Developing the next generation of defence science talent

Michael Scott

From creating augmented realities to coding new Bluetooth headsets, these Defence Science Institute interns highlight Victoria’s bright future.

The Defence Science Institute’s (DSI) intern programs and research grants have supported hundreds of undergraduate and postgraduate students, instrumental in supporting the growth of a vibrant and cutting-edge defence workforce.

“Working on projects at such a big scale was challenging and a bit overwhelming, but I’m so grateful that it exposed me to bigger things in the industry which I know will help me in the future no matter where I go,” says Janvi Gupta, an undergraduate software engineering intern at SYPAQ, a Victorian engineering company providing technology services across several industries including defence and aerospace.

Investing in the future of our economy and people, the Victorian Government has been fostering innovative research and development by providing funding to the DSI since its establishment in 2010.

Thanks to this partnership, DSI has secured approximately $140 million in research and development funding for the state, creating a vibrant and cutting-edge defence science community. The DSI’s intern programs have achieved remarkable success in preparing participants with practical experience and skills to hit the ground running. Developing talent is at the core of their undergraduate intern program, in partnership with Australian Industry Group (AI Group), providing STEM students with valuable experience from local companies who form part of the defence supply chain.

Janvi Gupta“I used a schematic chart for a Bluetooth headset which enabled us to know what to code next,” Janvi explains. “The senior software engineer helped me, supporting me with the code and explaining the hardware.”

DSI also partners with APR Intern for postgraduate students, providing financial support to Victorian businesses in the defence sector to deliver effective R&D solutions. Alongside this sits their Research Higher Degree (RHD) grants supporting a collaborative approach between companies, Defence and institutions.

Michael Scott, a recipient of the RHD funding from DSI, has been shortlisted for the Avalon Airshow 2023 Young Innovator Awards for his work on aircraft sustainment. His innovative approach, called Mixed-Reality Non-Destructive Evaluation (MR-NDE) framework, helps to take the hard work out of aircraft maintenance inspections.

“With aviation moving rapidly towards digitalisation and big data, it is now more accessible than ever to change from reactive maintenance to more proactive condition-based practices. Hence the focus of my PhD is in developing predictive maintenance techniques using aircraft data to support aircraft maintainers and fleet manager decision-making,” says Michael.

MR-NDE enables maintainers to visualise damage ‘hotspots’ on the aircraft while also bringing new insight to its health.

“Typically, maintainers do a visual inspection around the aircraft, looking for problems with a torch, mirror or magnifying glass. We can supplement that process using mixed reality and a digital twin of the aircraft, speeding up the process by identifying problems before it grounds an aircraft and helping to reduce costs.”

In partnership with RMIT University, Defence Science and Technology Group (DTSG) and DSI, the project has been developed on a RAAF Pilatus PC-9/A aircraft and is now ready for deployment to end users to trial.

“DSI has been really helpful for networking with actual end users for feedback, as well as enabling researchers to easily connect with industry,” says Michael.

Projects like Michael’s demonstrate the value and impact of innovation in an industry like defence that generates more than $8.4 billion annually for our state’s economy, employing approximately 24,300 people.

The state’s highly skilled talent is unmatched in Australia with 30 per cent of the country’s STEM graduates coming from Victoria.

Universities are vital contributors to industry, providing invaluable research and development capabilities for advanced manufacturing applications. Our universities contribute 40 per cent – around $61 million – of Australia’s annual university defence research and development spend, more than any other state and there are a growing number of partnerships between industry and academia.

In support of local defence companies, DSI works closely with DMTC Limited on their Smart Enough Factory Intern Program. Supported by the Victorian Government, small and medium-sized businesses are assisted in developing digital technologies to spearhead their competitive advantage and use data-driven production to enhance productivity.

Matthew LeeDMTC intern Matthew Lee is studying a Masters of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Melbourne, and has worked on projects for a variety of local business clients through the program.

“Each project was different, and the experience required a wide range of skills from web development to database management to interfacing with industry control systems, so there was something to gain for all types of engineering,” he says.

“The internship gave me the opportunity to be on site, visiting client companies and gave me first-hand experience with industry and its operations.”

“For me personally, what helped me the most was actually the connections I made,” says Matthew. “Through those connections, I have been able to make a step in my dream career of research, and I now work as a research assistant at RMIT, utilising the Micro Nano Research Facility.”

Adding to the pool of talented researchers, the DSI is helping build a stronger and more competitive workforce in Victoria.

You can learn more about the Defence Science Institute in the Victorian Government Pavilion at Avalon Airshow 2023, 3 – 5 March at Avalon Airport, Geelong, and find out how their intern programs and research community can give your enterprise a competitive edge.