Engineering has changed the way we live, learn, work and play. Since Singapore’s early years, engineering has been a key contributor to our development. Into the 21st century, we will face many new challenges, and engineers are in a special position to meet these challenges, whether it is to develop solutions such as NEWater, a high-grade reclaimed water to sustain Singapore’s water needs or the Semakau Landfill project to effectively dispose waste and alleviate land constraints; or the ABC Waters, which promotes sustainable stormwater management.
An education and career in engineering opens up many fascinating challenges and opportunities. Indeed, today the world faces many grand challenges, whether it is about the security and sustainability of energy and food supply, the threat of infectious diseases, cyber-security, climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and so on. Science, technology and innovation will play a central role towards understanding these grand challenges, and in assessing the risks and developing workable solutions.
A career in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics enables our professionals to have the power to create value, to develop solutions, and to create impactful innovations. This is a very important area and our education system must seek to enable our people to seize opportunities and take on challenges. We are committed to an education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) that not only imparts technical knowledge to students, but nurtures in them an inquisitive attitude, a creative disposition and an entrepreneurial mindset.
At the primary and secondary school levels, students can hone their skills in Maths and Science as core subjects in the curriculum to gain a good foundation in STEM. Some of you may be aware that the way Science and Maths is being taught in our schools has changed significantly since many of us in this room were students in a primary or secondary school. There is a lot more focus on inquiry based method which encourages students to ask questions, to investigate and draw conclusions on their own. There is a lot more focus on applying knowledge in creative ways and solving problems. I am happy to say that in the coming years, Science Centre and the schools are working together on this Applied Learning Programme. In the area of STEM, my hope is that we will provide many more opportunities for students, especially in our secondary schools, to have many more opportunities, to play and tinker with things, to make things. That is how I think you develop the feel for the power to create.
Our Institutions of Higher Learning (IHLs) also collaborate with local industry players to ensure what students learn are relevant for their future career needs. The increasing emphasis in universities is on problem solving, design, and innovation. I have visited the faculties in all our universities to look at what they do in this area. I must say that it is something that we can be proud of, something that would equip our students better for their learning and for their future career.
Besides the efforts of our schools and institutions, I am also heartened to hear about IES’ multi-faceted approach in promoting engineering education. For example, it has developed mentorship programmes whereby young engineers can tap on the expertise of veterans to adapt and succeed in the profession; as well as professional development courses for mid-career engineers who aspire to stay current with developments in the field.
Indeed, we have to be innovative in engineering education if we want our future engineers to be innovative. Today, engineering education has to mean more than passing exams and being book smart. We must inspire our students to apply their knowledge creatively and to create solutions which they can see. In this regard, I am very pleased to see IES and Science Centre Singapore working together to champion effort to bring students out of their classrooms and into a fascinating world of engineering at the National Engineers Day and the Singapore Mini Maker Faire, with the support of co-organisers, the Agency for Science, Technology and Research (A*STAR) and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), and the event host National University of Singapore. I understand that this is the first year that these parties have come together to organise a festival celebrating the ingenuity and innovative achievements of engineers, and to enthuse students to take up engineering as a course of study. Looking at the rich line-up of activities, I would have a tough time deciding which activity to attend if I were a student.
Today, I am happy to announce that Singapore Polytechnic is launching a robotics and maker programme in collaboration with the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA). Through this enrichment programme, primary and secondary school students will get to own and “create” robots in a virtual world with the possibility of building them into real physical robots, enabling interactions between the virtual and physical world. This programme complements our other initiatives such as the Code for Fun programme that we are piloting with the primary and secondary schools, as well as the IDA Labs Programme to develop talent as part of Singapore’s Smart Nation initiative.
At this point, I would like to congratulate the individuals and teams who will be receiving engineering awards today. The award winners exemplify how engineering contributes to a better world. By harnessing the power to create, they have embarked on projects that have led to a difference in our lives, both big and small. I would like to highlight a few outstanding examples from the winning teams of the IES Prestigious Engineering Achievement Awards. A*STAR’s Institute of Microelectronics (IME) has come up with something called an energy harvester. The energy harvester converts low frequency vibrations, an abundant energy source in our surroundings, into electricity to power small-scale electronic devices indefinitely. JTC Corporation has innovatively harnessed new technologies in rubbish capping, land fill gas mitigation and implemented creative engineering solutions for ground improvement in the Lorong Halus project, Singapore’s first large-scale project to convert old rubbish filling ground to industrial land. From providing alternative energy sources to creating new land for Singapore, our engineers all play a significant role in laying a better future for Singapore.
It is not just the established engineers who have done well. The young winners of the IES Design Awards have shown that they can also, despite their age, make a difference to the lives of people. I am heartened to hear of the passion of our winners today in channeling their youthful creativity to extend help to those who need it the most; specifically, the elderly and handicapped. One of the winning teams has created an Android application that detects the movement of patients with difficulty balancing themselves during physiotherapy sessions and recommends exercises to benefit these patients. Another team has devised a walking frame that suits stairs and steps of varying heights and widths to maximise stability and safety. There is also another team that has invented an intelligent medication scheduler to ensure the elderly takes their medication in the right dosage and on time. It is indeed encouraging to see how our students are, from a young age, already actively involved in such productive innovation. I hope all our young winners can keep up this passion to innovate and enhance the lives of people in need.
To the winning teams of the IES Prestigious Engineering Achievement Awards, thank you for contributing to the well-being of our people and communities by accomplishing outstanding engineering projects. To the young winners of the IES Design Awards, you should be proud of yourself for using what you have learnt at school to make a difference to the lives of the elderly and handicapped. I hope you can keep up this passion to innovate and improve the lives of people around us.
In closing, I wish all students a fruitful and enjoyable experience over these two days and the organisers a successful event.