Speeches/Interviews

May 24, 2019

Speech for Mr Ong Ye Kung, Minister for Education, at the Launch of the Dinoquest Exhibition, in Science Centre Singapore

Professor Lim Tit Meng, Chief Executive of Science Centre Singapore,

Ladies and gentlemen,

1. I am happy to be here today at the launch of the DinoQuest Exhibition.

2. Dinosaurs have fascinated us way before the Jurassic Park movies, and since they were first identified in the 1800s. Many children have harboured dreams of discovering the next T-Rex fossil while digging soil somewhere. DinoQuest will let us live out that fantasy. It will unleash kids’ imaginations, and unleash the kid in us adults.

3. We get to walk into an imaginary new world, digging for fossils, piecing together the clues to infer what the full dinosaur may look like, and you get to experience the science of palaeontology. You go behind the scenes. You are no longer just an observer looking at a mighty dinosaur, you are a participant in the process of discovery.

4. Such is the experiential, inquiry-based approach of learning at the Science Centre. More of such experiences will be brought to young and old Singaporeans, when we have the New Science Centre.

5. The current Science Centre is over 40 years old, and has brought us many good memories. I came here many times as a child, each time for many hours tinkering with every exhibit. I came here even more times as a young father with my children.

6. But I went on to study economics and my children are showing more interest in the social sciences. Notwithstanding, they love nature and its fascinations. More importantly, they know that every phenomenon in this world has underlying explanations. They have internalised the scientific method and this is an important mindset to have, regardless of the nature of problems we encounter in life.

7. The new Science Centre will be next to the Jurong Lake Gardens and the Chinese Garden MRT station, and promises to bring even more excitement, and in time, memories for its visitors. We started planning for the new centre a few years ago. I would like to take this opportunity to thank Mr Koh Boon Hwee, who chaired the Science Centre Steering Committee, for his vision and guidance in the planning phase.

8. Today I am happy to announce that we have reached the next milestone of the project - the award of the multi-disciplinary consultancy tender for the design of the new Science Centre to the team led by Architects 61 Private Ltd in collaboration with Zaha Hadid Limited.

9. We received a lot of interest in this project. We shortlisted five out of the initial 24, went through a second round of evaluation to go through their design proposals and concepts. I thank the teams who submitted designs for their enthusiasm for this very meaningful endeavour.

10. The successful consultancy team has proposed a wonderful concept design which will create a beautiful new Science Centre that takes full advantage of the lake and garden setting of the Jurong Lake Gardens. We are not ready to share the details just yet, but the concept design has certainly incorporated many interesting planning and design features that will make the new Science Centre an exciting new destination for all Singaporeans, young and old.

11. How will it be better? For a start, it will be larger, which will allow us to have more space to expand our offering. But more important is the difference in visitor experience, and in the programmes that can be offered to students, and science enthusiasts.

12. In the conceptualising phase of the project, the team visited many science centres around the world. They were inspired by the many best practices and features, such as those at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, and Miraikan in Tokyo. These centres have pushed the boundaries of what it means to offer hands-on learning experiences, to allow visitors to be deeply fascinated with science, and to ignite that spark of curiosity and the sense of exploration.

13. Hands-on experience already exists at the current Science Centre, at the Tinkering Studio. This Studio is both an exhibition area as well as a place for workshops. In the New Science Centre, almost the whole Centre will be a big Tinkering Studio. This means re-conceptualising the use of space, integrating exhibition galleries, laboratories and workshop space into one.

14. What does it mean for students? For example, a student can see an exhibition on the DNA and also conduct experiments to analyse DNA using molecular biology tools in the same space. Or, students may visit an exhibition on robotics and drones, and then start work on programming their own drone with the tools available at the Centre. Or learn about climate change and start building their own solar panels. The learning is brought to life immediately.

15. And thanks to the Internet of Things, students can monitor the projects they are working on back in school. If they were studying water quality in Jurong Lake or experimenting with how certain plants grow with certain nutrients, they can continue to monitor the progress of their project when they are back in school.

16. We will also expand the space for more laboratory-based programmes. Say students have a particular question they are interested in exploring, or an idea for something they want to build, they can tap on the Science Centre’s tools and mentors to guide them. This is already happening, but at the New Science Centre, more space and resources will be catered to such activities.

17. As we wind down the focus on examinations in schools, we are ramping up inquiry-based and applied learning in schools. The New Science Centre will be the biggest applied learning classroom, for all our students. And we have worked this into the conceptual design of the new Centre.

18. How will it be better for the larger community? For science enthusiasts, there will be a Maker-Tinkerer space that is open to the public. Say, you have a ‘garage project’ that requires a 3D printer. You can come to the maker space and use the Science Centre’s tools and materials. You can also attend workshops by experts, and in time, join the community of ‘makers’ and contribute to the growth of the community.

19. The new Centre will also tap on the deep expertise around us. So, whether you are a hospital looking to improve public health, a technology company looking to create or test prototypes, a community group trying to cut down waste or promote clean energy, there will be more opportunities for you to co-create programmes.

20. It is also a platform that links research being done at IHLs with the public, so that scientific research and technological breakthroughs can be shared with the community in a relatable manner, and we can all better appreciate the important impact and implications of science and technology in our lives and in society.

21. Finally, the new Science Centre will be a very attractive venue for the residents and the local community. We will ensure that the spacious and lush grounds of the new Science Centre would become event spaces and create signature events for families and the larger community.

22. The new Science Centre is a very exciting development for Singapore. We will have a Centre that is iconic, attractive, inspiring and which Singaporeans will be proud of. It will energise all Singaporeans’ interest in Science and Technology, spur creativity and innovation. We will keep you updated on the progress of the project, which will come to fruition around 2025. I invite you to imagine, explore and dream with us.

23. Thank you.