Student-Led group CREATE gets behind Australian Engineering Week

A Q&A with the President of UNSW Engineering’s student-led group CREATE

Nathan Adler, President of CREATEIn early 2013 Nathan Adler teamed up with a friend also studying engineering to found the student-led group CREATE. Two and a half years later the group is one of Engineering’s largest clubs with about 1,800 members and attracts members from entirely unrelated degrees such as law and medicine.

This week Nathan is part of the movement to help educate Australians about the role of engineering in society. “Australian Engineering Week is important in educating the population about the role of engineering and how it engages with the rest of society,” says Nathan. “It’s an opportunity to learn more about engineering, what it does for the world, and how we can improve the way that engineering is taught and used in Australia.”

UNSW Engineering recently caught up with Nathan to learn more about this maker group, building a life-sized Pac-Man from scratch, and how this student-led group is backing Australian Engineering Week.

How did CREATE come into existence?

A friend of mine, who is also studying Mechatronic engineering, founded the club. He came up with the idea and I thought it was fantastic to get on board and so I was one of a few people who helped. One of the very first things that we did was design workshops to teach people programming and electronic circuits, and from there we started an electronic parts store, a 3D printing service, started running weekly meet-ups and also engaged in high school outreach. Then we started participating in external events as well. Things like the Sydney Mini Maker Fair that started at the Sydney Powerhouse Museum and of course Vivid Sydney.

CREATE's giant Pac-Man on display.

Any activity or event we can come across that brings value to our students, in terms of learning new things or allowing them to collaborate, particularly around the tech and hardware space, is something we’re interested in.

What’s the concept behind CREATE?

The concept behind the club is to promote and develop a community for students who are interested in making things. These students want to find like-minded students at university to work on projects, to expand their knowledge on practical areas regardless of what they are studying - anything from programming, to electronics, to modelling, to building, to design, and developing a network. We wanted to make the collaborative experience as rewarding as possible.

How does CREATE fit with your engineering degree?

I have definitely found that being involved in this student-led group has complemented my degree. I’ve been able to use a lot that I’ve learnt in class on our projects. But more than that, CREATE has also taught me a lot of those practical skills that perhaps aren’t part of a normal university course. For example – making a model that is suitable for 3D printing or learning about sourcing components cheaply. It’s the making and business elements behind engineering that CREATE has taught me a lot about and been useful for our members.

What’s the inspiration behind CREATE’s life-sized Pac-Man? How did you go about building it?

We were approached to come up with an idea for an installation at Vivid because people had heard about us as a maker group. What we’d normally done up until then was more in the engineering space, so this represented a new opportunity for us to showcase our work to a wider audience and also demonstrate how engineering can collaborate with design and art in a really constructive way.

Australian Engineering Week is very important in educating Australians about the role of engineering and how it engages with the rest of society.

Nathan Adler, President of CREATE

We discussed the project among ourselves. What would be a really engaging concept that would combine technology and light? We also wanted it to be interactive. The arcade game theme was introduced as an idea. Pac-Man was chosen as it’s a universally known game that everyone loves and you don’t have to be a gamer to know about it!

There was quite a lot of effort that went into building the giant Pac-Man, but we were amazed at how quickly we pulled it off. We had about six weeks to build the entire project and this was during university time as well! We had a team of approximately 10, all undergraduate students from engineering, design and art, work on this installation for about one or two days a week over the period. That included all the planning, all the prototyping, all the fabrication of the robots, the design of the circuitry, the programming - everything was done entirely from scratch.

We were really happy with the way that it turned out because it was such a successful collaboration across so many sections of engineering and design. Everyone was thrilled with the result. 


It’s Australian Engineering Week from the 3-9 August. How is CREATE involved?

CREATE is presenting at Engineering Week at the Australian Technology Park in Redfern, at the National Innovation Centre. The presentation is on the model of CREATE - what it stands for; how that model can be used to help students engage in engineering; make better links with industry and also promote innovation in a university environment such as at UNSW.

We will also have Pac-Man, our Vivid installation there. The Australian Technology Park is a huge hub for start-up companies. It will be a great networking opportunity because we will have a lot of attendees who are working at the National Innovation Centre.

Why did you want to be involved in Australian Engineering Week? What does it mean for you?

Australian Engineering Week is very important in educating Australians about the role of engineering and how it engages with the rest of society.

From my perspective engineering is absolutely critical to furthering society, particularly in Australia, as we transition from a resources and manufacturing based economy to something that is more services or tech or start-up based. And I think that kind of process has to begin from the grassroots - whether it is education at high school or at universities.


Join CREATE on Facebook to stay up-to-date with the workshops and activities on offer.

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