Disruptive energy idea leads to engineering scholarship

19 September 2016

2017 Menzies Engineering Scholar Olsen Garland 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 Garland from the University of Newcastle 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.

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.

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.

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 (one hour out of Newcastle) for 12 months. Once he returned to Newcastle he kept up the important volunteer role.

One gets a sense the Newcastle community will miss Olsen’s all round input once he heads to London.

Tags: Leadership Menzies Scholar Engineering