STEAM Research Programme & Festival 2020
The beginning of the STEAM Research Programme was a crucial instance, as my team of three had to choose our end goal for the project. The autonomy felt fresh and intimidating at the same time. Through in-house Innovation Workshops, our teachers gave us guidance in generating ideas that were specific yet achievable. At this multi-pathed juncture, my team felt time-stretched while trying to decide which of the numerous trails to blaze in our quest to innovate. This interim felt long as we discovered and discarded many ideas before we settled on creating a food wastage application that was able to make use of our team’s main topic: Big Data. I had truly experienced the real, inelegant grit of innovation through this brainstorming phase of finding the diamond idea in the rough. I am sincerely grateful to our teacher mentor, Mr Poh, for supporting and advising us through that particularly tumultuous period.
What drew me to the application of Big Data to food wastage was its astronomical potential to contribute to the effectiveness of pre-existing solutions. As a predominantly social issue, the answer to food wastage is omnipresent: changing human behavior accordingly. The complementary long-standing question is: ‘How?’ Another obstacle is the invisibility of this issue in modern city life. It is difficult to convince a person of harm when the impact is not felt in time and connection to the offending action, as it is for climate change and food wastage. It is a global issue with layers upon layers of intricacy, and honestly, I was hungry to make a difference to challenges that span the globe, if given the chance. Zhonghua’s STEAM Research Programme gave me the opportunity, alongside like-minded peers, to contribute ideas towards bettering society. Perhaps that, and the significant potential of the application we wished to design, were what our teachers saw when they decided that we would be one of the groups going for external judging in the Innovation Programme (IvP) organised by MOE Gifted Education Branch.
That ardor fueled me through the painstaking process of realising the concept. I took it upon myself to learn what I could about coding and artificial intelligence for my team to make such an application work. None of us took Computing or Coding at a linguistic level at the time, which translated to our limited capacity to create the application, even within the months we had. Furthermore, Mr Poh and my team met on many mornings to hone our presentation to its finest. Managing schoolwork, the project and social ties was tough. During this time, my two teammates, Joseph and Casey, and I formed strong friendships tested by hardship. I am also filled with fond gladness at the thought that Casey awakened her confident voice through our presentations and practices!
My vision of what the IvP external judging would be like was chilling to the bone: cold, scrutinising eyes of judges gleaming in a dimmed auditorium, with my team presenting our idea under the sole light. It was nothing like the warm, brightly lit setting that had turned out to be. I am deeply grateful for the nurturing nature of the IvP and judging, on the basis of seeking to edify the ideas of youth today for the betterment of tomorrow. In the end, I was pleasantly surprised at our acquisition of Distinction in the programme, and immensely thankful for the high recognition of our team’s hard work!
The final presentation at Zhonghua Virtual STEAM Festival 2020 felt so doable in light of our previous challenges, and I feel in debt to the IvP experience for what it has taught me about innovation, hope, and myself. I feel only happy to fulfill the obligation of sharing my work with my juniors and peers, and I am thrilled to one day see what my juniors will add to our ever-growing world.
Andrea Catedral, 4E4 (2020)