SINGAPORE - Engineering has played a major role in Singapore's growth and transformation and will remain important as the country enters the next phase of development, said Senior Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean on Tuesday (June 18).
Speaking at the launch of an exhibition on engineering at the Science Centre, Mr Teo also encouraged more young people to pursue a career as an engineer or scientist, saying that the possibilities are limitless in Singapore which offers some of the best facilities and support for both big companies and start-ups.
"We can see feats of engineering all around us: from NEWater, to our transportation networks; from the Stamford Detention Tank and Stamford Diversion Canal that protect Orchard Road from floods, to our new mega port at Tuas scheduled to open in 2021," he said.
Mr Teo, who is also the Science Centre's patron, cited the country's newest attraction Jewel Changi Airport as an engineering marvel, due to its glass roof that looks like it is suspended in mid-air.
Jewel was designed with minimal columns and beams to prevent its indoor waterfall and greenery from being obstructed. The glass roof, which weighs 3,500 tonnes or as much as six A380 planes, is propped up by a ring beam and 14 branched out columns attached to the ends of the roof.
"The most impressive thing about Jewel is what by design you don't really see - the roof's support system - thanks to the ingenuity of the engineers who designed it," said Mr Teo.
He added: "There is no doubt that engineering will become more important to Singapore as we enter our next phase of development. There are many exciting challenges waiting for our young Singaporean engineers and scientists. I hope that many more will come forward to write their own exciting stories of challenge and change.”
In his speech, Mr Teo cited young engineer Grace Chia who co-founded local start-up BeeX that develops autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs).
As the remotely operated vehicles used by offshore oil and gas industry are bulky and heavy, Ms Chia and her team designed a highly mobile AUV that can operate wirelessly and can be programmed with specific mission routes using artificial intelligence (AI).
Last December, the invention won first prize at an international robotics competition, the Maritime RobotX Challenge in Hawaii.
"The possibilities for engineering in Singapore are limitless. Singapore has some of the best facilities and the ecosystem to support not only major companies like Keppel to design offshore structures and ice-breakers for the Arctic, but also for Marine robotics start-ups like BeeX to develop cutting-edge technology and make their mark in the world," said Mr Teo.
One such world-class facility is the new Centre for Offshore and Marine Singapore, which helps researchers to better understand complex marine environments. It has an ocean basin with wave and current simulation capabilities. Measuring 60m by 48m, with a depth of up to 50m, it is one of the largest and deepest in the world. When fully operational next year, it will help more companies enhance the design and performance of their solutions.
The Science Centre's Chief Executive Lim Tit Meng said that engineering is part of every aspect of life, from AI to skyscrapers that form the country's skyline.
"Yet, why do we see it as merely an occupation and not a person's idea? Why do we think of the profession as mundane rather than rewarding?"
In a global science perception survey released earlier this year, only 18 per cent of the 1,000 adult Singaporeans polled said engineering would lead to satisfying careers.
According to figures by the Ministry of Manpower in 2017, civil engineers, industrial and production engineers, and mechanical engineers were occupations with the most job vacancies in the "professionals" category.
To showcase the engineering marvels around us, the Future Makers exhibition seeks to bring to life the beauty of engineering and innovation, while explaining how megastructures, rockets and even medicines are invented.
The main attraction of the permanent exhibition is a theatre run by four industrial robotic arms holding video screens. Through videos, the robots tell a story about modern engineering.
Visitors will get to fly drones and operate rovers in an enclosed aviary. Families can use engineering concepts learnt from the exhibition to navigate an escape room resembling a spacecraft.