Wednesday, 5 June 2013

SST-NTU Day 2 Reflections

Day 2 Reflections

Q1. What did you do today?
A1. Today, we went to the school of Chemical and Biomedical Engineering. Once there, we were given an introduction to the professor, Mr Kevin Kho and also , an elaboration of the topic, the Operation of a Model Refinery Column. Our challenge, was to get a 77% ethanol concentration among a mixture of water, ethanol and methanol. Thus, we had to manipulate the mixture to get the desired amount of ethanol. We did this through heating/cooling and pressurising/depressurising the mixture within a Model Refinery Distillation Column.
Q2. What did you learn today?
A2. I learnt that to excel in science, apart from knowing all the concepts and properties, one must have the spirit of perseverance and a never-say-die attitude. From todays activities, I realised that there are indeed many failures before we attain the final goal of success. Should we have given up half way, we would have never achieved our goal. Thus I believe, after experiencing it first hand, that perseverance is the most important thing in the study of science.
Q3. How did you feel about todays activities?
A3. I feel that today's activities had very hands-on approach as well as a theme of learning by doing. I find that this suits my kinaesthetic learning style very well as I learnt a lot from today's activities. I think this is what SST is advocating now, a world of learning experience through applied learning- that is, learning by doing.

Questions by Professor Kevin Kho:
Q1. What have you learnt about chemical production?
A1. I have learnt that to excel in chemical production, we must be first be very sure of the properties and hazards of the chemical that you are handling. I learnt that for a single success, we have to go through multiple failures. Team dynamics are also very important in ensuring a smooth work flow and therefore, a high efficiency rate.
Q2. What have you appreciated about sampling and analysis?
A2. I have appreciated that it is not the initial result that matters, but it is the attitude of checking and correction that will get us far. We have to learn from our mistake and make the necessary adjustment for a more precise result. The checking comes from the sampling of data from the specimen and analysing the report to found out suitable ways to get the 77% of ethanol in the mixture that we wanted.
Q3. What have you learnt about Science and Engineering?
A3. I learnt that Science and Engineering are closely related to each other and hence, there is no distinct line that cleanly separates the duo. They are both about finding the root cause of the problem at hand, analysing the sample and then, come out with the most plausible solution for it. They two also work towards the same goal, a better life for all of humanity.
Q4. What have you learnt about yourself?
A4. I have learnt that I can get very anxious when testing the sample that I make fundamental errors, such as injecting the sample into the GC even before the needle reaches the bottom. When we were short on time, I found myself struggling to think clearly and my brain went blank. From this, I can tell that I need to be able to stay cool under pressure and think in a logical manner that will allow us to produce a result that is of our group's best ability and not just produce a product of inferior quality that does not reflect our group's true ability/potential.

SST-NTU Day 1 Reflections

Pre Camp Reflections 1
NTU Flagship Camp
4 June 2013

Q1. What sounds interesting about this project?
A1. I chose this project because I always wanted to know how to distill 2 molecules within a liquid industrially, outside of what I have been thought in school. The fact that this project has very real world implications and applications also interested me. It is also relevant to the job scopes of major MNCs like Esso and Shell. All of which, should I possess the adequate skill set, could land me a job with them. Of course, this is a little bit far fetched. At my present moment, learning about industrial distillation could broaden my horizons beyond the 4 distillation methods taught to me by my teachers in school.

Q2. Any thing that you can learn from this project?
I can learn a lot from the about the technical aspects of industrial distillation from the experienced professors here at NTU. Having so many hands-on sessions in the lab could also allow me to hone my lab skills, an important aspect of my Science Practical Assessment. From a not so academical point of view, I could learn how to interact with my group mates and be a better team player. I will be also able to see life in a university and give me a broader perspective of universities in general. It will also aid in my selection of a university in the future.

Q3. Any immediate questions regarding the project?
I would like to know more about the technical aspect of this challenge. Example, how a distillation column works etc. I would want to know the extent of out hands on activities. I am also wondering if what we have learnt in school about filtration and distillation still applies and is as effective/efficient in the industrial world.

Learning Points:
Plenary speech 1: Earthquake research on the Coral Reefs of Sumatra
I learnt that we could actually predict the timing and location of the next earthquake and tsunami. Islands rise and fall in a cycle that is known as the Super Cycle. The island slowly sinks due to shifts in tectonic plates and after around 200 odd years, a earthquake pushes the island back up to equilibrium. Thus, as opposed to my previous understanding of earthquake, I found out that earthquakes had a practical use to it.

Plenary Speech 2: IT for Animation
I learnt that as opposed to popular belief, 3D animations are actually cheaper that 2D animations. I learn about the full process of making a typical Japanese Animation and that it consists of tens of thousands of sketches for each frame in the anime. Making a Japanese Animation is actually very labour intensive and time consuming as it requires a lot of skilled artists working continuously for periods of around 6 months or more.

Plenary Speech 3: Nano technology
I learnt that constructing 3D printing, also known as nano-printing, is much more cost and material efficient as it goes from the ground up and only uses as much material that it needs and no more. Traditional printing, goes from the up down and usually involves a big slab of material that is cut into the desired shape and the rest of the material is then disposed of. As you can see, this wastes lots of material and takes a lot more labour to construct the same object.