SINGAPORE - Military Expert 4 Apprentice Chin Kang Jie's interest in engineering began when, as a child, he watched his father repair and race radio-controlled cars.
Later, in his teenage years, tinkering with his mountain bike became his new hobby as this was more economical than sending the bicycle to a shop for repairs.
When he did not make the grade to study additional mathematics - widely regarded a prerequisite for engineering courses - in Secondary 2, he transferred to another school that would let him do the subject.
On Wednesday (July 29), the Singapore Polytechnic aeronautical engineering graduate was awarded the SAF Engineering Scholarship after signing on with the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF).
"I have the love for engineering and as well as the love for the military, and I found that alignment with RSAF... Given this opportunity in an organisation this big which grows its people was really appealing to me," said ME4(A) Chin, 22.
He is one of a record 95 scholarship recipients at this year's Defence Scholarship Awards Ceremony, where seven types of scholarships were awarded.
These include the SAF Scholarship, the SAF Engineering and Medicine scholarships, and the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) Scholarship.
The recipients, picked for their academic excellence and standout leadership qualities, will pursue their undergraduate studies locally or overseas.
The ceremony was held remotely instead of at its traditional Istana venue due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
"It's certainly not as grand as the Istana, but the significance of this award is in no way diminished," said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen in his speech.
He added: "The quality of recipients has been maintained, if not enhanced, as the number of applications also hit another record, close to 2,000 applicants in all."
He dispelled assumptions that the increase was a result of the economic downturn since applications were received last August, before the Covid-19 pandemic.
Dr Ng also highlighted how the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel contributed to the nation's efforts to handle the pandemic by building beds. DSTA also helped build new mobile swab stations, self-check temperature kiosks and analytics software for better contact tracing, among other contributions.
The military's involvement in setting up community care facilities amid the pandemic had impressed Officer Cadet Rajesh Muthu Ramanathan. The 19-year-old is one of seven SAF Medicine Scholarship recipients.
"I felt that this is something that I want to do in the future - to be there for the nation when you're most needed as a front-line worker," he said.
"That's the reason why I took up medicine in the first place, and being in the SAF, I felt, (would provide) another set of challenges and also a greater meaning for me."
Officer Cadet Tang Tai Ran, one of the two women among the seven recipients of the prestigious SAF Scholarship, hopes be a role model for other girls.
The 19-year-old recalled a scholarship talk she attended in which the panel of scholarship recipients were all men.
"When I looked at the entire table, I realised that there weren't any female representatives. In that moment I thought to myself, I want to be someone that girls in the audience can look up to."