The degrees of achievement

DONE: Gerard Calver was initially unsure about becoming a mature age university student, but five years down the track, and with an honours degree under his belt, he has no regrets. Picture: Melinda McMillan
DONE: Gerard Calver was initially unsure about becoming a mature age university student, but five years down the track, and with an honours degree under his belt, he has no regrets. Picture: Melinda McMillan

AT 32, Gerard Calver thought he was too old for university.

But the Adamstown Heights father of two, now 37, has just sat for his final exams at the University of Newcastle, where he studied a Bachelor of  Engineering (honours surveying). 

“I always knew I was good at maths and science, but I left school in year 11,” Mr Calver said. 

He had worked as a manual labourer in landscaping, exploration drilling and concreting. 

“I just wasn’t sure what to do with myself,” he said.

His partner suggested he go to university and study engineering, but he had doubts about his capability.  She had other ideas.

“Somehow she convinced me I was capable,” Mr Calver said. 

Mr Calver, who continued to work while he studied, said the degree was tough but he managed to get through it.

It took five years to complete. Last week he sat for his final exams. 

“I haven’t got the results but I’m confident that I passed,” he said. 

This week, his major project went on exhibition at the Newcastle Museum along with works from other final year University of Newcastle students. 

The exhibition titled The Art of Problem Solving showcases the university’s “most exciting engineering and computer innovations”. 

On exhibition are sensor gloves that teach sign language, a heart rate monitor for cows, a virtual reality game to teach literacy, satellite maps that track climate change, and a computer you can control with your mind. 

Mr Calver’s major work saw him solve a surveying problem relating to measuring distances when there are glass obstructions. 

“We use an electromagnetic distance measurer (EDM),” Mr Calver said. “The EDM uses light, in the form of a laser, to measure that distance.

“It sends out a beam of light, it bounces off something and it comes back. 

“Sometimes there are glass obstructions in the way. Glass causes an error and no-one could tell me what that error was.

Mr Calver figured out what that error was and then created a calculation that corrects the error. He hopes his work may have broader applications. 

With the degree complete, Mr Calver intends to become a registered surveyor. 

“I have another five exams to do through the Board of Surveyors, and that’s harder again” he said. 

He plans to sit for one exam a year for the next five years. 

The full exhibition runs until December 16, with some exhibits remaining until February 24.

It is open every day, between 10am and 5pm.