24 September 2003

Queensland is set to become a major training centre for Australia and south-east Asia to address a critical world-wide shortage of systems engineers.

The University of Queensland (UQ) in Brisbane Australia and the Boeing Company today launched a new training laboratory as part of a multi-pronged strategy to overcome such shortages.

The laboratory complements other Queensland Government initiatives to develop a booming aviation and aerospace hub in the State.

Graduates using the Boeing Systems Engineering Teaching Laboratory at UQ and enrolling for a new UQ masters program in systems engineering are expected to be in hot demand internationally.

Systems engineers build highly complex, computer-based systems such as aircraft, which have computer systems throughout them.

A common example of a complex system is a modern ATM system (which allows people to withdraw money from their home bank accounts even from the other side of the world).

Boeing has provided a five-year $1.55 million grant to UQ to establish a Boeing Professorship in Systems Engineering.

Part of this funding was earmarked to establish the teaching laboratory, which has been equipped with workstations and software tools valued at more than $3 million.

More than 300 postgraduate and undergraduate students a week are expected to use the new laboratory for aviation and aerospace research involving complex systems. It also will be used for research projects involving aviation and aerospace complex systems.

Queensland Premier Peter Beattie and senior Boeing executives including Ross Dessert of the Wedgetail airspace surveillance program today attended the dedication of the facility.

Boeing provided funding in connection with the Wedgetail 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) project with the Commonwealth of Australia. Australia has contracted for four 737 AEW&C systems. Boeing expects to deliver the first two in 2006.

The Wedgetail system requires interdisciplinary expertise, and it is important for Australia`s defence to have the capacity to build or contribute to such systems.

UQ Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Professor Margaret Gardner congratulated Boeing on its foresight, and said the Boeing funding had enabled UQ to establish one of the few systems engineering programs in the country.

"It will help develop further expertise in the aviation and aerospace industry, which employs 4000 people in Queensland," she said.

Patrick Gill, Boeing Vice-President, 737 AEW&C Programs, said Boeing was happy to help further improve the outstanding capabilities of The University of Queensland`s engineering programs.

"The new lab will be key in providing a future source of highly trained system engineers that can help maintain, enhance and modify Wedgetail and other high technology systems within the Australian Defence force," Mr Gill said.

Boeing Professor of Systems Engineering Peter Lindsay said the IT and communications revolution meant systems were integrating together at a very fast pace, highlighting the need for a whole new generation of systems engineers.

"The existing international shortage of systems engineers is likely to double in the next few years," he said.

"Systems engineering is a critical part of modern life. For example, Global Positioning Systems are now added to trains to prevent collisions.

"The recent example in north-eastern U.S. when more than 50 million people lost power because of a simple failure in one part of the electricity grid highlights the importance of systems engineering.

"Protection systems are supposed to isolate such failures. We have the technology which enables massive power generation and transmission, but we still don`t understand the integration systems designed to enable systems to stand alone as a protection mechanism.

"The new lab will enable such systems to be modelled and analysed to understand how to manage such large, complex systems."

The laboratory will be used by the University`s new Masters Program in Systems Engineering which commences next year. The program is one of only a few in the country and has a unique emphasis on computer-based systems. The UQ program is modelled on the Boeing masters program conducted in the U.S. and many of the courses will be offered in flexible delivery mode.

Professor Lindsay said computer software was the glue that enabled systems to become more sophisticated.

"In Brisbane, our air traffic control centre is one of the first in the world to do away with paper strips to keep a record of aircraft flight plans, and it is now wholly electronic. As controllers issue commands they can now be recorded on computer," he said.

"Because of advances in complex systems, all air traffic control for Australia could be done from Brisbane. This system could extend to providing air traffic control services for other countries in the South Pacific."

Media: For further information please contact:
• Dean Webb Boeing AII Project Manager 1 (206) 773-0243 dean.a.webb@boeing.com;
• Ken Morton Boeing Communications Director - Australia 61(2) 9086
3300 ken.morton@boeing.com; or
• Jan King UQ Communications Manager 61 (7) 3365-1120/mobile 0413 601 248 j.king@uq.edu.au