SOTY 2019/20: Visual Artist winner believes in empathy and the power of community

  • West Island student Samuel Scroggie calls himself a ‘design thinker’ and aims to improve others’ lives and open new opportunities
  • His most rewarding work, ‘Spline Staircase’, helps the elderly and those with arthritis climb the stairs more easily
Kelly Fung |

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SOTY visual artist winner Samuel Scroggie says the Covid-19 pandemic won't have a negative effect on art because people feel a need to create.

For the 2019 Student of the Year Visual Artist award-winner, a good piece of visual art involves both art and science, and some facets of everyday life.

Samuel Scroggie, 17, began his artistic journey in nursery school when he used an oversized watercolour brush to create his first “painting”.

As a teenager, his abilities and artistic goals have, naturally, broadened. His work now is inspired by a desire to combine design, engineering and entrepreneurship with freewheeling creativity.

Rather than a designer, the West Island School student calls himself a “design thinker”.

The 'Spline Staircase' could be especially helpful for elderly people.

“Design thinkers focus on leading the way for a better society,” says Samuel. “To me, design is a service that improves others’ lives, and unlocks opportunities for those who don’t have them.”

Samuel believes it is crucial to show empathy for the world and its citizens through his creations. The Year 13 student told Young Post that his most rewarding work so far was last year’s Spline Staircase, which required strong design and engineering skills. Its conical shape is meant to help the elderly and people with arthritis walk up the stairs with ease. The staircase also features LED panels to define the step edges and ensure adequate lighting.

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Samuel has long combined his love of art with his technical abilities. He has led West Island’s Repair Cafe for three years. The club’s members – all students – fix broken items brought in by teachers. In Year Eight, he ran the 3D CAD (three-dimensional computer-aided design) club, teaching students how to use industrial design software.

He also creates his own drones and has taken part in drone-racing competitions across Asia.

Now his ambition is to study industrial design, with a minor in mechanical engineering and entrepreneurship, in the US. He says he has already received offers from several prestigious universities.

“Creating something that didn’t previously exist always excites me,” he says.

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The Covid-19 pandemic has obviously put a stop to a lot of events that he might otherwise have been involved in. (He’s been forced, for example, to take a break from drone racing; but he’s taught more than 50 students to build their own crafts via Zoom.) But Samuel isn’t too concerned about the future.

“The arts will survive Covid, there’s no question about that,” he says. “It’s impossible to drive out the creativity in people because it’s an innate part of the human experience.

And he’s realised there will always be chances to share a love of creativity.

“Because of the pandemic, I’ve realised the abundance of opportunities to connect with people from all walks of life is part of what makes Hong Kong so special.”

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Recently, he revisited his Spline Staircase project and tried to modify it so that it could fit into the space of an existing staircase.

There are plenty of opportunities to improve the world around us, he says. But this depends on whether people are willing to work together and use the available resources creatively.

“Not a day goes by where bad designs or unaddressed opportunities frustrate me,” Samuel says.

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“Even if this is a bit clichéd, I think we should basically stick together as a community and play our own part, and just see how things work out.”

His advice to fellow Hong Kong students? Being forced to do something is not a viable substitute for genuine passion.

“Find what you enjoy and run with it,” he says.

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