We Are The Champions: ExCEL Awards 2015

These PS21 ExCEL Awards 2015 innovation champs show that simple ideas, paired with passion and persistence, can make a big difference. 

Art In Plain Sight

Art In Plain Sight
Mr Khor stands in front of a projection of digital art. He believes in picking up new skills so that students can also have their learning experience broadened.

Ben Khor
Subject Head, Enhanced Art Programme & Art Education, Ngee Ann Secondary School

Many teachers believe in lifelong learning but Mr Khor takes it to the next level. Every year the Subject Head, who is trained in industrial design, picks up a new form of art media on his own, which include digital painting, film and animation. “I strongly believe in role modelling learning,” he says. “Each child can learn so much more if we have more skills to offer.”

Mr Khor strongly believes this kaizen (“continuous improvement” in Japanese) attitude helps him to innovate, while making him a better teacher. Hence, he challenged his team of art teachers to join competitions or participate in exhibitions yearly, by using new forms of art media. All have successfully done so in the last two years.

In the spirit of improvement, the art teachers revamped their students’ art space into sanctuaries of creativity and innovation. Art studios with photographic equipment, digital imaging tools and an electronic kiln, as well as a free online repository allow students to access quality resources for their assignments.

Going further to improve his students’ performance in their art examinations, Mr Khor even sat for the paper himself. The full test-taking experience gave him a better grasp of the assessment criteria and how students spent their time on it. With that perspective, he could set more targeted papers for his students that would also benefit their overall learning. He says: “I really needed to understand what the students feel during the paper and before the paper as well.”

The Grenade Changer

The Grenade Changer
Ms Tay tosses a “grenade” made out of Lego parts. “After university, I applied to the Air Force… but didn’t get in because of my [poor] eyesight,” she says cheerfully.

Eilenia Tay
Defence Executive Officer, Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Ammunition Command, Ministry of Defence

Ms Tay joined the SAF School of Ammunition as a course instructor in 2007, armed with an interest in weapons and a background in IT training. She remembers struggling during her first ammunition courses, having “no idea what they were talking about”

She decided she had to go for a technical course, which was outside her job scope and required only for military officers. There, she learned all about ammunition parts, how they function, their safety features, and more.

Now at the Ammunition Command, what Ms Tay learned has helped her better understand the jargon used by the local arms supplier. That also came in useful when one of the SAF’s contractors made a “strange” request to buy back the expiring grenades. It turned out that the contractor had found a way to safely replace the fuse in a grenade to extend its shelf life.

She remembers struggling during her first ammunition courses, having “no idea what they were talking about”

Ms Tay realised that the SAF could do the same to refresh its stockpile. Negotiating with the contractor to salvage expiring grenades, she reaped nearly $6 million in savings for the SAF.

She has also partnered other defence agencies and manufacturers to extract usable components from faulty ammunition, and improve local capabilities in swapping expired components, saving even more in stockpiling costs every year.

The Blade Runner

The Blade Runner
ME4 Wong has a spirit of never giving up that led him to spur his team to think of better ways to keep servicemen safe.

Wong Kok Keong
Officer-in-charge, 816 Squadron Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF)

Less than two years into his role at the RSAF, Military Expert 4 (ME4) Wong already has a lot to show for his belief in never giving up.

When he found that servicemen were getting their fingers cut doing checks on the AH-64 Apache helicopter, he felt more could be done. These injuries, caused by the blades of unprotected fans, had also plagued US Army soldiers. Not content to stick on a warning note, as the US Army did, ME4 Wong challenged his engineers to think of something else. Eventually, they devised a cover for the fan blades. These were installed for the entire AH-64 Apache fleet and shared with the US Army.

ME4 Wong also led the removal of an annual compass calibration requirement for RSAF helicopters. The exercise takes an hour of hovering and burns plenty of fuel. Noting that the compass serves as a backup for two other navigational devices, he was convinced that doing away with the exercise would reduce costs and allow more flying hours for training.

He enjoys the hands-on problem-solving with his men. “Joy is winning as a team.”

Not surprisingly, his proposal was met with plenty of questions, over its legal implications and more. ME4 Wong researched the topic thoroughly to make sure he could answer questions outside his expertise and get his plan approved. Thanks to his determination, the RSAF now saves $290,000 yearly in operating costs.

What he enjoys is the hands-on problem-solving with his men. “Joy is winning as a team,” says ME4 Wong, who feels stronger camaraderie with his team after working together on innovation projects.

The Music Maverick

The Music Maverick
Mr Indrashah, who leads the NLB Band and organises jamming sessions for staff, can rock out to his heart’s content without disturbing others.

Indrashah Bin Md Isa
Project Manager, Technology and Innovation Division, National Library Board (NLB)

Most libraries will have you shushed if you make any noise. But at library@esplanade, you can turn the volume up in Mr Indrashah’s brainchild of a jamming studio set among bookshelves.

An avid musician, Mr Indrashah is always in tune with innovations in the music world. In 2010, he “stumbled upon” a JamHub device, which channels sound from electric instruments plugged into it directly to the musicians’ headphones. He immediately proposed having a “silent” music studio. “When there is an opportunity for me to match my passion and work, I make sure that it happens,” he says.

One week after his idea was approved, he adds, he “single-handedly converted” the designated room into a Silent Studio. It is the first ever of its kind in a public library space, bolstering library@esplanade’s name as a performing arts library, and is one of the most popular rooms there. The project has also received the NLB Innovation Award.

When there is an opportunity for me to match my passion and work, I make sure that it happens

In 2013, Mr Indrashah set up an in-house video production unit. The initiative won the NLB’s biannual innovation competition, Blackbox, where staff pitch ideas to senior management and get funding as well as project management support for winning ideas. The video team has since produced more than 100 videos, showcasing the staff’s creativity and saving the NLB some $250,000 annually in external video production costs. The following year, Mr Indrashah went on to lead Blackbox, encouraging other staff to propose and test their innovative ideas.

To Mr Indrashah, innovation is about “changing something for the better, not just for yourself, but for your organisation”. He also meets with other public agencies to share about the NLB’s innovation journey. For more of his innovations, look out for smart bus stops: he is currently part of a multi-agency team working to improve the experience of waiting for a bus, by providing commuters with e-resources, such as e-books.

The Paper Smith

The Paper Smith
Ms Kamisah poses with paper props showing a few simple ideas that make life easier for staff and students at Xinmin Secondary School.

Kamisah Binte Midi
Operations Support Officer, Xinmin Secondary School

Ms Kamisah has a keen eye for spotting problems and finding simple ways to solve them.

Concerned that students were not drinking enough water, she came up with the idea of hydration check cards. Her inspiration? Observing a routine medical check-up for her mother, when a nurse conducted a simple urine test. Now, staff and students can check their hydration levels by comparing the colour of their pee with those on the chart, laminated copies of which are put up in all toilets.

Another bugbear was staff keys going missing or getting mixed up as the teachers moved around. Ms Kamisah is particularly proud of her staff room seating charts. Colours identify teachers of different subjects, and each teacher’s cubicle is numbered to match their keys. Name labels affixed with Blu-Tack on the chart make tracking teachers’ movements (and their keys) easy.

Ms Kamisah’s efforts also boost her colleagues’ morale. Thanks to a pocket-sized list of important contact numbers that she compiled, support officers and security guards can resolve issues when the Operations Manager is not around. And her suggestion of a key-return box, now in place outside the General Office, means support staff no longer have to stay late or return to school to collect keys from staff or students who stay back late.

Ms Kamisah says she wants to motivate her colleagues to follow her example. With her supervisor’s support, she has conducted Learning Journeys for three schools, which are implementing her ideas. “I find joy in sharing with others,” she says. “It’s not just about receiving an award.”


Wi-Fi and 4G/LTE connectivity

Wi-Fi and 4G/LTE connectivity
Maritime and Port Authority (MPA)

The MPA envisions a connected Maritime Singapore, where those working at Singapore’s ports – whether in visiting ships, local harbour craft or ferry terminals – can stay connected with free wireless connectivity. So it collaborated with a telecoms service provider to set up a 4G cellular network. The low-cost, high bandwidth and secure wireless broadband in port waters reaches 15km from shore. This also opens up research opportunities for testing new technologies, such as long-range Wi-Fi that can extend beyond the current 50m to 100m range for cargo terminals.

EZ-Link card

EZ-Link card
National Council of Social Services (NCSS)

Not having small change on hand kept people from donating to good causes, the NCSS found. So they came up with an alternative: the EZ-Link card. By installing wireless cardreaders behind Community Chest posters at MRT stations, the NCSS made it super easy for commuters to donate using EZ-Link. This also helped the NCSS cut the labour-intensive coin counting after donation drives. Up to 54,000 people had the chance to donate via mobile card-readers at the National Day Parade and preview last year.

HTML 5, JavaScript and other web tools

HTML 5, JavaScript and other web tools
The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA)

The URA’s ePlanner is a multi-platform, geospatial analytics portal for urban planning that more than 20 public agencies can access. Made with basic Web languages such as HTML5 and JavaScript, plus various open-source mapping and data visualisation libraries, the ePlanner makes complex Geographic Information System and big data analytics more intuitive and user-friendly.


PUB, Singapore’s national water agency

Verifying transport claims can be tedious and timeconsuming, especially for PUB officers who travel as far as 120km going to the Linggiu reservoir in Johor. To simplify the process for them and those in human resources, PUB worked with a vendor to develop a GPS-based mobile application that does not need mobile data to track trips. This idea to move from paper documents to an app has reaped increased productivity for PUB staff, and manpower savings of nearly $58,000 a year.

    Jan 5, 2016
    Joanna Hor
    Teck, Lumina
    Ng Shiwei
    Hair and Makeup by Rina Sim
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