ITE students snag top prize in international aviation design competition

Mr Lee Kern from Hwa Chong Institution (left) with Mr Steven Muthukumar and Ms Nicole Ng and Mr Michael Cham from the Institute of Technical Education College Central.
Mr Lee Kern from Hwa Chong Institution (left) with Mr Steven Muthukumar and Ms Nicole Ng and Mr Michael Cham from the Institute of Technical Education College Central. ST PHOTO: DESMOND FOO

SINGAPORE - A squid-shaped plane with a hybrid engine and an ejectable cabin has become a global winner for three Institute of Technical Education (ITE) students who envisioned it.

The trio from ITE College Central walked away with the top prize in the prototypes category of a world competition organised by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).

The team comprised Mr Steven Muthukumar and Ms Nicole Ng, both aged 17, and Mr Michael Cham, 57, who enrolled at the ITE last year to pursue his passion in product design after working 33 years in the retail sector.

Said Mr Steven: "We represent Singapore... we are a small country but we won globally so we are proud that we won."

Meanwhile, another 17-year-old, Hwa Chong Institution student Lee Kern, took the top prize in the concepts category in the Asia-Pacific region. He had designed a passenger drone that can connect to other drones and transport nodes.

The results of the inaugural Aviation Innovation Competition was announced last month in Montreal, Canada.

But the students received their awards from Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan at the ITE College Central campus on Thursday (Oct 10).

Mr Khaw said in a Facebook post: "(The students) impressed the judges with their amazing ideas for possible future aircraft type and how these can improve flights of the future.

"I hope they will remain interested in this sector and in due course join us... and help grow the Changi Air Hub!"


The three ITE students had titled their project Low Emission Aircraft, with their idea illustrated in a digital 3D model.

Mr Steven and Ms Ng are first-year students in the aerospace technology course. They worked together on the design of the plane.

Said Mr Steven: "In aviation, the fuel is very expensive, so I wanted to reduce the fuel consumption. I thought if a car can have a hybrid engine, why not an aircraft?"

Ms Ng, who drew the sketches for the design, suggested an add-on in which the cabin and cockpit can be detached from the fuselage during an emergency.

Parachutes are attached to the top of the cabin to slow down the descent in an emergency. Inflatable tubes are also installed at the bottom of the cabin to cushion a landing.

Mr Cham, a second-year student in the product design course, helped to create 3D models of the design because of his expertise in modelling software.

The team said they were surprised by the win. "We submitted our project without any expectations."

In a Facebook post on Thursday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he was delighted the students had triumphed in the competition.

Mr Lee, who also noted the ICAO's work in setting aviation policies and Singapore's recent re-election as a council member in the organisation, added: "As a major aviation hub, it's important to play an active role in the ICAO, in order to ensure a level playing field in global aviation."