Under-performer is now CEO of his own company
One was an under-performer who became CEO of his own company. The other, just 18, created an artificial intelligence software to help students study. Both were recipients of IT Youth awards at the Singapore Computer Society's annual IT Leader Awards this month
The 24-year-old is a walking example of how effective a good teacher can be. This former Normal (Technical) student, with a PSLE score of 90, said he was a poor student when he was in Secondary 1 and 2.
"I hung out with a bad crowd. Often I'd skip school and just laze about," Mr Raniel Lee told The New Paper.
It was only the dedication of one of his teachers at Seng Kang Secondary School that made him realise the error of his ways.
"My form teacher, Madam Jane Cheng, took me aside and told me to wake up," he explained. "She said: 'Do you want to be like this forever?"
In an e-mail interview with TNP, Madam Cheng said that while she and Mr Lee shared a strong rapport, she did not hesitate to discipline him when the occasion called for it.
"Raniel took correction in his stride with a positive spirit which touched my heart and he remained respectful," she said. "He was not deterred by setbacks and rose above them all."Madam Cheng's dedication prompted a turnaround in Mr Lee's behaviour.
A combination of persistence and hard work earned Mr Lee a place in ITE College East studying Info-communications Technology and then into Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) to study Business Informatics.
Mr Lee started in IT even before he was aware that this was the route for him.
Even during his bad period at school, he picked up basic coding to personalise his Blogspot page online.
His site was so good that friends started to ask him to embellish their sites with code. With these small coding jobs, he was able to earn some pocket money.
He joined the school's audio-visual club helping with technical set-ups. It was soon clear to Mr Lee that he had to travel the IT path.
His spirit of entrepreneurship also continued.
He founded two businesses - InspireArts in 2012 while he was in NYP and Jobook in 2015 after he completed his national service, said Mr Lee, who single and living with his parents in a flat in north-east Singapore.
InspireArts is a web development company and Jobook is a job-matching site.
18-year-old Mr Girish Kumar created a program which uses artificial intelligence to generate quiz questions. He was one of the recipients at th IT Youth awards at the Singapore Computer Society's annual IT Leader Awards this month. TNP PHOTO: AZIM AZMAN
"With this award, I hope to inspire young people to try out for a path in IT," he said. "Whatever circumstances you find yourself in at the moment, it does not mean you give up."
Mr Girish Kumar, 18, who also got the award - which recognises inspiring role models in Singapore's information technology industry - wants to use artificial intelligence (AI) to help students of all ages improve in their studies.
The graduate of National University of Singapore High School of Math and Science has created RevUp.
The programme uses AI to take source material uploaded by the user and automatically generate quiz questions.
"I was inspired by this game called QuizUp, but I eventually found the questions repetitive," Mr Girish, who is living with his parents, told TNP. "So I asked myself, 'Why not automatically generate questions to have a greater variety for students?'."
Now doing national service, he credits his mentors during his first internship at A*Star, Dr Donny Soh and Dr Cheu Eng Yeow, for his interest in artificial intelligence. It was their close guidance during a project on gesture recognition for smartphones that Mr Girish found a fascination with coding and the potential for AI.
In the future, he dreams of taking artificial intelligence further into the medical field.
"I want to be able to use AI to solve healthcare problems, for instance, being able to diagnose diseases," he said.
"Whatever circumstances you find yourself in at the moment, it does not mean you give up."
— Mr Raniel Lee, who is one of the winners of the Singapore Computer Society IT Leader Awards’ IT Youth of the Year, on overcoming difficulty