Very good afternoon ladies and gentlemen, students, teachers, friends,

Introduction

This is my first time attending the Singapore Amazing Flying Machine Competition (SAFMC) and it has been a novel and educational experience. I had a chance to see a sample of the different categories and it was truly very inspiring to see the many talents that exist amongst the young students who were participating. I never realised that paper aeroplanes can make it to a national competition like this and it is quite embarrassing for me to throw an aeroplane and not being able to do it properly but it shows that I was not a paper aeroplane-playing kid when I was younger. But it does show what it takes for us to inspire the younger minds and I was very happy to see very young people participating and to see the efforts and the outcomes of some of the different entries earlier gives me great hope of the future that we have amongst our young people. I look forward to meeting the teams later on and hearing more about your projects later.

I am indeed very delighted that the participation of the SAFMC is at its all-time high this year, I was told. I see the SAFMC as much more than just a competition to create flying machines. It is a test bed and breeding ground for new ideas. All of you who have been through this experience have ventured into the unknown, put on your creative hats and practised thinking out of the box. Interesting, thinking out of the box. You saw how the two drones were supporting each other, one coming out of the other. I think maybe next year we will probably have to see one coming out from the other coming out of the other, maybe three layers you know. Well, you have to think out of the box. I also hope that you have benefited from this experience, particularly our young participants. As you leave here later today, I hope that you will continue to be curious, persist in innovating, and continue to break new grounds with your next inventions.

Importance of Science and Technology in Singapore

The success of the Singapore story, really, should be familiar to all of us. We are a small country with no natural resources and a small population, but we overcame the odds to become a successful nation and a unique one at that. How did we do this? Indeed in my work at the Foreign Ministry, I travel a lot and I meet a lot of visitors who come to Singapore and they marvel at what they see. And I get this very same question by many of our visitors - How did Singapore do it? What makes us tick? Why is it that we are so successful in many things that we do? Of course, we must always remain humble and say that we are very small. Because we are small, we are able to be tested all the time. So I told them that that the key thing is that we have never stopped reinventing ourselves through our ideas and our boldness to take action to realise these ideas and make a difference. And that is really how we have survived. We have always been tested and we have never been contented, we have never been satisfied. We are always reinventing ourselves. This is an important trait, especially in an increasingly competitive global landscape. We need to stay relevant to what is happening around us. We can only do so if we think bigger, aim higher, and keep innovating. We should never be satisfied with what we have and strive to stay ahead of the curve. One of the ways to do this is really to harness the potential of science and technology, and we know how fast this world of science and technology evolves, especially in the recent years and I think in the many years to come.

Technology-Driven Solutions for Our Defence

So having a small population means we have to leverage science and technology to make the most of what we have to secure our peace and prosperity. In this regard, the Defence Technology Community, or the DTC, is the 'secret-edge' weapon that has been strengthening the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) and our defence for the last half-century, since our independence. The efforts of the defence engineers and scientists have resulted in cutting-edge defence developments that enable the SAF to punch above its weight and stay ahead of future threats.

Of notable mention are the suites of unmanned systems across air, land, and sea that provide 24/7 surveillance and reconnaissance of threats that may harm our people. We procure some of these systems and, with the support of the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA), we adapt them to suit Singapore's unique operating environment. Just last Wednesday was the ceremony to mark the achievement of Full Operational Capability of the Heron-1 Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, which could only be possible with DSTA's support. We can all sleep peacefully, knowing that it watches over us and our families to keep us safe and secure. But I wonder how many Singaporeans are aware that these unmanned aerial vehicles are around us and keeping us safe all the time.

We also design and develop many other systems locally, to overcome the constraints that we face such as limited manpower resources. One example is the Meredith 400, an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle developed by DSO National Laboratories. Meredith, meaning "Protector of the Sea" in Welsh, was built to search for underwater objects in real-time, saving precious time in mine countermeasure operations. It can overcome the strong undercurrents, muddy seabed, and various obstacles that are present in Singapore's busy and shallow waters. Meredith achieves all this while requiring just a fraction of the manpower needed by conventional mine counter-measure vessels. This allows the SAF to do more with shrinking manpower resources, while keeping our servicemen out of harm's way.

Our defence engineers and scientists are constantly pushing boundaries to give the SAF an edge in technology. What they develop may sometimes seem like science fiction, but ask yourselves how far you have come in this competition to build your flying machines, and how much further you could go if you continue to put your mind to it, to push the envelope of progress? I am mentioning to you these advancements in the SAF because we do hope that one day, some, if not most of you, will get yourselves involved in defence science as defence engineers.

Harnessing Science and Technology for Singapore's Future

Singapore, as a technological hub, presents many opportunities for Singaporeans to make a real difference to people's lives, especially in the fields of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In many cases, we are world-leading at bringing nascent technologies to application in many of these areas.

For example, Singapore is the first country in the world to have driverless taxis, and you can see them driving around One North. NTU is also testing driverless mini buses between the campus and the CleanTech Park. We may soon see such driverless taxis and buses deployed island-wide to serve different functions. We also have a growing satellite industry supported by agencies like the Satellite Technology and Research Centre, which was established by the Economic Development Board's Office for Space Technology and Industry, and the National University of Singapore. The centre seeks to nurture and build our capabilities to advance the next generation of research and development for satellites. More importantly, it would develop our local talent base to meet the demands for engineering expertise in satellite development. The amazing machines that I have seen today, that are developed and designed by many of you, reinforce my confidence that there are many innovative young minds in Singapore who will guide such nascent and experimental technologies to reality. So I am very hopeful with what I have seen. I am very hopeful that all of you will continue to develop your skills, develop your talents, and develop your interest and passion in this area.

Closing

So to the participants, you have proven that if you put your mind to it, you can overcome any challenge and make big ideas come to life. Singapore has a bright future as a technological hub, but it needs promising youths like yourselves to get it there. The literary critic William Hazlitt once said, "The more you do, the more you can do". You have already taken commendable first steps and proven that you are willing and able to 'do'. So I urge you to be fearless in the face of challenges, to take the next step, and the next step, and the next step. Soon, you will find that you will be able to achieve anything if you put your mind to it. So I look forward to your innovations that will make Singapore and the world a better home for all of us. Congratulations to each and every one of you. Thank you.

Source: MINISTRY OF DEFENCE (MINDEF)