As new technologies emerge and emissions targets become more ambitious, engineers will require entirely new skill sets to keep pace with industry demands. New postgraduate degrees from QUT will equip them with the tools they need.
A look at a typical day in Brisbane’s transport network perfectly illustrates the revolution underway in data analytics and artificial intelligence. It also shows how engineers can harness innovative, smart solutions as never before to benefit communities and the environment.
The city has more than 2000 signalised intersections equipped with Bluetooth scanners that monitor traffic movements around the clock and generate an extraordinary eight million pieces of data a day.
Meanwhile, Translink public transit vehicles are fitted with GPS units that produce another 25 GB over the same period.
Such vast data sets simultaneously unlock unprecedented opportunities for engineers to develop more sustainable and efficient transport systems, and require them to learn entirely new skills to keep up with industry demands.
Sustainability’s central role
“More diversified transport systems mean that analysis has become much more complex,” said Ashish Bhaskar, Professor of Transport Engineering at Queensland University of Technology (QUT). “New technologies are evolving very quickly, while sustainability is at the heart of every infrastructure project. So the demands on those planning future developments are immense.”
With $120 billion set to be spent on infrastructure over the next decade, it’s no wonder that sustainability engineering has been ranked by the government as one of the top 25 emerging professions.
To help engineering undergraduates gain the specialist skills they’ll need, QUT has launched a suite of postgraduate courses, with the first intake commencing in February 2024, focused on sustainable engineering solutions.
New QUT courses to meet new challenges
Among the new courses is the Master of Sustainable Infrastructure, majoring in Smart Transport and Mobility. It provides the knowledge and experience to lead complex sustainable infrastructure projects and respond rapidly to emerging local and global challenges, such as impacts of climate change, pollution and urbanisation.
The industry-centred course, the only one of its kind in Queensland, takes 18 months to complete and has been designed to address the specific needs of the transport sector.
“Its content was informed by the many interactions we’ve had with our industry partners, so it will have tangible real-world applications,” said QUT Senior lecturer Shamsunnahar Yasmin. “Gaining such a deep understanding of specialised skills from undergraduate degrees is simply not possible.”
QUT is also offering a major in Water Engineering within the Master of Sustainable Infrastructure, focusing on modelling of water systems, flood management, and sustainable water and wastewater treatment technologies.
With mounting pressure on water systems due to population growth and climate change, there’s an urgent need to devise more sustainable drinking supply and wastewater solutions, and achieve improvements to ecosystems and human health. Managing flooding in cities has become a particularly big challenge due to climate change.
The university is offering Commonwealth Supported Places (CSP) for full-time domestic students, which means no upfront fees for those eligible for HELP support.
Transforming public transport
“If we look at those data statistics for Brisbane, it’s clear that transport engineers need to process the data from multiple sources in order to gain insights into how we can persuade more commuters to switch from their cars to buses, trains and ferries,” Bhaskar explained.
“That will only happen if those modes of transport become a more attractive proposition. Ensuring there’s sufficient capacity on each route at different times of day, and that passengers don’t suffer lengthy delays, is critical.”
Such quantitative analysis is obviously integral for transport engineering, but it doesn’t give the full picture, according to Yasmin.
“The main element is always human beings,” she said. “Any calculations or projections have to take into account how people behave and what motivates them. And that can be complicated.”
Particularly as those behaviours evolve as technology advances.
Equipping the next generation of engineers
“Ten years ago, the landscape was very different,” she said. “You either drove, biked or walked. Today there is ride sharing, taxi apps and e-scooter and bike rental. They’ve all fundamentally altered our cities.
“And as transport is the second highest source of pollution and a leading cause of accidents, we need to be proactive in equipping the next generation of engineers with the skills to make it sustainable, safe and beneficial to the community. That’s where our new Masters degrees will play a key role.”
The biggest infrastructure event on the horizon is the 2032 Brisbane Olympics and Paralympics. Bhaskar predicts it will be a catalyst for an even greater emphasis on sustainable solutions.
“Sustainability will be integral to every construction and transport plan associated with it,” he said. “It’s vital that it leaves the city with an environmentally responsible legacy that will serve future generations.”
Accelerate and future proof your career with QUT’s new postgraduate degrees. Applications for courses starting in February 2024 close on 31 January.