Additive Manufacturing Production Lead, Zenith Tecnica
Master of Engineering with Honours (First Class)
Bachelor of Engineering Technology in Mechanical Engineering
After growing up on Great Barrier Island, one of the most isolated parts of New Zealand, Kurt Schmidt was always destined for a career in engineering.
“My family was poor, and an understanding of engineering and innovation was necessary for our survival. We didn’t have hot water until my father, brothers and I figured out how to build a solar hot water heater. There was no electricity, so we had no power until we figured out how to connect solar panels to car batteries. And knowing how to fix our outboard motors was the only way to keep fishing and bringing food to the table.
“When I was deciding what university degree to pursue, engineering seemed like a natural choice. Because of the remoteness of Great Barrier Island, I had completed secondary school via distance learning through Te Aho o Te Kura Pounamu – The Correspondence School, and I’m glad that AUT saw potential in me and offered me a place in its engineering programme.”
Making the most of university life
He has had plenty of highlights during his time at university, says Kurt who completed a Bachelor of Engineering Technology in 2012 and returned to AUT in 2018 after several years in the industry to study a Master of Engineering.
“In the engineering programmes you work so closely with others that you develop really strong bonds. I have great friends I still see from my undergraduate degree, and I see my friends from my master’s degree every week. I also appreciated the support of Professor Zhan Chen who inspired me to do my master’s degree and helped me get my current job. He pushed me, inspired me and always kept me on the right track.”
Despite excelling in his studies and achieving outstanding grades in both his Bachelor of Engineering Technology and Master of Engineering, Kurt still found the time to make the most of university life.
“During my master’s degree I also became the vice-president of AUT’s student association, AUTSA. In this role I helped organise parties and events for students, met lots of people and got involved in the student culture. This role was definitely a highlight of my time at AUT. Other standout moments for me were being a model in AUT’s Rookie fashion show and winning the Idea stage of the AUT X Challenge entrepreneurship competition in 2018.”
Kurt’s hard work and passion for engineering was recognised with a Sir Apirana Ngata Memorial Scholarship for Academic Excellence and an AUT Foundation Scholarship, as well as a Te Ara Auaha – Faculty of Design and Creative Technologies Dean’s Award for Excellence in Postgraduate Study.
Helping ideas become reality
Now working for Zenith Tecnica, a specialist in titanium 3D printing, Kurt uses his engineering skills to turn ideas into real aerospace and medical parts within a matter of days.
“I get to work on parts that get launched into space, medical parts that enter people’s bodies, and components for ultra-cars and America’s Cup yachts. Zenith is a fast-paced and rewarding environment, and with five metal 3D printing machines, almost any design can go from an idea to a real piece of metal in a matter of days.
“My responsibilities include designing titanium components from conception to production, improving data collection, and process and quality control, and operating and maintaining five GE Arcam Powder Bed Fusion Additive Manufacturing machines. I’m involved in every part of the manufacturing process, and it’s my responsibility to make sure that every order we have is carried out correctly, procedures are followed and deadlines are met.”
He constantly draws on the engineering skills he developed throughout his studies at AUT, Kurt says.
“AUT is a very practical university where you develop strong skills in multiple software, as well as analytical thinking and problem-solving skills. I use the skills I learned at AUT in my role every single day.”