Speech by Ms Grace Fu, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of National Development & Ministry of Education, at the Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors’ Award Presentation Ceremony on Saturday, 5 June 2010, 10.00am at Maxwell Auditorium, Singapore Science Centre.

Dr Low Hwee Boon,
Co-Chairman, Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors’ Award Committee

Distinguished guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Boys and Girls.

A very good morning to all of you.

It is my pleasure to be here with you at the Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors’ Award Presentation Ceremony 2010. I congratulate all the winners and participants of the competition and look forward to finding out more about your inventions later.

This year, I understand the Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors’ Award received nearly 1,000 entries. These came from primary schools, secondary schools, junior colleges and Institutes of Technical Education (ITE). I am pleased to note that we have a good spread of entries, with two-thirds of the entries coming from students below the age of 18 and one third coming from older students and adults in research institutes, tertiary institutions, and private companies.

This participation across a broad spectrum clearly reflects our students’ active engagement and growing interest in the area of innovation. It also shows that our young people are applying their critical and creative thinking skills to solve real-life challenges and come up with novel solutions.

Students of Innovation

Man has always been driven to create innovative devices to improve his life. We see all around us how man’s creativity has shaped our world. Many inventions are created by ordinary folks to solve problems we encounter in our daily life. I recalled some of the interesting inventions that I have come across over a family dinner last weekend:

  • Sake — chilled but not diluted. Jar with a space in the middle for ice and sake is the outer layer surrounding the ice.
  • Getting the attention of the service staff without having to wave or shout for them — wireless portable button.
  • After a meal, need a toothpick. How to get just 1 or 2 of them without touching the rest? Toothpick dispenser.
  • Last, how does the restaurant attract customers to retain and maintain good business? A good luck cat always helps.

Many inventions or creations originated from understanding a need and the way to identify the need is through careful observation and attention to details. I have used the Japanese restaurant example not by chance but because I believe theirs is a society that pays particular attention to the needs of a customer and is relentless in their pursuit of improvement. This is what Singapore should learn as we embark on our journey of economic growth through productivity and knowledge. We have promising examples in Singapore.

Take, for instance, the creation of 12-year-old Ng Jing Chun from Henry Park Primary School and his 9-year-old sister Ng Jing Ni. They have invented the “Just-In-Time Door Guard” — a user-friendly cushion that prevents the slamming of a door. The door guard will automatically swing out to come between the door and the door frame whenever the door is closed with much force. Their creation seems simple and yet it is very effective and practical.

The “Basketball Court Clothes Hanger” created by Kenneth Ng from Tanjong Katong Secondary School is another useful invention. It prevents players’ attire from getting dirty. The aluminum device can be attached to any standard basketball court frame, and can be raised and rotated to the desired position. As there are usually no storage facilities at many basketball courts, players can hang their clothes on the hooks of the device instead of leaving them on the ground. The separate hooks also minimise the likelihood of players retrieving the wrong attire after the game.

Another interesting project is the “ElderlyClock” by Josephine Ng and Kay Si Ying from Nanyang Polytechnic. The “ElderlyClock” allows the elderly to read time clearly without difficulty. A white disc is attached at the end of each hand of the clock to give a high contrast against the numbers, thus indicating the hour and minute more clearly for the viewer.

I hope that these inventions will inspire our young people to continue to apply what they have learnt to improve our lives.

Creating a Learning Environment for Innovation

The first spark of innovation must come from the individual who sees an unsatisfied need. Our students must develop that keen sense of observation, the knack for creating ideas, the confidence to self-direct learning and the perseverance to pursue better solutions. And last, but not least, a good sense of aesthetics to complete the presentation of the product.

I am glad that the Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors’ Award supports our schools’ efforts in getting our students to think out of the box and view problem-solving as an opportunity for creativity. Among other things, the Award also complements the learning environment that schools provide to encourage the spirit of inquiry and learning by discovery.


In closing, I would like to commend the Tan Kah Kee Foundation and its partners — A*STAR, DSTA and the Science Centre, for their concerted and continuing efforts in organising this annual Award. All of you as well as the teachers, who have been guiding their students, have an important role in providing a culture of innovation among our young people and preparing them to be world-ready individuals.

Once again, my heartiest congratulations to the winners of this year’s Tan Kah Kee Young Inventors’ Award.