Friday, May 23, 2014

A day of sight and sound

Today we visited Macquarie University and then learned about cochlear implants at Cochlear, a hearing technology company. We finished the day with Sydney's Vivid festival of lights.
Today we had our second university visit at Macquarie University. We have realized almost everything in Australia is named Macquarie, from the restaurant across the street to shopping malls.

Macquarie University is much less urban than the University of Sydney. Some students compared the feel of the two universities to the St. Paul campus versus Minneapolis campus at the University of Minnesota.

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After arriving by motor coach in the morning, we were given a presentation by different university professors. The topics ranged from biomedical imaging to hydrogen fuel cells.

After the presentations, we were given a tour of optic labs. The tour was really cool because we got to see very high powered lasers that cut extremely intricate designs into metal and burned paper.

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Then we headed over to Cochlear, a company that makes cochlear implants. These allow people with little or no hearing due to cochlear - or inner ear - damage to hear again.

We heard an inspiring story by a woman named Faye, who over time lost all hearing due to accidents and genetic hearing loss. At 46 years old, she was a recipient of two cochlear implants. She explained to us how these completely changed her life.

As engineers, it was great seeing technology directly improving someone's life in such a significant way. When she talked about the first time she heard a bird's song, it reminded us why we are engineers.

Cochlear also has labs and testing facilities that we had the opportunity to see. One of the training rooms had an exercise where a person sits in a sound-proof room filled with background noise. That person must pick out a sentence and say it back. This is used to help train people who have received cochlear implants. We got to try this exercise. It was actually very difficult and many of us got the phrases wrong.

Sydney's Vivid festival of lights is happening right now, and tonight was the first night. The city is lit up in all different colors. Many of us went to the event in our free time this evening. The light shows were spectacular!

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