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Defence scholarship recipient Matt Cave: Reflecting on his placement and future at APC

Flinders University engineering student Matthew Cave recently completed his 20-week placement at APC Technology. This was part of his commitment to the South Australian Premier’s Defence Industry Scholarship Program.

The program is designed to support South Australian university students to undertake industry placements as part of their degree with companies in South Australia’s rapidly growing defence industry. Based on his outstanding work, Matt has been offered a permanent position as an undergraduate engineer whilst completing his final year of study.

Matthew reflects on the experience and his future.


Q: What experience | skills were you hoping to develop by coming to APC.

My university degree provides a broad focus on all aspects of mechanical engineering including solid mechanics, mechanics of machines, fluid mechanics and thermodynamics, mechanical design, control systems, manufacturing and mechanics of materials. There is a great deal of theory.

When I secured my placement at APC, I wanted to be able to apply my academic experience to real world situations. My priority has been to gain hands on industrial experience.

On reflection I cannot believe how much I have been exposed to during my placement. I had the opportunity to work on a multitude of projects, all at various stages. One aspect that I had not comprehended would be such a critical part of an engineering role in the workplace is the amount of communication that takes place between an engineer and other internal departments plus directly with clients and suppliers. Success really comes through teamwork and open dialogue.

 

Q: What experiences from your degree have you put into practical use whilst at APC.

Inevitably I have used core engineering principles including physics, material science and mathematics. I have also had the opportunity to apply some of the more practical aspects of my degree such as standards ethics & compliance, project management, risk assessments and computer aided design (CAD).

 

Q: What projects did you predominantly work on during your placement at APC.

I had the opportunity to play a role on the generator project focused around troubleshooting some power issues. I worked with the customer, suppliers and other engineers to formulate a solution. APC recently shipped the final two generators to the RAAF having passed all the compliance testing. It was great to feel like I had played a part.

I was also involved in the process of upgrading the testing capability in order to evaluate electrical components for a defence prime. This required the establishment of a logical shock and vibration test protocol. These tests were conducted in-house on our shock and vibe equipment.

As part of my placement, I also needed to complete a research project. I opted to develop a low-cost method of optical bonding. Optical bonding is the process of adhering anti-reflective glass to a display using liquid optically clear adhesive. This is done to improve resistance to shock and vibration, eliminate the potential for condensation and improve contrast and luminance.

The engineering design process led me to a 3-axis optical bonding machine, which can be made from an existing CNC machine. My project required research and analysis into standards, processes and materials. Product design and CAD modelling were important steps in the project, allowing me to analyse, develop and improve the final design. Testing was also conducted on some sub-components; this ensured those pieces would perform as desired.

 

Q: What was your best experience?

I got to work on board the Navy’s supply class ship- NUSHIP Stalwart in Perth. I joined the APC team who spent a week upgrading the ROC equipment that had been supplied two years earlier. This included installing new APC Technology designed equipment, replacement of faceplates and the replacement of wiring to free up space. The opportunity to work with experienced colleagues, find solutions on the fly and be on the ship was truly a privilege and an experience I will not forget.

 

Q: What are you looking forward now you have a permanent role? 

My position as an undergraduate engineer provides me financial stability but also the opportunity to continue developing my practical skills and broadening my experience.

Additionally, I need to complete my thesis as part of my fourth-year studies. I have no doubt that my chosen topic and the content will be influenced by the hands-on experience I am getting every day at APC and will be an inspiration to my final submission.

During my placement I also had the opportunity to assist the engineering team from Neumann Space with some in-house testing of satellite components. Their work in thruster technology and discussions around the environmental challenges of low earth orbit has reignited my interest in space. I am hoping I will be able to participate in more space-based projects as the sector has huge growth potential particularly in South Australia with the Australian Space Agency located here in Adelaide.

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