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Standing out in STEM – and triumphing over the competition

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Standing out in STEM – and triumphing over the competition
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The victors of this year’s NSTEMC were the students from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) (ACS (I)). The first, second and third runners-up were the students from Raffles Institution (RI), Raffles Girls’ School (RGS) and Temasek Junior College (TJC) respectively. All the teams comprised 15-year-old Secondary Three students.

Any one of the finalists could have won – or been eliminated – thanks to the competition’s hands-on interdisciplinary focus, which demanded quick thinking and resourcefulness.

ACS (I) member Emmanuel Soon recalled the team sacrificing weekends and after-school hours to develop a prototype for a solar dryer using limited materials. As team member Ken Yokota Soh revealed, they diligently pored over videos and challenges from past competitions.

Yet, unexpected twists, like the task of constructing ball-and-stick models of organic molecules from memory during the quarter finals, took them by surprise. “After the time was up, we had only built one model,” recounted team member Reyes Lee.

To secure a spot in the grand finals, the ACS (I) team relied on the Wildcard Round, a crucial second chance. Said team member Aiden Lim: “It opened our eyes to the scope of the challenge and drove us to produce our best work and expand our scientific knowledge.”

The NSTEMC placed a premium on strong collaborative and communication skills, ensuring that participants could convey their knowledge in easily understood presentations and responses.

Judge Dr Aniq Ahsan, a scientist at the Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology at A*STAR and technical advisor to the National Climate Change Secretariat at the Prime Minister’s Office, enjoyed the creative team presentations, which included start-up pitches, commercials and skits. Another judge, Dr Li Jingmei, group leader of the Laboratory of Women’s Health and Genetics at A*STAR, appreciated how teams crafted compelling narratives to bring scientific concepts and equations to life – some even incorporated aspects of Singapore’s history.

Fellow judge Assistant Professor Yvonne Gao, Centre for Quantum Technologies at the National University of Singapore, agreed, noting the teams’ confidence and their ability to articulate strategies and scientific rationale.

APPLYING STEM PRINCIPLES TO THE REAL WORLD