Where does an ANU researcher go when they need to get a meteorite cut?
Or a specific part tailor-made for their solar car?
Or specialised equipment to drill coral cores?
These are all requests which the workshop has fulfilled, contributing their expertise in mechanical engineering to ground-breaking research and development at ANU.
The workshop manufactures, maintains and modifies components for scientific instrumentation and experimentation; supplies parts and materials; and consults on design.
Today I am greeted at the workshop by apprentice Brooke Roy, who shows me around.The room is filled with unrecogniseable machines in all shapes and sizes, some that look like they date back to the 50s. Metal is grinding, whirring and hammering, and a tank in the corner is bubbling with water. Despite this, the room has a relaxed vibe. It’s kind of like being at a mechanics shop, except the staff are actually making the parts.
Despite the novelty of working on objects like meteorites, Brooke says she feels right at the home in the workshop.
“I grew up making things and building things with my Dad. We would pull apart bikes and make new ones together. So I always knew I wanted to do something with my hands, and I knew for sure that I never wanted to work at a desk!”
She shows me some of her personal creations she has made since working at ANU: beautifully crafted hammers, clamps, welded boxes. We talk about what it’s like being a part of the workshop.
“The people here are great. I work with someone different every day to get a range of expertise. One day Carl might show me something, and then the following day Andrew might go over it again. So I can see how things are done differently to get the same result.”
Working together, the team produces parts which end up all over the world.
The equipment for drilling coral cores was built for Professor Nerilie Abram, a coordinating lead author of the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report. Professor Abram used the tool to inspect growth fluctuations caused by climate change.
And the parts for the solar car will now travel with it from Darwin to Adelaide for the Invictus Solar Car Challenge.
“Engineering students came to us with the drawings of what they wanted, and then we worked with them to turn it into a reality,” Brooke explains.
Reflecting on Brooke’s childhood building things with her Dad, I ask her if she chats to him about her work at ANU. She responds with a smile on her face:
“I come home and say ‘I cut a meteorite today, what’d you do?!”
Brooke Roy is the university's first Indigenous apprentice through the ANU Indigenous Apprentice Program.
Find out more about the program and The Research School of Earth Sciences Engineering Workshop.