Coding for the climate

Computer Science internship students Chu Tang and Yuan Chen
Monday 2 March 2020

The Australian National University (ANU) students have proven that computer science will play a major role in achieving renewable energy targets.

Master of Computing students Chu Tang and Yuan Chen recently undertook an internship at Canberra-based energy technology start-up Rexergy.

Rexergy is working to optimise the world’s energy system, by removing the structural barriers to achieving 100% renewable energy. The start-up creates mechanisms for small business and households that incentivise the flexible and efficient use of energy.

During their time there, the interns each worked on components for a product that evaluates a customer’s energy usage and calculates how much money you could save by automating control of energy-hungry appliances, like air-conditioners.

Founder of Rexergy, Ben Wilkinson, said the ANU student interns contributed to the business in a meaningful way.

“We have had some really talented students work with us, and on projects that are larger in scope than what they might otherwise be exposed to in university coursework,” he said.

“These students managed the challenge really well, and were able to create some valuable products for our company, that we are going to continue to build on in the future”.

Yuan Chen’s project focused on analysing household energy consumption data. She aimed to better understand the behaviour of humans, then build models to simulate energy usage of major electrical devices.

Yuan said the internship helped improve her confidence and communication skills.

“I feel more confident working in an English-speaking workplace. As an international student, I was nervous at the beginning of the project. However, with the help from my mentors, tutor, and supervisor, I am much more confident now in finding a job in Australia after graduation,” she said.

Yuan found the work both challenging and rewarding.

“My favourite part of the internship was the opportunity to work on an interesting problem with a friendly team in a fast-paced start-up company. I have learned a lot through researching, planning, and problem solving. It is hard, but it is also a fun experience.”

Fellow student Chu Tang’s project was to find an optimal control signal path. She analysed the price signal, transferred this information to a graph, and built a smart model to find the outcome.

Chu enjoyed using her skills to create a product that is commercially viable and gained confidence from the placement.

“This experience gave me a chance to complete a real project in the real-life industry. I faced some challenges, and figured out how to solve them. I felt more confident compared with the beginning. It helped me improve my teamwork skills, communication, and cooperation,”

As an employer, Ben believes work experience opportunities like this prove valuable for students when applying for jobs after university. 

“When I interview potential employees, it is very easy to tell those who have completed internships, and those who have not. It’s all the non-academic things that are critical to actually working in teams on a real world project.

“For employers, it’s a very useful experience to ask about to evaluate a candidate. It acts as the first piece of work that the student can discuss in detail, and has all the challenges of a real job.  I’m able to ask more in-depth questions about their project. It takes a lot of the risk out of the hiring proposition,” he said.

 

Find out more about the Computer Science Internship Program.

Updated:  1 June 2019/Responsible Officer:  Dean, CECS/Page Contact:  CECS Marketing