A world-renowned academic who helped shape modern engineering education has received Australia’s most prestigious engineering prize.
Professor Elizabeth Taylor AO HonFIEAust CPEng was awarded the Peter Nicol Russell Career Achievement Memorial Medal as part of Engineers Australia’s Excellence Awards – Pinnacles 2021, announced today.
After a successful career as a civil engineer, Taylor transitioned into academia, where she has become a leader in engineering education. She has also contributed to humanitarian efforts that have changed many lives as Chair of RedR Australia, RedR International and the Cambodian Children’s Trust Australia.
Taylor was made an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2004 for service to engineering education through the design and implementation of innovative academic programs, to professional associations, and to enhancing the status of women in the profession and promoting it as a career option.
Named in memory of a Sydney industrialist from the latter half of the 19th century, the Peter Nicol Russell Career Achievement Memorial Medal recognises a person who has made a notable contribution to the science and/or practice of engineering within Australia.
Engineers Australia CEO Dr Bronwyn Evans AM HonFIEAust CPEng said Taylor, who was the first female president of Engineers Australia’s Sydney Division, was an incredibly deserving recipient.
“Professor Taylor’s leadership in helping shape modern engineering education and her passion for humanitarian work and diversity make her a worthy recipient,” Dr Evans said.
Engineers of the Year
National Engineer of the Year awards were also presented across five categories to individuals who represent outstanding examples of innovation and resourcefulness within the engineering profession.
This includes Deakin University’s Professor Saeid Nahavandi FIEAust CPEng, who was named Professional Engineer of the Year.
In a career spanning more than 30 years, Nahavandi has transformed how we engage with the virtual world through pioneering work in integrating haptic technology into robots and virtual reality systems.
His research has been commercialised in motion simulators, medical robotics and training simulators for emergency services and defence applications. This includes developing the high-G centrifuge prototype Cyclone, which provides G-tolerance training for pilots and astronauts carrying out space exploration tasks.
Nahavandi is also passionate about promoting STEM education and is an advocate for increasing awareness and consideration of the ethics associated with the rise of artificial intelligence and automation in society.
The 2021 Young Professional Engineer of the Year award went to South Australian water resources engineer Brittany Coff MIEAust CPEng.
Currently a Senior Water Resources and Strategy Consultant at Jacobs Group in Adelaide, Coff focuses on developing innovative solutions that benefit the environment and the community. Her work has contributed to the sustainable management of water resources in the Murray Darling Basin and has helped improve the effectiveness of water technology projects in developing nations.
“[I would like] to leave the water resources, environmental engineering and sustainability fields with better strategies, solutions and management practices, both in Australia and internationally,” Coff said.
Australian Navy Senior Instructor Damien Richards AMIEAust CEngA was named the Young Engineering Associate of the Year. A Chief Petty Officer Marine Technician based in Queensland, Richards joined the Navy at the age of 17 and has served on ships HMAS Wewak, Leeuwin and Melville and shore establishments HMAS Cerberus and Cairns. He has deployed on missions to provide humanitarian aid, peacekeeping and disaster relief.
Richards said he had developed a number of leadership skills throughout his career so far.
“The defence forces require a lot of teamwork,” he said. “When we go out to sea, we’re operating vessels in very remote and isolated waters, which requires you to be self-sustaining as you have limited support mechanisms available to you.”
Engineering Technologist of the Year went to fellow Queenslander Ashley Flower TMIEAust. A Principal Civil Designer at Bligh Tanner, his background is in major infrastructure projects and he has designed more than 100 km of major highways and motorways. He also has significant experience in sports and recreation facilities and is a leading specialist in cycling infrastructure.
Flower advised others embarking on an engineering technologist career to “give everything a go”.
“Get out there and try different things,” he said. “It might be a little scary but with the right support and the right attitude, you can contribute a lot.”
Wade Godbee OAM AMFIEAust CEngA, also from Queensland, was named Engineering Associate of the Year. Godbee joined the RAAF as a 16-year-old engine fitter trade apprentice, going on to work on the Canberra Bomber, F-111 Bombers, Chinook Helicopters and Macchi aircraft. He was discharged in 2006 after 27 years of full-time service and immediately joined the RAAF Active Reserve, where he still serves today.
In his Reserve capacity, he is the Warrant Officer Engineer in charge of all technical Reservists within Number 82Wing, who undertake maintenance initially on F/A-18F and EA-18G aircraft. He is also Senior Maintenance Manager at Raytheon Australia.
Godbee said it was important to “always have faith in your abilities and your potential”.
“Associate engineers play a very important role in the engineering fraternity,” he said. “I’ve had a very rewarding and exciting career and I still look forward to coming to work every day.”
Rounding out the awards was the President Prize, which recognises conspicuous service to the engineering profession. This went to the Australian Tunnelling Society for its Tunnel Design Guideline.
The guide is intended as an introduction to tunnel design and was produced by practitioners from the Young Members of the Australian Tunnelling Society, chaired by Dr Harry Asche FIEAust CPEng.
Learn more about the finalists and winners of Engineers Australia’s Excellence Awards – Pinnacles 2021 here.