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School of Engineering celebrates centenary

UTAS School of Engineering

The official opening of a new Engineering Design Centre and the re-opening of the Centre of Renewable Energy and Power Systems (CREPS) Laboratory following storm damage, will mark more than 100 years of engineering at the University of Tasmania in July.

30 July has been set aside as the day of celebration to officially recognise more than 100 years of engineering at the University of Tasmania.

The history of engineering at the university dates back to the 1900s, with a proposal mooted for a new School of Mining Engineering. Although the proposal was unsuccessful, it allowed for an expansion of the Department of Science to include engineering subjects.

The catalyst for further expanding electrical engineering courses at the university was partly a result of the work by Physics Professor Alexander McAulay, whose initiative helped create the Hydro-Electric Commission. In 1919, Parliament voted for a new university laboratory and a high-tension testing department suitable for electrical engineering.

Just a year later, at the retirement of engineering professor, Prof. Mackay, the University Council declared “from small beginnings and with inadequate material assistance, he (Prof. Mackay) raised the School of Engineering to a worthy place amongst the universities of Australia.”

In 1921, a Department of Engineering was opened and, in the same year, the university came to an agreement with the state government to establish an Engineering Board of Management, in order to share resources and teaching staff between the university and the nearby Technical College.

The early school had a small but high-achieving student cohort and provided the Hydro-Electric Commission with a substantial body of local engineering graduates. They were engaged with developing the states hydro-electric resources through investigation, design, construction of many dams, tunnels, pipelines, canals, power stations, switchyards and transmission lines, in order to meet the state’s ever-growing electricity demand.

There have been many achievements for the School of Engineering since these early days, and the latest is the contemporary Engineering Design Centre, which will be officially opened as part of centenary celebrations in July. The Design Centre, a College of Science and Engineering (CoSE) initiative, aims to provide world-class facilities for students to design innovative solutions for modern-day engineering problems.

The centre is the first of its kind at the School of Engineering with workspaces to enhance group discussions, and comes fully equipped with large virtual presentation and telecommunication stations.

According to School of Engineering Head, Prof. Andrew Chan, this new centre will further enhance teaching and learning capabilities at the school.

“Engineering and manufacturing today have to be agile, flexible and collaborative, and the Design Centre provides a flexible space for collaborative student-centred learning and design activities, so the students can learn by doing and experiencing teamwork environments, which is prevalent in engineering and manufacturing,” Prof. Chan said.

The centenary celebrations will correspond with the re-opening of the Centre of Renewable Energy and Power Systems  (CREPS) Laboratory at Sandy Bay, badly water damaged during storms in May, 2018.

The CREPS lab re-build aims to enhance both fundamental and applied research in power and energy systems in Australia. CREPS is a fully integrated centre combining electrical power and mechanical engineering and takes full advantage of its Tasmanian location, where renewable resources generate approximately ninety percent of the states’ electricity.

“Our vision for CREPS is to be a world-class research and teaching institution and a leader in the area of renewable energy and power systems,” Prof Chan said.

The lab rebuild project involves the development of a microgrid system with different renewable energy sources, including new innovative types of diesel generators, and wind, solar and battery storage. It will be used for both face-to-face teaching and experimental research-based lab work.

For more information about School of Engineering centenary events contact

Published on: 02 Apr 2019 2:14pm