The University of Newcastle, Australia

Electrical engineering alumnus awarded prestigious scholarship

Monday, 19 September 2016

Olsen Garland has been awarded the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Scholarship for Engineering in 2017: a scholarship won by the best and brightest Australian engineers who seek to undertake postgraduate studies overseas in 2017.

The 2017 Menzies Scholar in Engineering is set to help bring cheaper, more efficient, zero-emission electricity to markets at home and abroad by combining business nous with his electrical engineering skills.

Olsen, a University of Newcastle Electrical Engineering alumnus, will study a Master of Business Administration at the London Business School starting in 2017, with the long-term aim of starting a company which can compete with the big electricity suppliers.

Olsen is the first Menzies Scholar in Engineering from the University of Newcastle, having already won the University Medal and several other prestigious academic awards as he completed an electrical engineering degree with first class honours.

Olsen said he was still pinching himself after learning of his success in being awarded the Sir Robert Menzies Memorial Scholarship in Engineering; “I would not be going to do the MBA without this help. It’s a dream come true.

“For me this is about developing all-round knowledge, not just having the technical engineering skills but the business, finance, management and marketing skills to be able to implement ideas”.

Olsen based his application for the Menzies scholarship on the idea that in future our large monopoly energy network providers will be replaced with micro-grids, providing consumers with cheaper, more efficient, zero-emission power.

He said while the technology for such a disruptive approach exists now, there is a need to change people’s mindsets, improve the speed from idea development to practical application on the network and navigate the regulatory environment.

The London Business School’s location will allow Olsen to visit the latest micro-grid projects happening in Europe, to bring back knowledge to Australia on completion of his overseas study. Upon returning to Australia, Olsen intends of working with entrepreneurial companies and the Australian Energy Regulator to create zero-emission networks that supply an abundance of energy and help Australia develop as a world-leader in the field.

Not only does Olsen want to help Australia become a world leader in this field, he also wants to expand his ideas into developing nations and will start with communities in South America as part of a trip next year.

Olsen would like to expand this knowledge into developing nations to ensure that all people have access to electricity.

However, before he undertakes his study, Olsen and his partner plan on undertaking some travelling beforehand.
“We’re leaving on the fourth of January, travelling around South America doing a bit of volunteer work. I’ve been learning a bit of Spanish – it’s been something we’ve been planning for some time. It’s something that’s all fallen into place.

Despite his tender years, Olsen has also been playing both a leadership and mentoring role with Engineers Australia in Newcastle. He is the youngest elected Chair of the Electrical Branch of Engineers Australia and has been participating in their EngMentor scheme. “It’s about developing the next lot of engineers and I want them to be excited and enjoy what they are learning.”

He’s also been putting technology to good use in developing a webinar series for his division of Engineers Australia, taking technical presentations to a wider audience nationally and in some cases internationally.

One of Olsen’s favourite volunteer roles is as a judge at the national Science and Engineering Challenge and Tournament of the Minds – two schemes designed to introduce primary and high school students to engineering in a fun, enthusiastic and exciting environment.

Not one to sit still, Olsen also has a number of volunteering and sporting achievements, which are worthy of note in their own right.

As a cyclist and member of the Hunter Academy of Sport and NSW Institute of Sport, Olsen won five road cycling medals for NSW as a junior athlete.

He also volunteers for the SES, which he joined as a way to get more involved in community life when he lived in Muswellbrook for 12 months. Once he returned to Newcastle he kept up the important volunteer role.

The Menzies Foundation inspires and nurtures Australia’s future leaders by providing prestigious postgraduate scholarships in law, international law, medicine, engineering and allied health.

For more information on the scholarships, visit their website.

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