Students’ SAE News

Student Newsletter Edition 2

Posted November 2020

Amy James

Amy James, a truly inspiring Engineering graduate

When you hear Amy James, the highest performing Engineering Graduate from 2019 and winner of the prestigious ‘Curtin Engineering Prize’ and the ‘Digby Leach Medal’, say the course was “challenging” it may bring a wry smile to the face of all current Engineering students.

Amy went on to add, “It was a great course – there was a nice mix of theory and practical work, some really engaging staff, and I also formed some great friendships along the way.”

From the commencement of her Bachelor of Engineering (Honours), majoring in Mechanical Engineering, this very talented graduate has excelled.  Achieving consistently high grades and often attaining a perfect 100, it’s clear that she worked very hard to reach the levels she did.

“Initially I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study after leaving school. But I enjoyed maths and science and was eager to help solve real-world problems, so Engineering seemed like a natural fit. The Foundation Year was excellent as it helped me choose the pathway best suited to me.  I am certainly very happy with where it’s taken me!”

Amy has been selected by Chevron for their 2020 ‘Horizons Graduate Program’ along with nine other Engineering graduates. This gives her the opportunity to be challenged and help work on (and solve) some of those real-world problems.

Amy is thoroughly enjoying her current role as a ‘Rotating Equipment Engineer’ based in Perth. As part of this role she will have several opportunities to go on site at the Wheatstone Project, Australia’s first natural gas hub, located just west of Onslow.

“My first visit to Wheatstone was fantastic. It was great to see real equipment in use and I learnt a lot from the experience.”

We wish Amy all the best in her career.

Most members of Curtin’s 2020 Aerospace Club with one of their two completed rockets
Most members of Curtin’s 2020 Aerospace Club with one of their two completed rockets

A focus on … the Curtin Aerospace Club

For anyone interested in being involved in a project-based club with a passion for building rockets and seeing how high they can travel, or with an interest for using your mechanical, mechatronic or electrical engineering, computing science or physics skills in practical projects, then Curtin’s Aerospace Club could be for you.

After speaking with the current club president, Joshua Wigley, it’s very evident he’s proud of what the club has achieved since the club’s inception in late 2018.  The project team has steadily grown to the current 16 members, all with a common goal to being involved in a practical project that fully utilises the team’s mix of skills.  Added to that is a yearly competition to see how the team’s rockets rank against rockets from 18 other university-based Australia-wide aerospace teams, and the fortnightly team gathering to build the team’s rockets also becomes highly motivating.

To date, the team has built two complete rockets but are now in the process of building an improved third rocket with enhanced and more complex programming and electronics.

Joshua explained, “We finished 5th in Australia for our 10,000 ft (approximately 3.3 km) rocket and received an award for the ‘Best New Entry’. Normally this yearly ranking comprises three progress reports, a modelling and simulation exercise, a presentation and a launch to attain the 10,000 ft height, although Covid has meant this year’s launch component has been postponed until September next year in Queensland.”

The club’s vice president, William Oakley, further added “the four teams ranked higher than us all come from universities with specific aerospace courses and with more funding opportunities.”

“The 10,000 ft level is the first aim for our rocket, but building a rocket to reach the 30,000 ft level is another exciting goal for our team to aim towards in the near future.”

If you would like to find out more information about the club, how to join, or enquire about the building or launch specifications of the rockets, Joshua and Will are only too happy to discuss (email:

Several club members travelled to Grass Valley (about 100km north-east of Perth) in early October to test their two rockets at the Western Australian Rocketry Society’s (WARS) final launch day (photos courtesy of the Curtin Aerospace Club).
Several club members travelled to Grass Valley (about 100km north-east of Perth) in early October to test their two rockets at the Western Australian Rocketry Society’s (WARS) final launch day (photos courtesy of the Curtin Aerospace Club).

A whale shark pictured swimming close to a group snorkelling.  Note the water depth and temperature detected from the tagged sensor (photo courtesy of Sonny Lewis).
A whale shark pictured swimming close to a group snorkelling. Note the water depth and temperature detected from the tagged sensor (photo courtesy of Sonny Lewis).

Meet Sonny Lewis – where volunteering has led to amazing experiences with whale shark research

It was the chance need for a licensed skipper that saw Sonny Lewis, a part-time student in the BSc (Coastal and Marine Science), begin his involvement with the marine research organisation, Ecocean inc.

As Sonny explains, “Ecocean is a ‘not for profit’ organisation set up by Dr Brad Norman and based in Western Australia, that’s heavily involved with the research and conservation of the whale shark.”

“I’ve had lots of jobs in the past mainly around boats and the marine environment including working as a Dive Master at Exmouth Dive Centre during the 2005 whale shark season, which led to the opportunity to help Ecocean as a skipper during a research trip.”

Sonny has now become an important member of the team. “Apart from skippering the boat, I’m the logistics guy – I make and repair equipment to help Brad and Sam (Sam is Samantha Reynolds, a PhD candidate) and I go out snorkelling with the whale sharks to ‘tag’ them.”

Despite the whale shark being the largest fish in the sea very little is known about their biology and where they travel.  As Sonny explains, “one tag acts as a GPS while another acts as a daily diary sensor detecting any movement, water depth and water temperature.”

“There is currently no recognised pattern as to where whale sharks travel, so tagging them is vital for learning more about them and ultimately helping to protect them from pollution, boat strikes and fishing.” He went on to add, “Ecocean’s aim is to be the leading voice for whale shark ecotourism for the rest of the world.”

Sonny’s work with the organisation is fully voluntary, “but I’ve had wonderful opportunities to travel to amazing locations around the world and help Brad and Sam with their research.”

His work with the whale sharks has led to an increased interest in the marine environment and a natural progression for him was to study the Coastal and Marine Science course to learn more.

Sonny’s volunteer work doesn’t end there.  Since commencing at Curtin more than two years ago he’s been a Student Ambassador for high school students visiting Curtin and shares his Curtin experiences with them.  He also visits high schools to do presentations about the whale shark research and works with students in marine environment programs.

As if this isn’t enough, Sonny runs a holistic health business, ‘Biota in Harmony’ in partnership with his wife, and voluntarily runs ‘Manhood Perth’, a forum for men to talk and share in a safe environment.

Sonny Lewis whale shark and with tagging equipment
[Left] Sonny with a whale shark swimming close by (photo courtesy of Sonny Lewis)
[Right] Sonny proudly displaying the clamp he designed and built to enable the tagging equipment to attach more easily to a whale shark’s fin (photo courtesy of Sonny Lewis).

Previous editions

Welcome to the first edition of Students’ SAE!

Posted August 2020

We are delighted to be able bring you the very first edition of Students’ SAE.

The newsletter aims to provide you with brief, but informative information about what you and your fellow Science and Engineering (SAE) students are getting up to, what they have achieved, how they are coping, amazing student ideas and projects … in a nutshell, it will be a newsletter about SAE students for SAE students.

The news items won’t only be written articles, but will include live interviews and video footage.

In time, we hope more and more articles will be written and produced by you, the students.  So if you have a passion for communication and would like to be involved with the production of future newsletters, please email the Student Engagement team.

Alternatively, if you know of anyone in the Faculty who is achieving great things, whether it’s with their study or project work, or outside in the community, or just generally being a great person, please let us know.

We hope you enjoy the first edition!

SAE Student Engagement Team

Announcing the Deans’ Awards for Science and Engineering

We are pleased to announce the following students were awarded the prestigious 2019 Deans’ Awards for Science and Engineering:


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The Science Awards were based on academic and extracurricular performance in 2019


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Congratulations to all the above students!  They will be presented with their award(s) by the respective Deans in a small ceremony later in August.

All other students who would have received awards at this year’s cancelled ceremonies have been provided with a framed certificate of their award(s).

FIRST® Robotics Competition – student volunteers help make it happen

For those not aware, the FIRST ® Robotics Competition (FRC) is, in the words of Tim Keely, Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) Outreach Coordinator, an “awe-inspiring STEM Outreach project, which combines the excitement of sport with the rigours of science and technology”.

As Tim explains, “Under strict rules, limited resources and time limits, teams of students (aged 13-18 years of age) are challenged to raise funds, design a team ‘brand’, hone teamwork skills, and build and program robots to perform prescribed tasks against a field of competitors.  Along the way the students learn some incredibly valuable life skills.”  View full details about the competition, timelines and event history.

FIRST® Robotics Competition

And thanks each year to a growing number of volunteer students within the Faculty, Tim and the STEM Outreach team have made the Curtin University First Robotics possible for a large number of highly motivated high school students. View a video of some of the key student volunteers helping and what it means to them about being part of the FIRST® Robotics team.

This year’s teams were booked to travel to Sydney to compete in the Asia-Pacific Regionals but unfortunately due to COVID-19, the competition was cancelled.  However, it didn’t stop the Curtin FRC from holding their annual ‘boxing night’, which has evolved into a night to show parents and sponsors the hard work of the participants and acknowledge the people who helped along the way.

Breaking News!  The FIRST Lego League (FLL) WA has been named as a finalist in the 2020 Premier’s Science Awards.  The winners of the awards will be announced later in September, and we wish Tim and his team the best of luck.

If you are keen to join the 2020/2021 Curtin FRC Season starting in September 2020, keep watching the Curtin FRC website to register your interest.

Get excited, it’s competition time!

The first edition of a newsletter wouldn’t be complete without a competition, and we’re going to offer you the chance to name the student newsletter.

We’ve called it ‘Students’ SAE’ but the name should really come from you, so suggest away!

Send your idea(s) to the SAE Student Engagement Team and the best selected name will be front and centre for future newsletters.  We’ll also throw in a prize for your clever thinking!