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Student Success Stories

Azeem Arshad Vasanwala

Making IT Happen


  • Toh Chin Chye Gold Medal
  • IMDA Gold Medal
  • Microsoft Singapore Award
 

As a toddler, young Azeem found joy in punching keys on the keyboard.  His childhood years were spent playing video and interactive games such as Dr Seuss: Green Eggs and Ham, a pastime which developed his confidence in the use of computers and his interest in Information Technology (IT).

Azeem’s interest in IT grew stronger over the years as he picked up programming skills on his own and developed various computer applications.  The School of Science and Technology alumnus had planned to take up Computer Science as a subject under the International Baccalaureate programme.  When his GCE “O” level scores did not meet the programme requirements, he decided to enroll in Singapore Polytechnic (SP)’s Diploma in Information Technology course.  Azeem chose SP as it was Singapore’s first polytechnic and the comprehensive course curriculum and conducive learning environment had attracted him.

In SP, Azeem participated in various hackathons and competitions where he displayed good leadership skills.  In the Microsoft Imagine Cup competition, he led his final-year project team to win the Innovation category by developing Nyx, an artificial intelligence service which could be deployed at events to help answer queries.  Azeem’s leadership qualities also shone through during a study trip to Malang, Indonesia where he guided his peers to combine their knowledge and skills to help a local farmer improve crop yield.

Complementing his leadership qualities, Azeem strived to be an inspiration to his juniors, by mentoring and assisting them with their school work as part of an SP Special Interest Group.  He also organised workshops on basic cloud services for his peers as part of the Microsoft Student Partners in SP.

During his 17-week internship with Accenture, Azeem was exposed to new and exciting technologies and he developed prototypes that could be employed in future Smart Businesses. His experience provided a glimpse of his future career and reaffirmed his belief in creating IT solutions to help people and improve lives.

The recipient of the Integrated Infocomm Scholarship has received offers from the National University of Singapore and the Singapore Management University. Azeem intends to also apply for the National Infocomm Scholarship and to prominent overseas universities including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University.

Benedict Lee Wei Zheng

Curiosity + Passion + Perseverance = Success


  • Lee Kuan Yew Award
  • Cisco Systems Gold Medal
  • OCBC Prize
  • The Institution of Engineers Gold Medal Award
 

While most children at the age of four were playing with toys or watching cartoons on television, precocious Benedict Lee Wei Zheng was already taking apart electrical plugs and rewiring them under the guidance of his father who was an engineer.  Curious about how devices worked, he persisted in taking apart various home appliances and electronic devices despite causing blackouts and small electrical fires.

When Benedict was a Secondary One student in Assumption English School, he successfully built his own computer from scavenged parts which spurred his passion for Computer Engineering.  He started to borrow books on Computers and would ask his father and teachers various questions related to the subject. Despite qualifying for a junior college after his G.C.E. ‘O’ Levels, Benedict applied for Singapore Polytechnic’s Diploma in Computer Engineering course as his first choice due to the polytechnic’s strong tradition and excellence in Engineering.

In SP, Benedict applied his passion for Computer Engineering to his studies.  He and his team collaborated with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) for their final-year project to enhance the colour and clarity of underwater images.  Having no prior knowledge or skills related to the project, Benedict researched and developed creative solutions for the problems he faced.  In recognition of their outstanding work, Benedict’s team received the Polytechnic Student Research Project award.

A recipient of the Defence Science Organisation (DSO) Diploma Scholarship, Benedict completed a six-week internship at the DSO National Laboratories.  During his internship, he had the unique opportunity to be involved in research projects related to computer network systems and cybersecurity.  The experience alerted him to the rising number of cyber threats and shaped his resolve to consider a career in cybersecurity.

Benedict was also active in community service.  As an executive committee member of the SP School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering club, Benedict initiated projects to improve the living conditions of the elderly. In addition, he used his electrical engineering and programming skills to repair discarded laptops for less fortunate students and installed solar panels at home to save on electrical bills and promote environmental friendliness.  For his excellent leadership skills and contribution to community service, Benedict received the SP Model Student Award.  

Benedict is proof that passion and hard work paves the way to success.  He will be pursuing a Degree in Computer Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University after serving his national service.

Chong Han Lyn

Communicating Her True Passion


  • Low Guan Onn Gold Medal
  • Asia Fund Space Gold Medal
 

Enrolling in Singapore Polytechnic’s Diploma in Media and Communication course was never part of Chong Han Lyn’s plan. The Zhonghua Secondary School alumnus initially took up a diploma course in the field of life sciences at another polytechnic. Months into the diploma, she realised that a career in science was not for her. While reviewing the activities she excelled in during secondary school including serving as the President of the English Literary Drama and Debate Society and participating in inter-class debate competitions, it struck her that her strength lay in Communication.

Han Lyn visited Singapore Polytechnic (SP) during the Open House and was impressed by the facilities, as well as the warm lecturers and seniors from the School of Communication, Arts and Social Sciences. Spurred on by the idea of expressing her ideas through different platforms, she chose her current course for its integrated communications approach.

Her time in SP saw her working on several projects, including “Chance”, a short film for the Temasek 20/20 Short Film Project, as well as a one-month social media campaign in partnership with Migrant Workers’ Centre. The campaign video to raise awareness of migrant workers went viral and was picked up by local and online media outlets.

The SP scholar also developed herself holistically, representing SP in the POL-ITE Women’s Squash Games, and receiving the SP Excellence Awards (Sports) for all three years. Making the most of her abilities, Han Lyn served as the publicity head for the SP Outstanding Talent programme during her second year.

Wanting to give back to the nation, Han Lyn signed up for the inaugural intake of the Singapore Armed Forces Volunteer Corps. In her Volunteer Corps role as an InfoMedia staff, Han Lyn supported the Singapore Armed Forces in their public communications efforts. She also provided weekly voluntary tuition to adults and students from low-income households at Filos Community Service Centre.

During her four-month internship at one of the leading media agencies, Starcom, Han Lyn helped develop consumer insights and recommend media strategies to clients. Her abilities were recognised by the company and she was offered a full-time position even before completing her internship. This reinforced her calling to the industry and led to her decision to defer her further studies.  Accepting Starcom’s offer for the role of media executive, Han Lyn hopes to build a successful brand persona for herself. She also aspires to create a well-known platform to share her thoughts and ideas for the greater good.

Don Loi Xu

Having the Heart for Medicine


  • Lee Kuan Yew Award
  • Yakult (Singapore) Gold Medal
  • OCBC Prize
 

As a child, Don Loi had always been interested in Biology.  Growing up, his favourite movies included Jurassic Park and Spiderman as the scientific themes inspired and fascinated him.  After receiving his GCE ‘O’ Level results, the Clementi Town Secondary School alumnus enrolled for the Singapore Polytechnic (SP)’s Diploma in Biotechnology course as he believed that SP was the most renowned and prestigious polytechnic and the course would equip him with the necessary knowledge and skills that could be applied for the greater good.

In SP, Don pursued his passion for knowledge and had the opportunity to genetically engineer e-coli bacteria to detect and degrade phenol, one of the most prominent water pollutants.  The experience sparked his interest in clinical research.

In Don’s final year of study, tragedy struck when his mother passed away from sudden cardiac arrest just a month before he was due to begin his internship at the Agency for Science, Technology And Research (A*STAR).  Despite the devastating loss of the pillar of his life, the A*STAR Science Award recipient resolved to do well for his internship as he wanted to make his late mum proud.

During his seven-month internship at A*STAR, Don collaborated with scientists on experiments and contributed to new ideas and treatments related to stem cell research.  He was also given the opportunity to present at various seminars. Impressed with his aptitude and attitude, the organisation offered Don the prestigious A*STAR MBBS-PhD National Science Scholarship in principle.

In SP, Don and his classmates initiated a community service project called “Kids Read” where they collected donated books and gave them out to primary school children to inculcate the importance of reading.  This meaningful experience inspired Don’s passion for community service and the Model Student Award recipient mentored at Queenstown Primary School every week.

Don is currently applying to The National University of Singapore Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and aspires to become a clinician scientist.  He hopes to discover the early symptoms of cardiovascular diseases to facilitate timely medical treatment.

Tan Hui Tian Esther

Writing her way to success


  • Tan Kay Yong Gold Medal
  • Singapore Press Club Gold Medal
  • The Diploma-Plus Book Prize
 

Esther Tan Hui Tian has been passionate about writing since her days in Jurong Secondary School.  When she learnt of Singapore Polytechnic (SP)’s Diploma in Creative Writing for TV and New Media (DTVM) course, she knew that it was her dream course but family and societal pressures made her choose the junior college route instead.

When her GCE ‘A’ Levels results were released, Esther was dejected as she didn’t do well enough to enrol in a local university to pursue her interest in writing. Undeterred, she retook the GCE ‘A’ Levels as a private candidate but failed to qualify once again.

While deliberating over her options, she attended SP’s Open House and met friendly and assuring lecturers, encouraging her to pursue her dream course.  Upon enrolling into the course, the conducive learning environment and great friends laid to rest her initial worries of being older than her peers and being labelled an ‘A-Levels failure’.

At SP, the budding writer bloomed. Her documentary “Heartware” which explored the topic of the aging population in Singapore was nominated in the Best Documentary, Best Editing and Best Camerawork categories at the National Youth Film Awards and was featured in two international film festivals!

As part of the SP Outstanding Talent Programme, Esther was given the opportunity to develop her personal and leadership skills with an overseas learning trip to Shangri La. The experience with the local villagers and helping them with their daily chores humbled her and helped her realise the essentials of a happy life.

Not forgetting to keep herself healthy, Esther picked up Tennis in SP. Even though she was new to the sport, Esther trained hard and was rewarded with a 2nd place position in her first competition during her first year of study. Several other prizes followed in the next two years.

One of the highlights in this Model Student’s polytechnic journey was her involvement in writing and producing SP’s very own web series, The Leon Theory. As part of her 22-week internship with Big 3 Media, she was entrusted with the role of the 1st Assistant Director – a role that no intern had previously been given – and assisted with the filming of the web series. Esther’s passion and good work ethics impressed her supervisors so much that they offered her a full-time position which she gladly accepted.

With a meaningful and enriching polytechnic education behind her, Esther hopes to accumulate hands-on experience and learn more about the media industry before pursuing further studies.

Liew Zheng Jie

From trouble to model student


  • Lee Kuan Yew Award
  • ExxonMobil Gold Medal
  • Alfred Robert Edis Prize
  • OCBC Prize
  • The Institution of Engineers Gold Medal Award
 

Liew Zheng Jie was far from a model student in primary and early secondary school, where he was frequently truant and caned for his misdeeds. He turned over a new leaf when his English teacher nominated him as a class representative during his upper secondary year. This new responsibility motivated the Unity Secondary School graduate to study harder and helped him to respect and appreciate his teachers and peers. He developed a strong foundation in science, design and technology subjects. Wanting to pursue a course that combined both science and applied theory, Zheng Jie enrolled in Singapore Polytechnic (SP)’s Diploma in Chemical Engineering course as part of the pioneer batch of Polytechnic Foundation Programme students.

During his time in SP, Zheng Jie had the opportunity to embark on a six-week attachment programme in New Zealand, where he understudied a professor at the Chemical Engineering department in the University of Canterbury and assisted the university researchers to increase the yield of chemical products. The meaningful attachment inspired the SP Outstanding Talent to consider a career in research to benefit the environment and the world.

With his new-found enthusiasm, Zheng Jie used his knowledge and research experience to complete several notable projects. As part of their Final Year Project, he and his project mates   leveraged on the relatively new field of bio-absorption to successfully extract heavy metals in water using fruit peels. This innovative solution could potentially be used to treat the polluted waterways in many countries. During his final year internship at Solvay, a multi-specialty chemical company, he spearheaded the firm’s digitalisation project to analyse the company’s data logging and optimise and integrate their chemical processes.

As a Youth Community Leader in SP, Zheng Jie developed his leadership and facilitation skills which he used to serve the community. He spent two weeks in Indonesia where he facilitated and led a team of 22 SP students to lay the foundation for new classrooms at a local village and conducted English workshops for local children. In Singapore, Zheng Jie also recruited and trained volunteers from SP for a reading programme for underprivileged children at Fei Yue Family Services. Through his volunteer work, Zheng Jie developed empathy and a sense of servant leadership.

Zheng Jie has applied to study Chemical Engineering under the Global Merit Scholarship at the National University of Singapore. He aspires to become a researcher in the Chemical industry and dreams of developing new sources of clean energy. The future looks bright for this SP Engineering Scholar and Model Student Award recipient.

Mohamed Najulah

Where There’s A Wheel, There’s A Way


  • Chua Chor Teck Gold Medal
  • IMDA Gold Medal
 

Najulah was born with brittle bone disease.  For him, a trip or fall could be dangerous. Since suffering a bad fall when he was in Primary Five, Najulah has been moving about in a wheelchair for his safety. By the time the Queensway Secondary School alumnus was in Secondary Four, he had already undergone several operations to strengthen his bones or to fix his injuries due to falls.

Despite these challenges, Najulah wanted to contribute to the community as much as an able-bodied person could.  Even though he had no prior knowledge about programming, he was keen to explore how Information Technology (IT) could be used to help others and enrolled into the Singapore Polytechnic (SP)’s Diploma in Business Information Technology course as part of the pioneer cohort of the Polytechnic Foundation Programme.

During his four years in SP, Najulah unlocked his potential in IT. Gaining programming knowledge while pitting his skills against his peers, Najulah took part in IT competitions such as the Data-Driven Innovation Challenge organised by the Info-communications Media Development Authority and the Transport & Youth Hackathon organised by the Land Transport Authority.  Najulah and his classmates developed an application called “Happy Wheel” that leveraged on publicly available data sets to suggest wheelchair-friendly paths to various locations. Their efforts were rewarded with the People's Choice Award at the Transport & Youth Hackathon and commended by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his Facebook post.

Never one to rest his laurels, the Model Student Award recipient leapt at every opportunity to explore how IT could be harnessed to help the community. In recognition of his efforts, Najulah was awarded the Microsoft Youthspark Scholarship which supported promising youths with disabilities in IT-related fields. He was also given the opportunity to represent SP at the WorldSkills Singapore 2016 competition.

In his final year, Najulah interned at A*STAR’s Institute of High Performance Computing, where he collaborated with researchers on a study related to how barrier-free access affected those with special needs. The internship exposed him to research work and helped him develop a deeper confidence in his IT skills.

Najulah will be pursuing a Degree in Information Systems at the Singapore Management University. His aspiration is to be a software developer and to use his skills and knowledge to improve the quality of life for the community.

Muhammad Alfiz Bin Kambali

Just keep swimming


  • Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal
  • Cityneon Events Gold Medal
  • OCBC Prize
 

Muhammad Alfiz Bin Kambali, otherwise known as Fish by his friends, admitted that education was never a priority during his teenage years. The Bedok South Secondary School graduate took part in frequent street fights and was not interested in studies due to bad company.

After his GCE ‘O’ Levels, Alfiz took a two-year break from studies to work before serving national service as a firefighter and working for another year at a friend’s coffee shop.  Harbouring a passion to create things, he subsequently enrolled in the Higher Nitec course in Event Management at ITE College Central, which he graduated from with a perfect GPA.

Despite losing his father to an illness, Alfiz’s determination did not waver and he enrolled in Singapore Polytechnic (SP)’s Diploma in Integrated Events and Project Management course at the age of 25.

In SP, Alfiz invested all his time and effort into his studies with great success. He attributes his achievements to the support he received from his lecturers and peers. He was also given various opportunities to apply his leadership and event management skills to real-life situations. Alfiz played an important role in the SP Open House organising committee, leading his team to raise awareness and manage the logistics of the well-received Career Interest Profiling segment during the Open House. He was also involved in organising other events such as the Rockmasters rock-climbing competition and the Freshman Orientation Programme.

Remembering his challenging past, Alfiz volunteered with the Care Singapore YouthCare Centre, where he helped to counsel and support at-risk youths so that they would not repeat his mistakes.

Alfiz’s unwavering perseverance and go-getter attitude has shown that one is never too old to learn. Even though Alfiz has received offers from local universities including the Nanyang Technological University and the Singapore Management University, he plans to work first before pursuing further studies. Inspired by his lecturers in SP and ITE, Alfiz hopes to follow in their footsteps and make a difference to the lives of students.