At 25, Ramasamy s/o Subramaniam is living his dream of being a university undergraduate, although the path he was on had seemed to lead a different way.
Ramasamy had always envisioned himself as a university graduate; it just seemed that at every turn, his journey was thwarted. But taking the path less travelled and discovering a passion for product design along the way has led him to become the first few graduates with an ITE Technical Engineer Diploma (TED) to join SIT.
An Unconventional Start
Ramasamy admits to being “playful” in primary school. Not a keen student to start with, going on to the Normal (Technical) stream in secondary school only created self-doubt. When he entered ITE, he was unsure where his academic journey would bring him.
The vision remained, though — one he shared with his parents, whom he credits for supporting him every step of the way. It would not be easy, he knew; but at the back of his mind, he believed it was achievable. When he finished his NITEC course in Aerospace Machining Technology with a Grade Point Average of 3.1, the disappointment was palpable. Not being able to secure a place in polytechnic to pursue a Mechanical Engineering Diploma, he wondered, “What do I do next?”
The Light Ahead
In retrospect, Ramasamy muses that three things helped him decide his next course of action. The first, he says, was perseverance. “I needed this to get to the end of the tunnel,” he explained. The second was hope — to believe that there would indeed be light at the end of the tunnel. Third, was trust, which he had to put in himself as well as in his educators, that he would one day earn a degree.
Ramasamy initially believed that it would take him many years before he could pursue an undergraduate degree. Taking the expected next step of pursuing a Higher NITEC would give him another chance to enter a polytechnic, from where he might forge a path to university. Ramasamy shared, “I thought that by the time I actually made it there, I would probably be 28 years old!”
The thought never deterred him. But his fate took an unexpected turn when he opened his mailbox one day: he received an offer to apply for the TED offered by ITE College Central.
The TED in Machine Technology, administered in tandem with the Gottlieb-Daimler-Schule 1 (vocational college) in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, has been conducted since 2008, but it was new to Ramasamy. There were doubts, which a talk with his ITE lecturers eased – the two-year TED was taught in Singapore; the short exchange trip to Germany would be subsidised; and the modules were comprehensive, if intensive. It was as good a chance as any, if he was willing to put his best foot forward.
As soon as Ramasamy embarked on the TED, he felt the winds of change. “I felt empowered,” he said. “There seemed to be a different adrenaline amongst my peers; everyone was driven to achieve something.” That his fellow schoolmates were working just as hard resonated with him.
That said, the first year was difficult. Ramasamy admits that his foundational knowledge was not strong and he did not feel adequately prepared. His peers seemed to know more, and he struggled to get up to speed. It was not long, however, before he not only caught up with his course mates, but was even able to help them along. At the end of the two years, Ramasamy graduated at the top of his cohort.
Under the TED programme, Ramasamy (left) travelled to Gottlieb-Daimler-Schule 1 in Baden-Württemberg, Germany in 2017 as part of a student exchange trip and showcased his industrial project. (Photo: Ramasamy s/o Subramaniam)
Finding His Place
Among many group projects the youth undertook during the TED was a gripper developed for rehabilitating damaged hands. It captured Ramasamy’s imagination, and for once, he felt that his learning could be useful to society. “It made me happy to see the result of my blood, sweat and tears,” he said with a laugh.
This was the beginning of what has grown into a passion for product design, which he sees as a way to help the needy and vulnerable improve their quality of life. As he was scouting for a university, Ramasamy believed that the Mechanical Engineering programme, jointly offered by SIT and University of Glasgow, would help him develop his interest.
When SIT accepted the young man in 2020, his ITE lecturers rejoiced. He was among the first few TED graduates to be accepted into a full-time degree programme in SIT! Ramasamy’s affinity for engineering was recognised by SIT, and he has not looked back since.
Ramasamy has continued his steady progress and is about to begin his final undergraduate year. And for the third year running, he has been awarded the Singapore Business Federation Foundation-SIT Scholarship.
Ramasamy is a regular recipient of the Singapore Business Federation Foundation-SIT Scholarship. The annual scholarship supports deserving students pursuing full-time Engineering or Health Sciences degree programmes at SIT. (Photo: Ramasamy s/o Subramaniam)
Full Steam Ahead
At SIT, Ramasamy also discovered a competitive streak in himself. He finds that the combination of projects and quizzes keeps him continually on his toes, and he thrives on the challenges every module presents. “There is nothing mundane at SIT,” he enthused. “There are different skills to acquire with every project, which keeps things interesting. The lecturers are always motivating us to succeed.”
Ramasamy and his team came out tops in the university’s Mapletree Challenge 2022 supported by Mapletree Investments Pte Ltd, and made it into the top three of the National Assistive & Rehabilitation Technology Student Innovation Challenge (ARTSIC) 2022. The team will represent SIT and the country at the Global Innovation Challenge@15th iCREATe 2022 in Hong Kong. “We never thought about winning; but, here we are,” Ramasamy reflected.
Ramasamy (centre) was part of the winning team at the Mapletree Challenge 2022, a sustainable innovation competition among SIT undergraduates supported by Mapletree Investments. Team RADnovation, comprising six Year 2 Mechanical Engineering students, created a portable rehabilitation device that allows patients to perform exercises from home. (Photo: RS Photography)
The Heart of the Journey
Ramasamy’s passion may be innovation but, at the heart of it, are the people he designs for. He spends his free time volunteering with SIT’s Community Service Club as he sees it as another way to engage with the people he wants to help.
He hopes to be a source of encouragement for students who are pursuing a degree. “I’m a real-life example of someone who has achieved his academic dream,” he said. “If I can motivate someone to do the same, it’s a privilege.”
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