Are you a science geek?

Are you a science geek?
Young Scientist badges from the Singapore Science Centre.

SINGAPORE - Now that Science Centre Singapore is moving to a new home, it seems an opportune moment to introduce a new addition to its flagship Young Scientist Badge Scheme, which aims to stimulate interest in science activities among young students.

I am proposing the I Was A Sad Science Centre Geek Badge, a new alumni programme that aims to rekindle interest in the sciences through the nation's current craze for retro eighties memorabilia.

Just like the other activity cards in the Young Scientist programme, it may be purchased for $2.50 each from the Science Centre Curiosity Shop. You may seek advice from parents or teachers, but you must carry out the activities yourself.

Present the completed activity card to a Science Centre official, who will verify that you have completed the activities which will earn you the corresponding number of stars indicated.

Upon earning 15 stars, the I Was A Sad Science Centre Geek Badge will be awarded. What follows are possible questions for the activity, but the answers are based on the real-life experiences of this former geek.

1. Find out who designed the Science Centre and try to explain why it looks like that. (1 star)

The Science Centre building, which opened in 1977, was designed by a local architect called Raymond Woo who won a nationwide competition in the mid-1970s. I'm guessing he was a fan of Star Trek and later Star Wars.

2. Describe your earliest memory of the Science Centre. (2 stars)

Walking into a carpeted room and pressing all the buttons in sight. Relentlessly, over and over again, and not really caring to read the panels that lit up in response.

I must have been about five, but this behaviour persisted well into my teens. To this day, I have dreams featuring large round pulsating lit buttons.

3. State the number of Young Scientist Badges you received. (1 star for every badge)

Alas, only three. The I Am A Young Botanist badge was the easiest to get because it was a matter of drawing flowers and getting my mum's help to identify vegetables. The Young Ecologist badge was a little tougher - I had to go a few times to the eco-garden at the Science Centre to gaze purposefully at dragonflies and pond skaters.

By the time I got to the Young Zoologist badge, though, I had wised up and just bought a book of model answers that was selling like hot cakes at the annual book fair.

For many of us, the badges ignited a sort of collection mania that would continue to dog us and deplete our bank accounts for most of our adult lives. But I never stood a chance of getting the entire series.

Sadly, there were no model answers for the really cool badges with the unpronounceable names and unreasonable demands. The Young Ornithologist badge asked for the collection of real bird feathers and as for the Young Entomologist badge with the ladybird on the front? Eww.

4. Name three genuinely cool things you first saw at the Science Centre. (2 stars)

The Science Centre was where I first saw a hologram. I smooshed a button and suddenly there it was. Come to think of it, I haven't seen another hologram since, except on television or in a movie.

I also watched my first Omnimax movie at the Science Centre, something about a space shuttle mission.

The third cool thing I saw - and pestered my parents to buy - was either sea monkeys or a sort of magically expanding fish which was tiny until you put it in a bowl of water. It then grew to a gigantic turgid monster which made you wonder for a second about the mysteries of chemistry - but that was about it, really.

5. Describe, in your own words, how the Science Centre made a difference to the rest of your education and your career. (3 stars)

I guess going to the Science Centre sparked enough of an interest in science for me to attempt the deadly "triple Science" combination - consisting of physics, chemistry and biology - in secondary school and later.

(Nah, it was never all that parental and peer pressure to do the most prestigious course available at the time. I mean, who does that?) It wasn't until the first few weeks of junior college that I realised that having an interest in science just wasn't going to cut it. From getting chemical compounds on my fingers in a fume cupboard to copying my neighbour's answers during a physics spot test and still scoring 0.5 out of 10 for it, I soon found out that I was a total klutz at doing anything vaguely scientific, let alone try to reach the Nobel laureaute level of understanding and skill that seemed expected of us at the A levels.

Today, therefore, I have a very healthy respect for science and a real sense of interest and wonderment as to how the world around us works. Provided it is explained, of course, by either Morgan Freeman or Neil deGrasse Tyson.

I also have a keen awareness that science is indirectly paying my salary by keeping the Singapore economy relevant. Biochemists are powering our pharmaceutical and medical technology industries, engineers are building the oil rigs and drillships we export and advanced materials researchers are patenting the innovations of tomorrow. Humanities graduates like me? I guess we just point this out every now and then.

6. Compose a limerick on the Science Centre. (3 stars)

Okay, here goes:

There is a cool place in Jurong

Where all the geeks feel they belong

Where knowledge is passed

With memories that last

But now will sing its swansong!

Thank you for completing the activity card and contributing to the memory of a 37-year-old institution in Singapore. We will assess your submission and, if you are successful, you will be eligible to collect your brand-new pin badge when the Science Centre reopens in Jurong Lake Gardens.

Good luck.

This article was first published on August 24, 2014.
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