Sunday, 3 July 2016

Engineering key to Singapore's future as smart nation: PM Lee Hsien Loong at Institution of Engineers, Singapore Golden Jubilee Dinner

Engineering matters for Singapore's future, says PM Lee Hsien Loong
But Republic faces big challenge in building up talent and keeping abreast of changes in field
By Chong Zi Liang, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2016

Singapore has boosted its water supply by recycling water and increased its physical size by reclaiming land - all feats of engineers.

Indeed, just as engineering helped transform Singapore into a modern state, it will continue to play a key role as the country strives to be a smart nation and overcome its lack of resources, said Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong yesterday.

But it faces a major challenge in building up engineering talent and keeping abreast of changes in its practice, Mr Lee said at the 50th anniversary celebration of Singapore's Institution of Engineers, attended by about 1,000 people at the Ritz-Carlton hotel.

In Singapore's early years, government scholarships were given to youth to study engineering, to help build the country's basic infrastructure, like transport networks, and to industralise its economy.

The leaders then also believed the study of engineering developed analytical rigour, discipline and problem-solving skills, he said.

"One can argue that Singapore was built on the backs of engineers," Mr Lee added.

But it has since become harder to attract top students to study engineering and do engineering jobs, as many opt for the humanities, business and finance, he noted.

Engineering is among the major professions here with the most vacancies in the past few years.

Singapore needs 1,000 more engineers each year in the next few years to keep public infrastructure projects going. The shortage has prompted Mr Lee to highlight, several times in the past year, the need to grow the pool of engineers and rethink the value of engineering.

Yesterday, he warned that while Singapore has world-class capabilities in building deep-sea drilling platforms, "in many other fields of engineering, even where we have developed competence, we are not at the cutting edge".

For instance, Singapore is very computer-literate but the deepest expertise is elsewhere as Silicon Valley attracts the best IT talent from all over the world, he noted.

To improve the situation, schools here are promoting science, technology, engineering and mathematics. And the public sector has introduced career paths for engineers to keep and attract talent, he said.

Public sector engineers will get, from mid-year, a pay boost and a road map of career advancement.

Commenting on engineers' role in a smart nation, defence technology educator Tan Yang How said they can, say, develop a system to turn energy from incinerating waste to steam to drive generators.

Last night, Professor Cham Tao Soon, former president of Nanyang Technological University, got a Lifetime Engineering Achievement Award, while Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli, who has an electrical engineering degree, was made an honorary fellow of the institution.

Prof Cham, who has a civil engineering degree, said engineering gave him problem-solving skills. "Engineers don't talk about ideal situations, they just solve problems according to what they are."

Two engineering veterans honoured
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2016

Two leading lights in engineering here received high honours last night for their contributions in advancing the profession and Singapore's development.

Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, was named honorary fellow of the Institution of Engineers Singapore (IES), while Professor Cham Tao Soon received its Lifetime Engineering Achievement Award, the highest honour in the field here.

Mr Masagos, who trained as an electrical engineer, made history as Singtel's first Malay graduate engineer in 1988, and rose to be chief executive of Singtel Global Offices.

Since becoming a minister last October, the 53-year-old has been tasked with creating a more liveable future for Singaporeans, planning for the country's long-term water sustainability and working regionally to promote cooperation in fighting transboundary haze.

Prof Cham, 77, has a civil engineering degree and helped build up the profession when he was the institution's president in the 1980s. He also founded the Academy of Engineering Singapore.

A key driver in raising engineering competency in higher learning institutes here, he is credited with making Nanyang Technological University a leader in engineering education. In April, he was appointed to set up the Singapore Rail Academy to boost the training and re-skilling of engineers and technicians.

Referring to both men, IES president Edwin Khew said: "You are great role models attesting to the difference that engineers can make in various sectors of our economy."

On attracting young people to join the field, Prof Cham said the main challenge is finding "ways to make the profession imaginative, to tell them that all the 21st century comforts - computers, handphones - are creations of engineers".

He added: "Hopefully, they'll want to be part of this group that creates."

MRT tunnel among 50 top engineering feats here
By Zhaki Abdullah, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2016

To link the Fort Canning and Bencoolen MRT stations on the upcoming Downtown Line 3, Land Transport Authority (LTA) engineers had to build tunnels just 1m above the existing North East Line (NEL) tunnel - the closest two lines have run on Singapore's rail network.

Built over nine months between 2013 and 2014, they also cross below the North-South and Circle lines, at 8m and 3m respectively.

The Fort Canning tunnel was recognised yesterday by the Institution of Engineers Singapore (IES) as one of the top 50 engineering achievements with the greatest impact on Singapore since 1965.

The feats were picked by people who voted online from a shortlist of 113 entries to an IES competition.

The winners were 28 public sector projects and 22 private sector projects.

The LTA garnered 11 awards, the most by any agency.

LTA senior project engineer Esen Sze, who was in charge of the Fort Canning tunnel project, said: "Our job was very, very challenging as we had to make sure construction work close to these live lines was stringently controlled."

Hundreds of instruments were placed in the tunnels of the other lines, monitoring them 24 hours a day to ensure that their power lines were not affected and there was no impact on the track beds.

"Once the track bed is out of position, it can cause a derailment," said Mr Sze, adding that physical checks of the track bed were conducted between 1am and 4.30am, when no trains were running.

Prior to the tunnel, the closest distance between two lines was 4m, between the DTL and the NEL at the Little India station.

Tunnelling under Fort Canning, engineers also had to worry about boulders with diameters of between 2m and 5m, which could badly damage cutters on the tunnel boring machine. It can take up to 36 hours for the cutters to be replaced and workers who do this must prepare in a compression chamber to condition themselves for greater air pressure underground.

Other projects by LTA that were selected include the world's first Electronic Road Pricing scheme and the NEL, the world's first fully automated underground driverless heavy rail rapid transit line.

The Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network set up by the Infocomm Development Authority to give all residential and non-residential properties here high-speed broadband access was also among the public sector projects selected.

Also recognised were the Republic's first 50-storey public housing project, the Pinnacle@Duxton, and My Waterway@Punggol, the first man-made waterway designed as a landscape feature in a housing estate, both by the Housing Board.

Five other achievements
By Lim Yan Liang, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2016

AIR+ Smart Mask: The 2013 haze led Innosparks, a unit of ST Engineering, to create a mask with a microventilator that has a mini fan to keep the user cool. Traditional masks were humid and stuffy when worn.

Breaking the Arctic Ice: Asia's first icebreaking ships for the Arctic region were built in Singapore by Keppel Singmarine in 2008. They can cut through solid ice of over 1.7m thick while operating in temperatures as low as minus 45 deg C.

Infrared Fever Scanning: During the 2003 Sars outbreak, the Defence Science and Technology Agency and ST Electronics produced a machine that can detect a person with fever unobstrusively. Using their knowledge of radar, electro-optics, IT, applied statistics, physics and human physiology, they adapted military thermal imagers to produce the system.

Gardens by the Bay: The concrete and steel supertrees there, which are as tall as 16-storey buildings, tap solar energy to provide lighting at night.

Deep Tunnel Sewerage System: This system of tunnels channels used water to advanced treatment plants by gravity for it to be reused. It makes Singapore more self-sufficient in water, and frees up prime land occupied by conventional plants.

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