An excerpt from an interview (part I) of A/Prof Lim Tit Meng (SCS Chief Executive) by Kristoffer Frøkjær – the Host of “World of Science” programme on Danish National Radio
Kristoffer: First of all, I must say that I’m really impressed by the Science Centre. We have something in Denmark which is like a tenth or something [in size]. And I think it must reflect some of the things you want to do with the students, much as this place is also for the adults. When I came through your door, I noticed your title is “professor”?
A/Prof Lim: Yes, I’m seconded from the University. I belong to NUS. I’m a biologist by training. So you can say that MOE “borrowed” me from the University to head the Science Centre.
Kristoffer: Ah, I was just wondering how that came about. So you’re from the scientific world… Does it help you in thinking scientifically?
A/Prof Lim: Certainly, because I always enjoy science. And I can see the power of science. For our young people, they must understand that we approach problems with observations, with questions, and how to gather information, make evidence-based deductions or hypothesis or even design solutions to a problem they may encounter.
For example, our water crisis… we used to depend on freshwater supply from our neighbouring countries because Singapore is so small. But we know that we have to be self-reliant. So we recycle our water, we come up with filtration systems to make sure that our water – every single drop has an opportunity to come back to sustain our life. So we have filtration technology – we call it NEWater – because we renew water in a new way. And we also invest a lot in desalination processes because we are an island surrounded by the sea.
All this water technology is because of science.
Kristoffer: So in what way does Science Centre play a role in getting the science to the students?
A/Prof Lim: In recent years, we’ve positioned ourselves as a Science Centre without walls. So we’re literally inside as well as outside: inside in the sense that we have a lot of exhibitions, we have many special labs, workshop areas – like lately we’d opened up a Tinkering Studio, and a few years ago, we’d started CRADLΣ – which is a very hands-on centre for research and applied learning in science. It’s a place for schools to send students here.
And we also have many competitions that are held here. Thousands of students will come through to take part in all kinds of competitions – from simple toy making using scientific principles to very sophisticated robotics, designing flying machines and so on. So through all these exhibitions, competitions, enrichment activities, workshops, we really bring to our students, the young people, the excitement, the fun of doing science and learning science!
And we also do this outside of the Science Centre walls. We go to the communities. We run MakerSpace. We run Makers programmes. Our Maker Faire Singapore has grown tremendously in 5 years. We started with only 20 booths, with 50 makers. Over the weekend, 2,000 people came. The last MakerFaire that we’d organised, we had 700 Makers and we had 15,000 people coming through over 1 weekend.
So this is the kind of impact we have on our communities. We also partner private companies like the Zoo, the Bird Park, Universal Studios, Sea Aquarium, Gardens by the Bay to run events during our Singapore Science Festival – which is another way that we showcase to the nation that without science, we cannot celebrate whatever we have in Singapore.
Even the theme parks, the roller coaster rides need a lot of science and engineering to make them safe. And therefore, we want to bring the direct relevance of science in our daily life – be it in our business, in our food, in our entertainment, in our leisure, that science is important.
Kristoffer: You’re right. Science is important. But there are also many things that are important which are not science. Of course you mean, that science is the most important thing in the world. But the students have to learn a lot of things. Still, you’ve managed to put science in front. How have you done that?
A/Prof Lim: Well, we position Science Centre as place where science befriends and transforms the minds of millions – that is how we state our vision statement. When you come to the Science Centre, you realise that Science Centre is a friend to you. And we just inspire you, we just share with you like a friend would share, good things (when you come, you have good times with us), and it’s up to you how much you’d want to make of it.
It’s okay if you don’t become a scientist or an engineer. But as long as you like science and you know that science is important, when you go out and become a philosopher or an artist, or a banker or a lawyer, science will not be a strange creature that you cannot resonate with.
A lot of problems, a lot of daily issues, if you apply scientific thinking, you then become critical, analytical, you use evidence-based decision making, and also you can do experiments in the way you do business, you can do experiments on social behaviour – which isn’t necessarily hard-core science, but the approach is the same – with that thinking behind.
Stay tuned for Part II of Kristoffer’s interview with A/Prof Lim!~