Poly students develop game to teach cyber security
Unique innovations blossom from these polytechnic engineering graduates, writes AUDREY LEONG
Move a little spaceman past a coin, and a question pops up: "I should not store sensitive information on my phone - true or false?"
Answer enough questions correctly and a blue space gun appears to help you zap the one-eyed monster that has been following you around the game screen.
This retro-style game, inspired by the Super Mario series, has been rolled out in two secondary schools here to teach teens about cyber security.
Mr Chia Cheng Hui, 20, was inspired to create it for his final-year project for the Diploma in Multimedia & Infocomm Technology after reading about teenagers' lack of awareness of cyber threats, despite their heavy usage of the Internet and social media platforms.
Armed with programming skills such as C# and PHP that he learnt in school, Mr Chia developed the Cyber Wellness Gamification game by himself over six months last year.
"Being in an engineering course in polytechnic really helped me see the bigger picture, and from the end user's point of view and think about what they will experience," he added.
New life was breathed into the project after Mr Chia passed it on to his juniors, Mr Sebastian Goh, 20, who was in his second year at the time, and Miss Ye Jie Yi, 20, who was in her first year at the time.
The pair looked into adding enhancements such as shooting elements and a different game design, and a newer version is still in the works.
Added Mr Goh: "I also learnt presentation skills so that I knew how to sell the game to potential consumers of the game and other future clients."
Miss Ye took the opportunity to learn from the coding work her seniors had done.
"On top of learning from their codes, the modules we took in school also helped me to redesign the layout of the game," said the second-year student.
The game has been seen by about 200 students from Bendemeer Secondary School, Presbyterian High School and those who saw it as part of a showcase by the students' polytechnic since last year.
Mr Goh stands by his choice to go into an engineering course.
He said: "With more machines in each industry, you will always need engineers around."
Entrepreneur and Harvard graduate remembers his roots in engineering
After scoring nine straight As at the O levels, Mr Kuriakin Zeng enrolled in a polytechnic.
Nine years later, he became the first student from his polytechnic to graduate from Harvard, with a Bachelor of Arts (Honours) in Computer Science from Harvard College.
Later, he attained a business certification with high honours from Harvard Business School.
"I thought Harvard was out of my league, but it was my lecturers who believed in me and read through my essays... They even took the extra effort to write recommendation letters for my applications," he said.
Now 31, Mr Zeng has co-founded two companies - Cloudsolutely, a technology consultancy that drives innovation within small- and medium-sized enterprises and non-profits in Asia-Pacific, and Teleo, a team collaboration app that maximises workflow.
At Cloudsolutely, he is a partner, sales and product manager. At Teleo, he is a software architect and product manager.
Though what he does now seems different from what he studied in polytechnic, the Diploma in Electrical & Electronic Engineering graduate said the course taught him grit.
Mr Zeng said: "There were nights where I spent working on projects, but I think it was worth it... I also met a lot of people in school whom I still keep in contact with up to today.
"The systematic thinking and quantitative reasoning from engineering comes in handy even if you are not directly in the engineering industry."
He was offered an internship while in polytechnic, but Mr Zeng chose to lead 28 students to install electrical fixtures and a community hall for the underprivileged in the Philippines.
"I got to apply what I learned, but at the same time, I learned about civil engineering, which is outside my specialisation," he said.
Second time's the charm for Green Building and Sustainability grad
He did not complete his first diploma because he had failed some subjects as he had no interest in the course, having taken it on his parents' advice.
He decided to complete his national service first, then opted to go for a different diploma programme, in Green Building and Sustainability, at another polytechnic.
That move ended up being the right one - from scoring C6 in mathematics at the O levels, Mr Ganesh Kunasehkaran, now 28, graduated from his diploma course this year with a near perfect cumulative grade point average (GPA) of 3.97 out of four points, winning the Course Gold Medal and the prestigious Lee Kuan Yew Award in the process.
Spurred to apply what he had learnt in school, in his second year, Mr Ganesh and five other coursemates entered a competition to design a sustainable community space for the Sky Park at City Square Mall.
Called the Green Sparks Competition, the competition was jointly organised by the Building and Construction Authority and City Developments Limited.
The team wanted to create a space that promoted a more inclusive society, and incorporated elements such as the Big Ass ceiling fans, which are regulated by temperature sensors, an energy meter display to raise awareness of the need for energy conservation and a solar tube that combines natural lighting and LED lighting among other features.
"During the competition we made use of Ecotect Analysis (an environmental analysis tool that calculates if the building is getting enough shade), which we learnt in a module, Green Building and Simulation, in school," Mr Ganesh said.
The team came in third in the competition, and it was an extremely rewarding experience for Mr Ganesh.
"I would say we had the upper hand because we had learnt about green elements in school, but we lost to the architects in terms of design," he said.
He added that, having taken an engineering diploma, he now has "versatile, analytical and critical skills that have a demand in the market".
His advice to incoming students: "Think about your career path. When you are in a polytechnic, you are also getting a taste of the industry."
Polytechnics' open house 2018
Discover a world of engineering possibilities at the polytechnics' Open Houses, running from Jan 4 to 6, 10am to 6pm, at their respective campuses.