Five award winners at MHA's Excel Fest for innovation and service excellence

(From left) ITE College East mechanical engineering students Mr Shawn Neo, 18, and Mr Vinothkanna Manogaran, 21, with their teacher-in-charge Mr Alvin Teo, 39, with their portable accident shield screen. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN
(From left) ITE College East mechanical engineering students Mr Shawn Neo, 18, and Mr Vinothkanna Manogaran, 21, with their teacher-in-charge Mr Alvin Teo, 39, with their portable accident shield screen. -- ST PHOTO: NEO XIAOBIN

SINGAPORE - Games, machines and mobile apps that help improve safety and security were on display on Thursday at the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) biennial Excel Fest.

They were among some 25 inventions created by students working with the Home Team to resolve problems faced by police and civil defence officers which received the Ministry's Security Awareness for Everyone (Safe) awards.

Another 32 Home Team officers and teams received MHA 3i Awards for their innovative solutions, while 66 officers received Star Service awards for delivering excellent service to the public.

Here are five of the winners who received awards at a ceremony at the MHA headquarters in Novena.


- Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) chief medical officer Col Ng Yih Yng, 40

Home Team Process Innovation of the Year Award (Platinum)

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In 2013, a year after Dr Ng changed the script for dispatchers manning the 995 emergency helpline, more than two out of five callers carried out cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) under instructions from the dispatcher.

Previously, only one in five would agree to deliver the potentially lifesaving procedure. The SCDF receives around 1,800 calls about cardiac arrest every year.

"Traditionally we have always had trouble trying to recruit people to do chest compressions...If a family member has collapsed, most people are panicking," said Dr Ng.

He changed the script to encourage callers to do CPR after evaluating tapes of emergency calls and identifying key elements of successful ones. For example, instead of asking "do you know CPR?", dispatchers now tell callers "we need you to do CPR and we will guide you through it," Dr Ng said.

- Singapore Prison Service Deputy Superintendent of Prisons 2 (DSP2) Kalaivanan Visvalingam, 44

Home Team Innovation Champion Award (Platinum)

Some 250kg of rice is cooked per meal at at DSP2 Kalaivanan's institution in Changi Prison, so imagine the work it takes to manually pick out the dirt mixed in with the grains. DSP2 Kalaivanan led a team to create a filtration system to remove foreign objects, reducing the time taken for washing the rice and the amount of water used.

The prototype machine is around the size of a chair. Besides filters to take out debris, the device also contains a strong magnet to pull out dirt and a fan to blow fine dust off the rice grains. "When we wash the rice the water comes out a lot less murky and can be used multiple times, so we can save money on water," said DSP2 Kalaivanan, who has won more than 20 awards over the course of his career.

The team made the device in the prison workshop.

- SCDF officer Staff Sergeant (SSgt) Muhammad Hafidz, 29

MHA Distinguished Star Service Award

SSgt Hafidz was off duty and on his way to his fiancee's home when he noticed thick black smoke coming from an eighth-storey Housing Board flat in Jurong. "I could see there were no fire rescue vehicles at the block, so I followed my instinct to stop and see whether anyone needed help," he said.

A middle-aged man was at the unit's kitchen window. Worried that he might try to jump out to escape the fire, SSgt Hafidz went to the unit to investigate. He joined two police officers and neighbours in trying to put out the living room fire until other civil defence officers arrived. He guided them to the unit and helped to evacuate the occupant, who had fallen unconscious.

- Pupils Tan Si Min, 11, Tran Hien Anh, 11, and Sng Yin Jin, 11

Safe Award (Gold)

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The team from Tao Nan School created BlokCrash, portable screens that can be quickly assembled to shield a traffic accident site from prying eyes. The aim is to prevent traffic jams and other accidents from occurring by discouraging curious drivers from slowing down to look at the scene.

- Undergraduate Carol Cheng, 21

Safe Award (Silver)

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National University of Singapore undergraduate Carol Cheng had to learn to code in order to create mobile phone application Speed Photofit. The app allows witnesses of crimes to create a rough sketch of suspects on their phones and send it to the police.

"I've made a police report before and the atmosphere was tense. With this app people can complete the sketch at home," said Ms Cheng, 21.

The app uses Asian instead of Western features, which most existing Photofit software use, she said, adding that she hopes to improve the design to incorporate 3D modelling for more life-like portraits of suspects.