Report by Sheena Tan
Photos by Chai Sian Liang
Roll a tennis ball down a ramp to knock down a row of dominoes, which in turn pulls a plug to drain water from a bottle, and voila, the school flag is raised.
At the Singapore Science Centre on 22 Aug, close to 200 students from 16 primary and secondary schools took part in the Singapore Amazing Machine Competition, to create a machine to raise their miniature school flags in as many distinct steps as possible.
Jointly organised by the Science Centre, DSO National Laboratories and the NUS High School of Mathematics and Science, the competition drew inspiration from American cartoonist Reuben Goldberg, best known for his cartoons depicting complicated devices that perform simple tasks.
In his speech during the prize presentation, Permanent Secretary (Defence Development) Dr Tan Kim Siew emphasised the need for Singapore to retain her competitive edge through continued innovation and R&D (research and development).
"Being creative and inventive is no longer a bonus, but a necessity. We must therefore nurture such a mindset from your school days," said Dr Tan, who is also Chairman of DSO National Laboratories in his address to the students.
Receiving over 160 entries in April, the teams were whittled down to 40 for the finals. Teams were judged on their creativity and innovation, complexity of scientific concepts, the number of distinct steps and the use of environmentally-friendly materials.
Dr Tan presented awards to the winners of the different age groups, as well as awards to the most innovative team, the team with the most number of scientific concepts, the most environmentally-friendly team and the team with the best effort.
Emerging champion of the secondary school division were students from NUS High School's Amazing Machine team who displayed excellent use of complex scientific concepts with their machine modelled after an amusement park.
"In this competition, we got to see physics concepts come to life. We applied concepts such as circular motion and conservation of momentum, which we only knew theoretically before the competition," said Hnin Darle Lin, a Secondary Three student from the Amazing Machine team.
For Cham Zek Min, a Primary Six Tao Nan School student from Jolly Roger team, the competition taught her how to "think out of the box, to be creative and innovative, and not just stick to conventional methods of doing things", she told cyberpioneer. Her team won the most Environmentally-Friendly Award with their use of recycled items such as Coca Cola bottles, old toy parts and cardboard boxes.
Up It Goes! team from Unity Primary School, that clinched both the top award for the Primary School Division and the Most Innovative Award, shared about the difficulties they encountered in getting their machine parts, such as the wheels, to work.
"We had to make a lot of adjustments to the machine before it could work, but through it all, we learnt teamwork, and how to cooperate with one another," said team member Ang Yu Ning, a Primary Four student.
At the prize presentation ceremony, DSO and NUS High also signed a memorandum of understanding on collaborative initiatives to encourage and support research in NUS High, which will help to build a talent pool in Singapore with the passion for Science and Engineering.
Photo Caption: Up It Goes! team member Lim Xiao Zhen from Unity Primary School demonstrating how her team's machine works to Dr Tan Kim Siew (right).
Photo Caption: (Left to right) Ahn Sun Young, Semi Kang, Hnin Darle Lin, Kim Ji Yun and Yiong Ziyi of NUS High School's Amazing Machine team making adjustments to their machine before the start of the ceremony.