You could say that engineering is in Mr Low De Wei’s blood.
His father is a retired mechanical engineer and his eldest sister studied bio-engineering at university.
When the 25-year-old enrolledin Nanyang Technological University(NTU), he chose the electrical and electronic engineering course.
During his third year at NTU, Mr Low interned at the Land Transport Authority (LTA) from January to June 2016. When the six-month internship ended, he applied for the LTA local undergraduate scholarship.
The scholarship selection process was rigorous, with three rounds of interview sessions. He found the second interview an enriching experience as he got to present solutions for a real-life case study to his interviewers.
For Mr Low, the appeal of the scholarship lay in the opportunity to be involved in various job functions such as project management, design, maintenance and asset management.
Scholars can be posted to different divisions across the company to gain experience in different areas of work.
His internship gave him the opportunity to witness the work ethic and dedication of the staff who not only strive to ensure that the railway system operates smoothly every day, but put commuters’ needs first.
He says: “LTA constantly engages the public by doing house visits and conducting surveys. With the feedback from the public, they try to innovate and incorporate the feedback into the design of the railway system.
“That affirmed my decision to pursue a career in LTA where I can achieve my aspirations of becoming a great engineer, as well as impact and improve people’s lives through my work.”
Since joining LTA full-time in June last year, Mr Low has realised that the theories he learnt at school were very different.
As a project engineer with the Signalling, Communications and Platform Screen Door (PSD) department, he is involved in the development and commissioning of the signalling and platform screen door system for the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) system in Singapore.
He has to ensure the performance and reliability of the platform screen door for the Downtown Line, and support the team in the testing and commissioning of the signalling system.
He is also involved in the design and review of the platform screen door system for the upcoming Thomson-East Coast Line.
While the engineering modules he took trained him to apply his knowledge to solve problems, theoretical scenarios may not be realistic enough to tackle actual issues that affect commuters. In fact, different considerations are required during a project’s design phase.
Mr Low says: “When you have to develop a product and system for the public, you have to consider the performance of the system during the design phase.
“You also have to incorporate ergonomic knowledge and human factors in the engineering design to ensure the safety and comfort of end users.
“We have to design the platform screen doors so that commuters do not get hurt as they rush into the train during peak hours, and ensure the gap between the train and platform screen doors is minimal for their safety.”
It was a steep learning curve for Mr Low during his first six months on the job.
“When reviewing the design of the platform screen door system, I had to be sure of how it should be configured to suit commuters’ needs and expectations.
“But it is sometimes hard to make decisions without years of experience,” he says.
For instance, he had to review the power requirements for the signalling system, which he thought was sufficient if they followed the specifications given.
However, his colleagues highlighted that he should also consider the individual components in the system and design of the circuitry, as there could be risk of damage to specific components due to their design or power requirements.
To prevent similar issues from recurring, his colleagues shared their past experiences with him.
Mr Low hopes to pursue a master’s degree in project management or systems engineering after gaining more work experience to improve his work processes and efficiency.
“With LTA’s projects to develop the high-speed rail and further develop the rail system in Singapore, there will be added expectations and challenges for railway engineers,” he says.
Mr Low is happy that the scholarship enabled him to embark on a fulfilling career immediately after graduation.
He says: “It is an excellent opportunity to develop your career if one is truly interested in and committed to taking on the challenges of the job.
“It is not only the benefits of the scholarship that matter, but also about finding a career where you can align your interests and career aspirations.”