Aug 2017 report

Tue Aug 22 2017

Since my last post I have done the following:

  • Went to Yunnan
  • Dabbled in 3D printing
  • Prepared the kids for CodeXtreme 2017
  • Turned 21
  • Matriculated at NTU
  • Participated in two NTU orientation camps
  • Withdrew from NTU
  • Got IMDA's NIS scholarship
  • Built my first piece of native production software using Electron

Went to Yunnan

I went with Samuel and Jian Kai and I had a great time. We did a lot of walking and hiking and the 12-day trip came to about $1,200.

They were very nice to me even though I don't really know them. Mad props to them for even letting me go on the trip with them in the first place.

I loved the snow-capped mountain and the hike through Tiger Leaping Gorge: took a lot of pictures with Jian Kai's DSLR.

Yulong Snow Mountain

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Tiger Leaping Gorge

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Other places

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Thanks to Jeff, our Dali host, I was able to watch a master calligrapher at work, who specialises in reversed writing. He has been practicing this for over forty years now and his writing is critically acclaimed. We were able to get four pieces from him for free (he usually charges); I am extremely grateful for his generosity, and to Jeff as well.

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All in all, a great trip—thanks to Sam and JK.

Dabbled in 3D printing

Built a burr puzzle as a gift to Wei Heng to thank him for lending me his SUICA card and travel adapter for my Japan trip.

burr puzzle pieces burr puzzle pieces assembled

The cube in cube was just for fun.

cube-in-cube-raw cube-in-cube-1 cube-in-cube-2

Prepared the kids for CodeXtreme 2017

The annual hackathon event. I took Audrey, Gillian and Gao Hong; Dylan was taken by Eng Chye. Got to know Van, a final year student at NUS SoC. She helped me greatly in the project.

We built a micro:bit "magic wallet" implementation, and also a little LEGO umbrella dispenser. We demonstrated the ability to use the micro:bit to send and receive user-specified amounts of money.

'' '' Looking glam in slippers '' microbit-wallet-poster

My team took third place, and Eng Chye's team took first. Mrs Hauw was thrilled.

Turned 21

I treated the gang to a buffet to celebrate. The food was pretty good but Nauxiy was so shag after his hall camp he could barely keep his eyes open.

This is normally where I would write about trying to be more mature and quitting gaming and all sorts of things but this post is very very long and besides, every year I say the same things...


Marc and I will be leaving for the UK and the rest will be staying in Singapore. I hope the six of us last long and all of us find happiness and success.

Matriculated at NTU

Nothing to say here

Participated in two NTU orientation camps

Met new people

I really like the people in NTU; they are really genuine and down-to-earth. I participated in Banyan hall camp and SCSE's faculty orientation camp.


I really will miss my OG mates and I do sincerely hope that they'll want to keep in touch even after I go overseas to study....

Withdrew from NTU

Had to be done; I had fun.

I plan to visit for one final week (25,26,27,28,29) and stop going after 1st September to focus on my MOOCs and prepare for Oxford.

Got IMDA's NIS scholarship

I will reproduce what I wrote in May here:

I was rejected from both GIC and MAS in the penultimate round, the 'group discussion' round... perhaps my personality was too abrasive. Unfortunately the scholarship agencies don't give feedback on unsuccessful applications. Nevertheless, it was a good learning experience; I don't regret the application process.

The last scholarship I am waiting for is IMDA. As of this moment, IMDA is trying to schedule an interview slot with the directors. I told them that I would be willing to cancel my trip to Yunnan if need be; nothing to do now but wait.

First off: Although MAS does not give feedback, I was extremely fortunate to have had Ms Nair who did:

ms nair's feedback

The feedback is spot-on (I predicted as much back in May) and is absolutely something that I need to work on. Ms Nair was also kind enough to lend me some books that will hopefully teach me not to behave like one's on the spectrum, including "The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace", "Emotional Intelligence 2.0", "The Rules of Management" and so on.

I was interviewed by the directors who asked me (among other things) whether I would be OK with taking PPE. The CEO also asked me, although childhood programming education is so important, students nowadays have so many activities vying for their time. How can we then fit programming in? I answered that it's exactly the wrong approach to think of programming as a separate subject. Instead it should be worked into maths, physics, chemistry, even literature lessons—learning Cartesian coordinates through programming a game, or learning about circuits through wiring up a Makey-Makey, or building a chatbot that replies only in quotes from Shakespeare's plays. I thought the interview went well, and I can only suppose that it did.

It's curious that IMDA's entire interview process did not include an aptitude test.

It is a rather semantic distinction, but I am the first IMDA scholar to be attached to IMDA. There have been many local scholars (Marvin, Wei Heng, Gui An) and many overseas IDA/MDA scholars but due to the fact that IDA and MDA only just merged to form IMDA, I am the first one.

I will work hard these three years and fight for my First in Oxford. I will live frugally off the allowance IMDA gives me and I aim to save 300 pounds every month to start building my nest egg.

Built my first piece of native production software using Electron

From July 1 to ~August 15, I built Inspector's Gadget, a desktop app that streamlines the process of generating building inspection reports.

This was at my dad's behest, who kept on complaining about how tedious it was to do these reports.

As usual, many firsts:

  • First time using Webpack
  • First time using Electron
  • First time using Vue
  • First time writing a program that stored persistent data (I used localForage, a library over indexedDB)
  • First time writing a "native" GUI
  • First time using GitHub's releases feature
  • First time using Travis to do continuous integration

I still want to learn:

  • How to use tests and do test-driven development
  • A better way to package, deploy and release binaries

Check here for a more comprehensive list.

Future plans

I have made my decision to go to Oxford and study PPE, and will not look back.

My goals set in May were to get a Class 3 driving license and to do at least one machine learning project: I have not done a machine learning project by August 2, 2017, nor will I be able to get a Class 3 driving license by 31 September 2017.

No matter. I now have a new and very ambitious goal: to be accepted into Georgia Tech's Online Master of Science Computer Science (OMSCS) in three years' time.

I wrote an email to the OMSCS admissions office asking "How can I make a competitive application to OMSCS in three years' time?" and was very pleased to get a response back. I have only reproduced a small part of this (very comprehensive) response.

Applicants who do not meet the preferred qualifications for admission to the OMS CS program -- i.e. do not have an undergraduate degree in computer science or related field (typically mathematics, computer engineering or electrical engineering) AND/OR have a cumulative GPA of less than 3.0 -- will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis which includes your transcripts, recommendation results, academic history, essays, etc.

Having said that, in general, applicants are expected to be comfortable programming (C or C++ are generally expected at a minimum) and to have had at least several more advanced topics, such as Advanced OS, Networking, Theory, and/or Algorithms. Usually, if the applicant does not have a CS degree, we are looking for background that shows evidence that they have equivalent skills (and remember an IT degree does not bring the same mix of skills as a CS degree).

The main concern of the OMS CS Graduate Admissions Committee is that prospective students have a competent computer science foundation. If a prospective student feels they have sufficient work experience and/or programming knowledge to provide this foundation (based on the OMS CS course prerequisites), it is best to provide some sort of documentation (recommendation letter, transcript, grade etc.) to verify their programming skills. We also highly recommend that applicants include information regarding relevant programming skills in their resume as well as their application essays.

We highly recommend prospective students review the prerequisites for courses relevant to their OMS CS specialization interests and/or career interests to determine if they have the foundation necessary to succeed in the OMS CS program. If a prospective student is lacking in a certain area, we recommend they determine which prerequisites are most critical for them to take and then research whether or not they are available through their institution, an accredited institution near them, or online through an accredited program and/or MOOC from an accredited institution. One useful resource may be certified/graded MOOC's offered through Class Central at the following website

If a prospective student does pursue some prerequisite courses, we would expect to see some sort of grade as part of the evaluation from the course (some courses show a grade or percentile, others do not do any evaluation and will not show their CS knowledge-base). Please note, completing coursework at an accredited institution is recommended. Additionally, if you do take prerequisite courses, it will likely strengthen your application more to have prerequisite courses completed when you apply as grades verify you have obtained the necessary skills to succeed in a graduate level CS program.

This is why I have decided to dedicate the next three years to study the equivalent of an undergraduate CS syllabus on my own, while studying PPE at Oxford. I hear from my friends and OUMSSA "parents" that the workload even for PPE is not too bad, but we'll soon see. Securing a First of course comes first but I believe that by paring the inefficiencies out of my life I will be able to accomplish these two goals with aplomb.

Being an IMDA scholar could help me achieve these goals more easily. I won't have to waste my time looking for a job or an internship; I will (hopefully) be given $3,000 to help finance the cost of attaining these certificates under NIS's Talent Development Programme; they will give me a 1 year—1.5 year deferment before I start serving my bond at IMDA.

Tentatively, I will be following the syllabus outlined in the Open Source Society University's CS curriculum. It's a long road and I will need to start formally planning out my study roadmap very soon, perhaps by the end of this week.

The grind never ends—not after my As, not during army, not even after I have gotten my scholarship. But I am beginning to realise that I may like and even need this grind in my life more than I think I do.