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Associate Professor Colin Kestell
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Since leaving my engineering management role and entering academia, I have felt both privileged and passionate about my engineering teaching opportunities. One of my all-time career highs was during my 2008 sabbatical when I was a guest of Trinity College Cambridge to study the teaching practices of the Cambridge University Engineering Department. Another high point was the opportunity to share the success of my 2007 honours students when we won the Greenfleet Class of the 2007 World Solar Car Challenge on the 'BioBike'. This same bike was later featured in a top selling novel "Is that thing diesel?" by the renowned author Paul Carter. I enjoy setting my students practical engineering challenges and following their journey as they develop into young professional engineers. In 2009 I organised and chaired the Australasian Association for Engineering Education annual conference, hosted by the University of Adelaide and became President-elect of the society at the end of 2012. In 2011 my colleague Dr. Steven Grainger and I edited the book 'Engineering Education: an Australian Perspective" which can be ordered from http://www.multi-science.co.uk/engineering-education.htm#order. I am now privaleged to hold the position of Associate Dean, Learning & Teaching for the Faculty of Engineering, Maths and Computer Sciences. The engineering education revolution that is sweeping the globe fascinates me. While this is driven by the Now Generation, it has been enabled by engineers and technologists and presents so many innovative opportunities for success if embraced wisely.
Unigate Dairies, Harpenden, U.K. Dairy Hand (June 1979 to Sept. 1979)
After finishing school at sixteen I worked with my father as a dairy assistant while waiting to commence my apprenticeship. This involved cleaning, making tea for the milkmen, loading the milk floats, stock handling and general assistance wherever required. This was a great introduction to the workforce, in what was a very friendly team environment.
British Aerospace Dynamics, Hatfield, U.K. (Sept. 1979 to Oct. 1987)
I began my engineering career with British Aerospace, to whom I remain immensely grateful for the support and encouragement that they gave me. It was they who helped foster my enthusiasm for engineering while providing me with numerous opportunities. My positions included:
1) Trainee Draftsman (Sept. 1979 to July 1981): I was initially employed as a trainee draftsman and became familiar with the many operational areas of a renowned R&D company. I developed skills in fabrication, turning, milling, fitting, electrical wiring and drafting practices. My successful part-time college results enabled me to transfer to the student apprentice scheme where I was able to continue my studies while developing my practical engineering experience.
2) Student Apprentice (Sept. 1981 to July 1985): As a student apprentice I also studied towards my Higher National Diploma and my degree. During the semester breaks I further developed my experience in drafting (including CAD/CAM), prototype design, hands-on manufacture and practical workshop skills. I worked in the infra-red systems department, the guidance systems modelling shop, the stress department and in the ‘Development Support Engineering’ department.
3) Graduate Environmental Engineer (July 1985 to Oct. 1987): Once I graduated and completed my apprenticeship, I had the choice of a number of positions, but chose to work in the Development Support Engineering department. Here I gained experience in the analysis of telemetry missile data and missile function and integrity under simulated harsh vibration and climatic conditions. I became familiar with instrumentation, signal processing and data interpretation. I performed finite element analysis and modal analysis of missile components, designed jigs and fixtures and wrote engineering reports. During this period I married, bought our first property and my wife and I had our first child. While I enjoyed my work here, my professional ambition and a decision to purchase a larger home in a more affordable area, resulted in my move to Marconi in Portsmouth.
Marconi Space Systems, Portsmouth, U.K. Senior Engineer (Oct.1987 to Aug. 1991)
At Marconi I was responsible for the testing and evaluation of satellites and led a small test laboratory team to conduct modal analysis and various harsh environment simulations. These included vibration, shock, climatic and space simulation tests in which I was responsible for the test item instrumentation, signal processing, data analysis and the interpretation of results. While the work was very similar to my previous role, I had a greater level of responsibility for the management of projects within the department. A second child and a high mortgage for a relatively small house, prompted my wife and I to consider emigration. Two opportunities arose: working for Airbus Industries in Toulouse France or Australia. We took the financial risk of visiting Australia and fell in love with Adelaide.
ADI, St. Mary’s, N.S.W. Laboratory Manager (Sept.1991 to Dec.1996)
I was encouraged and assisted by ADI to immigrate to Australia and manage their test and evaluation laboratory, which also simulated harsh environments (vibration, shock, temperature and acoustics) for military systems; automotive components; communication systems; gaming equipment and medical implants. All were tested in strict accordance with military, domestic and international standards. Finite element analysis was used to assist customers with design optimisation and to minimise the recurrence of product failure. I was responsible for the department’s profitability and hence controlled sales, and operational costs and project timescales. I managed job schedules, monthly invoicing and profitability forecasting. I was the NATA signatory and maintained a standard of quality consistent with the requirements of ISO9002, delegated duties to a staff of seven while utilising temporary casual labour as workload dictated. After the birth of our third child I became disillusioned with living in the Western suburbs of Sydney and a desire for something more personally rewarding resulted in our move to Adelaide, the place that I had always wanted to live (but took five years to get there).
ATEA, Port Wakefield, S.A. Contract Engineer (Jan. 1997 to Feb. 1997)
A relocation of the Army Technology and Engineering Agency (ATEA) from Elizabeth to Port Wakefield resulted in many voluntary redundancies and I was successful in applying for the laboratory manager’s position. While casually employed (until he took his redundancy package) I soon learnt how hazardous the position was. A tiring daily commute to Port Wakefield, all-new inexperienced staff, the new facility’s remoteness coupled with the handling and testing of volatile high-explosive products, resulted in my resignation to pursue a long-term desire for further education. At ADI I had recruited a number of graduates and was continually impressed with their modern engineering knowledge. While I had initially hoped to return to academia part time to brush-up on my engineering theory, Dr. Colin Hansen made me an offer I could not refuse: a free education towards a PhD with a scholarship. While I thought that this would provide an excellent career pathway into engineering noise and vibration consultancy, it was instead a pivotal moment for my journey into academia and teaching.
The University of Adelaide (March 1997 to present)
Over the thirteen years that I have been at the University of Adelaide I have held a number of positions. These include:
1) Research Student (Mar. 1997 to Aug. 2000): Under the supervision of Professor Colin Hansen I studied full time towards a Ph.D. in Mechanical Engineering as part of the Active Noise and Vibration Control Group (ANVC), and submitted my thesis within my 3½ year candidature. I took a very strategic approach to achieving this because I depended upon a regular income to support my family. It was an extremely refreshing change and I thoroughly enjoyed the far more personal challenges and achievements. My project involved the study of active noise control (anti-noise) in light aircraft cabins, or more specifically the development of ‘virtual microphones’ that measured the noise at an observer’s ear from a remote location. Through this, I gained experience in the design and practical implementation of active noise control systems, the design and manufacture of loud speaker enclosures, finite element analysis, technical report writing and seminar presentations. During this period I also gained two years of casual teaching experience in Dynamics, Design Graphics and the supervision of laboratory practicals. I also provided consultancy services on behalf of MechTest for a number of third-party noise and vibration projects. This included work for mining companies, local wine makers and the dairy industry. Balancing self-managed research with teaching and consulting responsibilities proved to be an excellent opportunity to practice disciplined personal time management and project planning. I also presented at a number of conferences and wrote a number of in-house technical papers (for the ANVC group). I won the 1999 postgraduate project poster prize, a best conference paper prize in 2000 (co-written with my supervisor) and had extremely positive written feedback for all of my ‘in-house’ seminars.
2) Casual Research Officer and Lecturer (Aug. 2000 to Dec. 2000): After my thesis submission, I was retained by the School of Mechanical Engineering as a casual research officer and lecturer on a full-time basis. My research included the design of an active control system to minimise the noise from the exhaust of a dairy spray drier. This involved many site visits to identify the problem, and the design of a system to actively reduce the noise nuisance for the local residents. I also maintained the department’s web site and worked on a number of small projects for Professor Hansen. The retirement of Dr. Keith Baines provided me with an opportunity to coordinate, lecture and tutor Level-1 Design Graphics. This was an excellent opportunity, because it boded extremely well with my engineering experience. I enjoyed the experience and found the appreciation from my students extremely personally rewarding. Never before in my career had I experienced so many satisfied customers, all keen to tell me how I was appreciated. It felt tremendous and encouraged me to seek full time employment in academia.
3) Lecturer level B (Jan. 2001 to Jan.2004): After successfully applying for my lecturer’s position I continued to teach Design Graphics, but evolved the subject to include three-dimensional feature based parametric solid modelling. Previously, the CAD system that was taught was little more than a glorified electronic drawing board. Introducing Level-1 students to three dimensional modelling, empowered them to appreciate a realistic representation of their design aesthetics and functionality. In addition to producing technical drawings, the software introduced the students to computerised engineering, which they would later use to analyse stresses, strains, vibration and fluid dynamics. I also taught the Level-2 and the Level-3 Design Projects, in which student teams were guided to develop practical solutions for complex engineering challenges. In Level-2, the project was part of the intervarsity ‘Warman Competition’ in which teams designed a device that would tackle a predefined obstacle course. Our winning team then competed with other universities in a national competition. The Level-3 project focused more on the design process. Listening to feedback from Engineers Australia (our accrediting body) I evolved this course to have a much stronger Systems Engineering theme, with students developing team and project management skills, in addition to their understanding of design philosophies and methods. I also coordinated the TAFE facilitated “Workshop Practices” in which students gained machining experience and I was the OH&S chairman, course advisor, first year councillor and a curriculum sub-group chairman. I introduced the University to the Formula SAE competition and annually supervised teams of between 16 to 20 honours students in the challenge to finance, design, build and compete in an open wheeled race car. This event was heralded by the industry, with spokespeople from Mitsubishi, Toyota, Ford and Holden stating that the experience equated to two years of on-the-job training. Extensive media coverage of the event (requiring newspaper, radio and television interviews) attracted many high school leavers into engineering and also helped to establish long-term relationships with local industry. Recognising the value of Problem Based Learning marked a significant turning point in my educational and research interests.
4) Senior Lecturer (level C) Jan. 2004 to Dec. 2010: After promotion to Senior Lecturer and receiving tenure, I continued to supervise students in the Formula SAE project and worked closely with the State Government and local industry to develop a new Automotive Engineering degree that was introduced in 2005. This was initially a huge success, but the local collapse of Mitsubishi and the local automotive industries, soon reduced interest in the course I ensured the cohesive combination of ‘Communication’ and ‘Design Graphics’ into the larger ‘Design Graphics and Communication’ course and redeveloped ‘Level-3 Design’ into ‘Engineering Systems Design and Communication’. I also introduced a new ‘Advanced Computer Aided Design’ course to encourage students to explore a variety of engineering software packages through problem based learning, focusing on self-directed learning rather than training. Another of my students' honours projects, the alternative fuel ‘BioBike’ attracted significant media interest and proved to be an inspirational challenge. The second prototype of this biodiesel motorbike won the 2007 Greenfleet class of the World Solar Challenge and the gruelling seven day event proved to be an excellent experience for my students and I. One of my career highlights was in 2008 when I spent part of my sabbatical studying the teaching practices of Cambridge University thanks to the hospitality of Trinity College. Here I lectured, worked with staff and students and gained an excellent insight into the practices of this unique and prestigious university. Having learnt the concept of ‘continual improvement’ as an engineering manager, I actively respond to student feedback and their qualitative evaluations of my teaching. My SELT scores (a pseudo-quantitative evaluation in which students complete Likehert scale surveys) continue to be the highest in the department (as I am told in my annual performance reviews). I remain extremely passionate about my teaching and the quality of my students’ learning experiences. More recently, I hosted and chaired the 2009 Australasian Association for Engineering Education conference. This was an extremely successful event, with record breaking delegate attendance, extremely positive feedback and a significant financial profit. In recognition of my dedication to teaching quality, and with the full support of my peers, I am now the Associate Head, Learning & Teaching for the School of Mechanical Engineering and I am writing a book on Engineering Education.
5) Associate Professor (level D) Jan 2011 to present: In November 2010 I was advised that my application for promotion in March was successful and that I was to be promoted to Associate Professor, effective from January 2011. In 2012 I became the Associate Dean for Learning & Teaching within the Faculty of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences (ECMS).
2000: Ph.D. Mechanical Engineering. “Active Control of Sound in a Small Single Engine Aircraft Cabin With Virtual Sensors” (The University of Adelaide, Australia).
1985: B.Sc. with Honours in Mech. Eng. (Coventry University, UK.).
1985: Completion of four year indentured apprenticeship (British Aerospace, UK.).
1984: Higher National Diploma, Mech. Eng. with distinction in Dynamics (Coventry University, UK).
1981: Technician Education Council Certificate in Mechanical and Production Engineering with merit in all subjects. (Dehavilland College, Welwyn Garden City, UK.).
1979: 6 G.C.E. “O” Levels in Physics, English, Mathematics, Technical Drawing, Art and Geography (Townsend C of E School, St.Albans, UK).
Awards and Prizes
1999: The School of Mechanical Engineering Post Graduate Poster Prize.
2000: Australian Acoustical Society Best Conference Paper.
2003: Engineers Australia AAEE New Educator Award for Excellence.
2006: Engineers Australia AAEE Excellence in Engineering Educator Award for Curriculum.
2006: Engineers Australia AAEE Best Conference Presentation.
2007: Faculty of Engineering, Computing, Mathematics and Science Award for Excellence in Teaching.
2007: Carrick Citation for Outstanding Contribution to Student Learning (Australian Federal Government Award).
2011: Stephen Cole The Elder Award for Excellence in Teaching (The University of Adelaide).
Note: Please click here to access direct links to most of these publications. Current h-index = 8 (April 2013)
Active Control of Sound in a Small Single Engine Aircraft Cabin with Virtual Sensors. The University of Adelaide. 2000. [link]
Prize Papers and Presentations
Best Conference Paper
Virtual Sensors in Active Noise Control. Kestell, C.D., Hansen, C.H. and Cazzolato, B.S. Proceedings from the Australian acoustical society annual conference 2000, Perth, Australia. November 2000. Best paper at the annual conference (subsequently forwarded for publication in the AAS see below).
Best Conference Presentation
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Lectern. Dr. Colin Kestell. 17th Annual Conference of the Australasian Association for Engineering Education Auckland, New Zealand. December 2006
Engineering Education: an Australian Perspective. Steven Grainger and Colin Kestell (2011). ISBN 978-1-907132-29-2. Multi-Science Publishing UK.
Refereed International Journal Papers
Refereed Conference Papers
2009: Conference Chairman of the 2009 Australasian Association for Engineering Education conference
Expertise for Media Contact
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