Robots and 'local delicacies' at inaugural science contest for Normal stream students

The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East campus.
The Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East campus.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - A table-spread of local delicacies, from wanton mee to chendol and even chilli crab, was on show at the Institute of Technical Education (ITE) College East campus on Tuesday morning (May 24).

However, at a closer glance, these were not the real thing, but food models made entirely of sugar and candies.

They were made by 10 secondary school teamsas part of the inaugural national science competition for Normal stream students, called IgnITE Skills Challenge 2016.

The challenge is organised by ITE in collaboration with Science Centre Singapore and the Education Ministry. It is the result of merging two competitions organised by ITE previously- the IgnITE Science & Technology Challenge for Normal (Technical) students and the ITE Skills Challenge for both NT and Normal (Academic) students.

"What we want is to bring Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (Stem) skills to students with a fun component," said Dr Lionel Lau, Director of the School of Applied & Health Sciences at ITE.

Participants competed in 12 categories, such as CanDIY and RoboMech, which required them to create models of local food delicacies using candy and build specially-programmed robots to collect objects respectively.

All participants had to undergo a 1.5 hour workshop related to their competing category before the preliminary round to familiarise themselves with the skills involved.

In the CanDIY category, a team from Holy Innocents' High School bagged the top prize with their chilli crab model.

One of the team members, Janelle Ng, 16, said: "I felt like our hard work paid off. Three weeks after we got into the finals, we would stay back in school almost every day to practise making and refining our model."

The team had faced some difficulties, one of which was a constantly melting and collapsing crab shell. In the end, they overcame this obstacle by switching from a shell made of hard candy to one made of orange fondant, a kind of solid icing.

For some, the challenge did more than impart skills. "I felt like this whole experience helped to build my confidence in competitions. I might go for more competitions now," said Chng Zong Han, 14, one of the three members of Clementi Town Secondary School team that won first place in the RoboMech category.

The guest of honour, Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State (Communications and Information and Education), said: "(The competition) demonstrates that what one learns in science can be applied to the real world, and that this applicability of scientific knowledge can be conveyed in an exciting and engaging way."

More than 1600 students from 68 schools participated in the challenge this year, with 366 students from 50 schools moving past the preliminary round into the finals.