For Leong Hei Kern and Agrim Singh, the International Design Contest (IDC) Robocon proved to be a major turning point in their lives. Being selected to partake in the 2010 competition in Shanghai led both men to realise their passion for technology, and eventually pursue an education in SUTD. Fast forward 4 years and Agrim is already a year 2 student in ISTD while Hei Kern will be matriculating in 1 year’s time.
The IDC Robocon teams of SUTD
Dr Foong Shaohui, Ng Jin Kai, Seah Tat Leong, Ann Wee Honghui, Jared Ying Weirong, Olivia Seow, Glenn Joey Sim, Samuel Lee Bai Song, Ng Zuda, Toh Yong Cheng, Leong Hei Kern, Tan Yi Ren, Agrim Singh, Javier Su Weijie, Kelly Kuo Kai Li, Chua Jie Han, Amos Chia Zong Hong, Dr Mohan Rajesh Elara
Professors Mohan Rajesh Elara and Foong Shaohui are SUTD’s resident mentors for the competition. Both have immensely enjoyed keeping watch over the students and helping them with stumbling blocks.
“Contrary to the belief that the SUTD IDC Robocon team represents Singapore, we actually split ourselves into various groups to work with designers and engineers from other countries like Japan, Korea, China, France and USA and Brazil. That way we learn how engineers and designers from different parts of the world function!”
— Ken Chua
One of the most fun challenges recalled by Agrim was overcoming language barriers with Japanese, Chinese, Thai and American team members. Fellow participant Lee Wei Jian remembered using a lot of hand gestures and drawings to communicate. While that was mildly frustrating, he was also quick to point out the beauty of engineering’s universality — that the mechanics, concepts and logics were not hindered by cultural differences.
While each nationality seemed to have its own strength –the Thais being very hands-on and the Japanese being extremely detail-oriented and so forth– our teams unanimously felt that they were best at translating various languages and acting as a bridge between cultures.
Being one of the rare female participants in Robocon, Ann Wee Honghui was not perturbed by the lack of female presence. In fact, she hopes that more females will see engineering differently and not be afraid to try it out.
“I experienced many different cultures and personalities in my team. Our languages were sometimes incommensurate and we relied on sign language to convey our thoughts. It was also an eye-opening time being with diverse nationalities. One time, I was offered a joint. But I refused it!”
— Olivia Seow