Polytechnics give engineering a new face

Polytechnics give engineering a new face
Some of Singapore Polytechnic's students who take “hybrid” engineering courses are (from left) Bryan Lim and Nur Farzana Mohammed Saini (taking engineering systems), Ms Teo Zhi Ting (bioengineering), Mr Foong Wei Xiong (chemical engineering), and Ms Nur Ai’shafina Amran (civil engineering with business).

SINGAPORE - What does a kangaroo have to do with aeroplanes? Enough to inspire Singapore Polytechnic student Bryan Lim into making a "bendable" landing system to help aircraft land more smoothly.

"Kangaroos' muscles compress as they jump, reducing the landing impact," said the 17-year-old, after being taught during his engineering systems classes how to apply animal movement in product design.

He is one of 40 pioneer students taking the new diploma programme, which merges social science and management with engineering. This is just one of the latest "hybrid" courses introduced by Singapore's polytechnics to change the face of engineering, long seen as "boring".

These multi-disciplinary programmes, which marry engineering with business studies or the life sciences, are also altering the make-up of engineering students.

While engineering courses used to draw those with poorer O-level scores of 18 points and more, students with aggregate scores as low as nine points are flocking to these new courses.

Said Bryan, who scored 11 points for five subjects in his O levels: "I chose the course because of its multi-disciplinary nature and we also get to learn how we affect society with products."

Dr Thian Boon Meng, who oversees the new Singapore Poly (SP) course, said: "Students prefer to study engineering alongside other areas. That's why more hybrid courses are sprouting."

At Ngee Ann Poly, for instance, its Engineering with Business Management programme has about 200 students now, up from 160 in 2010 when it was launched.

"Students enjoy the flexibility. They can use the financial management and marketing skills in engineering companies," said the school's deputy principal Mah Wee Beng.

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