Wired for success

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 09 June, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 09 June, 2004, 12:00am

Only one month after winning second prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (Intel ISEF), budding inventor Chan Yik-hei is picking his brain again for next year's competition.

The fair, held in Portland, Oregon, brought together 1,200 young innovators from Grades Nine to 12 from around the world.

Yik-hei's security-conscious robot Total Equip won him second prize in the engineering category. The 14-year-old Form Three student is one of the youngest winners this year.

With limited help from teachers, the CCC Tam Lee Lai Fun Memorial Secondary School student took only two weeks to put Total Equip together in the school workshop.

His achievement won the praise of Secretary for Education and Manpower Arthur Li Kwok-cheung and the bureau's Permanent Secretary Fanny Law Fan Chiu-fun. A series of celebrations was organised by his school.

'It was quite an experience for me. I had never been to an international science fair of such kind,' said Yik-hei, who has a string of interviews lined up with the media. 'The judging lasted a whole day. Each of us was assigned a small space in a huge hall to display our work.

'Judges came over to our booths and asked many questions. They wanted to make sure the work was our own.'

Total Equip is Yik-hei's third robot. It has a built-in mobile phone and is connected to an infra-red sensor. When there is an emergency, such as a burglary or when an elderly person falls, it informs the owner by sending a pre-recorded voice message.

'To be safe, I brought along two mobile phones with roaming service for the demonstration,' said Yik-hei, who was accompanied to Portland by English teacher Chan Ming-gei.

'I suddenly realised that the flash from cameras might affect the functioning of the robot the day before the competition. It was kind of scary, but I managed to add a protective layer and changed some parts to correct the defect,' he said. 'Luckily, everything went well the next morning and I think the judges were impressed. They kept saying 'excellent, excellent'.

'But I knew they said that to all the other contestants, so I didn't expect to win anything.'

Yik-hei is already thinking about next year's competition but despite his strong interest in electronics, he said: 'It will not be a robot. I want to do something else.'

Yik-hei won a China Adolescents' Science and Technology Award with the previous version of Total Equip last year. He also won a design award for a rubbish bin made from recycled materials and was invited to Beijing to meet Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei .

Two other projects created by Hong Kong students also won prizes at Intel ISEF - Ng Ying-kit from TWGHs Wong Fut Nam College came fourth in the engineering category with a shock absorber for vehicles.

Maggie Yu Man-ki, Felice Tsang Ho-ching and Sze Tat-wang of St Paul's Convent School won fourth prize in the team category with their environmentally friendly detergent.