Research Topics: The HIT Lab NZ offers a large range of facilities and expertise for your research. You can either propose your own line of research or join a project in our research themes.
Length: Internships usually last between three and six months.
Funding: Both the HIT Lab NZ and the University of Canterbury offer scholarships.
Edouard Cure, human-robot interaction (HRI)
University of Angers, France
This winter, Edouard Cure is completing an internship at the HIT Lab NZ. A student of robotics and computer science, Edouard is creating a program that keeps a robot balanced atop a bowling ball. Edouard built the robot using LEGO Mindstorm, and uses a computer chip that can automatically stabilise the robot on the bowling ball as it moves.
He and his fellow intern, Clément Leparoux, both attend the University of Angers in France. Their university partners with engineering and technology labs like the HIT Lab to offer internships to undergraduates. According to Edouard, he most enjoys the positive atmosphere of the lab. “There is no stress,” he says.
In the future, Edouard would like to join a team of engineers to develop and build computer technology like his robot. For now, he says, he is working on improving his English, with hopes of one day working in the U.S. Edouard’s favorite movie is Iron Man, because he is intrigued with the concept of intelligent armor. It should come as no surprise that the bowling ball for his project is printed with Marvel characters.
In New Zealand, he enjoys traveling, and to future interns he recommends tramping in Abel Tasman National Park or visiting Fiordland National Park, part of a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both parks are within a day’s drive from Christchurch.
Maria Thomas, virtual reality (VR)
University of Dundee, Scotland
Maria Thomas, an undergraduate from the University of Dundee, discovered the HIT Lab NZ while looking for an internship in Christchurch. She had always wanted to visit New Zealand, with its open skies, peaceful landscapes and generous people.
While at the HIT Lab NZ, she worked on her own virtual reality (VR) project, giving her insight into the research process. For her project, Maria wanted to test how the size of a virtual space affects the level of presence people experience. In the field of VR, “presence” refers to the subjective feeling of connection to the virtual world.
Enabled by cutting-edge VR technology and the support of other students at the HIT Lab NZ, she designed and built a virtual environment with rooms of varying sizes. “I had limited experience with programming,” she says. “I was really starting from scratch.”
While Maria was unable to complete the experiment, by the end of her internship, she had confidently entered the world of programming. Maria also experienced the satisfactions and frustrations that are part of the research process. “The satisfaction of having succeeded with a piece of code far surpassed the frustration it took to get there,” she says.
The most important outcome for Maria was her exposure to the research process. “I learned how to do initial research, and how important this stage is in determining [the rest of your research],” she says. Surrounded by people at the Lab who were in various stages of their research gave her insight into the natural highs and lows of the process.
Maria is currently pursuing a degree in Biomedical Science (BSci), with plans to enter the field of computational neuroscience. For her, the internship at the HIT Lab NZ is a bridge to this field, which requires programming knowledge and familiarity with the research process. “I learned how a research lab functions in terms of collaboration between diverse members of the lab. What I particularly liked about the HIT Lab NZ is the range of disciplines that are part of exploring applications of human interaction technology.”
Maria’s internship is self-directed and independently funded. “The HIT Lab NZ is open-minded with regard to interns,” she says. “All it takes is motivation, determination, and a clear goal. If you can demonstrate your interest, your academic background is not as important.”