SCU Graduate David Stuckey invented an autonomous lawnmower that moves in a precise way between rows of macadamia trees.
SCU Graduate David Stuckey invented an autonomous lawnmower that moves in a precise way between rows of macadamia trees.

Lawnmower invention pays off for SCU engineering grad

GRADUATION has rolled around at Southern Cross University for another year, with many people celebrating their successes.

While the class of 2019 have accomplished plenty during their years of study, three graduates have extra reason to cheer.

Mitch Lavelle and David Stuckey are the first two mechanical engineers to graduate from SCU, with both already finding success in their chosen field.

During his studies, Mr Stuckey's invented an autonomous lawnmower that moves in a precise way between rows of macadamia trees. He also created software for a de-husking machine.

"In the Northern Rivers alone there are at least 100 farms to which my technology could be applied," Mr Stuckey said.

 

SCU Graduate David Stuckey invented an autonomous lawnmower that moves in a precise way between rows of macadamia trees.
SCU Graduate David Stuckey invented an autonomous lawnmower that moves in a precise way between rows of macadamia trees.

 

"My thesis was the autonomous mower - and was all about accurately navigating between the rows of macadamia trees using cameras to measure exact distances because GPS systems don't work under protective canopies."

He is now working for the start-up Auto Orchards, which has applied for a grant from the Department of Primary Industries to further develop the technology ahead of scaling for mass production.

Meanwhile, Mr Lavelle's interest in mechanical systems from a young age led him into the degree and now he's looking to the skies for his career.

"The whole course has been a constant highlight. The lecturers have been really flexible in helping us along and I particularly liked the honours projects," he said.

 

Mitch Lavelle is one of the first Southern Cross University graduates to complete a mechanical engineering degree.
Mitch Lavelle is one of the first Southern Cross University graduates to complete a mechanical engineering degree.

 

"The aerospace sector in Australia looks like it's going to boom in the next few years with the Australian Space Agency and talk of plans involving Mars and the moon so it's an exciting time in the mechanical realm."

Another student celebrating her hard work is Narissa Phelps, who completed her Masters of Arts in Social Sciences, majoring in early Australian colonial history, after studying 62 convict women including her fourth-time great grandmother Kezia Brown.

Ms Phelps, whose own father was SCU's second chancellor, said she was proud to share her degree with her family in more ways than one.

"So, there are three dimensions associated with my graduation - the passion of my own personal research, to do the degree at Southern Cross - such a big part of my family's history - and being able to wear Dad's gown," Ms Phelps said.

"My father first wore this gown when I was only three years old - so to be wrapping myself up in it on my own Graduation Day is going to be very special indeed.

"I know he'd be very happy and very proud."