Engineered for Success: The Journey from ITE to Poly and SIT


(SIT Photo: Keng Photography/Hah Zengmin)

When it comes to success stories, there are some that really stand out. Kelly Chak Mun Yi and Alex Tan Han Lin are two remarkable students who embarked on a journey that would ultimately redefine their futures. After completing their Institute of Technical Education (ITE) and polytechnic education, they initially doubted their chances of obtaining a university education. However, their paths took a different turn as they discovered the incredible possibilities within their reach at the Singapore Institute of Technology (SIT).

For Kelly and Alex, their paths followed SIT’s innovative pedagogy of applied learning, culminating in the Integrated Work Study Programme (IWSP), a transformative industry experience that bridges the gap between theory and practice. Both Kelly and Alex made such a strong impression on their IWSP companies that they received offers for full-time positions before their graduation.

Today, Kelly holds a BEng (Honours) Mechanical Design and Manufacturing Engineering (MDME), while Alex graduated with a BEng (Honours) Civil Engineering. Their journey is a compelling example of how the synergy between personal aptitude and SIT's commitment to applied learning can pave the way for extraordinary accomplishments.

Inspiration Begins at Home

Apart from their shared beginnings at ITE in the Aerospace Avionic programme, both Kelly and Alex attribute their educational motivations to a common source of inspiration: their fathers. Kelly's father was a resident technical officer at a construction site. “My dad inspired me to pursue engineering. From a young age, I would often help to build and assemble furniture or repair electronics and wirings in the house,” said Kelly.

Initially, Kelly had reservations about pursuing further education at the university level. “Back then, I was often told I could only go into ITE since I didn’t do well for my PSLE. ITE was nicknamed ‘It’s The End’ by a lot of people and that once you get into ITE, you can’t go anywhere from there,” said Kelly. After graduating from Nanyang Polytechnic with a Diploma in Mechatronics Engineering, she was encouraged by her parents to apply for university.


Kelly at her graduation (SIT Photo: Keng Photography/Hah Zengmin)

Meanwhile, Alex's father, an aircraft engineer at SIA Engineering Company (SIAEC), inspired Alex to pursue aircraft engineering for most of his life – he even studied Aeronautical Engineering at Singapore Polytechnic. “My father demonstrated the qualities of a skilled engineer, teaching me about being dedicated and precise in my work,” said Alex. However, Alex's travel experiences sparked such a deep fascination with architecture that he eventually transitioned to civil engineering. Much like Kelly, he initially had reservations about pursuing a university degree.

“To be candid, the standout moment for me was simply stepping into university. I was a former ITE student, and I would never have expected myself to land a spot in university,” said Alex.

SIT as a Platform to Shine

Despite their own initial doubts, both Kelly and Alex have excelled in their studies, and a common thread runs through their capstone projects: a focus on sustainable solutions by enhancing efficiency. Kelly worked on the development of light conversion material using upconversion nanoparticles (UCNP). These tiny particles can take weak, low-energy light and turn it into stronger, high-energy light. Her goal was to apply this technology to enhance the illumination of vertical farm facades.

Meanwhile, Alex investigated corroded reinforcement bars (rebars) in concrete structures, focusing on rust-resistant alternatives like fibre reinforced polymer materials. His capstone project aimed to address a global issue that has already cost the construction industry up to US$2.5 trillion, as of 2013.

However, it was during their work experience during their IWSPs that they were able to put their theories into practice. Kelly found her experience during her IWSP as a failure analysis engineer with STMicroelectronics truly eye-opening. She developed a temperature and humidity monitoring system, aimed at enhancing equipment monitoring efficiency. She was also tasked with creating a user-friendly guide for the support team for the monitoring system she had created.

This experience played a pivotal role in enhancing her soft skills and teaching her the importance of a growth mindset. Kelly is no longer the self-doubting student who did not excel in her PSLE and was told she could only go into ITE. “My career aspiration is to one day be able to lead a team of my own and create solutions that will positively impact people’s lives,” said Kelly.

She has already taken the next big step on that path -- STMicroelectronics was so impressed with her work and attitude that they offered Kelly a full-time position as a process engineer (diffusion). Her one-year IWSP stint was also taken into consideration in the offer package.

When it comes to Alex, one could say that he is driven by his passion for achieving his goal of setting up the next generation of engineers for success. “I'm passionate about guiding others, especially those in situations similar to mine,” said Alex, who never expected to excel in university after finishing ITE. He is also an incredibly motivated individual. During his time at SIT, he participated in two internships, on top of his IWSP. “I planned my internships meticulously to gain specific exposure to the built environment industry.”

Alex spent his IWSP at Woh Hup Pte Ltd, a construction company that is responsible for many of Singapore’s landmarks, including Jewel Changi and The Interlace condominium. He took the role of site engineer intern, with a focus on the safe construction of reinforced concrete structures encompassing beams, columns, and walls. The IWSP also taught him about the importance of effective stakeholder management and time management.

Thanks to his drive, Alex secured a full-time position at Woh Hup as a site engineer, with his sights set on advancing to the role of project manager in the future. This progression will enable him to actively engage in mentorship programmes and offer guidance to aspiring engineers in the years to come.

The Work-Fun Balance

AT SIT, learning is not limited to the classroom. For students pursuing joint or Overseas University (OU) undergraduate programmes, the Overseas Immersion Programme (OIP) will provide them with greater learning experiences through international exposure.

As part of the Civil Engineering cohort, Alex participated in an intensive three-week Design Project workshop at the University of Glasgow in Scotland.


Alex at the University of Glasgow (Photo: Alex Tan)

He retains the memories of his OIP in high regard, where he not only found it enriching but also had the incredible experience of witnessing a match between Manchester United and Liverpool. For Alex, it remains "a pivotal moment in my life experiences."

While Kelly was not able to participate in her OIP at Newcastle University in the United Kingdom due to the COVID-19 pandemic, she picked up CueSports at SIT and even represented the university in numerous competitions. “The journey and the bond with the club members were something to look forward to every time,” said Kelly.

In addition to being a SITizen Ambassador and the secretary of Civil Engineering at SIT, Alex is also the founder of The Late Bloomer Project – a volunteer initiative providing free tutoring in Mathematics and Science to students preparing for GCE 'N' and 'O' Level examinations. Alex, along with a team of dedicated university mentors, supports at-risk youths and conducts motivational talks at secondary schools to share insights into STEM-related industries.

An Engineered Path

For Kelly and Alex, their past educational experiences didn't instil them with the confidence to pursue a  university education. However, it is SIT’s pedagogy of applied learning that drew them both to their respective courses, and landed them job offers immediately after graduation. 

“I chose SIT because they offer students ample hands-on opportunities to acquire and refine their skills and knowledge,” said Kelly.

“I was drawn to SIT because of IWSP. I recognised early on in my academic journey that acquiring hands-on practical experience would significantly enhance my readiness for a successful engineering career,” said Alex.

Their remarkable journeys are a testament to the possibilities that SIT can offer, proving that one's past does not define their future. The path to success can take unexpected and extraordinary turns, and Kelly and Alex are living proof, redefining the boundaries of what's achievable. Check out how SIT can empower you to achieve your aspirations, no matter where you begin your journey – success is not bestowed; it is engineered. Visit


This article first appeared on Campus SG.


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