Recognising an outstanding engineer who shows innovation and resourcefulness in his work, the Professional Engineer of the Year award was presented to Daniel Prohasky, an architectural engineer who co-founded low-carbon construction materials company Curvecrete.
Prohaskey, who also lectures at Swinburne University, was praised by the judges for the innovative thinking he applies to solve community issues and challenge norms, and for introducing a new stream of engineering study.
“His innovations include optimisation of material use through elegant engineering solutions and resourceful applications of low-carbon, high-strength properties,” the judges said. 
“It’s exciting to see this diversity of thinking within the engineering sector, and innovative ideas, come to life. The judges look forward to Daniel’s ongoing contribution to and promotion of the engineering profession.”
Curvecrete manufactures double-curved concrete for non-structural building elements, reducing the demand for precast concrete.
Prohasky also helped create a prototype breast pump cushion for the startup Milkdrop, which helps reduce discomfort for people expressing breast milk. 
“He’s been able to take his innovative thinking … and contribute to sustainable, inclusive and ethical practices with local manufacturing opportunities,” the judges said.
“The breadth of his industry involvement from education to manufacturing, from Curvecrete to Milkdrop, has meant he’s been able to contribute to people and communities across many different facets.”
The Victorian award for Project of the Year was won by a Monash University team responsible for developing an apple harvesting robot that can identify and pick ripe fruit before depositing it in a collection box.
The Monash Apple Retrieving System — or MARS — reduces reliance on manual labour, helping the agricultural industry deal with labour shortages. 
“The robot improves on its predecessors with its ‘soft gripper’ technology and its ability vision system which enables precise identification and selection of ripe fruit,” the judges noted. 
“It has already attracted significant international attention within the fruit growing industry and has the potential to provide a significant technological step change to the orchard industry, including potential expansion to other fruit types.”
The awards also recognised Adam Jones, founder of structural design software company CLT Toolbox, as Victoria’s Emerging Professional Engineer of the Year. Jones’ company seeks to make it easier for engineers to design with sustainable building materials such as timber rather than steel or concrete.
“Adam’s passion is infectious,” the judges said. “He’s an inspiring leader who is advancing society through great engineering driven by a desire to reduce the industry’s greenhouse gas emissions. 
“He’s developed relationships with stakeholders throughout the lifecycle of projects and engages with them to better understand and influence what’s within their sphere of control.” 
The event also saw Arup principal Dr Joseph Correnza honoured with the John Connell Gold Medal for 2023, which is presented each year to someone who has made a significant national and international contribution to the structural engineering profession. 
Correnza’s work has contributed to building liveable urban environments for 30 years, with celebrated projects in the UK and Singapore as well as Australia. 
“I’ve been privileged to have worked with many great engineers, architects and designers, and am grateful for the brilliant teams and mentors who have supported and inspired me to cultivate integrated design outcomes,” he said
“I will continue to help develop new thinking and approaches to deliver better sustainability outcomes across the industry which are underpinned by great design.” 
The winning projects and engineers will now compete as finalists in the national Excellence Awards, which are to be announced in Melbourne on 29 November. Register for the Gala event here.
Jonathan Bradley is a staff writer whose work has appeared in The Sydney Morning Herald, The Age, ABC News, SBS and Billboard. As well as engineering, he likes to write about politics, pop music, culture and cartoons.
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