Never too late to chase success
The teenage years of Ang Boon Kiat were anything but enjoyable. Despite getting into the Normal (Academic) class in Greenview Secondary, he had an uphill struggle with English and failed the subject at the G.C.E. ‘O’ Level examinations. With that, he could not get into any of the polytechnics. Already faced with an uncertain and seemingly bleak future, he still had to live up to the depressing realities of his father who has diabetes and his mother was suffering from breast cancer.
Reluctantly, he joined the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and took a Higher Nitec course in Electronic Engineering. He was averse to joining ITE because of the negative tag that came with studying there. Nevertheless, he did well.
After national service, he worked in a wafer fab plant for about 10 months. He realised that polytechnic graduates who did exactly the same job as him were earning a few hundred dollars more. It dawned upon him that paper qualifications were important. Also, he saw how some of his former ITE classmates proceeded to poly successfully. Furthermore, both his sisters have university degrees and he felt left out. However, he wondered if he could switch back to study mode. After all it was more than two years since he left ITE.
The decision to enrol in Singapore Polytechnic’s (SP) Diploma in Electrical and Electronic Engineering paid off handsomely. He not only managed to get back in study gear but also scored a perfect GPA during his first year. He also managed to pay off his fees using savings from his 10-month job; additional financial help came from a bursary that he secured.
Boon Kiat’s motivation to work hard came from the realisation that he was not getting any younger and this might perhaps be his last chance to study. He stayed back almost every day to study and was grateful that SP actually recorded lessons on video so he could review them if he did not understand a topic. He also found motivation from his classmates who were all former ITE students. Due to their common background, there existed amongst them a strong spirit to help each other to excel.
During his SP days, he donated blood no less than five times. Coming from a family where both parents are stricken with illnesses, he knew very well that there are many people out there who are also ill and giving blood was just a simple way that he could help.
Boon Kiat has been offered direct admission to pursue a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering at the Nanyang Technological University. He aspires to become an electrical engineer in the power or manufacturing sectors.
Tay Eng Soon Gold Medal
Singapore Power Award
SP Makes It Possible For Him
Pavan Singh Gill has struggled with dyslexia since childhood. Imagine his surprise to see it turn into an advantage within his DEEE course.
In secondary school, Pavan was, in his own words, “an average, distracted student who enjoyed playing games most of the time.” It didn’t help either that he needed to re-learn the fundamentals of his English at one point, as dyslexia hampered his ability to read and spell, which compounded into other learning problems that he had to take extra classes to solve.
Upon joining DEEE in SP, he felt tickled by some of the perks of the course. “I realised I could now use spell check for all my assignments,” Pavan recounts, smiling. The reduced emphasis on language in engineering eased a long-time burden on his shoulders.
He was surprised then, when he discovered an additional bonus. “During 3D computer modelling classes, my classmates struggled, but things felt natural to me. Dyslexics tend to think in pictures, so the 3D aspect of the class was to my advantage. This helped me see my dyslexia as a gift for the first time, something that I could be proud of.” he reveals. Pavan believes that the different thinking approach of dyslexics could be an advantage in other areas as well.
Besides this, a new learning environment also helped change his self-image. “My classmates and I have lecturers who are very passionate about their subjects and challenge us to be better. When we solve their questions, we just feel, ‘Hey, looks like we’re pretty smart!’ (laughs).” His desire to learn more was also piqued when he heard about some of SP’s engineering capabilities, such as its equipment for creating solar panels and its multi-million dollar nanotechnology lab.
Today, as a second-year student, Pavan is completely in his element. The studious-looking young man has a perfect Grade Point Average score. He’s also an SP Engineering Scholar and the recipient of the ST Kinetics Award for excellent academic performance.
With more energy freed up from dealing with past problems, Pavan is now pursuing his dream to be a technology business owner. On top of his engineering studies, he takes up the optional Diploma-Plus programme where he learns about business and economics. He’s also involved in business activities through CCAs. In the SP Students’ Union, he’s a Corporate Coordinator liaising with external companies to get sponsorships for SP events. With the SP Student Entrepreneurs club, he coordinates a project to teach a crash course on entrepreneurship to SP students. These activities give him the business experience that he will need for the future. With what spare time he has left, he takes part in overseas trips, such as leadership training camps in Malaysia and a community service trip to Cambodia to teach kids English and help with construction of basic facilities. “I’m no longer so distracted now,” Pavan shares. “I know what I want in life, I have a focus and I feel ready to do what it takes to achieve my goal.”
Pavan with his fellow committee members in the SP Students’ Union.
Pavan visited Angkor Wat temple during an SP overseas community service trip to Cambodia.
Pavan encourages new students not to take it easy even after they’ve gotten their preferred course in SP. Instead, the first year should be a time to establish oneself and build confidence and strong foundations. “Go at full speed for studies once you enter school, because it’s easier for you to do well in the first year. I’m not saying you should ignore having a life, but make sure you know your work so you can pursue CCAs with your mind at ease. If you don’t understand something, there are plenty of solutions. You can ask lecturers, seniors, classmates, or even Google for help. Poly life is full of opportunities and chances for growth. We should be ready to grab them.”
One of Pavan’s projects: an electronic target shooting game device that can detect when lasers hit its target areas.
Pavan’s Peeves, Philosophies, Pastimes
What’s your favourite invention?
The game console. When I was younger and didn’t have a laptop, I had to negotiate with my parents to use the computer for games. But it was a losing battle. Haha. When I got my first console, I could play games whenever I wanted!
If you had the money to create anything, what would you make?
I would use the cash for energy research, for example finding ways to make uranium more stable, because energy consumption will only increase as populations grow.
If you could change one thing about SP, what would it be?
Allow students to create their own timetables! Sometimes my friends have classes with very long breaks in between, or just one module in a day so they only come to school for one hour. More packed schedules means there could be more days off from school.
Do you have a favourite quote?
“If I were to ask my customers what they wanted, they would have said a faster horse.” This quote came from Henry Ford, the man who made cars affordable to average Americans with his revolutionary manufacturing innovations. I love how he thought ahead of the times and understood people’s needs deeply.