Meet the PS21 ExCEL Awards 2013 Innovation Champions

Look out for these PS21 ExCEL Awards 2013 Innovation Champions who have improved work processes and public services with their bright ideas and zeal.
Meet the PS21 ExCEL Awards 2013 Innovation Champions

Master Sergeant (MSG) Murugesan S/O Subramaniam

Instructor of Basic Training Wing,
Signal Institute, Ministry of Defence (MINDEF)

MSG Murugesan may be a soldier through and through (he addresses this writer as “Ma’am”), but his interests certainly go beyond military craft.

Inspired by the visual thinking processes used by Apple in its product design, the self-starter signed up for courses in innovation and facilitation skills. Later, he developed his own framework and conducted several sessions with other trainers and leaders to generate ideas on improving training for trainees at the Signals Formation. The Formation provides communication and digital support to the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF).

An idea borne out of these sessions was to build a simulation software for hardware firewall training. MSG Murugesan picked up basic programming skills and motivated his teammates to help him to build this software. The program mimics the qualities of a hardware firewall and enables Signals trainees to receive realistic training in a “live”, simulated environment. This saved the SAF nearly $500,000 and many man-hours of training.

For the MINDEF/SAF Outstanding WITS Leader in 2012 and 2013, his dream invention is a program that can “capture the fleeting moments of human brilliance (such as that of Steve Jobs and Einstein) and make it available for future generations to build on”.

Meet the PS21 ExCEL Awards 2013 Innovation Champions
Left: Master Sergeant (MSG) Murugesan S/O Subramaniam, Right: Supt Peh Chye Hock Thomas

Supt Peh Chye Hock Thomas

Deputy Commander (Ground Operations),
Woodlands Command,
Immigration & Checkpoints Authority

Supt Peh sounds a little hesitant to be called “innovative”.

“I’m not very innovation-minded, but my job [as the former Deputy Commander for Counter Terrorism and Security] required me to be,” he says modestly.

Last year, in collaboration with the Office of the Chief Science and Technology Officer at the Ministry of Home Affairs, the then head of security spearheaded the set-up of the Woodlands Analytical (Chemical) Laboratory to make border control more robust. Officers are able to analyse and detect “security sensitive materials” (such as bomb-making substances) within a short period of time. The speed and precision of the screening also reduce undue delay in the clearance of travellers and goods at the border.

The empathetic leader was also privy to the difficulties faced on the ground. When he realised that officers at the Bus Hall were facing a spike in traveller volume, he quickly led a team to implement changes such as installing railings to enable more people to queue in an orderly manner.

Though Supt Peh has been redeployed to other job areas, he hasn’t stopped working with colleagues to enhance security at the Woodlands checkpoint. They already have a joint initiative in the pipeline that leverages new technologies such as intelligent analytics.

Deng Lu

Research Officer,
National Environment Agency (NEA)

Mr Deng has a “killer” job. He researches on the growth and behaviour of mosquitoes so that human beings can come up with better ways to eliminate them.

The laboratory he works in used to feed live guinea pigs to the mosquito colonies they rear. Not only did this risk attracting the ire of animal lovers, it was a chore handling the creatures in the lab. That was why Mr Deng set out to devise a better way to feed the bloodsuckers. The result: the Sausage Membrane Feeding System, a 3- to 5-cm-long sausage made from synthetic collagen skin and filled with animal blood. Each sausage can satiate 1,000 mosquitoes.

It took Mr Deng and his team nearly a year to test and develop the system, which has so far helped the lab to save $40,000.

There are more ideas buzzing. He is now testing another “killer” idea – an ultrasonic technology to destroy mosquito larvae in water tanks.

“The management gives us a lot of freedom to explore new ideas,” says Mr Deng, the NEA Outstanding Activist of 2013. “[My ideas] have never been rejected before.”

Meet the PS21 ExCEL Awards 2013 Innovation Champions
Left: Deng Lu, Right: Alwin Njoo

Alwin Njoo

Head of Department (HOD),
Science and Year Head,
Teck Whye Secondary School (TWSS)

Mr Njoo leads the application of design thinking (DT) in students’ curriculum and enrichment programmes at TWSS. Keen to identify and meet the needs of students, the HOD (Science) has worked with teachers from other departments to develop integrated programmes for students. The TWSS lead DT Champion also won the Ministry of Education (MOE) Outstanding Contribution Awards in
2011 and 2012.

“Ideas are my daily energy boosters,” says the gregarious officer, who has been teaching for 16 years. To him, problems are opportunities for innovation.

Take the man’s “award-winning idea” to brighten up the “dungeon” on the first level of his school for example. The gloomy corridor dampens the spirits of students who study at the area, he says. To avoid straining the school’s resources, he led the science teachers to design a turbine system that makes use of rain water flowing from the third level to the first to generate electricity. It will be protoyped this year.

Thanks to Mr Njoo’s efforts, TWSS has been awarded the Niche Programme Status in DT excellence by MOE.

    Jan 22, 2014
    Chen Jingting
    John Heng
    Yip Siew Fei
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