RobotX 2014

RobotX has finally come to an end. It has been an amazing 7 days out here with all the really awesome teams from all 5 countries. I’ve learnt so much and am really heartened by the friendships, co-operations and impressive work done on this inaugural event.

Firstly, Thank you AUVSI Foundation and 5:00 Film for giving me this opportunity to host, it has been a very interesting experience (and I finally get to have some YouTube videos yayyy). To my dear co-hosts Amy Elliott Chrissy Dailey Zoz Brooks and Producer Beth Anthony, thank you for teaching me so much. To Angie Sherman Westley, thanks for always helping me look presentable and audible in front of camera 🙂 To all others whom have helped me, thank you so much :))))

Final runs today didn’t go as well as expected, but I hope teams take it in their stride and don’t lose sight of the underlying lessons behind these competitions; it provide a hands-on opportunity for students to learn and grow, realize the importance of systems reliability, keeping calm under pressure, and the spirit of always striving forward even when the unexpected happens.

BumblebeeAUV has experienced setbacks like these aplenty in the past 3 years, and I learnt that what’s important is not just winning but to learn from our mistakes and from others, keep moving on and never stop trying.

Lastly, Congratulations to Cheah Kok Keong and team for pulling off this massive event.

From Robosub to RobotX, I’m glad to be part of this amazing community of robotics enthusiasts whose passion for engineering education is evident in their work and care amongst one another 🙂 I hope to be able to pay it forward in my future work and career.

Till next time!

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#3 – CAP and Becoming an Engineer

The first of my sharing of the survey statistics! For those who do not know, these results are from a survey I have conducted in NUS as part of my Final Year Project.

I am still trying to increase the numbers (finalised numbers to be collected tomorrow). So you can still here! Please help me by getting all your friends to complete the survey here: grace.questionpro.com

Here are the results for now 😀

Completion Statistics

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The completion rate is lower than expected because the responses that include the random/accidental closings of survey tab are also included into this number. (Data shows dropout at first page of survey). The time to complete is quite long, but is necessary to provide the greater range of information collected in this survey.

Engineering Student –> Engineer?

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According to an article released by Channel News Asia in early February this year, industry observers have highlighted that a growing number of engineering students are choosing not to to continue. An almost equal proportion of students indicated YES and MAYBE to this question in this survey.

Based on the survey results, I felt that it will be more interesting to highlight any possible correlation between a student’s academic situation and his intent to continue as an engineer. The following 3 variables were used for academic situation. The Chi-Square Test of independence was applied.

  1. Year of Study
  2. Pre-Academic Background 
  3. Current CAP

Result? The hypothesis that 2 and 3 is independent from a student’s intent to continue as an engineer is rejected.

Statistically, p = 0.010 (Current Class of Honours) and p = 0.041 (Pre-academic background) –> there are grounds to believe a student’s current CAP and his pre-academic background affects his inclination to work as an engineer. 

In Greater Detail for CAP……

71% of students with CAP of 4.0-4.49 indicated that they want to be an engineer after graduation, and there was a sharp drop to only 43% among students with a CAP of 3.5-3.99. This dropped further to 27% amongst students who have CAP of 3.19.

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To be more conclusive, I need a bigger sample size! So share the survey link with your friends today, or complete it if you have not done so: grace.questionpro.com

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#2 – Project Based Learning – What is it?

To answer any questions about Project Based Learning (PBL) , there must first be a basic understanding of PBL. Before moving forward, there is often confusion between PBL and a more popular Problem Based Learning.

There is no clear-cut distinction between Project and Problem based learning (Many researchers and educators have commented that there is no/little need to because of the close similarities and ultimate benefits to students.) In Engineering especially, the lines are often blurred and most combine the essence of both. Nevertheless, some researchers have indicated that there remains two key distinguishing features:

Project Based Learning

My work has a more specific focus on Project Based Learning because there is a strong preference for hands-on opportunities to make something from prior interactions with the student body of NUS ME. Relative to Problem-based learning, PBL is also less documented and hence the need for a greater understanding to achieve better implementations.

Project Based Learning is often described to be:

  1. Driven with an end product in end
  2. Most often carried out in groups, though individual projects are possible
  3. Clear assessment guidelines with active feedback and revision
  4. Some degree of student choice and voice

For a more in-depth description, I referred to: http://bie.org/about/what_pbl

My next blog post will share some perception statistics from the student survey carried out with students in NUS ME. Some of the interesting points include the identification of motivational factors for our students and their evaluation of their skillsets and improvements via PBL if applicable.

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#1 – Engineering Final Year Project – Its Objectives and Assessment

It has been a long time since I blogged here; I don’t write down my academic/formal reflections anymore. Today I am going to have an active effort to restart this effort, because in this couple of days – my first few days of my final semester in NUS, I found something worth reflecting about. It is the education of our engineering students, particularly for mechanical engineers but I wouldn’t mind if readers would like to contribute their thoughts on other departments.

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As my Final Year Project (FYP), I wanted to delve into a research topic I would be truly interested in. Correct me if I am wrong, but there was no hard and fast guideline that was made known to students that the FYP would have to be mechanically technical (eg Solidworks designs, fluid, statics, feedback, thermodynamics equations etc). In short, there was no guidelines at all in fact to how an FYP should be evaluated. Should it be evaluated based on the student’s amount of work and effort, technical expertise in that area, or? The complex/unknown assessment guidelines makes it difficult for students and examiners alike to come to one conclusion on the grades.

Ultimately, I believe that FYP grades should be given based on a student’s effort, demonstrated by their progress reports, presentations, and end result (if any). The course of work undertaken by a student should be guided by their consulting professor, and an examiner should focus on the work done based on the direction that is already charted out. The conflicting views by consulting professor and examiners often make many students confused, and in my case, caused a severe drop in my confidence, and frequent questioning/self doubt of my work, only on the basis that the topic itself is not suitable.

Despite being warned about an adverse grade so my class of honours is effectively doomed, I believe that my research into Project Based Learning for Mechanical Engineering students is a meaningful undertaking that can impact many more students. Education policy for Engineering is something we can and should play a part in. As a part of this system, we should learn about the current steps taken to mould better individuals, reflect on these and provide constructive feedback. Otherwise, suggestions will always be ill-informed.

I will be sharing more of my work/experienced over the next 3 months. Maybe no one will be interested, and no one will give any comments. I will celebrate even the smallest things/changes that matter. For those who still believe in changes for our engineering education, please spread the message about this student movement in NUS to rethink how we learn engineering.

And sincerely, I welcome all discussions (: How has your FYP impacted you, and what are your general thoughts about it? 

Update 24022014: I had a change in cross-examiner. 

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MICE in Singapore – Ideas for Singapore June

This gallery contains 10 photos.

Ideas for Singapore this July was held with Mathias Kuepper, Vice General Manager of Koelnmesse Co., Ltd, one of the global leaders in the Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions (MICE) sector. Mathias is currently stationed here in Beijing by the Koelnmesse’s … Continue reading

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Mobile VAS Asia 2012

I was back in Singapore last month to attend MOBILE VALUE ADDED SERVICES (VAS) ASIA 2012 organized by IBC Asia. It was pretty interesting listening to various presentations by operators, VAS providers, mobile Internet companies etc. Most of the attendees were operators actually, from around the region such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and India.

Speaking to some of the local operators, it seems like the very high basic data quota of 12G that Singapore consumers are given are not that big a problem for the revenue streams. Of course it is reducing drastically the revenue from voice and SMS services traditionally offered by the operators, by over-the-top (OTT) players such as Whatsapp, Viber, Skype and Facebook.

However, operators seem confident of retaining their customers and revenue streams, sharing their targeted marketing campaigns where they advertise different services which different groups of consumers are interested in. There is almost zero complaints with regards to these campaigns.

Most operators also shared their ideas on increasing revenue from prepaid card users.

Singtel and Starhub in Singapore.

According to a Starhub presentation, 70% of their prepaid card users are foreign workers. To these consumers, music and social networking is popular, and data usage makes up significant revenue in the prepaid stream.  There have been various initiatives to get consumers to start using these data consuming applications. For example, Singtel provides free access to Facebook for all its users using 0.facebook.com. This is targetted at non smartphone users as it is a text-only Facebook site. This service has to be activated first and consumers will be charged when they wish to view photos/graphics and be redirected to them.

Data consuming applications.

In markets such as Indonesia where prepaid cards are common, operators have bundled packages, charging the consumers based on a pack of data they use for different applications such as Facebook, Twitter or YouTube etc. This is supposedly an educational process; getting users previously not familiar with these applications to start using data. Though personally as a consumer I feel that this is pretty much charging me for things that I don’t necessarily will use.

 

Overall, the conference was a good opportunity to understand the developments of the region outside China. And also allowed me to spend more time back home in sunny Singapore 🙂

Haagen Dazs and Milo finally!

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New her!

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I like my new hair, geeky specs, TeamNUS jacket and red bag (:

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Entrepreneurship Learning in Tianjin Ecocity

YEAN visited the Sino-Singapore Ecocity two weeks ago, seeking to learn about entrepreneurship outside of our internship. Even though we were fairly disappointed about the rejection of our proposal to get transport funding for this trip, we still left with eager minds to experience and learn. On a sidenote, we would be delighted if any organization feels that it is suitable to subsidize us on our future learning journeys. (BEAMS*)

Back to Tianjin Ecocity. Simply put, it is a joint collaboration between Singapore and China to build a sustainable green city that adopts green practices. It reminds me very much like Singapore, only that you see solar panels, wind turbines, desalination plants on a much bigger scale here. Almost all the street lamps are wind-powered, installed along with what seems like solar panels.

There are 21 KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) for this ecocity. Ms Vivian, who was our guide for the tour, explained that unlike most ecocities that do not have goals set, these 21 goals definitely have to be met. I paid more attention to the ones regarding water. When questioned about the KPI regarding 100% portable water, it was deemed fairly difficult to achieve that locally. I am still unsure about why that can’t be done given the brilliant technologies of Hyflux, Sembcorp, Keppel and other top talents in this field.

Some of the Water KPIs

  • Quality of Water from Taps
    Description: Water from all taps should be potable.
  • Quality of water bodies within the Eco-city
    Description: Water bodies in the Eco-city should meet Grade IV of China’s latest national standards by 2020.
  • Usage of Water from Non-Traditional Sources
    Description: At least 50% of the Eco-city’s water supply will be from non-traditional sources such as desalination and recycled water by 2020.

The 21 KPIs of Tianjin Ecocity. It's quite sad to note the painfully obvious spelling errors in some.

We were also introduced to the commercial buildings that green-tech companies will be operating out from in Tianjin. The ecocity sells itself as being able to attract these high-tech firms because whole supply chain is in the city itself. A company can find manufacturers to build the product in the city, have support equipment needed for its testing here, to end consumers of selling the products to be used in the ecocity houses itself.

The companies housed here would have to be quite big, but green technology is still a relatively new industry that can contain many competitors.What other new technologies can we invent to reduce pollution and increase efficiency of our world? The ecocity opens opportunities for these technologies to be conceptualised, and more importantly, implemented.I have met some entrepreneurs in this field over the past 6 months here in Beijing. Given that Tianjin is so close to Beijing, it is probably an area where they can look into as well.

On the way back to Tianjin city, we saw numerous rows of huge solar panels that looks like huge Tetris pieces. They were pretty dusty due to the construction going around the city, and it doesn’t look like they have actually been put to use yet, given the current pollution from the construction. According to a fellow YEANster Tian Chang, such dust actually reduce the efficiency of these solar panels by 50% or more. What can be done for minimise this loss?

Sadly, Singaporeans are still officially unable to purchase houses in the ecocity. Hopefully this will change to enable Singaporeans to benefit in some other way than having our enterprises enter the chinese market from this joint venture between the Singapore and China government. (Though I doubt the chances are high).

Also, check out Jason’s post on our trip, and photos can be found here on our YEAN’s FACEBOOK PAGE!

Sorry for the lack of photography for this post, my iPhone was pickpocketed away on my last day in Tianjin and I am unable to recover it back.

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Instagram sharing on Sina Weibo

Being an active Instagram and other photo editing apps user now currently living in China, I always wanted to share these photos on all social network platforms, ie Twitter, Facebook and Sina Weibo. What I detest doing the most is to use multiple apps, turning on my VPN, just to get these photos out. So, I was full of excitement reading Steven Millward’s headline about Instagram now offering support for Sina Weibo. Steven mentioned in his article: you’ll see the new Sina Weibo and Mixi sync options (if your language is set to Chinese or Japanese under ‘Region Format’).

Before.

After! - Instagram with Sina Weibo sharing.

There was no description of this sharing setting addition in their Apple Store update, I’m glad I read about it because it works! Initially apprehensive about changing the region formatting settings because I don’t want my text to appear as Chinese, but as of now the only changes I see so far is that days are displayed in Chinese on my phone. Other than that, everything is as per my English language settings.

Changing Region Format under "Settings >> General >> International"

How to change your settings.

Most popular Chinese photo-editing apps that have many pretty filters and effects such as 美图秀秀 or POCO相机 do not enable users to share to Twitter or Facebook. There are still some local apps that have these sharing abilities, though not as popular or lacking in same features. For example, LemeLeme can be used the multiple platform sharing functionality is needed, though its user interface is less preferred as compared to Instagram.

An interesting thing found in ‘Region Format,’ settings as well. Singapore, atop of appearing on its own, also appears as one of the options under China. Other options under China are Hong Kong, Taiwan and Mainland China. It seems like we are the only other country outside China that has a majority of Chinese speaking citizens!

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What a Beijing taxi driver will never say.

This chinese new year, I went to the bustling city of Shanghai for a family holiday. To get to the hotel I took a taxi, and upon arrival and the destination, the taxi driver asked: 用卡还是现金?(will you be using card or cash for payment).

This happened many times in Shanghai, and on the last day on a long trip back to the airport, i gathered some insight about the Shanghai taxi payment system.
Compared to the Beijing method, the Shanghai ways seem very much convenient for both the driver and the consumer.

Firstly, some background information. Like most cities around the world, China has transportation cards that citizens use for payment on the subways and buses. Beijing’s transportation card is called Beijing Municipal Administration and Communications Card- Yikatong.

My Beijing Yikatong!

Shanghai’s card is called Shanghai Public Transportation Card SPTC – Jiaotong Yikatong. In both cities, taxis are equipped with machines to accept payment via these transporation cards. In Beijing however, no taxi drivers are really willling to accept this kind of payment because they have to go through much administrative processes.

In Shanghai, payment to the taxi drivers are settled internally by the company, saving taxi drivers the hassle of going to collect the payment themselves. However, this payment is made out as a lump sum at the end of each month. It was previously such that the drivers could claim it everyday, but it was too inconvenient. Getting this monthly payout was not an issue to them as well; it is just like a salary collected at the end of each month. From the driver’s perspective, they are willing to accept this payment method.

According to the driver, about 20% of his passengers use these transportation cards to pay. Besides the convenience of using one card to pay for all transportation methods, the taxi driver said that these transportation cards are also common gifts that people give to each other. Using their gift cards to pay would essentially mean a free trip, gifted by their friends.

Evidently, for a payment method to even take off, both consumer and service provider/merchant have to enjoy much convenience before user adoption would even be possible.

Though in China, many other factors come into play too. Would you like to pay for your taxi trips using your transportation cards?

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