Computer whiz wins top engineering medal
First published 31 October 2012
Building his first computer at age seven and graduating from an IT tertiary course by age 14 may have been an indication that James Cook University’s Michael Peever would excel in a computing and engineering career.
The fourth-year Electrical Engineering student (specialising in Computer Systems Engineering) has won JCU’s 2012 Engineers Australia Charles (CN) Barton Medal.
The medal is awarded to the student who has presented the best fourth-year engineering thesis seminar at JCU’s School of Engineering & Physical Sciences.
Four students compete, one from each discipline of Chemical Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical & Computer Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.
Born and raised in Townsville, Mr Peever attended Townsville Grammar School, where he was a Prefect and School Vice-Captain in his graduating year of 2008.
Mr Peever said he was interested in computing and engineering from a very young age.
“I built my first computer at age seven, and completed my Certificate 1 in IT through TAFE at 13, going on to complete Certificate 2 in IT at age 14,” he said.
“I always knew that engineering was for me, especially Computer Systems Engineering – there was never a doubt in my mind.”
Mr Peever said through his knowledge gained at university, from TAFE and through his obvious love of computers and digital systems, he was employed by apprentice and trainee specialists TORGAS as their IT Manager when he was 19.
“During this time I built their state-wide IT infrastructure from scratch single-handedly while studying my second year of Engineering.”
The Barton Medal was awarded for Mr Peever’s work on “Machine Simulation using EMISA Collision Detection Architecture” in the mining industry.
Mr Peever said the project was designed to improve the efficiency of an iron ore stockyard, the place where ore is stored on a mine site before being sent offsite via rail transport.
“I developed the first mining industry-specific stockyard collision detection algorithm, which I called EMISA,” he said.
“This is a dynamic algorithm which adapts to changing simulation requirements and when used alongside the simulation software package I developed, generates dynamic machine exclusion zones.
“Exclusion zones are areas where machines are not allowed to move, essentially stopping them from colliding. These exclusion zones can be used to enhance pre-existing machine Anti-Collision Systems.”
He said essentially, it was a software package which used his EMISA algorithm to stop machines crashing into each other when used alongside current stockyard anti-collision systems.
“It is aimed to aid mine sites in upgrading their anti-collision systems in order to reduce stockyard machine downtimes,” he said.
Mr Peever said his initial work analysing the problem began over the summer holidays between 2011-2012 when he worked for Rio Tinto’s Iron Ore division in Western Australia's Pilbara region.
“I was working at a remote site called Hope Downs 1. During this time I saw the opportunity to help Rio Tinto improve stockyard efficiency through the upgrading of the current stockyard machine Anti-Collision System.
“It took me from my work in the Pilbara through to just days before the final thesis dissertation was due to finish the practical side of my project. It was a few very nail-biting days I can assure you.”
Mr Peever said he was surprised when his name was announced as the Barton Medal winner.
“Being the last presenter on the night and having to watch such great presenters before me really made me give the best performance I possibly could. But I didn’t expect to win.”
The overall Barton Medal winner received $500 and the three runners up $100 each.
He said he wasn’t sure what he would spend the monetary prize on yet, but joked it “might be time to update my four-year-old engineering wardrobe”.
The medal was presented to Mr Peever at a special ceremony in Townsville last week.
For interviews, contact Michael Peever on 0427 299 901
JCU Media contact: Caroline Kaurila (07) 4781 4586 or 0437 028 175