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Top engineering student marks long study journey with industry prize

A degree in Engineering Technology and a family after a “fresh start” in NZ


Gurwinder Soundh pictured with partner Melinda Blockley and daughters Evie (left) and Ava.

Gurwinder Soundh has a determination to grow personally and professionally and in the twelve years since he moved to New Zealand for a fresh start, he’s certainly done that.

The Indian-born Ara | Te Pūkenga Bachelor of Engineering Technology (BEngTech) ākonga’s final project won “Industry Choice” at the department’s end-of-year showcase, with his wife and two little girls watching on proudly.

Soundh moved to New Zealand in 2011 for “a fresh start in life” and started his studies at Ara (then CPIT) with a diploma in Computer Aided Design.

“I have a passion for continuous learning, and I wanted grow in my career, so I started my BEngTech in Mechanical Engineering in 2014. Midway I changed my job, and my family grew so I had a break and started back again – this year working part-time and studying full time to finish it.”

Soundh said he had been well-supported by his employer ENI Engineering in Hornby where he’s worked in design for almost seven years. 

His 300-hour final study project involved building a transparent centrifugal pump with internal workings that can be observed in action.  The technology will be used as a teaching tool in the labs at Ara.


“The learning curve was steep as I hadn’t done anything like this before. I’m proud to have designed a pump that will be useful to my client,” he said. “The pump is unique in that centrifugal pumps are generally made with metal, and you can’t see the fluid inside them.  Here, the user can observe any issues or irregularities in the internal workings.”

Supervisor, Department of Engineering and Architectural Studies Senior Academic Ian Chesterman said Soundh had made “steady progress throughout his project with a methodical and well-organised approach, keeping his tutors and client well informed throughout”.

“Gurwinder’s final model is well-designed and constructed and will be a useful addition to our lab equipment, but he also completed some difficult computational fluid dynamics (CFD) to demonstrate that CFD can be used as part of this experiment, further adding to its teaching benefits,” Chesterman said.

The annual Engineering Showcase presents the capstone or key course work of all final year BEngTech students from the civil, mechanical and electrical disciplines. The projects require students to tackle a real-world problem and solve it to the best of their ability. 


Award winners (left to right) Parambir Singh, Krishna Naidu and Tyler Baker

Best Civil Engineering project went to Parambir Singh: Design of a sustainable water reuse infrastructure for a small rural community followed by EPANET simulation.

Best Electrical Engineering project went to Tyler Baker: Automation of a Substation Model.

Best Mechanical Engineering project went to Krishna Naidu for his work on an ongoing project: Kayak Paddle Development.

Soundh said his study experience with the cohort of 30 students had been rewarding and he was quick to acknowledge the support of his supervisor, lab technicians and tight-knit classmates. 

“It’s been a real juggle for me between work, study and family and I’m grateful for the support of our diverse group, especially Jope Finau, Angus McIlraith, David Ewing, Amitaj Randhawa, Atul Reddy, Albie Sharples and James Lobban.”

Lobban received the $2500 Beca Scholarship at the showcase after being named most promising BEngTech learner.  His project was to research, design, build and test a single gimbal control moment gyroscope with parameters that can be changed during testing to optimise torque. The test rig he created will be used by his employer in the product development process.


Beca scholarship winner James Lobban

Ara | Te Pūkenga offers two engineering qualifications: the New Zealand Diploma in Engineering (NZDE) and the Bachelor of Engineering Technology. Both offer civil, electrical and mechanical engineering disciplines.

Both qualifications are internationally accredited; the NZDE to the Dublin Accord and the BEngTech to the Sydney Accord, allowing global movement and full equivalent recognition after graduation.

Engineering - Ara