealand roads. Associate Professor Samuel Charlton, Chair of Psychology and member of the Transport Research Group, says the lab allows researchers to study transport in ways that wouldn’t be safe in real traffic. ‘We have a state of the art driving simulator. We can try things out that have never been tried before: new road markings, new signs, new ways of interacting with in-car devices. And we can do that safely.’ The simulator screens both real video and animations of New Zealand roads. The team can code in virtual road features for testing. ‘Things like wire rope barriers and rumble strips – improvements that people now take for granted – were tried out in this room first, so we could see how drivers would react,’ says Samuel. ISSUE 35 | APRIL 2017 Samuel Charlton The Future Transport Competition is now open for years 1–13 students. competition
  2. 2. THINK LIKE ENGINEERS Investigation and design projects – such as entries for the Future Transport Competition – get students thinking in ways that parallel the work of engineers. Here are some thoughts from transport engineer Bridget Burdett and educator Pam Hook. Bridget: Transport engineers exist to enable participation through transport. We’re all about creating environments where people can move about freely and access places safely. Engineering is about creating a future. Pam: As teachers, we’re always looking for ways to help students understand more deeply the things that really matter. Sharing our roads safely is an example. We can start by being curious. We gather information and data. We interpret that data and make sense of it. Then we create ways to improve the opportunity or challenge we found – just like an engineer would. This way, the competition not only supports careers education, it provides an opportunity for active participatory citizenship. Bridget: The competition very much aligns with the way decisions are made in engineering practice. We try to be curious about where the problems are and what forms those problems take. And then we investigate. We look at all the factors affecting those problems and what evidence we can find to help work on solutions. And then we get creative. Pam: The competition is an opportunity for educators interested in giving students an authentic context for practising critical, creating and caring thinking. It provides STEM learning opportunities. And it does that through a student process which models the way a transport engineer looks at how to create new things and how to make things better. A career as a transport engineer Bridget Burdett works as a transport engineer. She’s also working on a doctorate through Waikato University. Her topic is driver behaviour psychology. ‘I come from a background in road safety with an interest in how humans behave, how mistakes happen and what we might be able to do about it.’ Bridget completed a civil engineering degree at the University of Canterbury and then a master’s degree in transport engineering. In a recent project, she investigated how many people were not visiting a set of shops – comparing pedestrian counts with census data on local people, especially those who use mobility aids. ‘That helped the council justify putting in a raised pedestrian crossing at a roundabout to slow the traffic down. Engineering gives you different ways of approaching a question like why aren’t the people there.’ See video online: competition Visits from engineers Schools entering the Future Transport Competition could also arrange a visit from Futureintech ambassadors. Ambassadors are people who work in engineering, technology and science-based roles, including as transport engineers. ‘They can relate to the students, and their career pathways are still relevant and available,’ says Gay Watson, a facilitator. ‘Teachers see it as a way to bring to life the learning that students are doing. It makes relevant connections between the curriculum and careers.’ Ambassadors visit students from senior primary and upwards, with an emphasis on years 5–10. ‘They can provide a lot of information and inspiration for students who are beginning to make those important subject choices that can have an impact on careers.’ Bridget Burdett
  3. 3. ENGINEERS AND STUDENTS: DESIGN THINKING WITH THANKS TO BRIDGET BURDETT AND PAM HOOK Career profile posters online Future Transport Competition entries can be games or narrative formats. Career profile posters give students insights into how related skills and interests can translate into learning and career pathways. These feature interviews with emerging professionals: • Game programmer, game designer, game artist • Journalist, illustrator, GIS consultant Download posters from the competition site: MORE INFO competition ‘You have to make sure you investigate by looking, actually going and seeing.’ Fran Denton Freelance Illustrator CAREER PROFILE “I really enjoy drawing what other people are thinking,” says Fran Denton. Fran’s challenge is to listen to clients and turn their ideas into pictures that connect with a specific audience. The work is diverse. She had made portraits, done the artwork for educational resources, and illustrated a book on career advice. “I work with people who are writers or content creators, so I’m making things with them. I enjoy that collaboration,” she says. The audience for her work can vary from children to adults. She needs to keep that in mind, while also talking to the writer about their aims. “The challenge can come when I think I have got it right and the other person has a different idea of things to me,” says Fran. “It’s that grinding of gears in your head when you realise you need to change direction and it’s time to back up the truck. But that reversal and then going forwards again is always worth it. You might find yourself doing something you wouldn’t normally have done. And I always end up happy with how it’s turned out. That’s all part of working with other people.” She works part-time, with projects on top of her life as a parent. She says her career pathway – studying fine arts at university – is only one way to become an illustrator. “I really love the creativity. I studied art in university and that wasn’t because I saw a career outcome but because I loved drawing and I couldn’t think of anything else I would rather do.” When living in the UK, she drew cartoons chronicling her young family’s life, as a way to share personal stories with friends and relatives. Now she’s looking into the potential to publish this work – reworking her ideas for a wider audience. FRAN’S CAREER PATHWAY: • Studied science and art subjects at high school • Bachelor of Fine Arts, Massey University, Wellington • Master of Fine Arts, Massey • Freelance illustrator for the past six years FRAN’S JOB: Self employed WHAT SHE DOES: Takes on contracts to illustrate books and other publications. MORE INFO ‘Don’t be afraid to fail.Not every game idea will be a million-dollarsuccess story. But ifyou take creative risks and mess around with ideas, you’ll always walk away having learned something.’ Tom O’BrienGame Designer CAREER PROFILE Working in a student team over a summer break was a defining experience for Tom. His team took their prototype puzzle game Split through to release on distribution platform Steam. “Having a commercial title under your belt as you’re leaving uni is a huge step forward. It gives you a polished piece of work to demonstrate your skills to employers,” he says. The team frequently found people to play-test the game during development. “Good feedback can come from watching people play. Keep an eye on what is happening in the game and how they are responding to it,” says Tom. He recalls seeing a young girl and then her mum becoming engrossed in the game – confirmation it could have a wide audience.Tom also attended game development meet-ups and events – getting to know industry people. “It boiled down to being present in the community. Everyone at these events has a shared interest, a passion about games, and realising that makes it easier to interact.” Now Tom has made the “surreal” shift up to full-time game design for Xbox One title Ashen. “It’s thinking about what the game is and planning player experiences and interactions. I am writing things down. I’m sketching out diagrams, maps and charts, and sometimes coding quick prototypes.”“We use agile planning and production cycles. We do things in sprints – short bursts of workflow aiming towards a larger milestone. My ideas come from looking at user stories and asking questions. As a player, how can I make choices with minimal interruption to my experience?”TOM’S CAREER PATHWAY:• NCEA subjects included English, physics, calculus, media studies and drama • Took a gap year to focus his interests around game development • Bachelor of Software Engineering (Game Programming), Media Design School • Contracted to work on Ashen TOM’S JOB: Game Designer at Aurora44, a games studio in the Hutt Valley WHAT HE DOES: Detailed planning on Ashen, an RPG game for the Xbox One MORE INFO ‘Showing respect for the person makes a big difference during interviews. Don’t assume you know what the situation is like for them – get them to explain it themselves.’ Laura Brookes Journalist CAREER PROFILE Part of Laura’s job is finding leads – information that might lead to a news story. She hears from readers who phone or email with ideas, she talks to her contacts in local organisations and she keeps her eyes open. “Stories can come from what you see and hear. You have your journalist’s eye on when you are out around the area, and you question what you see,” says Laura. “Every story I do has to have a local angle because that is our audience.” She then does more research, interviews people and writes her articles to deadline. “The job is different every day. You never know who you’ll be talking to. For example, I did a feature about a man and his motorbike. I don’t know anything about motorbikes. So, you have to do your research before you go.” She says students investigating future transport could brainstorm what they know about a local problem or opportunity. “Try to process the problem in your head first, and then figure out who to interview and what to ask them. And then have fun – talk to heaps of people.” After two years of tertiary study, Laura took a year out, working at a Canadian ski resort. She honed her people skills and returned with confidence, ready to finish her journalism degree. “In that third year, we had to find our own stories, write them, take pictures, get them published in a local newspaper – all on top of assignments. I love people, I love issues, and I love digging into things in the best possible way.” LAURA’S CAREER PATHWAY: • High school subjects: English, history, classics, geography, media studies • Bachelor of Communication Studies, journalism major, AUT • Gap years for overseas work experience, leadership course • Got the reporter job in 2016 LAURA’S JOB: Reporter, Times Newspapers Ltd WHAT SHE DOES: Write news articles for two local newspapers in Auckland’s eastern suburbs MORE INFO competition ‘I’ve just been in theindustry full-time fora year. Already I’veseen it take off. Everymonth or so there’snew tools, new waysof doing things.’ Hamish KingsburyGeographic InformationSystems Consultant CAREER PROFILE After three years at uni, an internship switched Hamish onto a career in Geographic Information Systems. It was hands-on computer work creating a prototype map that lets users select driving routes based on real data about the safety of New Zealand streets.He gave it his best shot, and won awards, including Undergraduate of the Year at the 2015 New Zealand Spatial Excellence Awards. “That internship was very much my stepping stone into GIS and it helped me decide that GIS was the career I wanted to pursue,” says Hamish, aged 23. GIS is a broad and fast-evolving discipline. It’s about processing spatial data and presenting it visually.“For example, if you depict crash sites on a map, you can instantly see hotspots. That’s not something you can see in a table,” he says. “What really brought that home was when a client in Australia asked for results in a spreadsheet. We did that but presented it on a map as well. The client said the map let them see things in the data they couldn’t see before.” He works in a team of transport, GIS and web design specialists. They deal with millions of entries of data, so having an analytical mindset helps. Hamish says the move toward cars transmitting data via the internet will open a huge range of opportunities for the GIS sector’s future. “Driving data such as position and speed will be invaluable and could be used to improve our road network. You’d know where vehicles accelerate or brake heavily, or how cars behave around corners. The more data the better.” HAMISH’S CAREER PATHWAY: • Diverse subjects at high school: geography, ICT, calculus, statistics, physics • University of Canterbury science degree in geography, with some computer science and geology• Internship at current employer• Postgraduate diploma in GIS• Full-time job HAMISH’S JOB: Consultant at Interpret Geospatial Solutions, Christchurch WHAT HE DOES: Presents transport and other data visually, often on web-based maps. CONSTRAINTS Engineers have to design transport projects within various constraints. For example: Budget: can we afford it? Land: can we fit it in? Strategic fit: is it a priority? Effectiveness: will it work for users? Timing: Should we do this now or later? Construction time: how long will it take? Limits of technology: can we do this now? Equity: whose lives will be improved? Concept stage Consider evidence of how and why people use transport. Consult with public. What are the problems? What solutions will fix these? Find best option. Design Work out detailed design in line with constraints – see boxed text. Construction Keep transport moving during roadworks. Keep public informed. Opening Monitor how well it works. ENGINEERS Bring in ideas Acquire and consolidate surface knowledge about a challenge or opportunity. Talk to stakeholders – consider their needs. Interpret Make connections to consolidate deep understanding. Develop criteria for a suitable solution. Extend Use knowledge in new way. Make something or improve something. Evaluate + report How well did our new ideas or solution meet our criteria? Revise ideas. STUDENTS
  4. 4. ENTER THE FUTURE TRANSPORT COMPETITION Teams of three or more students can enter until 30 June. Students find opportunities or challenges in New Zealand transport to investigate. They use their ideas to enter either a narrative or a playable game. Prizes are organised by Years 1-6, 7-10 and 11-13. Student and teacher support material and the entry form are online: competition HELPING NEW ZEALAND LOOK FORWARD ON TRANSPORT Find out how New Zealand transport researchers investigate ways to make our journeys safer. The driving simulator with its car and computer screens is one of the main research tools of University of Waikato’s Transport Research Group (TRG). ‘The Transport Research Group does research on how to make transport safer, mainly focused on car drivers and driver behaviour,’ says Professor Nicola Starkey. She says team members have different backgrounds – including psychology, law, computer science and engineering. They work together because all these fields of knowledge contribute to the future of transport at a time of rapid technological change. Autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles (which send and receive data over the internet) are a reality now, with prototypes being tested on streets worldwide. ‘Legal researchers are going to be important, with these vehicles raising questions such as can you travel in an autonomous vehicle when you are over the legal drinking limit?’ says Nicola. ‘Computing and mathematical sciences are needed to investigate the cybersecurity of connected vehicles. The possibilities of outside people hacking into a vehicle are enormous.’ The group is researching what New Zealanders think about connected and autonomous vehicles. Associate Professor Samuel Charlton says a national survey shows people do have privacy and security concerns. He says new vehicles types are developed and released by tech companies in a similar way to the advent of smart phones, and it is up to researchers, legislators and transport planners to ensure the transport system is ready. ‘The challenge for us in New Zealand is to be able to take advantage of the promise of that technology with the economic benefits it offers, the accessibility, the safety.’ He says the TRG is planning a trial of connected and autonomous vehicles on central Wellington streets. The capital’s narrow, busy roads with parked cars, cyclists and bus lanes are a good test, both of the vehicles and of driver reactions. This trial is no more than two years away. Nicola Starkey