Meet the team

Sandra Harrison

Sandra Harrison - Student Opportunities Manager

Sandra is a passionate advocate for education and project-based learning. She is a strategic leader with extensive culture change experience in the private and education sector. As the creator of The ChallENG Program, Sandra is in charge of the overarching operations and growth of the program with the goal of connecting students, academics and industry to work together to solve real-world problems.    

Sandra worked in journalism for 17 years, where she was the Managing Photo Editor of Visuals at the Sydney Morning Herald. She was the mastermind behind Clique, a strategic project that saw the development of an amateur photographers club.

Moving across to the education sector in 2014, Sandra brought her skills in content creation, project management, marketing and events management. At UNSW, Sandra has steered major projects such as Student Projects, the Women In Engineering campaign #MadeByMe, Makerspaces and The Maker Games. 

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Sami Kara

Professor Sami Kara - UNSW Vertically Integrated Projects Program Director

Sami Kara is a Professor at the School of Mechanical and Manufacturing Engineering, and Director of UNSW’s Vertically Integrated Projects (VIP).

Sami is the founder and academic-in-charge of the Sustainable Manufacturing & Life Cycle Engineering Research Group and the Co-Director of the Joint German-Australian Research Group on Sustainable Manufacturing.

Since joining UNSW in 2001, with a long track record in industry, he has been involved in various administration roles in the School and the Faculty, while maintaining a very high standard of teaching and research.   

Sami’s passion and commitment for teaching and supervision has been recognised by the Vice-Chancellor, receiving three awards for his teaching.

Sami is an elected fellow of the Royal Society of New South Wales and the International Academy of Production Engineering (CIRP). 

Stephanie Bagnell

Stephanie Bagnell - Manager, Student Projects and Social Impact Projects

Stephanie’s role within The ChallENG team is to provide strategic guidance and scalability to the portfolio of Student and Social Impact Projects. In this role, she encourages cross-collaboration among the teams through themed hub development and academic mentoring, while providing the opportunity to embed the projects into curriculum coursework or industrial training.  

Stephanie is experienced in strategic project management, with a demonstrated history of working in the higher education industry. She has a strong background in business development, market research and strategy, leadership management, communications and industry engagement. She graduated with a Bachelor of Business Administration focused in marketing from Cape Breton University in Nova Scotia, Canada.  

Stephanie received various awards for her community engagement, academic, and leadership qualities during her time at the Cape Breton University and through National outreach and fundraising organisations such as Cystic Fibrosis Canada.

Stephanie’s experience has taken her to three different continents - North America, Europe and Australia. Embracing different cultures and international engagement through a borderless world is something that she holds a strong passion for!

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Kevin Duquette

Kevin Duquette - Project Officer, Industry Engagement and The Maker Games

Kevin manages the operations for the Australian Financial Review’s award-winning program, The Maker Games. He is also the industry point of contact and liaison for the ChallENG program. 

Kevin’s industry experience ranges from professional and collegiate sports, to the oil and energy sector.

He brings a unique higher education experience as the former Director of Orientation for his alma mater Wilfrid Laurier University (Waterloo, Canada). He also held the position of Regional Director for ‘Shinerama’, Canada's largest post-secondary fundraiser in support of Cystic Fibrosis research. 

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Melinda Wimborne

Melinda Wimborne - Makerspace Network Manager 

Melinda is an experienced maker and designer across many disciplines ranging from artisan to digital. She ran the Architecture Works at The University of Sydney for over five years and taught Design. Before this, she worked on the shop floor as a master cabinet maker for over two decades and has degrees in both Art & Design and Architecture.  

While at The University of Sydney, she overhauled the fabrication workshops to be in line with industry expectations, introducing digital fabricating equipment such as CNCs, 3D printers and laser cutters. 

Melinda originally joined UNSW to establish the Michael Crouch Innovation Centre’s Makerspace and has been building and developing a network of connected workshops and maker spaces across UNSW ever since. 

Her wide-ranging fabrication experience, and passion for making, has seen UNSW Engineering become a national leader in student-facing workshops and project-based learning.

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Lauren Kark

Associate Professor Lauren Kark - Academic Director, Student Projects and Social Impact

Lauren is an Associate Professor in the Graduate School of Biomedical Engineering, and the Academic Director for the Student Projects and Social Impact pillars of the ChallENG program.

Lauren is committed to creating programs that inspire and empower students to make positive social impact. She established the Engineering World Health Summer Institute at UNSW in 2015 and since then, more than 180 students have repaired more than 1,000 pieces of medical equipment in rural and regional hospitals throughout Uganda and Cambodia. She is currently working on a new initiative that will facilitate equitable participation for all. 

Lauren’s work in developing authentic and inspiring educational programs has been recognised by a Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence and an Australian Award for University Teaching. She is also an elected fellow of UNSW’s Scientia Education Academy. 

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Richard Hopkins

Richard Hopkins - Professor of Practice

Richard Hopkins is the former Head of Operations for the 4-time consecutive World Championship-winning Red Bull Formula One Team and is currently a Professor of Practice at UNSW.

Richard joined the world-renowned McLaren team on the Grand Prix circuit as a mechanic and also lead the operational side, where he experienced the taste of winning for the first time.

In 2007, Richard joined the Red Bull Formula One team and under his guidance, dogged will to win and exceptional organisational skills transformed the team into multiple World Champions with 50 Grand Prix victories and now 169 trophies.

Richard is now a Professor of Practice at the University of New South Wales where he looks after UNSW Future Vehicles that house Redback Racing, UNSW Hyperloop and Sunswift the hugely successful solar car team who finish 1st in the 2019 World Solar Challenge and are current Guinness world record holder of the most efficient vehicle to cross Australia.

Richard has a new exciting venture that aims to revolutionise electric vehicle transport by producing the world’s first production non-plug-in solar-powered electric vehicle. Perpetual power. The Holy Grail.

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Nathan

Nathan Zhao - Education Coordinator

Nathan is the Education Coordinator in the UNSW Engineering Student Opportunities team.

Nathan works previously worked in the UNSW external relations events team, assisting to put on prestigious events such as the UTZON series and events with other high profile speakers. Previously, while studying he founded BubbSoc; an interstate entertainment company, which brought fun and joy to thousands of people across Australia.

Nathan is passionate about student experience and wellbeing and thinking about the future of higher education. He believes education is about teaching students to  take action in the world guided by their own values and lived experiences.

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