Student makers – A source of inspiration for peers

I was totally impressed by these two Secondary 4 students.

Fabian and Anton might look just like any other typical Singaporean students on the streets, but their curiousity and aspirations have brought them beyond academic pursuits, to explore how to improve things. I think they have set exemplary examples to their peers that if you set your mind to do something, nothing will be too difficult!

Check out this video which they had taken to document the process of their project, the challenges they faced and how they overcame them.

Their project

So, as you could see from the video, Fabian and Anton will be showcasing a modified AR.Drone, a remote-controlled quadcopter made by Parrot. They felt that the AR.Drone is a fascinating product and an engineering achievement, though limited by some issues such as its battery life and weight. Fabian and Anton aimed to solve these problems to open the platform up to many more uses.

They will also showcase a device called the Makey-Makey, originally showcased at the Maker Faire in the United States. This device can turn literally anything into a functioning keyboard.

If you have seen any video on how the Makey-Makey works, you will probably be as excited as me right now. Google Makey-Makey online and you will have a better idea what it is, or if not, just come for the Singapore Mini Maker Faire 2012. Fabian informed us through our email interview that this is believed to be the only set in Singapore as of now! Their mentor from Intel Mobile Communications, Mr Kwok Lih, was the one who got it for them.

About Fabian and Anton

They are Secondary 4 students from Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) and according to them, they specialise in mobile microarchitecture design and modification (e.g. desktops, laptops, tablets and smartphones). I am not sure how you feel right now, but when I first read those words from our email interview, I felt a sense of admiration. I suspect it is uncommon for students of this age to confidently use the words “specialise”, not to mention to use them on complicated subjects. I sincerely admire them for their confidence and am looking forward to meet them!

The two of them have recently started to explore the field of (reverse) engineering, starting with the Arduino and Parrot AR.Drone.

Maker Faire

When asked if they have heard of the Maker Faire before this, Fabian and Anton shared that they have heard of it from their Intel mentor, Mr Kwok who took part in the San Francisco Maker Faire this June and felt that the projects are eye-opening. Hence, they are excited that it is coming to Singapore!

Challenges they faced

As mentioned earlier, things will never be too difficult when you set your mind to do it. I suppose the driving force behind Fabian and Anton was their passion. Their teacher, Mrs Eileen Tan-Tay, testified to this statement. She shared that Anton and Fabian are a source of inspiration for both teachers and students, and that it is difficult nowadays to come across students who are intrinsically motivated so it has been her great pleasure to be given the opportunity to work with them.

From their video above, as well as another video here, we learnt that they faced various challenges along the way but they have faced them undeterred. Of course, they are also blessed with the support from school with funding, the availability of facilities and supportive teachers, whom according to Fabian and Anton had persevered with them through their “numerous jokes, pranks, our general uncooperativeness”. I guess joy and sweat almost always come together in a package.

Fabian and Anton also humbly acknowledged the support from various sponsors and institutes, which they felt made their project possible, and the support from another group of students who worked on the Ardrone using the Labview software by National Instruments.

Their words of advice

Fabian and Anton are of view that making should be expanded and seen as a hobby that is as useful as a formal education. They feel that making is highly underrated as an experience or hobby here -many people have not discovered the benefits and intellectual stimulation from inventing. They advocate less studying and more making. They believe that if the rigid education mindset of Singaporeans could be changed, the Maker scene here could truly flourish.

One final word from the two inspiring boys – Never give up on what you truly like to do.


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