Thursday, January 3, 2013

Max Leow: a Rising Engineering Talent

Leow Ying Jie, or Max as he likes to be known, may come across as just another regular Mechatronics student from NYP’s School of Engineering  but if you delve a little deeper, you might find out that he actually has a remarkable story to share.
Max (foreground) and his partner, Jun Wen (background), competing at WordSkills Singapore 2012.
At 24, he is already a silver medallist in Mechatronics category in WorldSkills Singapore 2012, a prestigious national-level competition.  He took part in this team competition together with team-mate Chan Jun Wen in July 2012. And that’s not all.  Max was also part of the NYP team which developed “Red ATOM”, a world record-breaking robot that placed Nanyang Polytechnic and Singapore on the map – an impressive feat that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed during his National Day rally in August 2012.

Max’s success is the product of a highly-motivated and passionate individual, who has received the encouragement, guidance and polish from a dedicated team of NYP lecturers who have helped him take his talents to the next level.

“NYP is a place where I can get industry-related experience. I feel very proud that the lecturers trust me enough to give me opportunities to compete on such a high level. I have found them to be very kind, helpful and caring. They are approachable and willing to help if you do not understand anything. They teach me more than what I need to know and give me thorough explanations and industry-related examples,” said Max.

Early this year, Max, and the rest of the team, flew to Bristol, England to participate in the Federation of International Robot-soccer Association (FIRA) Roboworld Cup competition. Their trip paid-off: when Red ATOM clinched the top prize in its category, defeating last year’s winner. It also broke the world record for sprints by covering over 6-metres in 32 seconds, handily beating the previous world record of 42 seconds.
Max in Bristol London with the NYP team that claimed victory at the FIRA World Cup Competition.
But what made their robot stand out? “It’s about making the robot act like a human. This means the robot has to be able to run, avoid obstacles and sense movements that will make it unstable (like kicking a ball) and compensate to keep its balance. But in the event that it does fall, it has to come back up again by itself without any external help,” Max explained.

The competition  gave its participants the leeway to exercise their unbridled creativity and innovation in coming up with their robots.  As we were also competing with the best talents from around the world, making the best robot was a tall order.

“It took us quite some time to make sure that our robots are in tip-top condition. But it wasn’t really that hard, you just need to have your heart in it and take care of it like it’s your baby,” said Max.
The award-winning, record-breaking Red ATOM put Singapore on the map. Thanks to Red ATOM and the NYP team, Singapore is now the force to reckon with at the FIRA Roboworld Cup competition.
Prior to WorldSkills and the FIRA Roboworld Cup, Max gained some competition experience when he represented Singapore in the ASEAN Skills Competition in Kuala Lumpur. Max felt that both the WorldSkills Competition and ASEAN Skills Competition had been invaluable experiences which he had much to learn from. With these two competitions under his belt, he then took on the international-level FIRA competition, where the pressure he faced and the expectations he needed to meet were definitely higher.

Max is an example of an individual who is able to perform under pressure. Hard work is important too, Max shared, as his team spent six days a week in school training and familiarising themselves with the robot.  When speaking to Max, it becomes obvious that he does not regret the hard work and commitment. “We never thought we would set a new record, so when we heard the news, we were delighted!”

“The other countries looked at us in a new light when they realised we were actually one of the strongest teams. Our success was even talked about on the BBC – they named our robot after the world’s faster runner, Usain Bolt,” he continued with a small laugh.

A patriotic lad, he also shared how proud he was to have represented Singapore, as he was keen to show the world what the nation is capable of. “I want to be a famous engineering programmer so that I can show the world that Singapore produces excellent talent as well,” Max shared. “Besides, it’s fun seeing a machine work according to how you programme it.”

Participating in world-class competitions also allowed Max to develop other skills. “I didn’t only learn about technical stuff, but I’ve also learnt the importance of team work” he said.

Travelling halfway across the world also allowed him to visit  England’s landmarks; he was thrilled to see Buckingham Palace as well as Big Ben and other attractions in London. He was also grateful for the opportunity to make new friends from different nationalities and earnestly shared that “this will be a memory I will never forget”.

When Max isn’t blazing trails as a NYP student, he makes time for simple hobbies. In his free time, he likes to go for a game of Snooker or enjoys a bit of swimming.

Enrolling as a NYP student has ignited Max’s passion for engineering. Fresh after his FIRA World Cup and WorldSkills experiences, he is already working on a Sumo robotic game  for the Singapore Robotic Games next year.

If you also have a thirst for engineering, remember to check out NYP’s School of Engineering (SEG).

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