Angry Birds video game the inspiration for two 11-year-olds who won science award

Students exploring toys invented for the 20th Sony Creative Science Award at the Science Centre. The competition encourages toy inventions that utilise science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles.
Students exploring toys invented for the 20th Sony Creative Science Award at the Science Centre. The competition encourages toy inventions that utilise science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

When trying to come up with a concept for a science project, 11-year-olds Nicole Tan and Rachel Toh looked to one of their favourite video games for inspiration: Angry Birds.

Noticing that the game was a good demonstration of kinetic energy and physics at work, they devised a toy that would demonstrate energy using ping pong balls to approximate the grumpy fowl. Using catapults, players would shoot the balls at targets and this would trigger a chain reaction of lights and sounds.

Said Nicole: "We were playing Angry Birds inside this (arcade) machine, but it didn't dispense anything, so we had an idea to improve on this and make a toy where you have to earn things to get a prize."

The toy - which Nicole and Rachel named Funatron - won first place in the Whizkid category for the 2017 Sony Creative Science Award (SCSA) on Thursday (Aug 3).

This year marks the 20th edition of this toy-making competition, jointly organised by the Science Centre Singapore and the Sony Group of Companies in Singapore, and supported by the Ministry of Education. SCSA is the largest toy competition in Singapore for primary school students and encourages toy inventions that utilise science, technology, engineering and mathematics principles.

Minister of Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng attended this event as guest of honour, and addressed the crowd of students, teachers, and parents. "It is refreshing to see the creative talents of young children surface for us to enjoy. Through these children, we see the bright future of Singapore," he said.

He also stressed the importance of learning beyond the classroom.

"Foundational learning in our school system today is a good launchpad, but it is insufficient. Applied learning is a good tool to energise our students' creative energies so they can meet the challenges of an uncertain world ahead," he said, urging students to continue using their imagination. "Go chase your rainbows."

This year, SCSA received 4,300 entries from 99 schools, more than twice the amount of entries received when the competition started in 1998.

Science Centre Singapore chief executive Lim Tit Meng told The Straits Times that over the years, there has not only been an increase in entries but also an increase in the variety, concept and ideas of these entries.

He highlighted the importance of focusing on primary school students.

"All kids are born wanting to inquire, investigate and innovate. Primary school students still have that in them and we want to encourage and nurture this," he said.

Other winners at the awards were 10-year-olds Goh Chen Yu and Yap Leia and 8-year-old Yap Jyan.

Chen Yu made a magnetic model that turns caterpillars into butterflies called Where Has My Caterpillar Gone?, while the Yap siblings' invention was a lava lamp-like device called Mix Me If You Can, that demonstrates the effects of mixing different elements.

The top three winners of the Whizkid and Scizkid categories will attend a sponsored trip to Japan to visit educational facilities and attend a workshop with Japanese students.

"This whole process has been very satisfying. In the future, I want to contribute to society through creative thinking," said Rachel.