On the very first day of the NTU Flagship Programme, we attended a total of five plenary sessions. With professors from all walks of life come to the front and present their expertise to us. All these presentations were unique in their own ways and all have learning points that are worth picking up.
My key learning points from each session....
1. "Importance of Water— Dirty and Clean"
We were very privileged to have Professor Ng Wan Jern from the Water Research Institute to address the water crisis man kind is facing in our modern day society. The first few slides already highlighted the issues that Singapore was facing in the 1950's, which has more relation to us. He addressed that there are four types of microbes present in the murky waters of the Singapore River at that time, namely Cholera, Dysentery, Typhoid fever and Brainerd Diarrhea. These microbes were present possibly through the cross contamination between the water bodies and animal contact. One of the key learning takeaways from this short address is that sanitation of water and the need to treat waste water is essential as our society develops. The fact that 1.1 Billion people has no access to water is very alarming, which reminds us of how fortunate we are to have a constant supply of water. Professor Ng also highlighted that water treatment is an industry on the growth path which meets urgent needs, this provides innovation and entrepreneurial opportunities for students to learn. Which comes to his last piece of advice: " Don't live in isolation, do not just make a difference for ourselves, but make a difference for others as well.
2. "Revolution of Microelectronics Technology"
Professor Yeo Kiat Seng shared his experience and expertise in the area of microelectronics, particularly integrated circuits. There are a total of nine areas of integrated circuits, namely: Bio, Radio, Auto, Info, Nano, Hydro, Audio, Video and Energy (m.c^two). Hence the 9 Os'. The other two O's is that we are to become Heroes of our society through the improvement of people's lives with the use of technology and not become Zero, with no contribution at all. Professor Yeo also pin pointed that Asia is becoming the focal point for electronics, where companies like Foxconn created microelectronics. The improvements of doctor instruments from the Endoscope to the Camera Pill reduced the "suffering" of the patient as the treatments were less "Stiff and painful". Professor Yeo highlighted that electrical engineering is the best overall training course, it has the most rounded training and broadest content. The career prospects of this course is also very diverse and abundant. From Manufacturing to biomedical to telecommunication. His final advice was " Always follow your passion and aspire to be the best you can possibly become"
3. "Innovative breakthroughs in Nano-Science and Nano-Technology"
This talk was conducted by Professor Ma Jan. His presentation covers three broad areas of science, nano-tech, bio-tech and defence-tech. Nanotechnology involves breakthroughs in different materials, such as the Carbon Nano-Tube, which is 10 times the strength of steel yet only a small fraction of the weight. Nanotechnology can be spitted into three dimensions. O-D: Particles 1-D: Wires 2-D: Film. This aspect of science can be applied into the new design/pattern of the army clothing in Singapore. The pixels of the new uniform is equal to the iris which "camouflages" the soldier from far. So the development of new materials is always on the growth path in warfare, medical science, space exploration and other difficult tasks that requires materials which are able to withstand extensive pressure, heat and indentation.
4. "IT for Animation"
This talk conducted by Professor Seah Hock Soon who gave us a glimpse of what Animation is like. He also highlighted the geometrical and calculus applications of mathematics in movie films. Through different calculus input equations, the software is able to edit the direction of light and ambient lighting. He then compared and contrast 3D and 2D animation, where 2D animation is more labour intensive and costly as it requires highly skilled artists and lots of labour. Professor Seah then highlighted Animaker and CACAni, two programs used and developed by NTU for easier animation making. In conclusion, he left us with a phrase " Take the first step, starting something big. Keep it simple and perfect it later.
5. "Disappearing glaciers, rising sea levels, and why gravity is even more important than you think"
This finale talk was conducted by Professor Emma Hill, a geodesist. Her main job is to measure the shape and size of the earth, its gravity field and how these thing change over time. With the advancement in technology, Professor Emma Hill uses space-based techniques to measure these things in greater detail. The key point of this talk is "Sea Level rise will not be the same everywhere". The global average sea-level rise measured by the tide gauges is 1.8mm/yr. Another key point is that Sea-level rise will be the highest furthest from the glaciers, which is the tropical regions like Singapore. The rate of glacier melting is also hard to measure as only a few are measurable from the ground through setting up a GPS receiver or through Altimetry measurements.
The plenary session that leaves the deepest impression on me is "Disappearing glaciers, rising sea levels, and why gravity is even more important than you think"by Professor Emma Hill.Although it was just a short fifteen minute sharing session, the strong statistics and impact of glaciers melting and rising sea levels shook me. The professor highlighted the climate crisis and how global warming will ultimately affect us. She also increased my knowledge with easily understandable diagrams which explained the process of "Self-attraction and loading" from melting glaciers. Furthermore, through the use of mathematics, the speaker was able to clearly explain the movement of rain and water across the earth across the year. Lastly, she sparked interest in me. She gave me the motivation to perhaps pursue an expertise in playing a part to save the environment. Perhaps in the future I may not follow this expertise or course, but I would always put in my best to contribute back to the society and play my part in making the world a better place.
Day Three (Wrap Up)
Actually, I chose Project 10C as the project I am going to be working on for the NTU Flagship programme because I had interest in product design. Of course, after reading the documents of the project details for the past few days, I have thought of many crazy ideas on how we can make the contraption which would propel the car the furthest. My role in the group? Basically I am the contraption "Designer". I sketched out how the product will look like and function. With the restrictions of materials, time and manpower, I simplified the design to what it looks like in the contraption we made.
For the challenges that we as a group faced was the material and tool restriction. We weren't able to build our original "Crazy" and "Complicated" contraption because we had a lack of materials. Such as safety pins, card board, wheels, hooks etc. Though we were a bit troubled at the beginning, we sourced the building for tools and materials. We ended up collecting recycled card board from Seven Eleven. Furthermore, we simplified our design and removed several "Complicated" parts and replaced them. In other cases, like in the hook problem, I bent two nails and attached them to a chop stick section. The "Hook" built was quite effective. Another problem we faced was to effectively detach the hook from the car when the car is pulled to the highest level of the ramp. After consulting Ms Seah, we decided to build a mini-wedge, whereby at the edge, the hook will detach itself from the car. However, the wedge idea didn't turn out to be useful. Thus, using practical trial and error, we realised that the immense pressure and the natural "Curve" made by the pulley string was able to detach the hook from the car.
Through this project, I discovered that design does not only need inspiration, but we must also be able to visualise, pick the right materials, sketch and practically try out the idea. Furthermore, I have learnt that design is not restricted to a single answer like science problems. Design has many solutions and it is up to us, to gain inspiration and visualise an effective idea. Though we were at the beginning restricted to "Copy" and "Paste" the solution made by the NTU Student leaders, our group was special and decided to think of our own solution. Like what people always say, true character comes from where the person takes their own route and not to follow in the foot steps of others.
As an individual, I grew. Not only did I grow in my knowledge, but this programme has opened my eyes to how the actual world is like. Though you may think the best solution is in front of your eyes, there will always be better options. Being a designer, we have to be open-minded to comments and not be boastful or proud of what we have designed in a split second. Furthermore, we should never restrict our selves towards our materials, time or man power but to learn how to think on the spot and make the best out of the worst.
My aspirations. I want to learn more about the whole process of design. For now we only discussed about using the materials given to create a product. I hope that I will, perhaps on my own learn about the last few steps of product design. From searching for market need to recycling the product. Perhaps integrate a few "green" details into the product. I still aspire to be a designer in the future. My main goal as a designer is to identify the problems of today and create solutions for tomorrow.