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Pilot programme grooms young engineers

04 May 2012

Students Tze How (seated on floor) and Boon Xin are among the 19 NUS High School students participating in the DCC pilot programme. With them are the school's principal Dr Hang (left) and NUS' Prof Tham

Photo: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Ltd
NUS is helping to develop the engineering flair of school students to groom them into future leaders in the discipline.

The University's Faculty of Engineering has collaborated with NUS High School of Math and Science to provide a customised Design-Centric Curriculum (DCC) programme for selected students showing strong engineering aptitude. The pioneer batch of 19 fifth-year students started the pilot programme in January this year.

NUS faculty staff from the Engineering Design and Innovation Centre (EDIC) mentor the young participants to find practical solutions in areas such as healthcare, energy and transportation. Besides nurturing the youths' engineering talent and knowledge, the programme also seeks to inculcate lifelong skills such as adaptability and ability to cope with uncertainty.

Prof Tham Ming Po, EDIC Director, said that the specially tailored programme for NUS High School is a compact version of that at NUS. However, it serves the same objective by taking the school students out of their comfort zone as they explore different aspects of the problems, such that they learn to adapt to changing scenarios.

Dr Hang Kim Hoo, Principal of NUS High School, is greatly impressed by the students' ability to take on challenges. He believes the programme will help them work as a team and think out of the box, as well as appreciate the value of engineering and science in a fast changing world.

The five teams are now interviewing relevant people on their needs to arrive at holistic answers for the problems. Potential projects include designing a window which lets in sunlight but filters out heat, devices for quick charging and the "perfect" backpack.

Lee Tze How's team is building a modular handheld device which can be plugged onto mobile devices such as laptops to increase their energy efficiency. He shared his experience: "I find the concept behind DCC very appealing, especially the emphasis on finding solutions to real needs. What I find most exciting is that I am actually trying to come out with solutions for current problems."

Another group is looking at helping the elderly become more mobile. Team member Tan Boon Xin said the programme made her realise that "being an engineer is closer to what I have always wanted to do, and that is to understand deeper the difficulties patients face when using medical aids and tools, and to find solutions to their problems and needs."

Students interested in pursuing an engineering degree and who meet NUS' entry requirements after finishing their studies will be offered a place in the NUS DCC programme.