Gerard (Ged) Sturgess

Gerard (Ged) Sturgess

Owner, Kohanga
Bachelor of Engineering Technology in Mechanical Engineering

Most people in their mid-50s have their eye firmly on retirement. For engineering alumnus Gerard (Ged) Sturgess that was the last thing on his mind – he decided to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming an engineer.

“I left school with UE in 1975 with the goal of being an engineer, but life got in the way. However, throughout my career I was always involved in engineering work, building, irrigation, farming and transport. So at the age of 56 I decided that it was finally time to become an engineer.

“Since my UE was so old – prior to computers – I had to go via the Open Polytechnic first to review my maths, and then enrolled in AUT’s Bachelor of Engineering Technology. I graduated from AUT in 2016 and now have a much better understanding of how things work and feel that everything I do has a scientific explanation.”

Helping children with respiratory diseases
A highlight of Ged’s studies was his final-year project, which was based on his experience of living in a cold home and watching his son become severely ill with asthma.

His solution – developing a tent for children's beds to keep them warm and mould free – could make a real difference to the respiratory health of many kids.

“In my third year, I discussed with Associate Professor David White from the AUT BioDesign Lab the possibility of using the real-life thermodynamics case of a sleeping canopy I built for my son a few years earlier. David is an expert on respiration and was a great help, as was having access to the facilities and equipment at the AUT BioDesign Lab.

“The project on the sleeping enclosure led to a simple design, which will hopefully become a first-line treatment for children with respiratory diseases. I’ve since gone on to start my own company, Kohanga, and we are planning to run a small trial with both infants and under 10s next year, COVID-19 permitting.”

Inspiring discussions
Ged says he was impressed by the expertise of AUT’s engineering staff.

“The academic staff all had substantial hands-on experience in engineering businesses both in New Zealand and abroad. They all had great tales to tell and could talk about relevant examples from their direct experiences. I appreciated their real knowledge of the topics.”

One subject in particular stood out to him, Ged says.

“In my third year, my favourite subject was thermodynamics. It seemed to be at the core of everything that interests me, although it was also the most difficult subject. Thermodynamics fitted perfectly with my final-year project. It led to many hours of confusing maths problems, but it was very enjoyable to be able to discuss results and problems with Associate Professor David White and Associate Professor Tim Anderson from AUT’s School of Engineering, Computer and Mathematical Sciences.”

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