As 2022 begins, engineers are once more taking on the task of devising creative solutions to our world’s most complex problems, write Engineers Australia National President Dr Nick Fleming FIEAust CPEng and CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans AM HonFIEAust CPEng.
Welcome to the New Year and, hopefully, the new horizons that come with it.
Though 2021 was a tough year, we are hopeful 2022 will bring pockets of optimism and a safe return to many of the ways of life we have so missed. At Engineers Australia, we continue to embrace new, flexible ways of working in a COVID-19-normal environment.
As 2022 unfolds, the prospect of open borders will bring much activity across business and industry and see a myriad of significant engineering projects ramp up, spanning infrastructure to innovation. This is an exciting time to be an engineer.
On the topic of engineering innovation, February is Heart Research Month and we are celebrating engineers combating coronary artery disease.
This includes the inspiring work of a team of biomedical engineers and cardiologists from the University of Western Australia and the Harry Perkins Institute of Medical Research.
The team has created a unique software analysis tool to personalise the care of patients and help chart the future of an individual’s heart health. The team has been recognised as the top Emerging Innovator in the Western Australia Innovator of the Year Awards for 2021.
The software tool, called Apricot, combines angiogram and optical coherence tomography data with artificial intelligence to create a 3D model and predict shear stress on artery walls in the same way it would for a gas pipeline or a Formula One car.
This identifies which patients would benefit most from preventative therapy, effectively improving patient outcomes as well as moderating treatment costs.
It is a great example of how clever engineering can be applied to an alternate, complex system — in this case, a human one. It demonstrates how our profession isn’t just about the amassing of engineering skills, but about learning to learn in a breadth of contexts. In the Apricot example we see biology, psychology, ethics, and legal frameworks at play alongside computational fluid dynamics and data analysis.
Then there’s Professor Cheryl Desha CPEng, Queensland Professional Engineer of the Year and nominee for Australian Engineer of the Year.
Professor Desha’s work draws on environmental and civil engineering to develop resilient and smart cities. She is the author of seven books, established the civil engineering program at Griffith University’s Brisbane campus, and led the academic engagement for Griffith’s $70 million development project, which includes the university’s Disaster and Resilience Management Facility.
Queensland accounts for two-thirds of the nation’s natural disasters, with a clean-up bill around $16 billion over the past decade, yet Professor Desha identifies that only $250 million is allocated to planning and prevention.
It is here she says smart engineering can come into its own by mimicking complementary relationships in nature to solve complex problems and help communities withstand extreme weather.
One of her top priorities is addressing vulnerabilities in the energy grid, exploring the effects of decentralisation, renewables, and power storage and dissemination.
It’s a vision that calls for engineers to work with thought leaders, scientists, the corporate sector and government to support safe and sustainable communities.
As the New Year begins, this is a compelling example of what it means to be advancing society through great engineering.
The Engineer of the Year 2021 winners will be announced 1 March. To view the full list of finalists, visit our awards website.