first person

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 June, 2006, 12:00am

Chan Yik-hei Form Five student

Form Five student Chan Yik-hei, 16, is virtually a poster boy for the type of creative talent the government wants to nurture to boost Hong Kong's competitive advantage.

Yik-hei came to public attention two years ago, dubbed the 'Little Inventor', after his security-conscious Total Equip robot came second in an international engineering competition for secondary students.

His passion for science and technology has earned him the right to name a minor planet after himself, and last month he was offered an early place at university even though he had barely finished sitting his HKCEE exams.

How did you find studying under the Hong Kong education system?

The problem with the Hong Kong system is that we always seem to be studying for tests. The style of learning is very passive. It is very difficult for students to develop their own personal interests and talent. The system should be more like those in other countries. It should be based on active learning, so that people get to do their own research and learn how to find things out for themselves. That would be a lot more enjoyable and would get more people interested in studying.

How have your classmates taken to your fame? What do they think about you appearing on television and in the newspapers?

They have all been very good about it really. We still hang out together and are all very close. Sometimes they do like to tease me about being the Little Inventor. But it's good-natured and just a bit of fun, so I don't mind at all.

Does being known as the Little Inventor put any extra pressure on you in exams? Did you feel people had high expectations of you?

Not at all, not even from my teachers. I'm lucky that my family have never put pressure on me. They let me get on with what I enjoy and they know I put a lot of work into that, so it is OK. Of course, there is always some pressure involved in doing exams, but I really like science so it doesn't bother me.

Chinese language was my least favourite subject. You have to do a lot of comprehension exercises and things. I prefer science subjects to arts subjects. I haven't even thought about what grades I will get or how many As.

How did you come to be going to university so early?

The Hong Kong University of Science and Technology approached me in April. They knew how interested I am in science and technology and how passionate I am about electrical engineering, so they wanted to see if I'd be interested in applying early. I sent off the application form, but I really didn't think I would get a place. I was so excited and pretty surprised when I learned I had been accepted.The other students will be older, but just by two or three years. Besides, I have to do a one-year foundation course like other early entrants, so I won't be that much younger.

How did it affect your performance in the HKCEE exams?

I had actually completed all my exams before they told me I had been offered a place so it didn't affect my performance at all.

What are your plans for the summer holidays?

I'm going to the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena to help with some research. That's a great opportunity and I'm looking forward to meeting other students and working with them. I love research.