Fos­ter­ing de­sign tal­ent

Wangaratta Chronicle - North East Regional Extra - - FRONT PAGE - By KYLIE WIL­SON

WITH stu­dent en­gi­neers from across Aus­tralia and 12 dif­fer­ent coun­tries set to de­scend on the North East this De­cem­ber for de­sign com­pe­ti­tion For­mula SAE Aus­tralia, Wan­garatta’s Ge­off Pear­son is look­ing for­ward to help­ing oth­ers fos­ter their engi­neer­ing skills. “Hands-on work gets peo­ple to­gether and cre­ates real re­la­tion­ships,” Ge­off said. He has been en­grossed in engi­neer­ing since his youth, when he worked in the mo­tor­cy­cle in­dus­try straight out of high school. At the age of 30, he de­cided to go back to univer­sity, and be­gan at­tend­ing RMIT in 1998 to study me­chan­i­cal engi­neer­ing, con­cen­trat­ing on au­to­mo­tive engi­neer­ing. Dur­ing a gap in his stud­ies, he spent time work­ing at Holden, which piqued his in­ter­est in work­ing with de­sign en­gi­neers them­selves and lead­ing peo­ple. “I like to look at de­sign from a cre­ative point of view, and learn how you en­cour­age creativ­ity,” he said. Ge­off joined RMIT’s For­mula SAE team in 2002, which gave him a prac­ti­cal out­let for his engi­neer­ing ex­per­tise and helped him hone his lead­er­ship skills. For­mula SAE cars can be ei­ther com­bus­tion en­gine or elec­tri­cally pow­ered, and all as­pects of the project must be com­pleted by the stu­dents. In 2003, he be­came the chief en­gi­neer of the team, and they com­peted in the Aus­tral­asian event.

The team then qual­i­fied to com­pete in Eng­land in the equiv­a­lent Euro­pean event in 2004, which the RMIT team won out­right with their ve­hi­cle, built on a shoe­string bud­get of $10,000. “It was a real plea­sure,” Ge­off said, adding that it has been a high­light of his engi­neer­ing ca­reer. “I worked with such bril­liant peo­ple, and it was re­ally nice project to be a part of.” Ge­off con­tin­ued into post­grad­u­ate stud­ies at RMIT and kept men­tor­ing the team, which has con­tin­ued to go from strength to strength, in­clud­ing tak­ing out the Aus­tral­asian For­mula SAE cham­pi­onship in 2006. Fol­low­ing his stud­ies, he got in­volved in the So­ci­ety of Au­to­mo­tive En­gi­neers, in­clud­ing a brief stint as its ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, but af­ter his Parkin­son’s Dis­ease di­ag­no­sis in 2009, he had to scale back his com­mit­ments. But Ge­off is philo­soph­i­cal about liv­ing with the con­di­tion, say­ing it has helped him fo­cus on what is most im­por­tant in his life. “You have to re­ally fo­cus your en­er­gies, and limit the bat­tles that you fight,” he said. Mov­ing to Wan­garatta around three years ago, he said he has been keen for sev­eral years to help bring a big For­mula SAE event to the area, and he is ex­cited for the For­mula SAE Aus­trala­sia com­pet­i­tive event to be tak­ing place this De­cem­ber at Win­ton Mo­tor Race­way. “I was re­ally keen to bring it up here,” he said. “It gets a fair bit of in­ter­est.” Ge­off said the grow­ing pop­u­lar­ity of sci­ence, engi­neer­ing and other re­lated cour­ses in the area, as well as the grow­ing vis­i­bil­ity of school engi­neer­ing and robotics teams, show the com­mu­nity in­ter­est in fos­ter­ing tech tal­ent. “It gives them a per­spec­tive of where they could go with their stud­ies,” he said. Ge­off said more peo­ple should get in­volved in engi­neer­ing and sim­i­lar fields as a ca­reer to help built Aus­tralia’s rep­u­ta­tion for in­no­va­tion. “We’re a very hands-on na­tion, we just need more lead­er­ship and vi­sion,” he said. Ge­off, the vol­un­teer co­or­di­na­tor of the De­cem­ber event, said that vol­un­teers aged over 18 are cur­rently be­ing sought in a num­ber of ca­pac­i­ties to help the De­cem­ber event run smoothly. For­mula SAE Aus­trala­sia will be held at Win­ton Mo­tor Race­way from De­cem­ber 6 to 10. For fur­ther de­tails, in­clud­ing in­for­ma­tion on vol­un­teer­ing, visit www.saea.com.au.

PHOTO: Mel Guy.

◆ SHAR­ING HIS PAS­SION: Ge­off Pear­son, seen here in Wan­garatta man­ning an in­for­ma­tion stand on For­mula SAE in early Septem­ber, en­joys en­cour­ag­ing creativ­ity and engi­neer­ing tal­ent.

◆ WIN­NING SPIRIT: Ge­off Pear­son (at bot­tom left) with his RMIT team­mates dur­ing For­mula Stu­dent com­pe­ti­tion in 2004.

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