Students' cool idea helps the needy

Xinmin Secondary and 19 other teams in entrepreneurship contest donate $12,600 in sales proceeds

Students in Singapore have come up with an ingenious way to beat the heat while staying dry.

Called the 'unicoella', their creation is an umbrella with a mini-fan clipped inside.

The five Xinmin Secondary School students sold them for $14.90 each yesterday at the finals of the Youth Entrepreneurs Competition.

Their team was one of 20 finalists from secondary and tertiary institutions selling products that ranged from snacks to handmade flower pots and colourful elastic shoe laces at the Singapore Discovery Centre.

More than 40 schools took part in the inaugural competition, which aimed to encourage entrepreneurship among young people. Yesterday's finals were part of a wider event called Youthphoria, which was organised by the centre in Jurong and the Army Museum of Singapore.

Minister of State for Defence and Education Lawrence Wong urged the youngsters to take on challenges and risks. 'If you're afraid of failing, you will clip your wings... In fact when you look at successful entrepreneurs today, many have made mistakes in the past. But they have also learnt from their failures and overcome challenges that seemed daunting at first.'

Competition judges eventually declared ITE College West the winner. Its students sold thumbdrives, cupcakes, drinks, balloons and henna. In all, the 20 teams raised $12,587.88 from their sales. Half was donated to The Straits Times School Pocket Money Fund, which helps children from low-income families. The rest went to charities of each team's choice.

More than 3,000 people turned up for Youthphoria, which featured dance and music performances.

The centre also launched a new 'woodsball' arena yesterday - the first of its kind in Singapore. Woodsball is a type of paintball played on natural terrain as opposed to a flat field. The new venue will open to the public from July 2. Called the Crossfire Paintball Arena, it features a multiple-tier game area, and players can use closed-circuit television cameras to decide their strategies during each round.

Yesterday, two teams took part in a demonstration match. One team had superior numbers, while the other had the help of the cameras; the team that used technology won. Brigadier-General (NS) Lowrence Chua, the centre's executive director, said: 'No one owes Singapore a living, and we must be able to defend ourselves. With teamwork and strong leadership, even a smaller team can beat the odds.'

roysim@sph.com.sg