Form Five direct to university

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 June, 2006, 12:00am

Teen inventor Chan Yik-hei is working part-time to save money for his education after being admitted to the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (HKUST).

Yik-hei, who just finished his HKCEE, is the first student in Hong Kong to be admitted to university straight after Form Five.

The early admission was granted for his talents and achievements in science and in view of recommendations made by professors at the department of electronic and computer engineering, according to an HKUST statement.

'It was really a great surprise. It's as exciting as completing an invention,' said Yik-hei, who will turn 17 in October.

'I couldn't believe it when my teacher called and told me the news. I was still in bed. I had to call other teachers to confirm it.

'I didn't expect to be admitted so soon. I thought I might get accepted through the Early Admission Scheme after Form Six.'

As Yik-hei has not been granted a scholarship, he is freelancing for his brother's company to earn some extra money.

'I'm writing computer programs and working on a monitoring system for security guards. The money is quite good and will be enough to cover my first year's tuition,' he said.

'I will need to get more freelance jobs and save more money.'

He has also filed a patent for his Bluetooth safety watch for the elderly, he said.

Yik-hei will start at HKUST from Year Zero - a foundation course mainly for mainland students who have not taken the A-Levels. It includes basic subjects, such as languages, mathematics, social sciences and liberal studies.

The CCC Tam Lee Lai Fun Memorial Secondary School (TLLF) student rose to fame after coming second in the 2004 Intel International Science and Engineering Fair with his robot Total Equip.

He was awarded the right to name a minor planet.

Yik-hei's talents caught the attention of renowned astronomer Yung Yuk-lam, who has invited the teenager to work with him at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena during the summer holidays. Professor Yung worked on the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Cassini project, which explored the planet Pluto.

'My interest is in electronic engineering. The research in California will be related to electronic technologies used in the liftoff of rockets,' said Yik-hei, who plans to write a book about his experiences in science.

'I am honing my English skills and I hope to learn as much as I can from Professor Yung and his team.'

Despite all the media attention, Yik-hei remains humble and attributes his fame to his school, teachers, family and friends.

'I'm really grateful for what the school has done for me. I've been given a lot of resources for my research and inventions. For example, my school has bought a new laptop and will lend it to me for my trip to California,' he said.

'My teachers and schoolmates always help me. They've been very supportive all these years and I enjoy my school life very much.'

Yik-hei said his family also played a vital role in raising his interest in science.

'I must thank my parents and brother who let me take apart our electrical appliances and toys when I was a kid,' he said.

Yik-hei said he has high hopes in physics and chemistry in the HKCEE.

'I studied hard for the exams. I only slept four hours a day,' said Yik-hei, who sat for seven subjects. 'My worries are English and Chinese. But I've tried my best, so I won't have any regrets.'

In a move to nurture future scientists, TLLF recently received $500,000 from the government's Quality Education Fund to set up an innovative technology research laboratory.

'The purpose of the lab is to provide systematic science research training to our lower-form students,' said TLLF principal Fong Shun-yuen.

'Hopefully more students will become interested in science and inventions.'