Fifth-former heads off to university

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 27 May, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 27 May, 2006, 12:00am

Teen inventor Chan Yik-hei, who already has a minor planet named after him, has made history again by becoming the first student in Hong Kong to be admitted to university after finishing Form Five.

The 16-year-old, who has yet to finish all the papers at this year's Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination, has been accepted to study electronic and computer engineering at the University of Science and Technology. The exceptional admission was granted for his excellent efforts in scientific studies, the university said.

Yik-hei was over the moon yesterday. 'It is a dream come true to me. I feel God has been so good to me. Happy is not enough to describe how I feel. I could not believe my ears when I learned of the news,' said the student from the CCC Tam Lee Lai Fun Memorial Secondary School in Tuen Mun. 'I will value the chance. I will work very hard. Probably I shall be the youngest student at the university. I hope there will not be a generation gap with my classmates.'

But the campus star remained humble.

'I owe my success to my teachers, classmates and parents. Without their support, I would not have achieved what I have,' he said.

Celebrations were not at the forefront of his mind, as he had other 'business plans' to attend to.

University president Paul Chu Ching-wu said it was an exceptional case: 'We not only looked at his academic performance and his achievements. We are also satisfied that he is mature enough.'

Yik-hei flies to the United States next month for a three-month summer programme at the California Institute of Technology Pasadena, near Los Angeles, where he will work with renowned astronomer Yung Yuk-lam on a project.

The schoolboy made headlines last year when he was awarded the right to name a minor planet by the International Astronomical Union after coming second in the 2004 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with his security-conscious robot, Total Equip.

Now known as Chanyikhei, the minor planet, among a group between Mars and Jupiter, is numbered 20780 and measures 3km to 7km in diameter.

Since then he has become a celebrity student in the city.

His physics teacher, Lau Ming-chung, said yesterday: 'I would not describe him as a genius. But he is very attentive in class and has a strong desire for knowledge. He likes to ask questions.'

School principal Fong Shun-yuen said he was pleased with Yik-hei's achievements.

In a statement yesterday, the university said Yik-hei would start with a so-called year zero, or preparatory year, to take up some fundamental courses to prepare him for the three years of university study.

'We are pleased to see local young people with good potential in scientific studies choose to stay to pursue their university education in Hong Kong and contribute to the city,' the university's statement said.