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Going against all norms, mechanically

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Nadzir Imaan Bin Muhammed Rowter

Year 4, NUS Engineering
NUS Merit Scholar

Despite graduating from Singapore Polytechnic’s Mechanical Engineering course in 2014 with a Diploma with Merit, Nadzir Imaan Bin Muhammed Rowter initially found it difficult to secure a university scholarship.

It wasn’t for lack of trying – Imaan submitted his application for several different scholarships, but was rebuffed almost every time.

What Imaan really felt disheartened by during the process, however, was how the majority of the assessors for his scholarship applications seemed to look down on his academic background, as he had graduated from a polytechnic instead of a junior college.

“At the scholarship interviews, the interviewers’ attitudes towards me would change whenever I told them I came from a polytechnic,” Imaan recounts. “The way they asked me questions was condescending... the interviews and the way they were conducted, made me feel a little hurt. However, I decided not to treat it as a setback. Instead, it just made me more determined to prove my doubters wrong.”

Recognising Imaan’s immense talent and potential, however, the National University of Singapore (NUS) took a chance on him and awarded him the distinguished NUS Merit Scholarship.

In addition, the 25-year-old was also accepted into the University Town College Programme (UTCP) at Tembusu College, where he is currently residing.

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Imaan (standing, fourth from right) participated in the Tembusu House Games’ table tennis competition despite only picking up the sport a year ago.

And it was at Tembusu where Imaan got to pursue his interests outside the world of mechanical engineering.

“I learnt latte art and photography in my first two years at Tembusu, and now, I’m involved in table tennis. There are just so many interest groups to join in Tembusu. The best part is, you don't need to have prior experience in order to join these groups, and that's how you get exposure to something new,” explains Imaan.

In fact, Imaan was so invested in his life at Tembusu, he even ran for the residential college’s presidency in 2018.

“I wanted to shake it up a little, to introduce new ideas to Tembusu. I ran for the presidency because I know that if I want to grow as a person, and as a scholar, I have to try different things in life. And while I didn’t win the election, the experience was hugely beneficial for me, and taught me a lot of things that you won’t learn in the classroom.”

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Imaan (first from left) having fun with his friends at a Halloween event in Tembusu College.

While at Tembusu, Imaan was also exposed to the subject of climate change, as it was one of the topics that was widely discussed in the college.

Imaan has since developed an interest in the topic, and is hopeful of one day being able to use his knowledge in mechanical engineering to “make an impact” in this area.

He added that the knowledge he garnered from Tembusu on climate change has even helped him to better understand certain modules in his mechanical engineering course.

“Some might think that whatever we discuss and learn at Tembusu has nothing to do with engineering, because the subjects are more skewed towards the humanities,” says Imaan.

“But, that’s not true. It actually expanded my horizons, and allowed me to take a more holistic view of things in my course. For example, in the Thermal Environmental Engineering module, it touches on climate change, but only in the functional aspects, like how to produce energy more efficiently.

“However, because of what I learnt at Tembusu, I understand why it is important for us to produce energy efficiently, and how it will affect the climate. So, I get to learn from both aspects, which makes me a more well-rounded student.”

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Tembusu College provided Imaan (third from left) with opportunities to engage in robust discussion about topics outside of his field of study.

Another project that impressed on Imaan the importance of learning beyond what is taught in the classroom was his involvement in NUS Engineering’s Hornet training programme – which tasks its members to build a low-cost AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles) for participation in the Singapore AUV Challenge (SAUVC).

“It (Hornet AUV) is an interdisciplinary project between electrical, mechanical and software engineering,” says Imaan, whose father and elder brother are also working in the engineering industry.

“Through it, it opened my eyes to the other aspects of engineering. This is important, because I believe that the world (of engineering) is moving towards a multidisciplinary approach.”

 “I learnt the importance of teamwork… when it comes to the crunch, everybody must chip in and do their part. And finally, I learnt that you have to expect the unexpected, and be prepared to react to different circumstances quickly and efficiently.”

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Imaan (second from left) with teammates from the Hornet AUV project in 2018.
Credit: Bumblebee Autonomous Systems

Imaan’s next major project is to help the NUS Centre for Additive Manufacturing’s (AM.NUS) 3D printing centre achieve the ISO 13485 certification. The project will see a first in Singapore: an integration of ISO13485 medical devices with Additive Manufacturing (i AM Ready) certification, allowing AM.NUS to introduce 3D-printed metal implants – which can be used in patients to speed up their healing process – in clinical trials, and eventually in hospitals.

Speaking about the process of obtaining the ISO certification, Imaan says: “My role here is to come up with a system that will be able to meet this certification, which is very hard to obtain. It involves a lot of writing, research and knowledge.

“Thankfully, because of all the exposure I’ve obtained in NUS so far, the process is easier. There’s still some way to go, but I’m confident of getting it so that all of AM.NUS’ projects can go for clinical trials thereafter. I do think this can have a huge impact on healthcare, and benefit a lot of people in the future.”