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Pupil pursues paper plane passion

He used to fly paper aeroplanes during recess in school. His teacher, seeing this, realised the boy had a passion for flight.

So Navaneethak Kannan Srinivas, 10, was asked by science teacher Low Heng Chong to be part of a competition team designing and flying an aircraft.

Srinivas, together with his Jurong Primary schoolmates Foo Wei En, Haseenah Tahar and Wang Yu Xin, all 11, formed Team Hoverstar V.

Mr Low, who has taught in the school for four years, entered the Singapore Amazing Flying Machine Competition (SAFMC) himself in 2009.

He said: "I hope to inspire them to take part in future competitions when they are older."

The team in the Open Category immediately made history.

They are the first team from a primary school to take part in the category meant for unconventional aircraft. Participants are usually from polytechnics and universities.

Other categories like the Paper Plane and Unpowered Glider have younger representatives.

The competition has been held annually since 2009 and is jointly organised by DSO National Laboratories and Science Centre Singapore.

To take part, the young pupils had to manage their time, juggling studies and training sessions.

To allay their parents' worries that their studies might suffer, the team used recess time to prepare for the competition.

FLYING HAMSTER

At the Singapore Polytechnic on Thursday morning, the pupils were the youngest amid a crowd of youths and adults.

Team Hoverstar V's flying device, The Hamster, did not impress at first glance.

But the unlikely-looking machine managed to fly high above the roof of the grandstand and even remained intact on landing, something several others failed to do.

Made out of balsa wood and consisting of six rotors, it can reach a height of 40m and performs stunts like barrel rolls and somersaults.

Other competitors were impressed by the team's performance.

Mr Benson Tan, who was representing Temasek Polytechnic, said: "I think (the pupils) were good, quite enthusiastic."

He added that the Open Category was a good opportunity for the youngsters to be exposed to radio-controlled flight and that the pupils had built a machine relatively difficult for beginners to fly.

Haseenah's mother, Fadilah Alias, 44, said her daughter became interested in science because of her oldest son, Hilfi.

"When Haseenah was in Primary Three, she was not very interested in (science).

"But with Hilfi's encouragement, she gained a fascination for science," she said.

Madam Fadilah added that when Haseenah helped her in the kitchen, Hilfi would explain to his sister how scientific concepts like energy transfer plays a part in our daily lives.

Results of the competition will be announced at an awards ceremony today.

But no matter what the outcome may be, the young challengers have found this event an eye-opening experience.

Said Wei En: "If you put in enough effort, you can be successful."

Participants in the Open Category stand to win cash prizes ranging from $1,000 to $3,000 and an iPad Mini.