Hutt at Heart
Jamelia IYM WSP Opus
Jameila using a VR system designed by the Mechatronics team

IYM young women visit WSP Opus

During IYM 2019 (7 – 19 July) chosen, participating students wrote articles on their time with some of the awesome companies they visited. Here is the sixth in their series:

On the 15th of June, 40 young women visited WSP Opus’ research centre in Petone as part of the second, 6-day session of the 2019 IYM programme.

WSP Opus is the New Zealand arm of international design and engineering consultancy, WSP. We felt very privileged to visit their research centre, where we saw a handful of the thousands of jobs they provide, working and researching in the science and technology sector.

WSP Opus Wind Tunnel
Learning about the wind tunnel

One of my favourite parts of the tour was seeing the WSP Opus Wind Tunnel. This blew air at varying speeds and directions around, through, and over miniatures to model wind movement around different clusters of buildings. A great example they had was for research into the effects of wind on a new skyscraper in the Wellington CBD, a miniature of the Wellington CBD was at the end of the long tunnel. I recognised a few other city models around the room too, used for similar research. The wind tunnel has also been used for studying new umbrella designs, snow drifts, and air pollution travel.

Another favourite of mine was the mechatronics station. Here we were shown numerous cool devices including a small machine which measured cracks in buildings incredibly accurately. This was used frequently after the Kaikoura earthquake, when WSP Opus was asked to monitor structures to determine if they were safe or not.

We also learnt about some very interesting research the mechatronics and behavioural research teams had done. They investigated how much space is needed between cyclists and cars on the road. Interestingly, they found the distance between a bike and a car would change depending on the rider of the bike and how safe the rider felt depended on many things. This meant the creation of a passing law was a difficult question to answer. Additionally, the behavioural research team had investigated various intersection designs for a client in Australia who wanted to achieve ease of navigation for a complicated intersection. They trialled two signage options for the planned intersection and, upon finding the best signs, potentially saved their clients $3m.

WSP Opus Research also showcased many other cool things, including the large machines they use for regular testing of steel to make sure it is up to New Zealand standards, and a machine that tests new road seals. We also got to learn about their research and work into the safety and quality of drinking water in New Zealand.

I really enjoyed our visit to WSP Opus Research. Getting to see first-hand the range of work at just one firm was incredible, and even more so once we got talking to each of the engineers and scientists. They were all lovely people, and each of them said no two days are alike; something I want in my future career. I know many of the other girls found the visit to be very valuable, and for me, the visit to WSP Opus Research increased my interest in mechatronics, and I will be considering it as a career choice!

Author: Trinity Whyte, Huntly College, Year 12

2019 marks the third year of the Innovative Young Minds (IYM) programme. IYM is designed to encourage young women to explore science, technology, engineering, mathematics and high-tech manufacturing. The week-long residential programme is open to female Year 11 and Year 12 students, and runs during the July school holidays each year.

This year, for the first time, IYM is running two sessions:

  • 40 young women are in each week long session, increasing the total attending to 80 for 2019
  • the young women attending come from all around NZ this year, instead of being limited to participants from Wellington region only
  • the first session is in the first week  (7 – 12) and the second session is in the second week (14 – 19) of the July school holidays

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