This article is a follow-up from Why SUTD: The freshmore story, where we interviewed 12 Freshmores on why they chose SUTD, and how their first 3 months were like.

In this story, we ask 8 students about their first year in SUTD. Check out some of their earlier interviews via the links below!


Yong Ta

Read his earlier interview here

Which programme (specialisation) did you choose, and what led you to this choice?
I chose Information Systems Technology and Design (ISTD). This decision became clearer to me only towards the end of Term 3, the last term of my Freshmore year, when I was finally getting comfortable with coding and realising what I could do with all its potential applications.

At first, I was deciding between Engineering Product Development (EPD), Engineering Systems and Design (ESD), and ISTD. Each of them have their unique selling points and I had partial interest in all of them. As the end of Term 3 approached, however, I found increasing interest in the different aspects of computer science and I thought about how I could apply them in everyday life. Another strong push came from the final coding assignment of The Digital World module (we got to develop our own game!), and motivated me to seriously consider ISTD as my final choice.

I think this realisation only came about when I started to understand coding as a subject, which then allowed me to make an informed decision about which programme I should choose.

Both in terms of hard and soft skills, how are you different from when you started at SUTD?
In terms of hard skills, I definitely learnt a lot from the multiple modules that I took! Most modules require us to complete a project, which typically involves building/developing a prototype and then presenting it. These classes heavily influenced my growth because I was compelled to do my own research on how certain structures are built and software are coded. Managing all these projects simultaneously also made me more organised so that I can prioritise my tasks and not overlook details – a really useful and valuable skill for me!

In terms of soft skills, having to work in different groups for each project exposed me to people from varied backgrounds and working styles. I learnt how to make the best out of each group’s dynamics by adapting to the different teams’ habits. Good teamwork and efficient communication are definitely crucial in bringing a project to fruition.

These skills were definitely not as refined when I started out as a freshmore, and although they’re still not perfect now, having gone through these experiences certainly helped to develop them.

What projects have you recently completed? Tell us more about them!
One project that we had to complete towards the end of Term 3 was to develop our own game as part of a coding assignment under the Digital World module. This was quite an enjoyable project as it gave us a lot of creative freedom in how we wanted our game to look, feel and sound. Besides developing my coding skills, I also took this opportunity to design my own characters, animations, sound effects and music, which made the whole project a lot more exciting and memorable. Adding these non-coding aspects into the project allowed me to transfer my knowledge from other areas into this module. It gave the final product a more personal touch and I am quite proud by how it turned out!

Other projects I’ve done while cooped up at home (due to the circuit breaker) were mostly related to coding. Since I was going to be stuck in front of my computer for a long time, I took this opportunity to pick up other coding languages and to refresh/improve my knowledge from The Digital World module. I did this through mini, fun projects like developing a website for my band, and an object recognition programme to keep track of the food I’ve been eating at home. They’re still works-in-progress, but they’re a fun way to keep me sane!

Besides coding-related projects, my band (who are not from SUTD, but our vocalist who just finished her polytechnic studies did apply to the school!) and I did an online cover together because we were all itching to make some music. We used an online platform, BandLab, to record our parts of the song, made videos featuring ourselves and pieced everything together. We covered the song ‘Hold On Till May” by Pierce The Veil, thinking that the circuit breaker would end in May, but we changed it to ‘Hold On Till May June’ when we found out that it was extended till June. This was a really fun project because we never tried making an online cover before, and it was also an enjoyable way for us to connect and have fun, even if we couldn’t meet up in person.

It also proves once again that music brings people together, even with social distancing measures in place. Here’s the link to the Instagram post! https://www.instagram.com/tv/B_XNEgTHP8V/


A summary of your SUTD experience thus far
Thus far, I think SUTD has been really fun. The people here are really motivating and encouraging, and that makes up a huge part of the whole experience. In the first year, for better or for worse, you literally get to see your friends for the whole day, (almost) every day, and the small community makes it easy for you to bond with your friends, especially since everyone lives in the same hostel. Whether it’s meeting up for projects or a meal, it’s really convenient – someone sends a text and five minutes later everyone’s good to go for supper. It’s this spontaneity that adds to the overall experience. Seeing your classmates every day also means more time to interact and bond, which inevitably brings everyone a little closer with each passing day. This is significant to me because these friendships transcend beyond simply being group mates in academic projects. Eventually, they become family as everyone dines and has fun together.


Picture together with some of my classmates during Blockbuster (House Guardian Organized Event)

Also, I find that almost everyone in SUTD is really a go-getter. I think it’s common to feel like you’re always falling behind because so many people around you are such committed and hardworking individuals. Sometimes this is stressful, but I also find it to be a good sort of wake-up call. I like to think of this as a reminder to stay motivated because everyone is in the same boat and doing their best.

The frequent concerts/music events also mean a great deal to me and contribute to a large part of my SUTD experience. There are so many opportunities to do music-related activities here and I am so thankful for that. The fact that I even managed to perform at my own Freshmore Orientation Camp when I was just a freshmore just shows the endless possibilities at SUTD. I feel like these music events are great outlets for me to de-stress and attending/performing at these events provides me a platform to pursue my passion despite my busy school schedule. It’s also refreshing to be constantly reminded of the passionate, talented individuals that I have the honour to be jamming and playing music with.

Band Picture for Summer Vibes 2019


Rockafall 2019


Orientation 2019

In terms of academics, SUTD is definitely very centred around the hands-on experience. Personally, I think it’s a great way of learning and translating the theory we learnt into real-world applications. It also gives us a peek into what we can expect after we choose our programmes at the end of our freshmore year.

The Introduction to Design module in Term 2 was particularly interesting as well because our group ended up developing a device that tracks your focus using brainwaves. We started with little-to-no knowledge in this area, but with plenty of research, trial-and-error, and a strong team spirit, we succeeded! It was really a memorable project as it showed us that as early as our freshmore year, we are already exposed to extremely interesting and high-tech projects.


Introduction to Design Group Mates at our Design Exhibition

In summary, the community is what makes SUTD. Without them, the barrage of projects, the sleepless nights and exciting music concerts would mean nothing. Because of its small size, the community is mostly close and supportive. Inevitably, it forms an integral part of my SUTD experience and makes it all the more meaningful and memorable.


Presca

Which programme (specialisation) did you choose, and what led you to this choice?
I chose Architecture and Sustainable Design (ASD). Since young, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea of human and environment interactions and wanted to play a part in this field. I applied to SUTD because I’m interested in the ASD programme, which uniquely combines architecture with artificial intelligence and sustainable design.

Unsurprisingly, I also came to love the other programmes such as Engineering Product Design (EPD) and Information Systems Technology and Design (ISTD). How can I not after going through a whole (freshmore) year’s worth of interesting and eye-opening projects?

Ultimately, however, ASD was most aligned to my passion and interest.

Both in terms of hard and soft skills, how are you different from when you first joined SUTD?
My soft skills such as leadership, collaboration, and communications have improved because of the many opportunities to apply them during class projects, Fifth Rows (football, band, University Ambassador, table tennis), and house guardian duties.


SUTD Football Team


SUTD Table Tennis SUNIG Team 2019


House Guardian group photo during Blockbuster event 2019


Rockafall 2019

Modules like SUTD’s 2D projects (requiring students to integrate the technical content of two or more courses), Introduction to Design, and Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programmes (UROP) have allowed me to explore new hard skills such as Python coding, AutoCAD, and 3D printing which help boost my portfolio and substantiate my internship applications.


Introduction to Design Group Mates at our Design Exhibition

What projects have you recently completed? Tell us more about them! 
Together with an inspiring professor and a passionate fellow student, I’m currently involved in a Summer UROP project which involves analysing and building an airside simulation model for Changi Airport.

This project is done in collaboration with the Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore and is part of a larger project on Airfield Management happening at the Aviation Studies Institute, SUTD, to optimise airport operations for efficient airport planning and management.

When complete, our simulation model will allow us to generate crucial information such as how flight delays evolve, and how operating conditions affect airport capacity, which in turn influences the optimisation of airport operations. We are now building the simulation model using AutoCAD, and will transport it into CAST to implement flight operating conditions to help us generate more accurate data information. We can’t wait to see the completed project! Also, we’ll like to thank Assistant Professor Nuno Ribeiro for his constant guidance and patience.

Find out more about my UROP here.

A summary of your SUTD experience thus far
I thoroughly enjoy being part of the SUTD family – this incredible community filled with curious minds, talented and striving students, and teachers who are not afraid to break boundaries. I’ve gained invaluable friendships and experiences from my Fifth Rows, freshmore class, research projects, and hostel life. Growing in a nurturing environment that encourages me to freely pursue my passions gives me the strength to constantly improve myself and develop a sense of appreciation towards the school and community. Even though I’ve only recently became a fresh-no-more, I’m confident that in SUTD, I’m able to embark on an amazing journey towards my goals and build a better world by design.


Freshmore Inauguration Ceremony 2019


Narrow to Five band


Ragul

Read his earlier interview here

Which programme (specialisation) did you choose, and what led you to this choice
I chose Information Systems Technology and Design (ISTD). To me, coding has been a hobby for as long as I can remember, so consequently I’m slightly stronger in terms of software skills. With that said, I still intend to take Engineering Product Development (EPD) modules (*cough cough* any professors reading this?).

Both in terms of hard and soft skills, how are you different from when you first joined SUTD?
Compared to my freshmore year, I’ve become more consistent and conscientious in my learning, and leave fewer tasks to the last minute. Staying in hostel has also made me more independent, disciplined, and well-rested (I’m a westie so you can imagine how early I‘ll have had to wake up for school otherwise).

On a random note, I have a habit of using pencils for most of my written work, but now I’ve switched to using pens for exams!

What projects have you recently completed? Tell us more about them!
Thanks in part to COVID-19, The Digital World module’s final exam was changed to a game programming assignment. It was a very fun challenge to work within the assignment’s limitations to build a game from scratch – you can try out my game at https://github.com/ragulbalaji/DigitalWorld2020/tree/master/FinalsGame.

Even more recently, in the last month, I explored Field Programmable Gate Arrays (FPGAs), where I synthesised some simple logics for a framebuffer. I also tried bitmapping, and am still working on implementing a simple CPU. I also took part in the Hack-A-Sat Space Cybersecurity Challenge, and started an embedded systems & cyber security internship at the Government Technology Agency.

A summary of your SUTD experience thus far
In summary – it’s been a blast!

One specific highlight was me properly learning biology and chemistry again. SUTD’s curriculum structure and my passionate professors opened my eyes to the amazing world of discoveries made by pioneering scientists in these fields.

I’ve also learnt and applied the new theories from the modules and projects I took, and forged many friendships along the way. In fact, some of us are working on hobby projects together right now.

Looking forward to Term 4!


Matthew

Which programme (specialisation) did you choose, and what led you to this choice?
I chose Engineering Systems and Design (ESD). Having the knowledge and tools to draw insightful observations from data and apply them to real-world situations allows me to deliver bold and meaningful solutions.

I see the ESD programme as a bridge that connects challenges in both private and public sectors to workable solutions. Because I wish to run a business that’s aligned to my interests someday, I chose ESD so that I’ll have the skills I need to catalyse this dream. Furthermore, I’ll be able to apply what I learnt to help me see projects through from end to end, transform unconventional ideas into scalable prospects, and remodel seemingly traditional systems in novel and exciting ways.

Both in terms of hard and soft skills, how are you different from when you first joined SUTD?
I’ve definitely learnt a lot of hard skills through the many modules that I took during my freshmore year, such as the Introduction to Design and The Digital World module. Prior to joining SUTD and setting my sights on ESD, I never thought that I would need to master applications such as Adobe Creative Cloud, or pick up Python programming to create, for instance, graphic user interface (GUI) frameworks.

In terms of soft skills, I felt like I’ve learnt a lot through the interactions with my peers both in class and in my Fifth Row. I find myself more expressive thanks to my Fifth Row, Dance DerivativeZ, and I am able to think more creatively and unconventionally through the multi-disciplinary projects that we did in class.

More than anything else, I’ve also learnt to be very responsible for my own learning, whether it’s leading academic projects, or starting initiatives in Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programmes (UROPs) and Design Odyssey.

What projects have you recently completed? Tell us more about them!
I recently undertook a UROP that focused on uncovering the sociological and psychological causes of suicide. My friend, Wei Yang, led this.

Under the guidance of professors and experienced seniors, our team studied and diagnosed possible reasons why individuals would attempt suicide. We analysed our research data using linear regression, and employed the use of software such as RStudio to help us draw insights from a variety of data sets.

Albeit incomplete, this short stint allowed us to pick up important skills. For example, we learnt to use statistical software tools and gained first-hand experience in group dynamics in research. I find it quite rewarding that these skills can also be easily applied beyond the scope of our research topic to solve everyday problems.

Nicole
Read her earlier interview here

Which programme (specialisation) did you choose, and what led you to this choice
I came to SUTD with an initial interest to study Architecture and Sustainable Design (ASD). After getting to know people in this field, and finding out more about the other programmes, I decided to give all my options a proper consideration before making my final decision.

Thanks to the curriculum structure, I had a year to think about what I ultimately want, while picking up the foundation knowledge and skills (e.g. coding) of all the pillars. I also learnt more about myself and my passion. I feel that the freshmore year is a period of self-discovery where we either find ourselves drawn to a programme by interest, or realize that we excel in a certain field of study.

So long answer short, I found myself in the Engineering Product Development (EPD) programme.


MountaineeringXapex Pulau Ubin Camp (jungle bread making)

Both in terms of hard and soft skills, how are you different from when you first joined SUTD?
I realised that university isn’t like junior college or secondary school. There’s a lot more real-world-based projects, and opportunities to apply what we learnt in class. For example, we were taught various design thinking processes and we deployed them in our projects. These processes helped us to brainstorm and think from alternate perspectives. One struggle I used to have with projects is that sometimes there were disobliging team members. So I told myself to set my emotions aside and focus on the project. Most importantly, I learnt to seek help from my peers (I’m quite an independent person!).


Apex Malaysia Trip (KL Camp5 climbing)

What projects have you recently completed? Tell us more about them!
One particular project that springs to mind is the YEP project Radiate360 2020 to Vietnam. This was my first-ever overseas mission trip. There were twenty-one of us in the trip, including five Vietnamese university student volunteers and one coordinator from ECO Vietnam Group.

We had three primary tasks: road construction, farm tech and education. I was more involved in the education portion and I have to say that the kids were wild with energy. They were really excited upon our arrival! We taught science, simple English, music, dance and even some physical games that they could play. My time with these playful and smart children gave me the best teaching experience I could ever have!

That said, teaching really drained me out – there was definitely a big difference in energy levels between the kids and me, plus it didn’t help that entertaining them during classes to keep things interesting added to the drain. But I could never ask for more in return; hugs, kisses, new friends on Facebook and Instagram, cute photos and letters … the list goes on. The children were grateful for what little we had to offer, and for that I felt really appreciated.

We did some hard labour too! For construction, we had to carry sand and rocks (can I say they were really heavy!) to the construction site. It was not easy at all and I really applaud my friends who were more involved in the construction task. As for farm tech, we had to help the farmers build a pumping system to help distribute water from the drain to the plants.

Each of us also received a Vietnamese conical hat and a mini farming experience! We harvested coconuts, went fishing (we had to catch dinner with our bare hands, and we came out all muddy from head to toe!), cooked our meals, and visited a few farms and popular sites.

We saw plenty of really, really cute ducklings that ran away from me when I tried to pick one up! It was a wholesome trip in every sense and I loved every part of it.


Vietnam OCIP Trip (aftermath of fishing)

A summary of your SUTD experience thus far!
Finally, a summary for my freshmore experience! The freshmore year had been an eye-opener for me, both academically and socially. University is really a place where people from different backgrounds converge, so your pool of friends can turn out to be very interesting. One thing I have learnt is that there will be times when you have no choice but to work with people who you are uncomfortable with. I had a few cases of these, but I survived! I like the small cohort because it’s very easy for someone to organise small help sessions and it benefitted people like me who take more time to process certain subjects. I also like the idea of staying in a hostel that’s literally eight minutes away from my class. It’s very convenient especially when I forget to bring something, so I would totally continue to stay in hostel for the next 2 years. On top of that, as all the freshmores are required to stay in double rooms, I find having a roommate to be really helpful in university. It makes the stay less lonely and more fun! We help each other with homework, laundry and even buying lunch. As for Fifth-rows (I’m in Ultimate Frisbee), I love the people in the club and enjoy their friendships. They make trainings and competitions more enjoyable and less tiring. Even with the ‘circuit breaker’, we have made efforts to organise online workout sessions. With that, I conclude my SUTD experience thus far. I am Fresh-NO-more! Cheers!


SUniG A 2019 (3.. 2.. 1.. SUTD!)


Insyirah
Read her earlier interview here

What have you been working on?
I believe we are architects of our lives, and every day we make choices and decisions. With that being said, I took a leap of faith and did a gap year after Term 2.

During this break, I discovered my passion in empowering the Muslim community in Singapore, and so I decided to give back to the community through nurturing and developing our youths holistically. I started my business venture with the vision of our Muslim community to be one that adopts a growth mindset and upholds discipline.

The journey of launching my own startup was one full of struggles and insane hours devoted to something that may earn myself absolutely nothing. It was also filled with risks, failures, and uncertainties. Despite everything, I pushed on because SUTD’s entrepreneurial culture taught me that starting a business from scratch is never easy.

What inspired you to take the break, and start the business venture?
I was inspired to take a break after my senior excitedly shared with me his accomplishments and the skills he acquired during his gap year. He supported himself financially and grew more independent and confident. He became more certain in how he wanted to live his life, both in terms of his career, and lifestyle.

As to what inspired my business venture – I did a market research and found out that there is a high demand for Islamic knowledge but there’s only a limited pool of qualified teachers.

Tell us more about your business venture!
My business provides home tuition in academic & Ukhrawi (Islamic) subjects for preschool, primary, and secondary school students.

We hope to provide job opportunities with flexible hours and attractive pay to students who are currently studying in Private Islamic Institutions, junior colleges, polytechnics and universities.

How have you grown, both in terms of hard and soft skills, before and after starting your business venture?
As a startup founder, I had to pick up numerous skills to get my business going. In particular, I felt that I’ve learned quite a bit about digital marketing and customer service.

To elaborate, I taught myself to use Adobe Photoshop to create and design posters that are convincing, aesthetically pleasing, and bring the message across quickly. I explored different colour schemes and tailored my designs to cater to different target audiences.

I also studied the dynamics of my Instagram followers – for instance, what kind of content do they like and not like? At the same time, I also tried alternative channels to reach out to more people to spread the word of my business.

How has your SUTD experience helped you on your entrepreneurial journey?
I attended the Design Odyssey programme, a mentorship and training programme that helps students apply principles of human-centric design to encourage innovation and social awareness. The programme leaders showed great guidance in character building, which I adopted into my startup.

The holistic curriculum of my freshmore year, including the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences (HASS) classes we studied, also proved to be very helpful for business decision-making and for managing people.

Xing Yi
Read her earlier interview here

Which programme (specialisation) did you choose, and what led you to this choice?
I chose Information Systems Technology and Design (ISTD) because I believe that it is better aligned towards my personal interests, and is highly relevant in the workforce.

Also, I find that programming is a very important skill in this day and age, and since I wasn’t exposed to it prior to SUTD, this is a field where I am able to learn and benefit the most from.

Both in terms of hard and soft skills, how are you different from when you first joined SUTD?
I’ve definitely learnt a lot in my freshmore year. After being exposed to a wide spectrum of topics ranging from Linear Algebra to Biology, and even Social Sciences and Philosophy (part of the mandatory Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences curriculum), I was able to explore my interests in these various fields and build a better knowledge foundation. Initially, the heavy workload seemed quite daunting, but I gradually found myself enjoying all the modules that I took in my freshmore year.

To some, having a common curriculum in the first year might seems like a waste of time. However, I feel that this allows students to be sufficiently discerning in a wide array of subject areas. To me, a jack-of-all-trades is better than a master of one. Furthermore, I can also take part in Undergraduate Research Opportunities Programmes (UROP) to deep-dive into my areas of interests! Therefore, I think this system works well for me.

In terms of soft skills, I would say that since SUTD has a very project-centric curriculum, I have definitely gotten more used to giving presentations. I used to have massive stage frights, and the thought of speaking in front of an audience (even my friends) would really frighten me. Throughout the year, I have gotten more accustomed to and comfortable with presentations (although I still occasionally get nervous).

My friends have also been great pillars of support for me throughout my freshmore year, and I can’t thank them enough for being such amazing friends that I can always count on!

What projects have you recently completed? Tell us more about them!
One such project would be The Digital World module’s final game assignment, where we were tasked  to create any game we want. The catch? We had to make the game from scratch.

For me, I chose to recreate one of my favourite childhood games, Hen Game, that was (very sadly) removed from the App Store. The first step was to plan the required entities and elements beforehand, and then understand how they must be linked to one another. Next, we had to write the codes. This was followed by long sessions of debugging and editing the game’s aesthetics. Overall, it was a fun experience that tested the knowledge learnt from the course, and I think I did pretty well! *pats myself on the back*

Right now, I am in a UROP that aims to design a low-cost set-up to demonstrate the principles of Quantum Cryptography. Before the circuit breaker, we went on a field trip to the Centre of Quantum Technologies in NUS to help us get a better idea of how we should design our set-up. It was undoubtedly an eye-opening experience!

I am also currently embarking on a summer internship with DSTA and I am excited to be learning new things through the programme!

A summary of your SUTD experience thus far
So far, my SUTD experience has been challenging, yet immensely enriching. It’s definitely not without its ups and downs. I’m very thankful to all my friends and instructors for accompanying and guiding me through the year and helping to shape me into a better version of myself.

Raasheeda
Read her earlier interview here

Which programme (specialisation) did you choose, and what led you to this choice?
I chose Information Systems Technology and Design (ISTD). This is the programme I have always wanted to join – I’m inspired by my dad (I mentioned that in the previous article), and I’m quite fond of the work that he has done. He works in computer engineering and even has a few patents under him! I’ve always envisioned joining the same line of work as him. My dad’s colleagues are also very supportive. They tell me I should follow his footsteps, pursue computer engineering, and create apps to better people’s lives.

Both in terms of hard and soft skills, how are you different from when you first joined SUTD?
I’ve definitely gained many skills since last year!

For one, juggling many projects within the same time frame trained me to better manage my time. Working with teammates with different commitments and schedules also showed me the true meaning of flexibility, and taught me to be a better communicator.

Soft skills aside, I picked up some hard skills too, such as Fusion 360 (a computer-aid design tool). This is something I would not have tried if not for my Introduction to Design class.

Lastly, I learnt how to adapt to changing situations, which was exemplified by the Covid-19 situation. We had to move our classes online via digital platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams. It was a unique experience in uncommon times.

What projects have you recently completed? Tell us more about them!
Some projects that I have completed in the past year include designing a modular wallet with a tracking function. This is something I wouldn’t have done if it weren’t for the great teammates that I had.

The Engineering in the Physical World module required me to apply what I learnt in class to create a cooling device within a budget of $20. We had to put on our thinking caps to come up with ideas and concepts, and just work everything out with that small budget!

A summary of your SUTD experience thus far
This whole year has been a very fruitful one and will stay in my memory for a long time.

I had a really fun experience staying in the school hostel. Because my home is pretty close to the campus, I may not continue staying in the hostel in the future. If this happens, I’ll definitely miss the suppers with my classmates at the kitchen, as well as the late night discussions with my project mates (we once stayed up until 4am in a meeting room!) and cohort classmates. Oh! I’ll also miss our Root Cove Switch games sessions!

Apart from the hostel memories, the past year has also given me other reasons to be grateful for.

A big highlight was our first win in the Girls Floorball category in the Singapore University Games. I’m so proud of and thankful for my SUTD Floorball team members, who never fail to encourage me to become a better goalkeeper. I was a stick player for eight years, and last year was my first year playing as the goalie.

Last, but not least, I made great friendships with my Orientation committee members. I’m especially closer to the directors because we faced many challenges together while planning for the camp. We didn’t want the incoming batch of freshies to miss out on the fun of Orientation Camp due to the pandemic, so we did our best to work with the situation. It’ll be a good show!

I hope the coming terms and year will be an equally fruitful one despite Covid-19!

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