Mr R.K. Suriya Varshan discovered his interest in engineering at the age of 15 after countless hours spent watching videos of air crash investigations that unravelled the reasons behind such incidents.
Now the former Temasek Polytechnic student, who enjoys tinkering with housing appliances and fixing them, has been awarded the Public Service Commission (PSC) scholarship to pursue an engineering degree at the Singapore University of Technology and Design.
Mr Suriya, 23, said he was excited to embark on this next phase. "I would look into adopting newer technology to help others and to make sure that no one is left behind," he told The Straits Times.
He is one of 59 PSC scholarship recipients from last year and this year who started or will start their studies this year.
Education Minister Chan Chun Sing presented the awards to recipients at a virtual closed-door ceremony yesterday.
In his speech, Mr Chan announced a new mid-career leaders' track bringing in talent from the people and private sectors, to boost recruitment in the public sector. Citing Singapore's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Chan said: "All these would also not have been possible if our public service operated in silos and not in close partnership with the private and people sectors, leveraging one another's perspectives, capabilities and capacities."
The scholarship holders this year came from a variety of junior colleges, Integrated Programme or International Baccalaureate schools, and polytechnics.
They will be studying at both local and overseas universities including the Singapore Management University, Carnegie Mellon University in the United States and Sciences Po in France.
In his opening address, PSC chairman Lee Tzu Yang emphasised the need for stronger and more resilient future public service leaders from diverse backgrounds, which was why overseas scholarships were awarded even during a pandemic.
He said the PSC will support those who have decided to go overseas, and has engaged professional services such as counselling to enhance their well-being.
Award recipients said giving back to the community was important to them.
As a volunteer with the polytechnic and the People's Association Youth Network, Mr Suriya taught elderly residents how to use mobile phones.
Another scholarship holder, Ms Liu Jiahui, has volunteered with the migrant worker community since 2017, and led a team to help canteen vendors in her school, Hwa Chong Institution, understand pandemic policies.
She hopes to use her experience to serve the disadvantaged and facilitate the communication of policy. "During a case work mediation session at HealthServe in 2018, I noticed how apparent language barriers are even though Singapore is so diverse," she said.
The 19-year-old will be studying accountancy and business at Nanyang Technological University. Said Ms Liu: "With my degree, I hope to contribute to Singapore's economic recovery from Covid-19 and to create a more inclusive environment for Singapore's small and medium-sized enterprises in a post-pandemic world."