Dr Aaron McFadyen is championing the next generation of aerospace and robotics change makers, using his industry experience and networks to bring the real world to final-year engineering capstone projects.
Capstone units and projects are designed to give final-year students an opportunity to put everything they’ve learned during the degree into practice, working with real companies on real-world projects with tangible benefits for those companies.
The experience can be paid or unpaid, and gives students an experience they can use to kick-start their résumés.
“For most of a student’s degree, their learning experience tends to be quite structured,” Dr McFadyen explained.
“Capstone projects give them the opportunity to find solutions to unstructured problems, which is often more reflective of a real-world experience.
“When I worked in industry, I don’t think there was a day when I wasn’t thrown an unstructured problem to solve, so building these skills before graduating is very important.”
The industry projects McFadyen facilitates all have an aerospace engineering or robotics focus, although each project is different in its needs and outcomes.
“QUT’s reputation as an exceptional university means that we’ve been able to develop rich and varied capstone experiences for our students,” Dr McFadyen said.
“Last year we had an industry partner ask us to work on testing software for unmanned air traffic management, evaluating usability and feasibility of the software as a business case as well as from a technical perspective.
“We also had another company ask us to investigate whether blockchain could be used to manage air traffic, which is an exciting new application for the technology.”
Capstone is an opportunity for students to demonstrate their skills and learning outside of a strictly academic arena, with industry partners keen to benefit from students’ fresh thinking.
“Students who have a range of non-academic skills, and professional competence, a proactive attitude and a desire to make a good impression all go a long way,” Dr McFadyen said.
“Although a student’s GPA is important, it’s not the only thing that industry is looking at.”
The capstone experience is also a way for industry to see what students are capable of, with a potential view to employ them in the future.
“It can be a pathway for students to get their foot in the door of companies and organisations where they can make significant change working on really exciting projects,” Dr McFadyen said.
“We’re creating an environment where we facilitate these successful relationships between students and industry, and set them up for incredibly bright futures.”