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Engineering education efforts recognised with national award

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Mark Symes receiving the award from Professor Scott Smith.

Two University of Tasmania academics have been recognised with a national award for their work promoting engineering education opportunities in regional Australia.

Mark Symes, a lecturer at the Australian Maritime College, and Associate Professor Peter Doe, a University Associate in the School of Engineering and ICT, were awarded the National Award for Engineering Education Excellence by the Australasian Association for Engineering Education.  

The award recognised the academics’ efforts in leading the Engineering Pathways for Regional Australia (EPRA) project, a consortium of regional Higher and Vocational Education institutions collaborating to expand curriculum choice and coverage, and to make it easier for rural candidates to study engineering.  

The project was led by The Principal of the University College, Professor Janelle Allison, and was funded by the Australian Government Office for Learning and Teaching (OLT).

Their work culminated in a recently launched portal designed to help engineering applicants that don’t meet standard entry requirements, or are unable to enrol in full-time study – perhaps because of work commitments or travel restrictions.

The portal helps prospective students access information and plan study pathways for an Associate Degree in Engineering, with the ability to select from over 250 units provided by six Higher Education institutions.

Their award was presented at the Australasian Association for Engineering Education annual conference on 7th December by its Chair, Professor Scott Smith. Professor Smith explained why the academics’ work had been selected for the national accolade.  

This kind of collaboration has the potential to show real transformative impact upon the partners involved and is a very worthwhile multi-institutional initiative that brings benefit to regional Australia.

Associate Professor Peter Doe was appointed EPRA Project Manager in mid-2015. He explains more about what the project has achieved.

“A team of university, TAFE, and industry engineers and educators had already produced an Associate Degree structure that satisfied Engineers Australia guidelines. My challenge was to design a planning tool to cater for applicants with different levels of academic achievement and engineering work experience.

“Having created and recently launched the portal, we are now actively promoting it via social media and are already recording interest from across Australia.

“This would not have been possible without the expertise and input from the entire EPRA team, with whom it was a privilege to work.”

Mark Symes, the academic lead for EPRA, has spent eight years dedicated to engineering education at the Australian Maritime College; teaching and co-ordinating courses as well as undertaking engineering education research for his PhD.

“It’s fantastic to be recognised for the EPRA project and my longstanding work in this area,” said Mr Symes.  

“It is especially humbling to be awarded this prize – the highest engineering education accolade in the country – by a panel of Australian University Deans, who are the most senior engineering educators in their universities.

The award reinforces that engineering education as a very credible area of research and, personally, a very rewarding one.

Published on: 09 Jan 2017