It's never too late to join Singapore Polytechnic (SP). Indonesia-born Kuriakin had originally intended to join SP after finishing senior high school in Tanjung Pinang, Bintan Island. But his application was rejected then due to his average grades. Looking at his father's visibly upset face, Kuriakin was determined to improve his grades to fulfil his father's wish of seeing him further his education in Singapore.
Kuriakin then sat for the GCE 'O' level examinations as a private candidate and obtained a spectacular aggregate score of six points. Instead of going to a junior college, he chose to study Electronics, Computer and Communication Engineering in SP, his first choice, because it was the course with the closest link to robotics development. Kuriakin has a deep fascination with robots. His interest in robotics was sparked off when his father gave him a toy robot for performing well in primary school.
When Kuriakin learnt that SP has a leading R&D centre for robotics (Advanced Robotics and Intelligent Control Centre - ARICC), he was very determined to get involved. He did a research project for ARICC as his final-year project and clinched the Best ARICC Project and Didactic Enterprise Award. He was also in the team that went to Suzhou, China for RoboCup 2008, billed as the Olympics for the robotics world. To top it all, Kuriakin is now working as a research assistant at ARICC to prepare for the upcoming RoboCup 2009 in Graz, Austria.
With a perfect GPA of 4.0, one would think that all Kuriakin did was study, study and study during his three years in SP. No way! His participation in CCAs easily outshines the rest of his peers. He joined the guitar club with no knowledge of the instrument and ended up as its President. He was also the Student Leader and Advisor of Overseas Community Service Projects in the Philippines for two consecutive years; Chairman of the Mangrove Planting Club and a student leader for the International Student Welfare Unit. He also went on an exchange programme at Japan's Kanazawa Technical College. As a member of the Rotaract Club, he coached primary and secondary school students at the Clementi Student Services Centre. This was in addition to mentoring his peers in SP. In between all of these, he took up part-time work as a waiter, sales assistant and road-show promoter to finance his own education.
"Not that difficult to manage," says Kuriakin. All he needed to do was to jot down every task in an organiser and put a deadline to it. This model student award winner can certainly offer valuable lessons in time management.
Kuriakin has been offered a place to pursue a Masters in Computer Science under the fast-track NTU-Georgia Tech Integrated Programme. But if he can get a scholarship, his dream is to study at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
With Kuriakin's impressive achievements in SP, there's certainly a lot more that he can do in the years ahead. Even the robots can't beat him!