New design thinking programme gets young students to tackle food waste, climate change

Tan Kai Da, 11, presenting his group's project. They came up with a composting machine to turn food waste into fertiliser. ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

SINGAPORE - Ideas to turn food waste into fertiliser, save water and curb plastic usage were presented on Saturday as students sought to showcase what they had learnt about tackling local community issues.

Their presentation at Nanyang Community Club in Jurong West was the culmination of a design thinking programme by technology firm Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and the People's Association (PA).

Under the programme, called TCS-PA Nanyang Sayang goIT, 27 students between Primary 1 and Secondary 2 from low-income families attended more than 20 sessions in June to flesh out their ideas.

The programme is one of the projects under the Alliance for Community Empowerment, which was launched by TCS and PA on Saturday.

The alliance aims to foster digital literacy among underprivileged youth, families and the elderly through programmes and initiatives.

Tan Kai Da, 11, was in the group comprising Primary 1 to 4 pupils in the design thinking programme who came up with a composting machine to turn food waste into fertiliser.

The group made a prototype of the machine out of cardboard.

"Participating in the workshop allowed me to make use of my ideas to save the environment as there are many people who throw away food nowadays," said the Primary 4 from Xingnan Primary School.

The Primary 5 and 6 pupils proposed a water-saving shower system, while the Secondary 1 and 2 students suggested an app that encourages users to reduce plastic usage.

Under the programme, eight junior college students and university undergraduates from the Nanyang Youth Network learnt design thinking skills from TCS' technology experts.

They then conducted workshops for the younger students and each guided a group in proposing solutions for the chosen issues.

Biomedical science student Melissa Heng, 20, from the Management Development Institute of Singapore, said she mentored the group working on solutions to food waste.

"They were very imaginative and one even suggested that a monster can eat food waste. But eventually, they came up with the composting machine themselves," she said.

The students presented their ideas to National Development Minister Desmond Lee and West Coast GRC MP Ang Wei Neng.

Mr Ang said: "I am impressed by the creative solutions that the young (students) have produced, with guidance from the youth mentors, and I am sure the skills that they learnt will benefit them in the long run."

Mr Lee said the skills the students learnt can help them to solve pressing issues such as sustainability and liveability.

"As you grow up, I hope these skills will stand you in good stead, and in turn, you'll be able to train the next generation of students," he said in his speech at the launch of the alliance.

The alliance will roll out the design programme at other community clubs and start anti-scam education workshops for the elderly later this year.

All the initiatives are funded by money collected in a donation drive by TCS employees. It raised close to $70,000.

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