Mr Abdul Halim Ali Akbar (right) was in Innova Junior College and feeling aimless when he looked to the stars one day and saw his future written there. "I was studying arts but felt no passion for it. I realised that since childhood, I'd always been interested in space and aircraft. I'd always been excited about trips to the airport and Science Centre," he said yesterday.
So the former student of Madrasah Irsyad Zuhri in Braddell Road dropped out of JC and applied to study aeronautical engineering at the Singapore Polytechnic. He then went on to receive a master's in aeronautical engineering from Imperial College London, and is now a research intern at A*Star.
The 26-year-old was cited by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in the Malay segment of his National Day Rally speech yesterday as an example of a young Malay who is participating fully in the new economy.
While technology is changing industries and replacing jobs, it is also creating new opportunities, said Mr Lee, adding that Singapore needs more engineers, programmers, scientists and game designers.
He highlighted one of Mr Halim's projects at A*Star - building drones that can receive instructions from QR codes. Mr Halim will do his PhD soon and research plasma propulsion drones. He hopes to do a post-doctoral stint at the United States' National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Singapore has a strong position in space research, he said. "There's a lot we can do here in researching space and space technology to develop applications for people on earth."