8 September 2018 is Graduation Day at SUTD. As we celebrate this occasion, let us hear from Samuel Low (Engineering Product Engineering, Class of 2018) as he reflects upon his SUTD experience.
SUTD isn’t simply a university – it’s a close-knit community of diverse people ranging from students, to academics, industrialists, and entrepreneurs. Thrust a bunch of young, energetic and creative people into a dynamic amphitheatre of wondrous designs and innovative technologies, and one finds an explosion of ideas, experiences, and a very rich culture over here. As a student, you have the ownership of crafting your own university journey, with very strong support from the faculty and management in your endeavours. Be prepared though, to milk out the most of your’s creative juices in pursuit of great ideas in this enriching 4-year long journey!
I’m a graduand of the Class of 2018, in the Engineering Product Development (EPD) pillar, and SUTD had taken me on a thrilling journey to many places I never thought I would ever go. I’ve had the privilege of spending a quarter of my university life in foreign partnership institutes – the renowned Zhejiang University in China, and the well-established University of Waterloo in Canada. Getting a taste of education in both the east and west while still being well-grounded in SUTD helped me navigate myself in challenging global environments as an engineer.
The Engineering Education in SUTD
In SUTD, we can freely roam to explore and experience many facets of academia and the industry in the safe comforts and nurturing mentorship of the faculty and partners. The engineering curriculum is broad enough to spread a wealth of knowledge for students to appreciate topics across various domains.
We often top-off the syllabus by concluding with some really cool projects! In the EPD curriculum, I’ve worked on self-expanding boat structures using self-folding origami-inspired designs; I’ve built antennas, tesla coils, wireless power devices, and some really cool robots. Some of my works with my team mates include self-navigating, self-driving, colour-changing ground tracked robots. We have also worked on radar systems on drones for obstacle avoidance. In these projects, the faculty provides great mentorship over projects and guide how we steer them to success.
Undergraduate Research Opportunities
In the field of academia, SUTD provides students with generous research opportunities, under the undergraduate research opportunities programme (UROP). In 2017, I had the privilege of joining Professor Ricky Ang’s research team (Energy, Electron, Plasma and Plasmonics Group) as a research assistant in my spare time, where we worked on simulating and experimenting on electromagnetism in fractional dimensional space (no, not 2D or 3D but doing EM in 2.5D or 2.6667D)! We published several interesting studies on it and it was extremely eye-opening for students with minimal formal experience.
Professors are always there to ensure that learning is smooth and even if the project is under your own initiative, mentorship is always provided to keep you safe on-track. Of course, students who are interested to push for their own projects are welcome too! In the past 4 years alone, I had the privilege to champion my own research initiatives in areas of interest – from researching into award-winning satellite designs, to open source nuclear fusion engineering.
These are opportunities that many undergraduates around the world, and even in Singapore, rarely get a chance to do! For the passionate few, you may even further yourself to your work to an international audience at a renowned conference one day, and contribute to the vast wealth of humanity’s knowledge. From a personal testimony: it really is quite the experience you should not miss.
Undergraduate Teaching Opportunities
As an undergraduate, we also have opportunities to conduct lessons and our own classes, or join a professor’s as an undergraduate teaching assistant. This is the interesting part, because that’s where the seniors often bridge friendships with the juniors and help close up any knowledge gaps or practical requirements the juniors lack. For me, I joined (unofficially) as a teaching assistant to assist the 1st Year Physics course in 2016, and again in 2018 with Professor Huang Shao Ying’s Electromagnetics course for the 3rd Year students.
On top of helping out in academic syllabus, I had loads of fun organising circuit board workshops, radio-making workshops. We bring them out for educational trips to the industry too, where they can witness what cutting-edge technologies are being employed out there. We are also free to propose our own lessons stand-alone; some of what I’ve done include a space missions planning workshop for satellites, and a “How to Build Your Own Nuclear Reactor” workshop. I have to say, more often than not I learnt a lot more from them than they ever did from me, and for that I have to give these peers my thanks! I had a great time interacting with them, and it was very fulfilling for me to kindle their light-bulbs and illuminate new paths in their learning journey. More importantly, a lot of my inspiration comes from the passion I’ve seen in how my professors have taught me in class. As the saying goes, great teachers are like candles, consuming itself to light the way for others.
Overall, throughout these 4 years, I’ve grown so much that I could never fathom what my 24 year-old self would be like 4 years ago when I had just started. I have to say that the journey has not been easy, but it is important to realise this learning experience is just like riding a bicycle – you have to keep at it or you’d lose your balance.
Engineering Product Development, Class of 2018