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This article was contributed by Singapore Polytechnic.
Diploma in Mechatronics & Robotics (DMRO)
Awards: Lee Kuan Yew Award
The Engineering Wunderkind
Three marks. That was all that stood between young Kimberly Suriya and the Express stream at Kranji Secondary School. After being assigned to the Normal Academic stream, secondary school life for Kimberly was a blur as she just coasted through, not knowing where her interests or future lies.
In Secondary 3, Kimberly had the opportunity to attend an Electrical & Electronic Engineering Advanced Elective Module (AEM) conducted by Singapore Polytechnic (SP). During the AEM, Kimberly’s interest in Engineering was piqued, as the subject was presented in a fun and engaging manner. This was a life-changing moment for Kimberly.
She had an epiphany after the AEM and knew that she wanted to be an engineer. Kimberly shared her plans with her engineer father, who encouraged her to study engineering at SP.
With a goal in mind, Kimberly worked hard over the next two years and did well in her GCE ‘N’ levels to qualify for the Polytechnic Foundation Programme (PFP). The PFP was her goal as she knew that a polytechnic education was well suited to her learning style. The hands-on practicums also appealed to Kimberly, as she wanted to develop hands-on skills that would complement her theoretical knowledge.
However, Kimberly did not enjoy the PFP initially. She did not see how picking up knowledge and skills in Mathematics, Science and learning how to present to the class were useful to her.
She changed her tune after embarking on her full-time diploma course and realised that she could understand mathematics and scientific concepts easily due to the foundation built from PFP. The rigour of the PFP also equipped Kimberly with the thirst for life-long learning and basic soft skills including communication. Many times, she would read up or research engineering theories or case studies out of her course. Kimberly also realised that her foundational knowledge in various science subjects allowed her to better understand, communicate and learn from students other disciplines.
The SP Engineering scholar experienced this first-hand during a community service trip to Bintan, Indonesia. There, she assisted in the building of a wastewater management system for the local villagers, together with a multi-disciplinary team of students from other courses.
The passion to use her engineering skills for the greater good shone through during the COVID-19 pandemic. Rallying a group of friends and fellow engineers, Kimberly was part of a ground-up initiative that 3D-printed mask straps for healthcare workers and front liners, after realising such straps could alleviate the pain of wearing masks for prolonged periods.
Kimberly also used her time in SP to build up her confidence and overcome her fear of public speaking. As a Core Leader with the SP ACERs, Kimberly led her peers in promoting SP during roadshows and talks among secondary schools. She further solidified her leadership skills as Vice-President of the School of Mechanical & Aeronautical Engineering Club, where she planned and organised events for fellow engineering students.
Kimberly’s growth culminated during her internship at the Minimum Viable Product Studio at the National University of Singapore. During her five and a half months internship, Kimberly assisted start-ups in creating prototypes and improved on their existing products with her engineering skills and knowledge. The internship also led Kimberly to realise her strengths in 3D design and prototyping and allowed her to hone important soft skills including communication and teamwork.
The budding female engineer has already applied to Nanyang Technological University’s Renaissance Engineering Programme and aspires to work in the engineering industry in the near future. Kimberly has certainly blossomed from a shy and introverted youth.