Kiwi bioengineer jets off to NASA to study drones for planetary exploration

Finbar Angus
University of Auckland

Finbar Argus is looking at the aerodynamics of aircraft such as drones for planetary exploration, after being awarded a scholarship to the NASA International Internship Programme.

The University of Auckland doctoral student is one of three Kiwis selected for the 16 week programme at the NASA Ames Research Centre in Silicon Valley.

“It has been awesome to see the passion and love everyone has for their research here,” says Argus, who arrived in California early this week.

“Everyone has been extremely friendly and helpful and I cannot wait to dig into research with some great minds.”

Argus is a doctoral candidate in the Auckland Bioengineering Institute at the University of Auckland.

Finbar Argus

His research focuses on using computational methods to improve the efficiency and performance of electric vehicles, supervised by Professor Peter Hunter, Dr Chris Bradley and Dr Soroush Safaei.

He says his aerodynamics research is easily adaptable from ground vehicles to rotorcraft like drones, and he expects his work with NASA will complement his efforts to optimise the performance of electric vehicles back home.

He is also looking forward to work with the New Zealand Space Agency in promoting the space industry in New Zealand and give students and future researchers the opportunity to work with space technology.”

Argus is in the second group of high-performing New Zealand tertiary students and recent graduates to participate in the International Internship Programme, with four Kiwi interns previously completing the programme between June and August.

Among them was University of Auckland PhD student in engineering, Hammond Pearce, who worked with NASA on a new type of neural network for controlling robots.

Interns were selected from a pool of 250 applicants by the New Zealand Space Agency, part of the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, and then secondly by NASA.

The Government-funded New Zealand Space Scholarship covers the costs of the internship, including airfares to the United States, accommodation, living expenses and visa-related fees.

“There are few places in the world where they could get an experience like this,” says economic development minister Phil Twyford.

“The government is committed to building an innovative space industry in New Zealand and the skills, knowledge and connections interns will bring home and share will help us build our space capability and inspire more young people to get involved in the sector.”

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