Last week, UNSW Canberra engineering students saved the day once again for the fictional planet of Gondwana, taking part in ‘Project Neutralise’ for the 34th Warman Design and Build Competition. 

UNSW Canberra Associate Professor Warren Smith, national coordinator of the event, said the competition allows engineering students to take a concept from theory to a working product.

“The Warman Design and Build Project models an authentic engineering design experience from requirements analysis through concept generation, detail design, manufacture, test and evaluation culminating in a performance test which is ‘the competition’,” Dr Smith said.

“It challenges students early in their university careers to expand their knowledge base, stretching them beyond prior experience to create a solution to a uniquely posed unsolved problem. The path walked by each student and each team is different, but they grow in their understanding of how to tackle open complex problems in the process.”

Abundant in precious metals, Gondwana has a sophisticated mining and processing facility where a toxic chemical is used to separate these metals from mined ore. Important to this environmentally conscious planet is the neutralisation system, which activates in the event of a chemical emergency.

Should the containment vessels of this toxic chemical fail, an automated system kicks in to distribute neutralising pellets into four silos of varying heights, which will reduce the effects of the deadly substance.

With a number of challenging hypothetical design specifications, including a corrosive operating surface and noxious air demanding that the prototype be unmanned, this system is what second-year engineering students were tasked with constructing and testing as a part of this year's task.

Put on hold in 2020, student engineers have been excited to participate in this test of applied knowledge and creativity which has been running since 1988.

“I think what I’ve enjoyed with Warman is actually getting the hands-on experience with what we’ve learned in engineering, rather than just working on a computer or drawing something up, actually being able to physically manufacture it and see if it actually works, which is the half the fun of the competition,” engineering student MIDN Lachlan Ferry said.

“I think I found surprising just the amount of different ideas that people were able to come up with. Different ways of achieving something so simple. The amount of machines that people have been able to create are just so varied and different which has been really interesting to see.”

The competition itself is a memorable event as classmates in their teams vie for bragging rights and the champion crown, and the chance to represent UNSW Canberra at the international final. 

The national final of the competition is current scheduled for October, with the organisers investigating opportunities for the event to be held virtually.

Interested in studying undergraduate engineering at UNSW Canberra? Check out our study pathways for both defence and non-defence students.

Read more about previous years of the Warman Design and Build Competition: