Interview with 2016 DES graduates, Ms Farzana Saini – DES Gold medallist and Mr Denny Handoko Bahar – DES Silver medallist

What were your main reasons for choosing DES instead of all the many other courses you could have taken?

Farzana:  I actually developed an interest in mathematics and science at a young age as the subjects were engaging and fun. Therefore, I knew that I wanted to study engineering. I was glad that DES was a multi-disciplinary course which allowed me to study both mechanical and electrical engineering. I really enjoyed the fact that DES implemented a studio-based learning environment where I could learn engineering fundamentals through interactive activities and hands on learning. I love the fact that my course offers both Mechanical and Electrical Engineering modules. Not only was I able to appreciate the importance of these two engineering discipline, but I also realised the link between them and learned how to apply them in the creation and design of an innovative engineering product.

Denny:  I wanted to take a science/math related course because I enjoy studying these subjects. Engineering courses seems to provide me the best opportunity to study and apply these subjects in the real world. However, I wasn’t very sure which engineering field I want and hence I choose DES because it covers a broad range of field such as mechanical, electrical, electronics.

How was your transition from secondary school to your first year of studio-based learning?  Did you feel new freedom, anxiety, uncertainty, enthusiasm?

Farzana:  I was anxious as it was new to me and I did not know what to expect. Going from just sitting down and listening to our lecturers, I felt that DES allows me to learn independently through activities and related that to the main topic. I was able to adapt well and started to love the way we were taught.  

Denny:  It was challenging for me to adapt to the studio based learning environment as it requires us to be independent in our learning. After the first semester, I was able to do better in the course due to the supportive lecturers and classmates.

Did you enjoy the class atmosphere – especially having a lab assigned almost exclusively for your class?  What about the other students who chose the same new course as you?

Farzana:  Having an exclusive lab is beneficial as it provide us a place where we could study and do our projects outside of lesson time. It easily became a second home to us as we spent most of our time in the lab. With the mini workshop, we did not have to go to the workshop building to do our fabricating and cutting for our prototypes.

Denny:  Overall I enjoy the atmosphere a lot because we get a space of our own. It is like a VIP room. The small class size and assigned lab allowed me to learn better as the lecturers were able to better explain concepts.

Was the pace of learning good for you?  Was it too fast or slow?  Did you enjoy the freedom to study in your own way or did you wish for more lecturer guidance?

Farzana:  It was fine. I was able to keep up with pace of learning. If I were be lost in one of the lessons, I would re-read the lesson notes again or ask my friends and my lecturers to clarify any doubts.

Denny:  Initially it may seem a little fast but soon I got used to the pace. I enjoyed studying in a dedicated classroom in my own way.

A few students found the course too challenging but you managed to carry on. What kept you going?

Farzana:  I believe that my desire for constant improvement has led me to strive for academic excellence. I am always certain that if I put in the right effort, commitment and, there will always be a reward in return. The burning passion of learning, enjoying my time in class and gaining knowledge about engineering also plays a big role in my performance.

Denny:  I took the challenge positively. If a course is challenging it probably means that there are many things to learn. The lecturers also provide free online resources that allows me to learn engineering concepts anytime and anywhere.

How did you manage, having electronic, design and mechanical study taught together?  Was it good to have the mix or do you think they would have been better if kept separate?

Farzana:  It is best to know the basic concepts first. It is fine to have them in one module, however, it should be taught on alternate days to ensure that students are able to understand the concepts in depth and have time to self-study and catch up after school.

Denny:  I think the key is to be able to adapt quickly and to imagine how these modules can be related with each other. Many times as a student we will not be able to see the connection between the different areas and that make us feel very frustrated because we don’t know the point of learning these. Therefore, the caring lecturers play an important role in nurturing us and guiding us towards understanding how these modules are related and applicable to the real world. The merit of having to learn multi-disciplinary modules allowed me to be more aware of the possible tools/knowledge towards solving a problem in the best possible way.

Many of the modules had more than one lecturer teaching at the same time.  Was this good for you?

Farzana:  Yes, it was helpful to have more than one lecturer teaching as we are able to approach either one for help.

Denny:  Yes, it is good because there are more lecturers we can approach if we encounter challenges. And sometime different lecturers may provide us with different ways to see/solve an issue.

The various project groups in the two DES classes all contributed to a central theme.  Did this motivate you or add more stress?

Farzana:  The project was definitely one of the highlights of my poly life. Through the project modules that I went through, I learnt to work with others and also improve my management and interpersonal skills in addition to my engineering skills. By building prototypes to display my ideas and design, I learnt to integrate the mechanical and electrical engineering principles that were taught.

Denny:  Personally I feel that it is more interesting/motivating if both classes work on similar projects and compete on who can achieve the best result. It spurs us on and we can always learn new skills from each other.

You had a very successful internship with LTA, how did you feel at the start of the internship? Apprehensive? Excited? Well-prepared - or otherwise?  How long did it take for you to feel confident in what you were doing in the company?

Farzana:  I was excited and curious to know the working environment in LTA. Through the internship, I was able to gain valuable knowledge about the Transportation System in Singapore. I was exposed to the various types of testing and trainings that were conducted before the handing over of the train system to the operator and the operations behind it. I was also able to gain insight into how the different testing stages such as Factory Acceptance Test are being carried out. Through this internship, I was able to see that the lessons we have learnt in school being applied in the industry. I learnt that there is a lot of effort and thought being put into the process of constructing the rail system in order to provide an efficient and reliable transportation system. It provided me with an eye-opening learning experience, widen my knowledge about the engineering transportation industry and nurtured my interest and passion in engineering.

Denny:  My internship is with LTA. I feel quite nervous because this is the first time I’m working and also the project I have to do is nothing related with the course (web development). I feel quite comfortable by the 1st month. I was nervous as it is my first time working in a real company. While the project I was working on was not related to my modules, it allowed me to pick up new skills and knowledge in another area. The internship also gave me a feel of the industry and a greater idea of what my future career could be.

Is there any advice you would like to give to our current DES students? 

Farzana:  I would strongly advice my juniors to work hard and not give up even though things get tough. Be honest and give feedback to improve our course.  Treasure the time spent with your peers. Know how to manage your time well and plan early. Learn from the setbacks and be willing to learn.

Denny:  Make full use of every free minute you have to learn something new or something you want learn. It doesn’t have to be related to engineering or DES as long as you are interested in that area. The things that you learn based on your own curiosity is the one that will define you.


From left: Farzana, Loh Yew Chiong(Dir EEE), Denny, and Tan Hua Joo(DES Course Chair)


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