Following his passion paid off for this young engineer


From building a ventilator in record time to working on a new hydrogen battery, research engineer Thomas Steigler MIEAust has done a lot in his first four years in the profession.

Steigler, who is the 2021 Young Professional Engineer of the Year for Engineers Australia’s Newcastle Division, joined electrical engineering firm Ampcontrol in 2018 while completing his honors thesis in gas detection.

Attracted by the wide variety of projects, he has been with the company ever since. His work has included the opportunity to help develop an emergency ventilator in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Working with biomedical technicians at John Hunter Hospital, the Ampcontrol team developed a prototype ventilator in just 18 days. Steigler was responsible for the electrical and mechanical aspects of the project and was the lead engineer in charge of testing to prove the ventilator’s safety and success. This led the Therapeutic Goods Administration to grant it emergency exception approval.

Although the machines haven’t been needed yet, Steigler said it was a hugely satisfying project to work on.

“It was in a completely different area that I had never been exposed to before, and it was very successful,” he said. to create.

“I had the opportunity to work with people I wouldn’t normally work with, the biomedical staff at John Hunter Hospital…and I got hands-on experience designing a product in the medical field. It is something that we are all very proud of.

Emergency ventilators developed by Ampcontrol.

After the ventilator project, Steigler was part of a team that collaborated with Australian start-up LAVO on its “solar sponge” system.

It is the first residential hydrogen energy storage unit of its kind, which aims to pioneer the next generation of green energy storage for home use. Steigler worked on the electrical hardware component of the project.

“Instead of storing your excess solar energy in a lithium battery, [the LAVO system] converts that solar energy and stores it as hydrogen,” he said.

“It can be fed back through the built-in fuel cell when you need it at night, or exported to the grid.”

He believes it’s projects like these that have seen him recognized as Newcastle’s Young Professional Engineer of the Year.

“I was completely surprised when I found out – I looked at the biographies of the other Newcastle Division finalists and they all read so well,” he said. “I am super proud to receive him at this early stage of my career. I think having access to such a variety of projects had a big impact.

Advice to other young engineers

Studying engineering was the logical choice for Steigler, who had a passion for math and science in high school, and whose father is also an engineer.

Thomas Steigler (left) and Taylor Young on Fan Production.

Before graduating from Newcastle University, he was heavily involved in Formula SAE competition, in which students design and build a small racing car.

“It taught me skills in teamwork, communication and project management, which were very useful,” he said. “[Those activities] will definitely give you a leg up on other students who weren’t involved when you entered the industry.

It was also at the university that Steigler became involved with Engineers Australia, participating in industry talks and site visits as a student member, and finding his final year project after meeting Ampcontrol Group Engineering Director Dr Ian Webster at an electrical engineering event.

Today, it is the problem-solving aspect of the profession that excites him, as well as the exposure to a wide range of fields.

“I choose what I think is enjoyable, that’s how my path has progressed,” he said.

” I like to learn. I’m exposed to this wide range of experience in all sorts of different fields, from very specific technical work to project management, and I enjoy developing my skills.

His advice to other young engineers is to follow their passion.

“Choose a path you love,” he said. “You’ll be able to put in the effort if it’s an area you love – that’s where you’ll be most successful,” he said.

Engineers Australia’s national awards, the Pinnacles, will be announced on March 1, 2022.


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